Wildlife: Southwest wolf population tops 100 for first time in modern era

Conservation biologists focusing on genetic health of packs

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The future for wolves in the southwestern U.S. looks a little brighter this year, as the population grew by 31 percent to reach 109 wolves living in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it’s the fourth year in a row that the population has grown by at least 10 percent. The 2014 minimum population count includes 38 wild-born pups that survived through the end of the year. Continue reading

Wildlife: Are lynx holding their own?

Feds conducting five-year status review

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Federal biologists are compiling new information about lynx in the United States as part of a five-year review. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Almost 15 years after listing lynx as a threatened species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still hasn’t developed a recovery plan for the snow-loving cats, but a required five-year status review currently under way may help the process.

The review is aimed at clarifying the extent, magnitude, and nature of the threats to lynx so that recovery planning can target those specific threats. When lynx were originally listed in 2000, federal biologists said the lack of adequate regulations on public lands was the main threat to the predators. Continue reading

Wildlife: Montana man fined $30,000 for killing grizzlies

Grizzlies are roaming farther north and encroaching on Polar bear habitat, PHOTO COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

Grizzly bear poaching leads to $30,000 fine. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Poacher admits crime, ask investigators for hides

Staff Report

FRISCO — A Montana man recently convicted of illegally killing three grizzly bears apparently didn’t get the endangered species message.

Everett Skunkcap, 75, of Browning, Montana, admitted the poaching to wildlife investigators, then asked if he could have the hides After the investigation. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Skunkcap said he was going to “tan them and put them on the wall [as a] souvenir for what [he] did.” Continue reading

Climate: California pikas vanishing from lower sites

‘It looks like we’re going to lose pikas from many areas where people have been used to seeing them …’

Colorado pika

A Quandary Peak pika enjoys sunny weather on a rocky ledge. bberwyn photo.

FRISCO — Global warming is probably shrinking habitat for California’s pikas, scientists said this week in a new study that looked at 67 locations with historical data on populations of the small alpine mammals. Pikas have already vanished completely from 10 of those sites, the researchers said, explaining that local extinctions are likely where summer temperatures are high and habitat is already marginal.

“This same pattern of extinctions at sites with high summer temperatures has also been observed in the Great Basin region,”  said Joseph Stewart, a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz and first author of a paper reporting the new findings, published January 29 in the Journal of Biogeography. Continue reading

Wildlife advocates seek national wolf recovery plan

Activists again decry hunting, trapping in Northern Rockies

Wolves surrounding a bison in Yellowstone National Park. PHOTO COURTESY DOUG SMITH/NPS.

Wolves surrounding a bison in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Doug Smith/NPS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife conservation advocates want the federal government to rethink its wolf recovery efforts. Instead of relying on a piecemeal, state-by-state approach, the species needs a national recovery plan to help restore populations in places like the southern Rockies and the Adirondacks, according to Kierán Suckling, director of the Center for Biological Diversity

“A congressional end run around science and the Endangered Species Act will create more controversy and put wolves and the law itself in jeopardy,” said Suckling, explaining why a coalition of conservation groups this week petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify gray wolves as threatened, rather than endangered, under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Obama pushes for Arctic National Wildlife Refuge protection

Conservation plan proposes 12 million acres of new wilderness

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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Alaska’s North Slope.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A far-reaching conservation plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska would designate 12 million acres of new wilderness, including critical wildlife habitat along the coastal plains that are home to vast herds of caribou.

On the White House blog, John Podesta and Mike Boots directly addressed the potential threat and disastrous consequences of a major oil spill in the region.

President Obama said he will make an official recommendation to Congress to designate core areas of the refuge – including its Coastal Plain – as wilderness, the highest level of protection available to public lands. Watch the President discuss the announcement here.

If Congress chooses to act, it would be the largest ever wilderness designation since Congress passed the Wilderness Act more than 50 years ago — but that’s highly unlikely with GOP control of Congress. In fact, Alaska’s pro-development lawmakers have already over-reacted by characterizing the announcement as a war on Alaska’s future, according to the Alaska Dispatch News, which has the best coverage of the story. Continue reading

Wildlife: Colorado launches new lynx monitoring effort

A radio-collared lynx in Colorado. Photo courtesy CPW.

A radio-collared lynx in Colorado. Photo courtesy CPW.

SW Colorado field project will assess habitat occupancy, population trends

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado biologists have launched an ambitious monitoring program aimed at learning whether the state’s population of reintroduced and native-born lynx is holding steady.

The monitoring will cover more than 5,000 miles in the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado, including six wilderness areas: Weminuche, Uncompahgre, Lizard Head, Powderhorn, La Garita Mount Sneffels, and South San Juan. Continue reading

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