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Are California sea otters on the verge of recovery?

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Can sea otters bounce back from the brink?

Population along California coast hovering near targeted recovery level

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sea otters are making a slow and steady comeback along the Central California coast, with the species’ population nearing a level that could earn them the distinction of being taken off the endangered species list.

In the latest official population estimate released last week, federal scientists said there were just under 3,000 southern sea otters living along the Central California coast, based on a population index used since the 1980s. That’s up slightly from 2013 and just shy of the 3,090 threshold set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a recovery benchmark. Continue reading

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Wolves get more protection in California

State decides on endangered species status for wolves even as feds proceed with national de-listing push

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Wolf pups near the Oregon-California border may be the offspring of a wolf that has lived part-time in California the past few years. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — When wolves start to reclaim their historic territories in the wilds of California, they’ll be protected under state law. The California Fish and Game Commission voted last week to protect gray wolves under the state’s Endangered Species Act after being petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The decision came just a few days after biologists documented the presence of two wolf pups  in the Oregon portion of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest that straddles the California-Oregon border. The pups, which are likely to be part of a litter of four to six pups, are the offspring of the wolf known as OR-7, which has made California part of his range for the past four years. Continue reading

Feds revise critical habitat proposal for lynx

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Proposed critical habitat for lynx in the northern Rockies, as mapped by the USFWS.

Colorado once again left out of critical habitat zone

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Working under a court order, federal biologists have finished a revision of a critical habitat designation for threatened lynx — but once again, Colorado was left out of the equation.

The latest critical habitat designation, subject to a 90-day comment period, would cover about  41,547 square miles within the boundaries of five critical habitat units in the states of Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming.

Colorado wasn’t included because the agency doesn’t believe that the state’s population is essential to the long-term conservation of the species, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Jim Zelenak.

“We looked at the historical record and the biological history of lynx in Colorado and it’s just not clear that Colorado ever supported a persistent population over time … We recognize the potential for lynx in the southern Rockies … but our approach has been to look at those places with persistent populations over time. We want to feel fairly certain that an area has the physical attributes needed to support lynx,” Zelenak said. Continue reading

Federal judge says Forest Service must consider critical habitat designations in regional forest plan guidance for lynx

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Federal agencies rebuked for violating Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Decision will trigger new reviews of forest plans and projects in northern Rockies

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service has once again been called out for failing to live up to its legal obligations to protect endangered species, this time by a federal judge in Montana, who ruled last week that the agency violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a regional forest plan amendment.

Dana L. Christensen, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the State of Montana, ordered the Forest Service to re-initiate consultation, but did not block any specific projects on the affected forests, saying that plaintiffs couldn’t show any “irreparable harm.” Continue reading

Climate change requires landscape-level conservation plans

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Mountain goats may need a far-reaching conservation strategy to survive global warming. Photo courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife.

New protected areas between Banff and Glacier national parks could help maintain wildlife populations

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Species vulnerable to climate change impacts in the Canadian Rockies will need room to roam, according to a new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada.

The report outlines a safe haven strategy designed around an assessment of six iconic species: Bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, grizzly bears, wolverines, mountain goats and bighorn sheep — five of which were ranked as highly vulnerable to projected changes.

The area in question is located between Glacier National Park in Montana and Banff National Park in Canada, supporting one of the most diverse communities of carnivores and hoofed mammals in North America. Continue reading

Study: Some European wolves prefer pork over venison

Gray wolves are making a comeback in Europe. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Gray wolves are making a comeback in Europe. Photo courtesy USFWS.

New data to help manage predator-prey relationships

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With European wolves slowly recovering from centuries of persecution, researchers have found distinctive feeding patterns that could help wildlife bioogists manage both prey and predator species.

Some European wolves show a clear preference for wild boar over other prey, according to a new study by scientists from Durham University, UK and the University of Sassari in Italy, who found that the diet of wolves was consistently dominated by the consumption of wild boar which accounted for about two thirds of total prey biomass, with roe deer accounting for around a third.

The study analyzed the remains of prey items in almost 2000 samples of wolf dung over a nine year period and revealed that an increase in roe deer in the wolf diet only occurred in years when boar densities were very low. In years of high roe deer densities, the wolves still preferred to catch wild boar.

The research team related the prey remains in wolf scat to the availability of possible prey in part of Tuscany, Italy – an area recently colonized by wolves.

“Our research demonstrates a consistent selection for wild boar among wolves in the study area, which could affect other prey species such as roe deer,” said lead author Miranda Davis, from the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University. Continue reading

Florida panther deaths reach record high in 2012

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Florida panther. Photo courtesy Mark Lotz, Florida Fish and Wildlife via the Creative Commons.

Conservation advocates call for new introductions in northern Florida and Georgia

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Wildlife conservation advocates say the record number of Florida panther deaths due to collisions with vehicles highlights the need to protect more habitat in Southern Florida.

Two more panthers were killed this past week, bringing the total for the year up to 26, or one every other week, on average. Continue reading

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