Imperiled amphibians getting critically needed help from The Center for Biological Diversity, USFWS, by securing critical habitat protections in Sierra Nevada range.
Photo: Rob Grasso/NPS public domain
Photo: Rob Grasso/NPS public domain
Originally posted 12/3/2013
*Retrieved Google Cache version reposted 8/21/16 after Examiner site unexpectedly shut down.
By Cathy Taibbi
The secretive and unsavory agency misleadingly named Wildlife Services, is now exposed, and under fire for slaughtering wildlife on your tax dollar – Whether you want them to or not.
The magnitude of massacre of our native wildlife (including eagles and other vital, threatened and endangered species), and the willful disregard for law (including the felony of shooting animals from the air and trapping and killing household pets with impunity) is only now coming to light.
Not only are pets and wildlife at risk, but so are humans trying to enjoy our open and public lands – which are riddled with lethal traps and poisons (like cyanide traps that shoot the poison onto anything that touches the trap.) These, and the snares and leg-hold and Conibear devices, are like land-mines that kill indiscriminately.
Worse, many of these deadly rigs are placed intentionally, illegally, by the workers we pay via our tax dollars, on trails where humans and pets walk.
WARNING, the content of this video is highly disturbing but needs to be seen by everyone, so please share this with all your contacts..
In this shocking expose, Predator Defense interviews the people involved in this until-recently secret agency, their policy of Shoot, Shut-Up and Shovel, and how our tax dollars are being used to undo the very conservation and preservation work we trustingly place in their hands to uphold.
The USDA agency Wildlife Services is not only a blemish on American custodial care of our wilderness, but a real danger to all citizens.
If you want to help put an end to this our inadvertent (involuntary) funding of this government-sanctioned killing spree, and get Wildlife Services shut down, please sign and share this petition to Stop the Indiscriminate Wildlife Slaughter sponsored by Wildlife Services via Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. Video.
*Google Cache saved version, retrieved 8/21/16 after Examiner site unexpectedly shut down.
By Cathy Taibbi, Examiner.com
January 11, 2016
An urgent petition is circulating now to put a stop to a federal plan to surgically spay 30-50 wild mares in the White Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) of Wyoming. Supposedly it’s part of a “research” program to control numbers of wild horses. Public-lands ranchers want more grazing territory – and less competition – for their personal livestock. This risky experiment is also suspected of being a step towards eliminating wild horses altogether on public lands, in favor of private business interests.
Public comments are being accepted until January 14, 2016.
“The proposed action also includes the removal of an estimated 168 wild horses from the Little Colorado HMA, where the remaining horses will then be used as a control group. The entire proposal is part of the BLM’s plan to wipe out wild horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard to appease the Rock Springs Grazing Association, whose members graze livestock on the public lands in numbers that dwarf the wild horse populations there,” states the alert from Wild Horse Preservation in their petition letter.
Wild, free-roaming horses are supposed to be protected under the THE WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSES AND BURROS ACT OF 1971 (PUBLIC LAW 92-195) by the Bureau of Land Management, but the law was crippled when Senator Conrad Burns (R) secretly slipped an amendment into the bill in 2004 which effectively gutted the Act and sparked the cruel and controversial wild horse roundups and penning operations. Right now the number of captured horses is straining capacity of holding facilities, and many animals are killed, maimed, injured or at the very least stressed during the chase. After capture many more either go to so-called ‘kill buyers’ for the slaughter industry, are sold to citizens at ‘adoption’ events or languish (sometimes for the rest of their lives) in miserable, crowded pens, often without sufficient food, water or veterinary attention.
The BLM plan, if allowed to move forward, would proceed without consideration of genetic diversity, or the mental or emotional health of the horses involved. Bearing in mind how strongly social and family-oriented horses are, the trauma to mother/foal bonds or herd hierarchy can result in destabilization and loss of social cohesion; thus, it would be putting the future of wild horses itself at risk as priceless genetics are lost to make way for the invasion of privately-owned and destructive livestock on our rugged, yet fragile, wide open western spaces.
To take action against this ill-conceived sterilization program, visit this link for more information and the petition.
Public lands belong to all Americans and are repositories and sanctuaries for the last of our imperiled, fragmented wildlife populations. Few places left in the US, or the world for that matter, still have enough open, largely undisturbed land to support genetically, behaviorally and ecologically functional populations of an alarmingly number of native species, like wild, free-roaming bison, wild horses, sage grouse – Or those embattled, scapegoated, favorite whipping-boys of the malcontended, our magnificent wolves.
The state of Washington just disappointed the world and proved it’s not the enlightened, wildlife-conscious place we thought it was, when they sent helicopters into wildlands to gun down a mother wolf and a packmate – All because they might have preyed on some cattle that were turned loose (and left unattended) on our public lands. Turned loose to dine on our native flora, decimate our public range, compete with our native wildlife, on our dime, so the owner could make money off us. A press release from the Center for Biological Diversity describes the incident later in this post.
As is the case with the BLM roundups of our (supposedly) federally-protected wild horses, the driving force behind this sniper-attack on an intelligent, emotional, highly-social and family-oriented species was – Greed. Along with mining, drilling, logging and fracking, livestock agriculture is a huge, powerful and well-funded lobby. Without even questioning how many of the corporations running these destructive, lethal industries are based here in the US, or are foreign, the fact is that our public lands are for ALL Americans, in perpetuity, so you and I can enjoy open spaces, clean air and water, peace and communion, and an intact, fully-functioning ecosystem complete with actual wildlife like wolves and bears, prairie dogs and wild horses, rattlesnakes, tricolored blackbirds, eagles and butterflies.
Not cattle and sheep.
You can learn more about the selling-out of those government officials who are supposed to protect our wildlife, by watching both parts of this video report on the wild horse issue. (You will see that the fate of wolves and wild horses is ominously similar).
It’s bad enough that our human population and outrageous American consumerism are rapidly ruining everything in our path – Even things as lovely, simple and wholesome as back-yard horse properties and fireflies are vanishing faster than teens create new apps.
But the real problem is that we’re not just catapulting our planet into a warming cycle that will not support human life. Even without climate change, we have been responsible for already scrubbing out more than half the biodiversity on the planet. That’s a serious problem, because biodiversity is our savings account, our safe-deposit box, our pharmacy, our hedge against future disasters, as well as our artistic and spiritual well-spring.
Biodiversity means wolves, elephants, lichens, fungi, blackbirds, prairie dogs, and tuna, worms, snakes, plants, algaes, and every organic living thing on the planet.
Yet it’s all being wiped out by greed, and wholesale looting, and we’re losing species before science has even had a chance to describe, name or learn of them.
So when a state or federal government issues an appalling, unscientific and intolerant order to aerial-gun a Momma wolf and her mates to death, just to satisfy the pocket of a welfare rancher, when our decision-makers are willing to not only sacrifice but exterminate our non-human neighbors because we just can’t stand anything interfering with our wants, our reckless, frantic greed and selfishness, we should all be very concerned.
Humans are not ‘better’.
‘Animals’ are not lesser.
Just because they are ‘animals’, just because certain selfish and intolerant people keep perpetuating a distorted and dark myth about the wild brethren of our beloved house dogs, doesn’t mean it’s OK to treat them like vermin. There is no ‘tier-system’ among species. When we begin designating one, with ourselves at the top and everything else below, we leave the door wide open for deeper and deeper bias.
Remember that certain groups of humans have been (and still are) marginalized, demonized and persecuted, even exterminated, as somehow ‘lesser’. No wonder we feel justified in creating a tier-system of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ species. Then we become enablers of our unique new form of mass murder, speciescide. And so we shoot Mama wolves and their families (packs are nothing but extended families) because we want to be able to turn our helpless future hamburgers out into the wilderness, alone, to fatten for our convenience.
Once one of these incidents of wildlife management malpractice manages to slip by without a public outcry, the government collusion with big Industry just becomes emoldened, more empowered. And more dangerous.
We need to stop this, now. Before another wolf dies. Before another wild horse, or mountain lion, or pup-fish, or prairie dog is ground under the heel of human ‘entitlement’. And we need to ensure that wildlife is legally protected from other industry and/or government ‘control’ actions, like this one, ever happening again.
To be fair, not all farmers are bad guys. Some of them are cooperating in the rescue effort to save species. In fact, those tricolor blackbirds mentioned earlier? They’ve gone from ubiquitous, with flocks big enough to block the sun, to candidates for the endangered species list. They’ve lost virtually all the places they used to breed and nest to human development. The few places left in California with enough appropriate habitat to sustain the last tricolor blackbirds on Earth are – Dairy cattle farms.
It can be done.
All it takes is willingness.
Read the full, unedited press release from the Center for Biological Diversity:
Helicopter Gunners Kill Two Wolves in Northeastern Washington
PORTLAND, Ore.— The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced late today that aerial gunners have killed two adult members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack in northeast Washington, including the pack’s breeding female.
“Washington state just made things worse, not better by killing these two wolves,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Not only is it a tragedy to have these two beautiful wolves wiped out — by gunners in helicopters of all things — but there’s very strong science showing that killing a breeding animal can sometimes cause a wolf pack to split into several packs or dissolve altogether, disrupting their social order and even spurring additional conflicts with wildlife.”
The kill order was issued following investigations concluding the wolves recently killed three calves and a cow and that three other calf deaths are probable wolf kills. All of the losses occurred on public lands grazing allotments, in territory occupied by the Profanity Peak pack. The decision was made under the guidelines of a new lethal removal protocol that was agreed to this spring by the state Wolf Advisory Group, a stakeholder group convened by the Department of Fish and Wildlife that includes agency staff and representatives from the ranching, hunting and conservation community.
Despite the provisions of the Wolf Lethal Removal Protocol that was recently agreed to by the wolf advisory group, indicating that incremental lethal removal is the preferred avenue, the agency now has sharpshooters on the ground trying to kill more pack members.
“This wolf-killing operation is unfolding in a really disturbing way,” Weiss said. “If wolves are going to ever have a hope of recovering in Washington state, we need to rethink how these kinds of operations are being carried out.”
*As a fundraiser to help our wolves, the author is giving 50% or more of all proceeds of this wolf T-shirt to the Center’s Wolf Defense Fund. You can buy your T-shirt here, or donate directly to the Center for Biological Diversity.
“We don’t know why the Service eliminated the recovery program coordinator position, or why it stopped offering rewards for information on poaching cases, or why it ended its highly successful pup-fostering program,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center. “The Service is using every stalling tactic in the book to let the red wolf program wither and die, and its refusal to turn over any documents keeps all of us in the dark about what’s going on.”
“The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today under the Freedom of Information Act requesting that the agency hand over public records that explain why it pulled the plug on the red wolf recovery program. Early last fall the Center requested public records related to the Service’s decision. In the seven months that followed, the Service has sent a total of only eight documents to the Center, and continues to ignore the Freedom of Information Act’s mandated deadlines.”
Beautiful, shy and inoffensive, American red wolves are once again teetering on the brink of extinction. Despite a widely-lauded comeback in 1987 after the Service implemented a successful and innovative recovery program – a plan that was the envy of the world – red wolf recovery is suddenly in shambles. And now, inexplicably, Dan Ashe in the DC office of the USFWS seems to be discarding it all and totally abandoning this painfully imperiled species to its fate.
Seeing as there are as few as 45 excruciatingly vulnerable wild red wolves left, this behavior by the feds is certainly suspicious. It may be the first time in history that recovery efforts for an endangered species have been abandoned but, unnervingly, it’s not the only recent instance of our government’s failure to carry out its conservation duties. With an increasingly hostile political climate, protecting wildlife, National Forests, National Parks and other public lands seems to have become unfashionable. One has to wonder whether increasing disregard for the spirit and letter of the Endangered Species Act is a sign of political spinelessness, or someone’s deliberate attempt to gut the ESA itself. Could this be symptomatic of federal pandering to the special interests that benefit most from commandeering public spaces and sensitive lands for profit? Is it being coerced by higher government and/or industry strongmen? Attempts to dismantle the ESA as a way of flipping a ‘finger’ to the oft-hated US government is certainly not a new tactic. In fact the ‘war on wolves’ has, historically, very much been a way for political malcontents to express their generalized rage against the the government.
A newly uncovered ploy by the Koch brothers and their agents has already revealed a concerted effort to destroy and privatize our precious system of public lands. Without endangered species laws, there’s not much to stand in the way of widespread, unbridled exploitation. Weakening or unraveling the ESA is widely seen as ‘good for business’. So even if not a deliberate ploy by industry, it’s certainly something they’re happy to enable.
Red wolves, of course, are not the only species being thrown under the bus. In an affront to the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, helicopters have been rounding up and penning our wild mustangs by the thousands – Many of which are being sold to kill buyers for the Mexican slaughter industry. Grizzlies are being railroaded off the Endangered Species list, supposedly because they are ‘recovered’ – But more likely it’s another attempt to gut our most successful species preservation program. Our native prairie dogs – Fascinating, highly-social community animals – are being destroyed all across their range, their numbers in catastrophic free-fall – yet they’re repeatedly being denied full federal protections. Maybe protecting prairie dogs means denying new building, drilling or fracking permits? Turns out 56% of the remaining habitat for white tailed prairie dogs is “on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, much of which is leased for oil and gas drilling. The FWS denied thewhite-tailed prairie dog Endangered Species Act protection in 2010.”
It gets even worse – Now it’s down to questioning the validity of songbird species in order to deny them protection. Fighting legislation through taxonomy. What a way to mix up science and law. For instance, the Western willow flycatcher, a distinct subspecies, is now threatened with something called ‘lumping’ – An attempt to legally diminish its conservation worthiness by lumping it in with more common related species, so as to artificially inflate its perceived numbers – making it seem ‘less threatened’ and therefore less deserving of protection. No ‘Endangered Species’ designation means no special protection, no annoying rules against exploitation of critical habitats. No places ‘off limits’ to plundering-for-profit ‘just’ because the birds need protected places in which to live, breed and raise their next generation.
Enough. Nature, biodiversity and wildlife should never be considered expendable, even if they ‘impede industry’. Wildlife and wild lands must not be made into sacrificial lambs so a few can profit at the expense of the rest of us. Intricately interconnected living systems and future generations have a right to a fully-functioning, fully biodiverse and deeply healthy planet. As does the Earth, itself.
When the Wildlife Conservation Examiner went to the USFWS red wolf page (updated on 3/23/16) the Red Wolf Recovery Program tab shows there are 50-75 wild red wolves in the recovery area (in the paragraph immediately under the 2007 entry ‘Red Wolf Recovery Program receives the Association of Zoos and Aquariums North American Conservation Award’). Current confirmed numbers are more like 45-60. Just years before, well over twice that many were making a living eating invasive nutria in the pocosin swamps of their range. The boots-on-the-ground recovery team tried their very best and are heartbroken (per personal correspondence) – What happened to the red wolves in the intervening years?
Maybe this ominous entry on the same page has something to do with it: “1991, American Sheep Industry Association files petition to delist red wolf based on genetic analyses.” Gee, since when does the sheep industry have a say in biological taxonomy and naming of native wild species, and since when does it have a say in which wildlife is worthy of being listed as endangered? Since when does the USFWS allow industry pressure to trump sound science? Where is the backbone needed to actually fulfill the USFWS mandate to protect and restore species? Luckily that particular tactic failed – But there were others.
Read closer and there’s an even more ominous entry from 1995: “National Wilderness Institute files petition to delist red wolf based on nuclear DNA results”. What is the National Wilderness Institute and who funds them? “Once the brainchild of two young sportsmen who love nature and belong to the political right wing,'” say’s the Encyclopedia of Politics: The Left and the Right.” Another search turnedthis up: “The National Wilderness Institute (NWI) is a part of the anti-environmental “Wise Use” movement. It works to challenge the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and undermine other wilderness protections.” Another say’s “NWI sees themselves as a “voice of reason on the environment,” and are involved with repealing the Endangered Species Act and property rights issues.” The search also indicates funding from sources like Monsanto and Exxon Mobile. Could any of this have any bearing on why red wolves and other endangered species are becoming hot potatoes to be dropped into the abyss?
So this is the crux of things: All of our irreplaceable wildlife, from red wolves to grizzlies, American wild horses to prairie dogs to bison to sage grouse to Southwestern willow flycatchers, every species and subspecies, race and variation, has intrinsic value. It is the obligation of our federal United States Fish and Wildlife Service to carry out the functions we’ve entrusted to them, which we are paying them for – Which is to protect and restore imperiled species and their habitats. No matter what powerful and rich private interests may pull to try to stop them.
See the full press release from Center for Biological Diversity, and sign up with them to help red wolf recovery efforts, here.
Information on the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, here.
Listen to a Southwestern Willow Flycatcher here.
“Edited for clarity
*Additional link added of red wolves howling.
BREAKING: After the US Fish and Wildlife Service abandoned its mandate to restore the critically low wild red wolf population, numbers plummeted from around 120 two years ago to 45 or less, making the red wolf one of the most critically imperiled species on the planet.
On May 24, The Center for Biological Diversity, along with other conservation groups, filed an emergency petition to require USFWS, the federal government, entrusted with protecting and recovering rare, threatened and endangered species, to fulfill their responsibilities and save the red wolf from extinction in the wild. Red wolves, once the darling of American endangered-species recovery innovations, have been thrown under the bus by an agency cowed by pressure from strident (although numerically small) anti-wolf and and anti-government forces.
“Red wolves face the very real possibility of vanishing from the wild if they don’t get the help they need,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Sadly the Fish and Wildlife Service seems more concerned about appeasing a small minority of anti-wildlife extremists in North Carolina than preventing the extinction of these wolves.”
What makes this federal betrayal of red wolves worse is that it flies in the face of recommendations by its own scientists to actually strengthen recovery efforts. The press release states, “Records recently obtained via the Freedom of Information Act demonstrate that the Service’s red wolf biologists recommended strengthening protections by eliminating loopholes in regulations that have facilitated excessive illegal shootings of red wolves. As recently as 2013, the Service had considered following these recommendations and had even drafted new regulations. But the biologists’ recommendations were ignored, the regulations were never finalized, and the red wolf continues to suffer unsustainable levels of mortality.” So the USFWS has dropped the ball in violation of its own expert’s advice and against the wishes of a large majority of the public who strongly feel the survival of this shy and elusive small canid is imperative.
The emergency petition requests that the US Fish and Wildlife Service revise the current red wolf regulations in order to reduce red wolf shooting deaths, establish additional wild populations of red wolves (which will also boost sorely-needed genetic diversity), and, importantly, reclassify all reintroduced populations of red wolves as “essential” experimental populations. Currently, wild red wolves are classified as “non-essential,” which severely limits the protections they receive under the Endangered Species Act. This one change should ensure that shot, trapped, poisoned or other intentionally-killed wolves will be treated as crime victims and the perpetrators held accountable to the full extent of the law.
“It is completely arbitrary that this lone wild population of red wolves, which was reintroduced almost 30 years ago, is still classified by the Service as a ‘non-essential’ species,” said Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute. “The Service has turned its back on this species, and is undermining rather than bolstering red wolf recovery.”
Red wolves are shy, inoffensive, even skittish, mainly hunting small nuisance species like invasive nutria, rodents and plentiful rabbits. These beautiful singers are family-oriented, elusive and deeply beneficial to ecosystems they call home.
As revealed in a follow-up press release, the groups note they “may pursue relief in federal court” if Fish and Wildlife does not respond within 45 days.
“Red wolves face the very real possibility of vanishing from the wild if they don’t get the help they need,” said Brett Hartl, the Center for Biological Diversity’s endangered species policy director.
Organizations that filed today’s petition include the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Endangered Species Coalition, the South Florida Wildlands Association, WildEarth Guardians, Wildlands Network, and the Wolf Conservation Center. Learn more about red wolf conservation and the Center for Biological Diversity, here. To help the Center in its fight to save this uniquely American Southeastern wolf, donate to their Wolf Defense Fund here.
*Updated 4:35 EST 5/25/16
There is still mystery and majesty in the American landscape, in the form of a little-known and critically-endangered species indigenous to the east coast – A shy, modestly sized native singer who used to roam large portions of the US from New York to Florida and westward to Texas. After an initially brilliant cooperative recovery effort, though, this jewel is being abandoned by the very government agency entrusted with it’s survival.
Canis rufus, the Red Wolf is in a death spiral.Their tenuous population has plummeted from 120 to only 50 individuals in just a few years, not due to natural causes, but by organized, fear-mongering hunters, anti-government forces, and haters – not to mention a complete lack of will by those charged with facilitating their recovery. Despite initially successful efforts to assist this unique, elusive and beautiful animal in reclaiming it’s rightful place, starting in a select North Carolina ecosystem, recent failures by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, under the directorship of Dan Ashe, threaten to doom thered wolf to extinction in the wild.
The Red Wolf is indigenous to the Eastern US, meaning, the species was born here and exists no where else on Earth.That makes it pretty special, and America should be proud. The Red Wolf deserves full protection and respect.
Indeed, they’re a true treasure; a fascinating species with a strikingly different look than their gray wolf counterparts. Red wolves are smaller, sleeker, with larger, more pointed ears and sporting a smart-looking agouti-style coat patterned in warm, rich autumnal hues – a coat that wears like a slicker in the summer and grows dense and shaggy in winter. They are different than gray wolves in other ways, too. Rather than tackling big game like bison or elk in packs, these modestly-sized wild canids living mostly in bonded pairs, feed on smaller prey like rats, rabbits, nutria, squirrels, insects, reptiles and amphibians (and the occasional young deer), which makes them valuable for keeping populations of many so-called ‘pest’ species in check.
Plus, to add a note of inspiration, they are the improvisational tenor jazz-singers of the forest. They can be heard here, in a recording from the Red Wolf Recovery team of the US Fish and Wildlife service. Their music enriches the landscapes in which they still roam, swelling the hearts of wildlife lovers everywhere.
Red wolves are beautiful, melodious, shy and beneficial for the environment. Who wouldn’t want these good citizens to resume their rightful places in our wild-lands? In fact a large majority of North Carolina and other US citizens strongly support red wolf recovery efforts. So why are a couple anti-wolf forces being allowed to derail the survival of an entire species? That comes down to the familiar-sounding anti-government rants we’re used to lately, disinformation from the hunting lobby, politics and a deep, fatal weakness in the implementation of the endangered species program by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which, under Obama appointee Dan Ashe, seems to have lost the backbone to stand up against even a tiny, malevolent anti-wildlife force. In fact, actively dismantling the ESA would be a more precise description, and is a grievous disservice to the most important tool against loss of biological diversity at our disposal. The USFW has outlined their take on the issue, here. But if their efforts are truly on the behalf of a recovered and genetically viable wild population of red wolves, why have numbers of this gravely imperiled species plummeted? And why are the big conservation watchdogs like the Center for Biological Diversity crying foul?
“Director Ashe and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are deliberately condemning the red wolf to extinction,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The red wolf recovery program was once a shining example of successful conservation. Under the direction of Dan Ashe, the program has been quietly dismantled to appease a few anti-wildlife zealots. It’s disgraceful.” The situation is grim, a gross betrayal by our own government of one of the most imperiled species on the planet. Humans are driving the loss of not just wolves, but a staggering number of species around the globe. In fact, humans are responsible for this 6th mass extinction event in our planet’s history. And it’s getting worse – which doesn’t bode well for our future.
The release on red wolves goes on to say, “The total estimated population has declined by about 50 percent since 2012, from 100 to 120 individuals to just 50 to 75 in 2015. The declines have occurred since the Service bowed to political pressure from the state of North Carolina, eliminating the program’s recovery coordinator in 2014 and stopping the introduction of new red wolves into the wild in July 2015. The agency also ended a coyote-sterilization program to prevent hybrid animals from harming the gene pool, drastically reduced law-enforcement investigations of wolf deaths, and stopped publicizing cases where poaching was determined to be the cause of deaths.”
The coyote situation threw a real wrench in the works. “Red wolf mortality skyrocketed after North Carolina authorized nighttime hunting of coyotes because red wolves and coyotes are nearly indistinguishable in the dark. Following a successful lawsuit to stop nighttime hunting, the Fish and Wildlife Service faced increased political pressure to curtail the red wolf recovery program.”. The crazy part about this whole battle is that, before red wolves were very nearly driven to extinction by humans, coyotes were unheard of in the eastern half of the country – It was only when we removed the red wolf that the opportunistic and resourceful coyote, seeing a newly available ecological niche, moved in to former red wolf territory. Presumably a reinvigorated population of native red wolves would reduce eastern coyote populations naturally, just as the restoration of gray wolves in Yellowstone park has repaired the balance there.
Politics should have no place in species preservation, nor should the whims of hunters, who already exert power all out of proportion to their numbers. Unfortunately a strident minority has so far been successfully pressuring our government to make disastrous decisions against the public good. Something precious that was being welcomed by people around the country (even the world), short-circuited by an obstructive and selfish few? Something is very wrong here. Should we petition for the removal of Dan Ashe? Will the people continue to sit passively while a few haters cow the USFWS into capitulating to their demands? Shall politics trump sound science, as well as the will of the people, the majority of whom strongly support red wolf recovery?
UPDATE 10:26 pm 3//2/16 FromWildlands Network “An update that the red wolf was removed from the trap and is currently residing in FWS’s Sandy Ridge Captive Red Wolf Facility”
BREAKING: A critically endangered American Red Wolf has been cruelly held in a leg-hold trap by a NC landowner, who, according to a press release from Wildlands Network on March 1, is demanding a permit to kill it.
“This incident marks just the latest tragic development in the recent history of what has otherwise been a leading effort at restoring a native species to the wild,” said Dr. Ron Sutherland, a biologist with the Wildlands Network in North Carolina. The red wolf is one of the most critically endangered species in the world – more endangered than the Siberian tiger, Wildlands Network explains – with only 45 known individuals remaining in the wild. The US has worked hard to save it from the brink of extinction since 1987, when they were first reintroduced in North Carolina and garnered international admiration, demonstrating the power of the Endangered Species Act to do as it’s meant to do: to save species from vanishing forever. So, with great care and the oversight of the USFWS management team, the red wolf population climbed to 120-130 animals in 2005-2006. Still fragile, not yet sustainable, but a widely lauded achievement. But now, after a catastrophic series of attacks on the recovery program (and the wolves, themselves) by just one opposing, strident party (who hates both the USFWS and red wolves), the program is in shambles – and the precious, imperiled red wolf population has plummeted:
Now, only 45 wild red wolves are left in the entire world, all living in one remote NC location. The 30 year recovery program is now in danger of failing – being actively sabotaged by just one landowner who has been fighting this important ESA project since the beginning.
How does one disgruntled landowner (who was previously denied a kill permit) get away with trapping and tormenting a federally protected species? How does he get away with using a brutal leg-hold device to trap one, leaving it to languish, one paw clamped between hard metal jaws, suffering while the landowner tries to coerce the government into issuing a lethal-take permit so he can kill it? There is no mention of the condition of the wolf, when finally allowed to be picked up by authorities. But one thing is clear – this vanishing species can’t afford to lose any more individuals. Genetic diversity is crucial to their long term survival. To kill this genetically important animal would be unconscionable, but it wouldn’t be the first this landowner has slaughtered, even if largely indirectly. In fact, this landowner has deliberately stoked increasing antagonism between other land owners and the wolves – Resulting in a flurry of shootings, including a genetically irreplaceable mother nursing a litter of pups; a mother representing one of less than a dozen in the wild.
“Even as the wolf population plummets, the Agency has issued take permits to landowners to kill the animals . . . The US Fish and Wildlife Service declared their efforts to catch the (mother) wolf ‘abandoned’, even though the landowner had never granted the Agency permission to attempt to live trap the wolf on his property.”
Most concerning, (if that’s possible) is the abject failure of the USFWS to nip this disaster in the bud. Their failure to demand immediate release of this wolf and provide any medical care he or she might need after languishing in that trap, (in pain, without food, water or shelter from the elements), and at least slap a fine or jail time on the offending landowner, is a national embarrassment. Why hasn’t this been done? Is our USFWS Director Dan Ashe so easily cowed by these people that he is willing to let an entire, irreplaceable species be spitefully driven to extinction? Why not ‘grow some’, and stop this criminal behavior immediately? That would also send out a strong message that all endangered species are protected by law, and that harassing, harming or killing a red wolf (or any other protected species) is a crime with real consequences.
Our ‘National wolf’ is definitely worth cherishing. Reds are small, shy and secretive little wolves who avoid people whenever possible. They do not travel in packs like gray wolves, tending instead to live in bonded pairs. They actually eat what many would consider pest species – Nutria (an introduced, invasive nuisance), rabbits, other small animals and the occasional deer. These charming, unique little canids are beautiful, blending in with the leafy, bountifully biodiverse places where they live, and are highly beneficial for their ecosystems. Best of all, they sound totally cool as they croon, howl, yip and chortle their lively songs. It’s no wonder that there is considerable local and national support for red wolves. In fact, recently, 100 residents who live in the red wolf recovery area sent a petition to US Fish and Wildlife Services expressing support for red wolves! You can learn more about red wolves here.
“Science tells us that this wolf is recoverable and a benefit to the ecosystem,” said Sutherland.“US Fish and Wildlife Services Director Ashe must stop allowing shooting and lethal trapping of red wolves and he needs to immediately restart active recovery efforts for the red wolf. The Agency has a duty to protect this critically endangered wolf for future generations. If it does not act now, America’s beautiful red wolf will soon be extinct in the wild,” said Sutherland.
Don’t let the failures of Dan Ashe and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service doom yet another species – We need to do whatever it takes to save this charming, uniquely American species. And if this poor trapped wolf, having likely been starved and dehydrated while trapped, should die from the ordeal (provided it was retrieved alive), the landowner* should be treated like the animal abuser and felon that he is.
To read the entire press release, click here.
*The Wildlife Conservation Examiner has made the choice to not state the landowner’s name so as to not give him any more publicity.
updated 9 pm 3/2/16
BREAKING – Disturbing information, made available today through email correspondence with the Center for Biological Diversity and phone calls to Idaho Fish and Game, reveals that USDA Wildlife Services is using radio-collars on wolves in an outrageous, long-term “Judas wolf’ culling strategy like that used in British Columbia. The details of this troubling practice are worse than anyone suspected, and will outrage wolf and wildlife advocates everywhere.
The Wildlife Conservation Examiner had just come across alarming news on the Never Cry Wolf (Wildlife Defence League) website. In their February 18, 2016 press release, they revealed that BC Liberals in the South Selkirk region have been radio-collaring wolves, purportedly to save dwindling mountain caribou herds. But the purpose isn’t ‘research’, as some believe, or even, as wildlife advocates have suspected, to track collared individuals back to their den sites, after which Bighorn helicopters come in and slaughter the entire family – pups and all. No, it’s much worse than that.
In their post South Selkirk Wolves Confirmed Slaughtered in Second Year of BC Wolf Cull, Never Cry Wolf revealed with horror that the tragic collared wolf, the so-called ‘Judas’ wolf, is doomed to a life of repeated persecution, adversity and mourning.
“We were shocked to learn the Judas wolf is kept alive year after year,” said Tommy Knowles, Campaign Director for Wildlife Defence League. “He or she is left to pack up with a new family, who are deliberately baited into the territory. The next winter, the Judas wolf’s new pack is slaughtered. If watching your family killed year after year by snipers in helicopters is what this government considers a “humane” cull, I shudder to imagine what they consider inhumane.”
Appalled, The Wildlife Conservation Examiner wondered if it’s just British Columbia using a poor, lonely, unwitting ‘Judas’ wolf to repeatedly betray his or her own family – Or if we’re doing it here, too. When asked if the use of ‘Judas’ wolves goes on in America, the Center for Biological Diversity confirmed the unsettling truth and furnished this statement specifically for this article:
“After Congress bypassed the Endangered Species Act through a rider that stripped wolves in Idaho from protection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency began radio-collaring so-called Judas wolves, shooting their families from the air, and sparing the collared wolf so that they can do it again,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Congress now threatens to inflict the same cruelty on wolves in Wyoming through stripping them of their protections as well as protections for wolves in the Great Lakes region.”
With this chilling information, a call was made to USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, where a chipper and extremely helpful lady named Sue offered to transfer the call to a man in Idaho who, she happily assured, could answer any questions about their wolf-collaring program. A couple minutes later, a gruff-sounding man named Todd picked up. This reporter innocently asked who would be the person to could talk to, to learn about the program and the collaring of Idaho wolves?
Turns out ‘Todd’ was none other than Todd Grimm, himself, Idaho State Director of the infamous rogue agency Wildlife Services – And he sounded edgy, hesitant and nervous. “Uhm, we – uh, we don’t really do that, no,” he said, after a long pause.
“You don’t collar wolves? For any reason? Ever?”
“Well, that’s not – No.”
“Oh – but I was told that you were the one to talk to about wolf collaring.”
Hesitantly, “Well, we do some – uh – No, not here – No, that’s not really something we do.”
“Oh. So who does collar the wolves?”
Then, suddenly more sure of the direction he was going to take, his voice grew more authoritative, edged with anger, “That’s a State issue.” He provided some names and numbers at Idaho Fish and Game.
The next call was to the very pleasant Jennifer Struthers, Wildlife Biologist with Idaho Fish and Game. Jennifer was easy to talk to and very generous with her responses. We talked for several minutes about how her team traps, collars and then monitors wolves. At one point, when asked if they ever used the collars to track down and ‘take out’ so-called problem animals, she said “We don’t personally but yes, they can be used that way.” She continued, “We authorize control in those (conflict) situations. . . . Wildlife Services may put a collar on a pack to help find them.” When asked who actually does the collaring then, if it’s more than one agency, she said, “It’s mostly us, but Wildlife Services does occasionally put out collars as well.”
Asked directly about the use of ‘Judas’ wolves, Struthers said, “We don’t call it that but I know what you’re referring to. So, sometimes, in areas were we have control, or we want to do control, either because wolves have been depredating on sheep and cattle, or because in some areas we have predation management plans where wolves are heavily impacting elk population, in some of those areas we’re actually removing wolves to help the elk population recover. So sometimes you collar a wolf with other wolves, and you collar one and then that wolf then can be used later to locate the pack to remove more wolves.” When asked what they call the method she said they didn’t have a name for it but it was ‘collaring for later control.’
When asked if the collared wolf is used indefinitely she said “Well, it just depends, sometimes, well, usually that animal is left alive.They remove what they can of the rest of the pack, and it may not be all of them because of the conditions and the trees, so it may only be a few out of the group, (but the group) continues on. So then the next year, the control, at least for depredation management plans, it’s done in the winter, so next year, if they come back, you locate that wolf. It may be with other wolves or it may be on it’s own and not have anything else with it.” (Notice how wolves and their families are referred to as ‘it’?) “So it can be used for multiple years. But it just depends whether it joins up with more wolves in the same area where we’re doing the actual control. If it leaves the area and goes somewhere else then it won’t be used for that The battery life (of the radio collar), again, on most of them is about 4 years.” Which, it turns out, is the average life expectancy of a wolf in their management territory – But wolves should live much longer. According to Big Run Wolf Ranch, “Wolves in the wild have an average life span of six to eight years, but wolves have been known to live up to 13 years in the wild and 16 years in captivity.”
Struthers continued, “We follow all the wolves we have collared but if it moves outside of an area where we have an approved depredation management plan then it would not be subject to control. We can go locate it, we still use that collar for monitoring data, but if it left the control area then there wouldn’t be any control on it, unless of course it got into trouble with sheep or livestock, and that’s a different kind of control that we contract to Wildlife Services.”
When asked directly if Wildlife Services does that actual collaring (for lethal control), Struthers replied, “Sometimes they put out collars . . . Really their objective, they’re not, usually not putting out collars to collect data on the population like we do, they put out a collar that the purpose is that they use that to help them with subsequent control actions.”
So there it is. Our United States Department of Agriculture certainly is collaring and slaughtering wolves using an unwitting ‘Judas’ wolf to torment repeatedly. But the Director of USDA Wildlife Services, Todd Grimm, maintained they didn’t collar wolves, at all. Why lie? Another curious discrepancy; Ms. Struthers confirmed that no research is done by Wildlife Services, yet their (public) website (USDA APHIS Wildlife Damage Management) says they do. Again, why lie? To present a friendlier face to the public? Who are we to believe?
More to the point, is this how we want our tax dollars being spent, to slowly torment a being as social, emotional and family-oriented as a wolf, systematically destroying everything that matters to her, over and over again? Will we allow our government to continue carrying out these atrociously unethical familicides on one of our most beloved and iconic species, our beautiful, intelligent, melodious and vulnerable gray wolf?
*UPDATES and information from BornFreeUSA on the pangolin crisis.
In response to this petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced on March 15, 2016 that Endangered Species Act protections may be warranted for seven pangolin species.
From Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation: “The Endangered Species Act is among the strongest conservation laws in the world, and listing all pangolin species under the Act will be a dramatic and positive step in saving the species from extinction—one that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is uniquely positioned to provide. We congratulate the Service in taking this important initial step.”
We are thrilled with this decision from the FWS, but pangolins still need your help! We’ll soon call on you to write to the FWS in support of protecting these highly imperiled species.
Called the most trafficked species that no one’s ever heard of, cool, roly-poly pangolins are running out of time.
Covered from head to tail in conspicuous overlapping scales, the pangolin, or scaly anteater, is a fantastical creature that could steal the show in any Star Wars movie. With birdlike snout, no forehead, no external ears, no teeth, a tongue longer than its body, skunk-like musk, bird-like gizzard, powerful talons, versatile tail and bright, dark eyes, they’re as endearing as they are unlikely. They can roll up into an impenetrable, sharp-scaled ball, dig a burrow big enough for a man to stand in, or even climb trees. At times, some of them even like to shuffle along on two feet like harmless, geriatric velociraptors.
They’re thoroughly enchanting – Which makes it all the more heartbreaking that humans seem intent on poaching them to extinction. In Africa and Asia, they’re being ripped from the wild by the hundreds of thousands – for their scales (made of keratin, the same as finger nails and rhino horns) – as well as their blood and flesh. In China, pangolins are said to be good medicine – Even, disturbingly, tiny pangolin fetuses, to be served whole, in soup or on a plate, are coveted as a health tonic – or, some say, to bolster a flagging libido. Ironic, since pangolins only have one baby per litter. Obviously, taking out breeding females and their unborn is bad news for the species. Nothing besides humans actually does much hunting of pangolins. Because they are not food – They are not medicine or ornaments, either. They don’t breed to compensate for depredation because they are not prey. They have a different place in the world.
One pangolin can gobble up billions of ants and termites in her lifetime. That’s maybe 20 years of sustainable pest control per pangolin, keeping forests, ecosystems, farms and dwellings healthy and balanced. They’re natural, low-wage organic exterminators. They save humans money, for Pete’s sake. Why on Earth aren’t we treating live wild pangolins like the super-heroes that they are?
Makes more sense than selling them by the kilogram. But instead of valuing, even cherishing living pangolins, the same end-users pushing rhinos to the brink of extinction are eating pangolins into oblivion. Combined with rampant habitat loss, and the fact that pangolins just don’t do well in captivity – struggling even to live, no less breed – time is fast running out for all eight pangolin species.
WCE: Thank you for talking with me, Adam. The pangolin is in serious trouble. What are the biggest threats to the pangolin right now?
Roberts: Well, for us, it’s 2 things – One is the that pangolin is incredibly heavily traded globally, including in the United States, yet little action has happened up until now, to take measurable steps towards saving the species. Which is why Born Free and others are looking at the US Endangered Species Act, and CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to try to provide some remedy to the species before it’s too late. The second major threat is habitat loss.
WCE: We, most of us, understand about Traditional Asian Medicine – But your assertion that Americans are partially fueling this – That’s big. Do you care to elaborate on that?
Roberts: Our research shows that about 100,000 pangolin specimens are being traded globally each year. While most illegally traded pangolins are destined for China and Vietnam, the U.S. is a significant importer. Nearly 27,000 pangolins were imported into the U.S. between 2004-2013. So over the course of ten years, you’re literally looking at tens of thousands of pangolin specimens coming into the country, which, again, is not something that many people talk about. They talk about elephant ivory and rhino horn but we’ve got a considerable number of seizures of these animal’s parts coming into the United States which means, number one, that we’re contributing to the decline of the species, but number two, it’s the responsibility before the US government to take specific actions to try to stem the tide.
WCE: This should shake a lot of people up. Most American’s feel like we’re not the cause, that we’re the solution to problems like this – We tend to think these things are always happening someplace else. Do we know who the end users are, are we basically a channel to the other markets or is the end user actually here in the US?
Roberts: I think for the most part it’s end users here in the US, probably using Traditional Asian Medicine, which we’ve been fighting over the years, in various towns across the country engaging in trade in a number of specimens, whether it’s musk deer or black bear gall bladders, black bear bile, but we do know there’s a huge activity here in the United States. When you think about it, given that pangolins, unlike black bears, are not found in the US, that in order to employ the (pangolin) scales in their traditional medicinal pharmacopoeia, they need to import them from overseas. As I said, with other species, like the bears, even though the Asiatic black bear is coveted most in Traditional Asian Medicine, American black bear gall bladders and bile will substitute fine, it’s the case that there is no other source of pangolin scales but from Africa and from Asia.
WCE: I’m looking at the statistics for the 8 species. Two of them are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, but obviously all are in steep decline. What are they waiting for to actually grant these animals fully protected status under the Endangered Species Act?* All the species would have been, I would think, covered a long time ago.
Roberts: Yeah, exactly, and I’m not sure why just one of the eight species is listed, historically, but surely it’s either a matter of shortsightedness or lack of information on the other species, but now I think cumulatively there’s more information on the other species in view of the biology and distribution of the species, so not just the trends in population declines but also the levels of trade to warrant listing all 8 species under the ESA and then again, changing the rank of CITES to be sure there’s FULL protection through CITES – but we’re not quite there yet.
WCE: Who’s responsible for the studies (on the pangolin)? Is there new research being done, are there teams on the ground learning about the biology and the distribution that wasn’t in place, let’s say, five years ago?
Roberts: I don’t know that there’s anything substantively new in terms of the approach, I think it’s just the accumulation of data by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and other NGOs, entities like Born Free USA and others, that have taken some time over the last couple of years to focus on this and observe it. The IUCN/SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, will have accumulated significant new trade data we’ll be able to analyze the trend in the species.
WCE: Do you think having, for instance, a ‘Jane Goodall’ of pangolins would make a difference?
Roberts: (chuckles) – I think it always helps to have a high-profile figure to be brought to any campaign. However, I (also) think the data related to pangolins is undeniable in terms of what’s happening on the ground and the trade around the world, and that makes a good case by itself, and I think it would be difficult to argue that these species don’t warrant additional protection under the United States rules.
WCE: If there was something you could leave readers with – because most of my readers, they want action steps, they’ll read an article and say, ‘Well, what can we do to help?”
Roberts: Well, the easiest thing to do is, now that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has come out with a provisional finding that the petition to list those other 7 species of pangolin under the ESA iswarranted, we’re opening a 60-day public comment period during which time ANYBODY can weigh in in support of the petition, and then they’ll go off and do a 12 month finding, doing their research and analyzing the comments to determine whether the petition should go forward or not; so there is a 60-day period in which your readers can weigh in. There will be a link on the BornFreeUSA.orgwebsite to take action on exactly how they can weigh in most effectively.
WCE: Any last thoughts you want to leave my readers with?
Roberts: All too often we don’t understand the impact of a species lost until it’s too late – So we are finding that with the pangolin, most people still haven’t heard of them – at least until recently most people still haven not even heard of the species and now we are finding out that we have to have this kind of ’emergency room’ approach in order to save the animal before they disappear forever. So I think the important thing is just to recognize that these species have a vital role in the ecosystem, and they obviously deserve protection unto themselves –
Roberts: While they may not be as well-known or charismatic as lions, tigers or elephants, we really do have to do what we can to keep them safe in the wild, and we’re talking about a species that is not only found in Africa but in Asia, as well. So there’s a global responsibility that we have to take to conserve these animals before it’s too late. Hopefully people will take action on their behalf.
WCE: That triggers one last question. Do we know yet what – besides eating only small insects like ants and termites (as far as we know) – well, I know everything’s interconnected, like a tapestry – pull one thread and everything unravels – Do we have any inkling yet where that thread starts with the pangolins and where it connects to other natural processes -?
Roberts: I think you’re right, that obviously we’ll end up with a disproportionate increase in their prey, which would be insects, and that could have a negative impact on ecosystems where they’re found – so they are a species that regulates their environment to a significant (degree). I would like to leave you with this quote from Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission:
“Pangolins save us millions of dollars a year in pest destruction. These shy creatures provide a vital service and we cannot afford to overlook their ecological role as natural controllers of termites and ants.”
WCE: Thank you for your time, Adam.
Roberts: Thank you.
Help save the pangolin –
Asian pangolin species:
Chinese or Formosan pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) – Critically Endangered
Malayan or Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) – Critically Endangered
Indian or thick-tailed pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) – Endangered
Palawan or Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis) – Endangered
African pangolin species:
Tree or African white-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) – Vulnerable
Giant ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) – Vulnerable
Cape or Temminck’s ground pangolin (Manis temminckii) – Vulnerable
Long-tailed or black-bellied pangolin (Uromanis tetradactyla) – Vulnerable
See the African Ground Pangolins here.
See the plight of Asia’s gravely imperiled pangolins in this excellent video, here.
When the public comment period opens for listing the remaining 7 pangolin species under the ESA, leave your comment here.
*Born Free USA explains the IUCN and ESA discrepancy: “2 Asian species are listed as CE, two as E, and all 4 African species are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. We are trying to get 7 species of pangolins listed under the ESA. There are 8 species of pangolins and one is already listed under the ESA.”