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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

In the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, Montana researchers led by Ben Jimenez have begun a research study on the Pumas living there.................This study started in December and follows up on 2013 research which revealed that the population of the big cats in this region seemed to be twice as large as originally estimated by Montana Wildlife & Parks.............For my money it is disheartening that the research is motivated by how large a human hunter kill quota should exist for the Pumas.............Rationale provided is that between Bears and Pumas trimming Elk calves in the Spring and Wolves focusing on adults through the year, that these carnivores need to be "trimmed back" so that humans have the easiest possible chance of killing their annual Elk.............As our Ecologist friend George Wuerthner and most of his colleagues suggest-----"There is no good justification for indiscriminate hunting and/or trapping of predators anywhere, any time".............. "What they are legitimizing by their stance is the persecution of predators to appease the prejudices of some members of society"............. "There is good scientific evidence that wolves, pumas, bears, coyotes, lynx, bobcats and other predators are “self regulating".......... "They do not need to be “managed"............ "Social interactions in all predators serve to limit population numbers, along with the normal mortality associated with the dangerous proposition of depending on killing other large, strong animals for your food".............

Tracking cats, Researchers return to the Bitterroot to learn more about elusive mountain lion populations

  • Updated 
Against the backdrop sound of baying hounds, a mountain lion stares down from its perch high up in an ancient ponderosa pine.
Preparations are underway around the base of tree. Nets laid, dart guns primed, and climbing equipment readied.

Mentally, you’re picking your route up through the stout branches and deciding exactly how the lion will be lowered carefully to the ground.
A houndsman gathers his dogs and ties them securely a short distance away.
The first dart is fired into the cat’s behind. Its barbed hollowed core falls into the snow with the tiny bit of flesh that contains the DNA needed to identify the lion.
At this point, the adrenaline is starting to pump.
Everything has to happen in just the right way to keep both you and the mountain lion safe in the next few moments.
A researcher aims the gun firing the tranquilizer dart. There’s the a popping sound as the dart leaves the barrel.
Now comes the challenge.
The drugs takes effect in the next four to six minutes.
Climb the tree too fast and there’s a chance that lion will greet you with a dangerous snarl or it could climb higher into the tree where the danger of it being injured during a fall increases.

Wait too long to get up the tree and the lion might end up tumbling to the ground on its own.
If everything goes as planned, hobbles are placed around two of the lion’s paws and a rigging setup is used to lower the animal safely to the ground where researchers await to take blood samples, do a general medical check, insert an ear tag and, most importantly, place a GPS collar around the lion’s neck that will track its movements for the next two years.
“There is a lot of things that have to be right before we even take that shot,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Research Tech Ben Jimenez.
Jimenez leads a team of researchers and houndsmen who have been tracking mountain lions in the southern reaches of the Bitterroot Valley since the first part of December as part of a population study.
The study follows a similar population estimate effort three years ago that suggested there were at least twice as many mountain lions in the southern Bitterroot than wildlife managers had originally thought.
Since then, hunting quotas have been increased in the Bitterroot.
The current study could provide insight on the impacts on that increased harvest.
Next year, researchers will return to the Phillipsburg area where a similar mountain lion population study occurred a couple of years ago. The mountain lion hunting quota there has remained the same.
Putting results from those two studies side-by-side could offer wildlife managers some insight on what impacts hunting has on lion populations.

Unlike the first round where researchers only collected DNA using hollowed darts, the current effort has added GPS collars that will track the animal’s movement every three hours.
“We will get eight locations a day,” Jimenez said. “That data is downloaded remotely…I wouldn’t be surprised to find that these mountain lions move a lot.”
The plan calls for collaring 14 lions in both the east and west forks of the Bitterroot this winter, with an equal number being placed on males and females.
So far, four males have been collared and two females.
The collars are designed to automatically drop off the animals after two years.
If hunters do happen to kill a collared mountain lion, Jimenez said the department simply asks for the collar to be returned so it can be redeployed.
The state is also in the middle of doing a second study on elk calf survival in the southern Bitterroot. Jimenez said 81 calves were fitted with ear tags with a radio transmitter this spring. About half of those are still alive.
So far, Jimenez said researchers haven’t seen anything vastly different in the manner they met their demise. Bears focus on the calves early in the season. Mountain lions prey on the elk young continuously and the expectation is that wolves will come into the picture this winter as the snow deepens.
And there is quite a lot of natural mortality that occurs, which ranges from drowning to pneumonia.
“That’s just the brutal nature of things,” Jimenez said. “It’s why animals produce at such high rates.”

The FWP studies are being conducted in conjunction with Montana State University, with funding from state and federal sources and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Tony Jones of the Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association said setting mountain lion hunting quotas has always been contentious because the animals are so hard to count.
“Every single year, we spend a ton of time debating that,” Jones said. “Some people say we are killing too many and others say we’re not killing enough. We don’t know unless we can come up with a number that’s pretty accurate.
“Hopefully, the study will provide us with that,” he said.

Greater Yellowstone Coalition Wolf Alert lacks courage

by  on JUNE 19, 2014

Recently I received an alert from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) asking me to send a letter to the Montana Dept of Fish, Wildlife and Parks  (MDFWP) requesting a slight reduction in their wolf killing/trapping quota outside of Yellowstone Park. The main rationale of the alert was that wolves were important to the local economy because people came to view wolves in Yellowstone and killing of wolves outside of the park jeopardized the Yellowstone wolf-watching experience.
The alert had some additional information in the form letter like wolves were not destroying elk herds, nor a real threat to livestock therefore MDFWP theoretically did not need to kill as many wolves adjacent to Yellowstone as planned.

However, the alert left me feeling disappointed. Why doesn’t GYC  and other groups defend wolves?   There is no good justification for indiscriminate hunting and/or trapping of predators anywhere, any time.  What they are legitimizing by their stance is the persecution of predators to appease the prejudices of some members of society.
There is good scientific evidence that wolves and other predators are “self regulating.” They do not need to be “managed.” Social interactions in all predators serve to limit population numbers, along with the normal mortality associated with the dangerous proposition of depending on killing other large, strong animals for your food.
The attitude seems to be just because wolves have a high reproductive capacity (many pups) and therefore can “tolerate” high mortality rates that indiscriminate killing is somehow acceptable.  Where is the outrage? Why should we tolerate anyone killing animals just because their particular biology can compensate for human hatred and ignorance?
There is also a growing body of evidence that indiscriminate killing of predators disrupt their social systems and may contribute to greater human conflicts. For instance, killing of key pack members may reduce the effectiveness of the pack for hunting or cause them to lose their territory. In both cases, this can lead to a temptation to kill livestock. In any event, given the importance of social interactions in predators, this issue should not be disregarded. Yet state wildlife agencies routinely discount social ecology of predators by simply managing for “populations”.

GYC and other groups should challenge the basic assumptions of state wildlife agency management instead of legitimizing their archaic ideas. At the very least, groups like GYC should be telling the public that state agencies are managing wolves based on politics, not science.
Most of the biologists working for these state agencies would readily acknowledge that their agency’s attitudes towards predators are not based upon the best available science, rather are an attempt to appease the irrational response of hunters and others.  GYC can challenge state agencies in a sympathetic way by acknowledging that these institutions have been captured by ignorant hunters, rural legislators and others.  Nevertheless, we cannot expect any changes in policies as long as those prejudices and ignorant stances remain unchallenged.
Furthermore, there are ethical issues that GYC could raise. Many state wildlife agencies like to promote the idea that hunting should be ethical whereby wildlife killed do not die in vain. In other words, that wildlife is not be “wasted” which typically comes to mean that animals killed should at least be consumed.  Yet I have yet to come upon a hunter who consumes the wolves he/she has killed.
It is clear from the attitudes of most hunters that they kill wolves out of vindictiveness and hatred. Those motivations are not defensible justifications for animals to die, nor can anyone suggest they represent “ethical” treatment of our collective wildlife heritage.
When it comes to trapping, the ethical issues are even clearer. Trapping of any animal, whether wolves or otherwise, is barbaric, cruel and unnecessary—and any environmental group willing to wear the name “environmental” should be willing to say so loudly.
What I expect from GYC and other organizations is a willingness to speak up on behalf of predators.  GYC should demonstrate the courage to speak truth to ignorance

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