15 January 2016
With 109 wolves in the wild in the U.S. and fewer than 25 in Mexico, Mexican gray wolves are the most endangered gray wolves in the world. But that’s not stopping wildlife officials from undermining their recovery. This week, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission passed a damaging resolution opposing the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves statewide. Taking this preemptive, we’re-not-interested-in-helping stance can only slow efforts to save the lobo. Colorado has some of the best suitable habitat for this species: large areas with sufficient prey and low human and road densities, all within dispersal distance of the established Arizona and New Mexico population. While we are disappointed by this outcome, we send an enormous thank you to all wolf advocates and Defenders members who attended the hearing in Denver this week and told the Commission that banning Mexican gray wolves from Colorado is not based on science, public opinion or reality. The Commission meeting room was filled to capacity (150 people) and nearly 30 more people stood outside the room listening to the debate! It was definitely a pro-wolf majority. This resolution is yet another attempt to sabotage lobo recovery from a state that should be a partner in that effort. Check out this infographic that tells the story in more detail.
The National Park Service (NPS) announced this week it will proceed with a plan to relocate some of Yellowstone’s bison to tribal and public lands for restoration, a much needed alternative to the highly contentious program of shipment to slaughter currently employed to reduce bison population numbers each winter. Even though the Yellowstone herd is the nation’s largest wild bison population and is free of all cattle DNA, these valuable genes have been essentially trapped within the confines of Yellowstone due to the groundless and unsubstantiated fear that bison could transfer disease to cattle. Although the disease “brucellosis,” initially introduced to North America through livestock, is now found in some Yellowstone bison, bison have not been implicated in a single case of transmission of brucellosis to cattle in the wild. This new plan could change this broken management system by establishing a facility to test Yellowstone bison for disease and then sending healthy bison to willing public and tribal lands for conservation. Because this plan was just proposed, it won’t be in place in time to prevent any slaughter this year. But, it is still an incredibly positive step forward which could reduce reliance on shipment to slaughter in the future.
Nonlethal tools help Oregon’s wolves survive the 2015
Wildlife officials this week announced that a female from Oregon’s Mt Emily pack in Umatilla County is dispersing to new areas in the state. Her movement is a sign that the pack is doing well, no doubt thanks in part to the nonlethal tools Defenders helped landowners deploy in the county last summer. This area has one of the highest concentrations of sheep in the state, and the “foxlights” we provided to help landowners keep livestock-wolf conflict to a minimum clearly made a big difference!
The fisher, a small forest-dwelling carnivore closely related to otters, minks, and martens, may finally get the federal protection they’ve needed for years. The Northern Rockies fisher is now only found in sections of western Montana and northern and central Idaho. But, they once ranged from eastern British Columbia and southwestern Alberta through areas of northeastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, northwest Wyoming and north-central Utah. Despite their dwindling numbers, threats to these imperiled critters are increasing. Chief among them? Trapping. The number of fishers being trapped is skyrocketing in the Northern Rockies. In Idaho where there is no legal trapping of fishers, illegal, accidental trapping is the highest it has been in 40 years. Thankfully, this week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would reevaluate the fisher’s protection. At Defenders, we’re telling the Service this population simply can’t afford to wait any longer. An endangered species listing could trigger restrictions on trapping or require modifying traps so they’re less likely to attract fishers. It could also lead to greater protections for the forests where fishers live. Stay tuned for more in the coming months.
Wandering wolf OR-7 has a protégé
Any wolf advocate knows the heartwarming tale of OR-7. In late 2011, he was the first wolf to appear in California in nearly a century after migrating there from Oregon. Since OR-7 blazed the path, the Golden State has seen much more wolf activity. In addition to welcoming the first family of wolves – named the “ Shasta Pack” — last summer, in recent weeks, wildlife officials have reported that a second Oregon wolf, OR-25, crossed over state lines into California! It’s not uncommon for wolves to travel incredibly long distances in search of a mate. While OR-25 is currently back in Oregon, his movements are an encouraging sign of wolves’ continued expansion throughout Oregon and into California.