Yellowstone bison get more room to roam

New Montana policy could end annual bison slaughter

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Montana will expand year-round habitat for wild bison in Montana outside Yellowstone National Park. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Wild bison in the Greater Yellowstone area will have more room to roam, as Montana Governor Steve Bullock this week agreed to expand year-round habitat for wild bison in Montana outside Yellowstone National Park.

Historically, thousands of wild bison have been hazed or slaughtered as they migrated from Yellowstone into Montana in the spring. According to wildlife advocates, the decision represents a significant change in bison management. Continue reading

Study: Northern Rockies wolf hunting ‘not sustainable’

The leader of the new Summit County wolf pack, dubbed "John Denver" by federal biologists. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

How sustainable are current wolf management policies in the northern Rocky Mountains? Photo courtesy USFWS.

Management based mostly on politics, not science

Staff Report

As conservation advocates have long argued, policies governing the hunting of large carnivores are largely based on politics and not on science, according to a new study that examined how hunting affects populations of animals like wolves and lions.

The international research team said those politically driven policies  do not always align with basic scientific data, which can undermine conservation efforts.

For example, theresearchers concluded that the current harvest levels for the recently de-listed population of gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains of the United States have led to decreased survival and reproduction, smaller packs, social disruption and a reversal from population growth to decline. Continue reading

Feds to update oil and gas rules for wildlife refuges

A playa lake at the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

A playa lake at the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy USFWS.

USFWS taking public comment through Feb. 9

Staff Report

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to update 50-year-old regulations for oil and gas development on National Wildlife Refuge System lands.

Last week the agency published a proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement that would require fossil fuel companies to use modern best management practices, especially as they relate to abandoned infrastructure and debris.

According to the USFWS, the new regs would reduce refuge impacts, including habitat loss and degradation, wildlife mortality and displacement, and other risks to ecological integrity. Continue reading

USGS study finds high prevalence of intersex bass in Northeastern U.S. wildlife refuges

Smallmouth bass illegally introduced to Colorado waters threaten native fish.

Bass in and near wildlife refuges in the Northeastern U.S. are gender-confused.

Are endocrine disrupting chemicals to blame?

Staff Report

US Geological Survey researchers say they’re not 100 percent sure if endocrine-disrupting chemicals are to blame, but they’ve found that a full 85  percent of male smallmouth bass and 27 percent of male largemouth bass tested in waters in or near 19 National Wildlife Refuges in the Northeast U.S. were intersex.

Intersex is when one sex develops characteristics of the opposite sex. It is tied to the exposure of fish to endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can affect the reproductive system and cause the development of characteristics of the opposite sex, such as immature eggs in the testes of male fish. Continue reading

Wildlife: Secret talks open door for taking Northern Rockies grizzlies off the endangered species list

Wildlife activists gear up to fight proposal

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Grizzlies at play. Photo courtesy Kim Fense.

Staff Report

A classic wildlife conservation battle is shaping up in the northern Rockies, with conservation advocates lining up to challenge a state and federal plan to take grizzly bears off the Endangered Species List.

In a Sept. 25 letter, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told state officials in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana that it plans to publish a delisting proposal by the end of the year.

But that move flies in the face of conservation science, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which in a press release expressed concern that the plan could lead to state-supported trophy hunts. The federal government is ignoring increasing bear mortality rates and a declining population, the Center said in a press release.

Via email, a USFWS spokesperson said the agency believes that recovery is based on more than just the number of bears in the ecosystem.

“It depends upon a combination of factors including quantity and quality of habitat, adequate regulatory mechanisms, and a good balance of male and female bears that are well-distributed throughout the ecosystem. 

 “We consider 600 bears to be the lower limit at which there is no management and discretionary mortality is no longer allowable. The goal would be to manage for approximately 674 grizzly bears to ensure a sustainable and resilient population that utilizes the entire available habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  We do not anticipate population numbers to dip down to 600 bears.

” No formal agreements have been made. Any proposal to delist the Yellowstone grizzly bear would require a robust conservation plan and associated regulations for management of the bear post-delisting.  We continue to work with the states and partners on these issues.”

Continue reading

California releases draft wolf management plan

State to take public input through Feb. 15

A wolf in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park)

How will California manage a growing population of wolves? Photo courtesy Yellowstone National Park.

Staff Report

A new draft wolf management plan for California aims to conserve biologically sustainable populations of the predators in areas where there is adequate habitat, while minimizing conflicts with livestock.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife developed the plan in the past few years after wolves recolonized the far northeastern corner of the state. Wildlife managers say they will communicate to the public that natural dispersal of wolves into and through California is reasonably foreseeable given the expanding populations in the Pacific Northwest. Continue reading

Scientists say they’ve pinpointed the cause of snake-killing fungal disease

Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a fungus that is afflicting snakes across the Midwest and Eastern US, shares many traits with Pseudogymnoascus destructans the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats, researchers report. Credit Julie McMahon

Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a fungus that is afflicting snakes across the Midwest and Eastern US, shares many traits with Pseudogymnoascus destructans the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats, researchers report. Credit
Julie McMahon.

Spread of snake fungal disease mirrors bat-killing white-nose syndrome

Staff Report

U.S. Geological Survey scientists said they’ve identified the fungus that’s been taking a toll on snake populations in parts of the U.S. and warned that global warming could put more snakes at risk.

The fungal disease killing snakes has some eerie similarities to white-nose syndrome, which has wiped out bat populations across the eastern half of the U.S. The snake and bat pathogens emerged in North America in the mid-2000s. Both are moving from east to west across the United States and into parts of Canada. Continue reading

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