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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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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Washington Writer Brenda Peterson penning a passionate "call-to-arms" essay for sensible Science based decision making when it comes to Wolf Restoration.......How do we get Political Conservatives to remember that the root word of their political philosophy is to "CONSERVE".............When State Fish and Wildlife Agencies are 100% funded by Hunter license fees..............When a single industry(Cattle, Sheep, other Livestock, mining, Oil, Gas) is responsible for a hefty share of State tax proceeds and jobs, it becomes very, very hard for Wolves, Bears, Cougars and Coyotes to share our living spaces and make their strong contribution to the health of the land.............. Protecting the homeland(whether that be from foreign attack or from our own greedy plundering of the land) is the primary responsibility of our Federal Government......Our President and Congress must be a responsible "Referee" and take a leadership role in educating citizenry and brokering treaties with local stakeholders that achieve health and wealth for our land and for all the animals that call the land home...........Brenda, along with Biologists Christina Eisenberg and Rick Mcintyre all subscribe to the following Aldo Leopold adage: "Trigger-itch" against the environment will not yield long term prosperity for people.............that even the elk and the deer ultimately know that a mountain without the Wolves and other Carnivores very quickly becomes impoverished........ Over the long run, the species that allegedly were supposed to become stronger due to the Predator kill-off actually become weaker in health(deer and elk) and spirit(humans) with the the land itself diminished in health and future potential

Wolves endangered by political predators

A provision in a federal budget bill signed into law this month takes wolves in several Northwestern states off the Endangered Species List. Guest columnist Brenda Peterson says that returning management of wolves back to states could have dire consequences for habitat and other wildlife.
When Congress delisted the gray wolves in their recent budget cuts deal, I remembered the great conservationist — and one-time wolf hunter, Aldo Leopold — writing in 1949: "I was young then, full of trigger-itch. I thought that because few wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise." But when Leopold watched the "fierce green fire dying" in the eyes of a female wolf he had just killed, he had a revelation: "There was something new to me in those eyes," he wrote. "After seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view." In one moment of cross-species connection, Aldo Leopold's assumptions about wolf management changed. He realized he had too narrowly focused his sights on hunting — not habitat. His worldview had been limited to the needs of one human species dominating the whole ecosystem. The dying wolf taught Leopold what we teach our children: To share. Home. Habitat.
Leopold never killed another wolf. Instead, he devoted his life to conserving this much-maligned and scapegoated species. Leopold would have celebrated the successful wolf-reintroduction programs in this country that are a model for the whole world. Farsighted and wildly popular, the wolf-reintroduction programs in Yellowstone and the northern Rockies provide more than tourism income. These top predators also restore balance to elk and deer populations, which have long overgrazed grasslands.
Wolf biologist Cristina Eisenberg at Oregon State University and author of "The Wolf's Tooth" studies the wolves in Glacier National Park. She says that since wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone, scientists have documented "rapid recovery of over-browsed aspen, willows and cottonwoods, stream bank stabilization in eroded streams, and a dramatic increase in biodiversity of songbirds." "Wolves are keystone predators who nurture the entire ecosystem," Eisenberg explains. "If we eradicate wolves or lower their numbers, the whole system will grow impoverished and collapse."
On April 15, President Obama signed a budget bill that included a rider that removes wolves from the federal endangered species list in Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon, Idaho, Montana and north Utah.This move turns wolf management over to the states. Because Wyoming has no federally approved wolf-management plan, wolves are still protected there.
"But wolves provide the ultimate budget cuts," Eisenberg argues. "Wolves in an ecosystem naturally restore it, thereby saving the government billions of dollars in habitat and wildlife restoration."
Within days of the wolf delisting, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed a bill declaring the gray wolf a "disaster emergency," giving him more authority over his own state if wolves are re-listed as endangered. According to the Los Angeles Times, "the estimated 700-plus wolves in Idaho account for nearly half of the wolf population in the region." Those numbers could be lethally managed down to 150 wolves in each state. This is not sustainable wolf management or farsighted habitat conservation. It is a return to the disastrous policies of the past that drove the wolves to extinction, the very same policies that Aldo Leopold repented of as he watched his last wolf die.
This is just the beginning of the gutting of the Endangered Species Act, without any public hearing, scientific consultation or debate. Never before has Congress acted alone to remove an animal from the Endangered Species list. Are we really going to cede our environmental protection to tea partyers drunk on power and political gain? Why are there no tea-party advocates for conservation, for sustainable science and habitat preservation? The tea party is always talking about protecting our own children from massive debt. But what about protecting our children from environmental degradation? What does it matter how much money they can boast they have slashed from the budget if we don't also give our children a healthy home? A habitat shared with other predators who keep the world green and balanced?
"Everybody benefits when wolves take their place again in the food chain," explains wolf biologist and ranger Rick McIntyre, who has studied wolves for decades in Yellowstone. Seeing wild wolves as allies in our work to keep our habitat healthy is a practical vision that should carry more weight than the nonscientific deal-making in budget-cutting backrooms. Science, not politics, should guide us as we plan for our futures.
In a recent National Wildlife Federation poll, 63 percent of Americans opposed a judge's decision to remove wolves from Yellowstone and central Idaho. It is time for all of us — not only hunters, ranchers and tea partyers — to raise our voices about the future.
Usually with ESA delisting, there is a 60-day period for public comment and litigation. But in this unprecedented political, not scientific, delisting of wolves, there is no option for litigation. In a time of climate change, what does this political overreaching into science mean for other species, like the polar bear? How cynical to replace sound and sustainable science by playing political poker with other species. We can howl to Congress and our state governments to protest this unsustainable delisting of wolves and keep them protected under the Endangered Species Act. The tea party is a young and one-dimensional movement of budget-cutting hunters. Their trigger-itch against the environment has not yet learned the lessons of shared habitat and the "green fire" that other top predators teach us. Green is so much more than the color of money — it is the radiance of a healthy, green Earth.

Wally Sykes of of the HUMANE SOCIETY clued me in on his correspondence with Oregon Senator David Nelson regarding multiple animal rights issues including the proposal that Sportsmen be allowed to hunt Cougars with hounds..............While passed in the Oregon House of Reps, Senator Nelson feels that the bill will die in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources committee and not make it to the floor for a vote..............If this occurs, it will be the third time in recent years that the "Hound hunting of Cougars" issue has not gotten the "green light" in Oregon..............As George Wuerthner pointed out eloquently in his Post yesterday, hunting of Cougars with and without hounds works against the objective of minimizing Cougar conflicts with livestock and people............We will keep our eye on the outcome of this issue

On Sat, Apr 30, 2011 at 3:21 PM, wally sykes wrote:

Hey Rick - This from Sen. Nelson on a couple of bills, including the cougar one, which will likely die in committee.
From: Sen Nelson <nelson.sen@state.or.usSubject:

RE: Vote NO on S.B. 805A - Oppose agribusiness attempt to prolong inhumane treatment of hens CRM:0004321
To: "'Walter Sykes'" <wally_sykes2000@yahoo.comDate: Saturday, April 30, 2011, 1:44 PM

Dear Walter,

Thank you for your comments on SB 805-A.  This bill has been referred to Ways and Means where it is likely to die.  If it does reappear, your mail has gone to the bill file for Senator Nelson's consideration at that time.

In regard to the cougar bill,  it passed out of the House and has been referred to Senate Environment and Natural Resources.  It does not appear that it will move out of committee

SB 616 may come up for vote in the Senate next week.  David appreciates hearing your concern for this proposal and will give due consideration to the bill before it comes up for vote.  Again, thank you for commenting on these three legislative proposals.

Regards,  Alice

Alice Nelson
Legislative Assistant to
Senator David Nelson
503-986-1729 Salem Office
541-278-2332 District Office
503-522-3459 Cell

-----Original Message-----
From: The Humane Society of the United States [mailto:http://mc/compose?] On Behalf Of Walter Sykes
Sent: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 10:27 AM
To: Sen Nelson
Subject: Vote NO on S.B. 805A - Oppose agribusiness attempt to prolong inhumane treatment of hens

Apr 26, 2011

Senator David Nelson
State Capitol, Room S-211
900 Court Street, NE
Salem, OR 97301

Dear Senator Nelson,

As your constituent, I urge you to oppose S.B. 805A when it comes
before you for your consideration.  Oregon hens deserve better than

The Oregon Legislature began the session considering a bill (S.B. 805)
to phase out battery cages in the state of Oregon, creating a better
living environment for egg-laying hens and improving food safety at the
same time. Unfortunately, this bill has been co-opted by the
agribusiness industry and weakened by amendment after amendment until
it provides nearly no new protections for hens until 2026. All animals
deserve to be treated humanely, including animals raised for food.

Thank you.


Mr. Walter Sykes

As most readers of this blog know, the Mountain Pine Beetle which is native to our Western States has become a voracious destoyer of its preferred food, Lodgepole Pine trees.......Colder temperatures historicially knocked down the Beetle population and kept it in balance with Lodgepoles............Our warming temperatures destroyed this fragile balance and the result is the 70,000 square mile blink out of the Lodgepole.............Now, the Mountain Pine Beetle has developed a taste for Jack Pines which grow farther East and unless the colder temps of Canada's Boreal hold the insect in check, we could face a Continent wide spread of this voracious Beetle............and with that, potential loss of the White Pine tree across our Eastern States.............If we keep diminishing the scope of our Native tree population, untold species of Birds, insects and mammals will be adversely impacted

Mountain Pine Beetle Perched to Move Eastward
New research confirms scientists' fear: The scourge of Western lodgepole is now gaining an appetite for jack pine, which could spread beetle kills through Canada's boreal forest and beyond.

By Nathan Rice
Now that the mountain pine beetle has chewed through some 70,000 square miles of forest in the western states and Canada, it seems the voracious pest is expanding its palate. Beetles in Canada were recently discovered attacking jack pines (Pinus banksiana) for the first time, a break from their usual diet of lodgepole (Pinus contorta), according to a study published this month in the journal Molecular Ecology. With this switch in taste, the beetle could be setting up to cross the continent via the vast Canadian boreal forest, putting trees on the East Coast at risk.
Up to this point, the mountain pine beetle has munched mainly on lodgepole-dominated forests in the western U.S. and Canada. But at the eastern edge of Canada's lodgepole range, hybrid lodgepole-jack pines may have helped the critters switch to the eastern species. Scientists from the University of Alberta who authored the new study were able to verify that purebred jack pines as far east as Alberta's Slave Lake had fallen to beetle attack.
The pine beetle's leap to jack pine has been anticipated—indeed feared—by biologists for a decade. High Country News contributing editor Michelle Nijhuis reported on that prediction in 2004 in her article, "Global Warming's Unlikely Harbingers."
The Great Plains have long been considered an insurmountable barrier to the mountain pine beetle, but once the beetle hits this new host, nothing would stop it from plowing eastward into stands of eastern white pine and cruising south all the way to the loblolly pine forests of the Southeastern United States. This would add up to a supersized sweep of outbreaks, beginning in the U.S. Southwest, stretching across the southern half of Canada, and curving down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States into southern Texas. "The shortest route from Logan, Utah, to Nacogdoches, Texas," says Forest Service researcher Jesse Logan, "might be through Ontario, Canada."
But the beetle has at least two hurdles to clear before devouring eastern forests. The first is jumping between dispersed stands of jack pine, a more sporadic food supply than the expansive lodgepole forests to the West. Forestry practices in the West have resulted in widespread, even-aged lodgepole stands in which beetles—who only munch mature trees—thrive. The patchy distribution of jack pines may keep the beetles from going rampant.
Cold is the second barrier to the beetle's eastward march. Warming winters in lower latitudes boosted the beetle outbreak, but Canada is still cold—for now. As insect ecologist Allan Carroll of the University of British Columbia, who was not involved in the new study, told Discovery News, "Currently the climatic conditions over much of the northern boreal forest aren't quite suitable for these populations. We fully predict that in short order it will become good for mountain pine beetles—certainly within the next 30 to 50 years."
Though the mountain pine beetle outbreak—the worst in 125 years of record-keeping—is devastating enough to seem like an alien scourge, the rice-sized bug is actually native to the West, where cold winters have historically kept it in check. Once the beetle jumps the jack-pine gap, though, it will invade new territory and "therefore should be considered an invasive species and managed as such," scientists warn in the new paper. Canada's ability to fight the beetle—an ongoing struggle in the West—could determine the fate of eastern forests.
The University of Alberta scientists conclude their paper on a sobering noteWhen we factor in climate change, the vulnerability of ecosystems such as the boreal forest to disturbance is further increased, putting an extremely important ecosystem in jeopardy.

Friday, April 29, 2011

George Wuerthner mines further into Oregon's misguided move toward allowing hunting of Cougars with Hounds------George reiterates Dr. Robert Wielgus(Washington State U.Large Carnivore Lab) findings that intense human hunting of Cougars tend to brings increased Cougar/human conflicts due to removing territory controlling mature male Cougars from the landscape and allowing immature males(who take risks hunting livestock) to dominate the landscape.................Great information revealed about how the State of California with a significantly larger populations of both humans and Lions has far less Cougar caused problems than Oregon does...........and this is with California having a State law outlawing the hunting of Cougars.............Thank you George for providing the granularity of facts and sources of additional information for our readers to investigate the troubling turn-of-events regarding Oregon's take on Cougar control

From: George Wuerthner <>
To: Meril, Rick
Sent: Fri Apr 29 19:52:39 2011
Subject: cougar hunting, etc.
George Wuerthner


The Oregon legislature's wants to expand cougar hunting in the state. Right now Oregon allows cougars to be killed 365 days of the year. If you kill a cougar, you can get a second license to go kill another. Under these generous hunting seasons and bag limits, cougar kills increased fourfold between 1995 and 2010. For instance, in 2009 almost 500 cougars were killed in Oregon. (By comparison in California where there is no cougar hunting, only 102 cougar were killed , primarily under permit for livestock depredation). 

 Now the Oregon legislature is talking about allowing hound hunting--which was banned twice by public referendum. The Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife supports this change, and has been trying for years to increase cougar kills, arguing that the population has doubled since the original ban on hound hunting. At least some cougar biologists question ODFW's methods for calculating these population estimates. See Dr. Wielgus comments here

Regardless of the actual number of cougars in Oregon, ODFW suggests that a growing cougar population is a threat to public safety (and oh by the way elk and deer populations--could this be the real issue?)

 Here's what ODFW is not telling Oregon citizens.

First, a bevy of research shows that hunting skews cougar populations (as well as other predators) towards younger animals which are more likely to attack people and livestock. Thus hunting acerbates the likelihood of human conflicts.
The reason is that in unhunted populations, dominant male cougar kill young males. Young males are less skillful hunters and are more "brazen" and bold. Thus the more young males in a population, the more likelihood you will have depredations on livestock and the rare attack on humans. One does not get to be an old male cougar by being an ineffective hunter and/or either brazen or bold. Thus cougar hunting is more likely to create social chaos by killing the dominant males that control cougar social structure, permitting a greater number of young males to survive.

California is a good control since it is the only state with any significant cougar population where hunting is banned. No sport hunting of cougars has effectively occurred since 1972. The human population of California is 38 million or approximately 10 times the population of Oregon (3.8 million) and California's human population is more widely dispersed into cougar habitat than Oregon (due to Oregon's strict land use laws). California also has 17% of the West's suitable cougar habitat-- more than twice as much cougar habitat as Oregon.    %20Thus     Thus one would expect-- all things being equal-- that California's much higher human population and greater cougar habitat would lead to much higher number of human conflicts, and livestock depredations than Oregon. But in reality the opposite is true. California has the lowest per capita cougar attacks on human in the West, and one of the lowest livestock depredations as well.

Comparisons between California and Washington also show the same trends. For 2009, the last year for Washington data, there were 1528 cougar "incidents" in the state Incidents are defined as a livestock depredation, sighting in someone's yard, etc. Washington has an aggressive hunting season. Washington has an estimated 2000-2,500 cougars.

By comparison in California where there is no cougar hunting there are an estimated 4000-6000 cougars (as much as three times as many as in Washington) and with six times the human population of Washington, and far more of the state covered with sprawl, yet there were less than 400 incidents a year in recent years--less than a third of the number reported in Washington where cougars are hunted

Oregon, which has year round cougar hunting, presently kills 3-4 times as many cougars a year as California, yet it has many, many more complaints and livestock depredations. Are Oregon cougars just craftier than their California cousins--and better able to attack livestock than in the Golden State? Or is something else going on here? Even if cougar hunting were effective at reducing cougar populations that does not mean it will result in fewer conflicts. Dr. Robert Wielgus found that as cougar population in his Washington study area was declining due to hunting, complains and documented conflicts were increasing.


Part of the explanation for this is that sport hunting is ineffective at killing the very cougars most likely to be in conflict--i.e. those living on the fringes of human settlements. Most hunters hunt the larger blocks of public land. They do not hunt people's backyards. Hound hunters aren't going to chase cougars through rural neighborhoods or through subdivisions. So even if hunting did reduce cougar populations, it doesn't necessarily mean it reduces the threat of cougar attacks or conflicts because the cougars living in closest proximity to humans are the ones least likely to be killed by hunting.

Plus good cougar habitat is always filled. If a dominant male cougar controls the territory, he will kill or at least intimidate other young male cougars and keep them away from his territory. If that dominant male territory overlaps with rural neighborhoods, he will reduce conflicts with humans. On the other hand, if that male is killed by hunters, it opens up the territory to young males. And if the young males continue to be killed by hunters, preventing that area from ever being occupied and controlled by older male, than hunting will continuously create conflict by assuring that young males are abundant in that area. The very opposite of what cougar hunting proponents suggest is their goal.


Finally, the public safety threat is greatly exaggerated. It's much to do about nothing. The likelihood of a cougar attack is extremely small. There have only been 23 fatal cougar attacks in all of North America between 1890 and 2010--that is even with the social disruption that hunting and predator control creates.     That is because cougars as a rule just don't attack people.


Hunters are a bigger threat to human safety than cougars. Indeed, there are hundreds of people shot every year by hunters and there are more hunting fatalities in a single year than cougars have killed in a hundred years. It could argued that the ODFW  by increasing hunting for cougars has put Oregon citizens at greater risk of death from hunters than from cougars, For instance, in 2007 there were 19 fatalities in N. America from hunting and zero from cougars.  In 2006 there were 27 deaths in N.America from hunters and zero from cougars. In 2005 there were 41 deaths from hunters, and zero from cougars.
If legislators in Oregon were genuinely concerned about public safety they would consider two things. Hunting increases the likelihood of cougar attacks on humans and greater livestock depredations since it skews cougar populations towards younger age classes which are more likely to attack people. But again keeping in mind that even with skewed cougar populations, the likelihood of anyone being attacked, much less killed by cougars is exceedingly small. Statistically, hunters are in fact, a greater threat to public safety than cougars. Personally I am not worried about my personal safety due to hunting, because even the fatalities from hunting are exceedingly small and insignificant. But by comparison, cougar attacks and fatalities are even rarer.

Bio: George Wuerthner is a wildlife biologist, and predator ecologist. He is a former hunting guide and hunts elk and deer.

Elk are about to be transplanted into Southeastern Missouri(forested Ozarks),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,The historical record shows that the biggest herds of Elk roamed the Northwestern portions of the State where fields of grasses and herbs existed for these animals to dine on..................University of Missouri Anthropologist R. Lee Lyman putting out the warning that this "introduction" could end up as a failure.........................Also to take into account is that Missouri should be thinking about reintroducing Wolves as they insert Elk into the System..............Missouri has a rebounding Black Bear population that will take some Elk fawns............Both Cougars and Wolves were part of the historical predator suite with Bears in the dance of predator and prey(wolf-bear-cougar triad feeding on Elk and Deer) dance in Missouri for Millenia

Missouri Elk Are Being Reintroduced in the Wrong Part of the State, Anthropologist Says

According to prehistoric records, elk roamed the northwestern part of Missouri until 1865. Now, the Missouri Department of Conservation is planning to reintroduce elk, but this time in the southeast part of the state. While a University of Missouri anthropologist believes the reintroduction is good for elk, tourism and the economy, he said the effort may have unintended negative consequences that are difficult to predict.
R. Lee Lyman, the chair of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Science, has studied the history of mammals, conservation biology and wildlife management for nearly 40 years. He said a 2002 MU study completed by a graduate student proved that most prehistoric elk remains found in Missouri were in the field plains of the northwestern area of the state, not the southeast reintroduction location. "If we are looking for the best place for elk survival, we should consider why elk were not in the southeastern part of the state in prehistoric times," Lyman said. "If they weren't there previously, why would they survive there now? The Mississippi flood plain -where they are being reintroduced -- is not the best habitat, because elk didn't live there for some reason, such as the wrong kind of food or bad terrain."
A coordinated effort to control a species is always controversial, Lyman said, because it involves many different factors, including politics, economics, tourism and biology. Lyman believes mistakes can be avoided if the prehistoric record is considered.
In his most recent study, Lyman found that the North American elk in the mountains of eastern Washington State were native to those mountains -- even though popular mythology, and early science, indicated that humans had driven the elk there from adjacent lowlands. The results were published in the March edition of the journal Environmental Management.
There are plenty of examples where wild animal control has not been advantageous to the environment. For example, in Missouri, river otters that were reintroduced are now dominating ponds and overtaking ecosystems. In Montana and Idaho, ranchers and farmers have successfully fought to get wolves reintroduced to the Yellowstone ecosystem in the early 1990s removed from the endangered list, so that farmers can kill the wolves, which jeopardize livestock. "The issues in these situations relate to time and the ecological cascade that happens when you change one variable," Lyman said. "A hundred years is nothing when compared to the 12,000 years elk have been in America. So what is going to happen when elk roam the Ozarks? If we think that 500-pound elk are going to stay in one area -- that is pretty naïve. No matter how much data scientists collect and use to make predictions, we're still talking about wild animals. The truth is no one really knows."
Lyman points to Missouri's whitetail deer as an example of animals thriving in the dense Missouri forests. "The scrawny whitetail deer in our cities and dead along our highways are proof that there can be too much of a good thing," Lyman said.

Massachusetts Eastern Coyote(Coywolf) Biologist Jon Way reiterating that the State of Maine is allowing Sportsmen Groups to propagate intentional misinformation in the Media so as to convince residents to create an artificial Deer "Disneyworld" for hunters.................As Posted in previous columns, Maine historically had a much smaller Deer population in Colonial times then during the mid and latter stages of the 20th Century when Forest clearcutting, warmer Winters and extirpation of Wolves and Cougars allowed for an irruption of Deer ..............Now, with fewer clearcuts, harsher Winters and Coyote/Bear predation, the deer herds have fallen to more sustainable levels............Sportsmans's Alliance of Maine and their Political Allies seeking to kill off Coyotes to again bloat the State with more deer---Jon rightly calls them out on the propaganda they are floating

Column about coyotes uninformed, biased

George Smith's recent column about coyotes, "With fewer deer, coyotes move south," is one of the most uninformed and biased pieces I have read recently on the subject. His entire mindset is dedicated to making Maine a wildlife farm for hunters, which is scary for the group he used to run (Sportsman's Alliance of Maine).
Coyotes live throughout the state, and there is no evidence that the lack of deer has forced coyotes to move south in search of other food. Smith's column deflects the blame in order to propagate more management (i.e., killing) of a social, intelligent, family-oriented species.
Two people have been killed by coyotes in all of North America's recorded history, yet 20 die from dog attacks every year in the United States. Also, 5 million people are bitten or attacked by dogs every year. Where are those statistics in his rant against coyotes?
In my book, "Suburban Howls" (, I detail how these animals live very close to people and cause very minor problems compared to the potential for conflict, since they live everywhere in the country. Coyotes go out of their way to avoid people, in fact.
As far as deer go, perhaps we should attribute diseases to inflated game populations (like deer) that Smith espouses to maintain. What about excess car collisions and Lyme disease potentially attributed to hunters who are selfish and not responsible individuals who accept predators as a part of nature?
Jonathan Way
Osterville, Mass.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Despite USFW declaring the Eastern Cougar extinct(actually extirpated in the East since all Cougars in North America belong to the same genus), continued reports in the Adirondacks and elsewhere from biologists suggest that perhaps one day the West to East migration that is slowly occurring for Cougars(Dakotas are their Eastern front now) might see them once again stake out homes in the Appalachians........I can hear my friends Mark McCoullough and Helen Mcginnis saying"keep wishing Mr. Rick"............And we can do more than just wishing by protecting as much contiguous open space as possible so that if the Cougars "jump" the Mississippi River, they might find protected ground to stage a East Coast 9th inning comeback!!!!!!!!!!!!

Endangered Cougars Could Be Staging Comeback

Federal scientists say mountain lions are extinct in the East. But sightings of the big cats continue, and some researchers say cougars could be staging a comeback.

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Eastern Mountain Lion or cougar from the endangered species list. Federal scientists went so far as to declare the species officially extinct.
But North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports that this is a rare case where extinction may not mean the end of the line.
BRIAN NAYLOR: One day in 1997, Ken Kogut was driving down a highway in New York's Adirondack Mountains, and he saw something that shouldn't have been there.
Mr. KEN KOGUT (Chief Environmental Conservation Officer, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation): A mountain lion bounds out into the middle of the road and stops dead.
NAYLOR: Cougars are supposed to be long gone from these valleys. But Kogut is a top biologist with New York's conservation department. If anyone is qualified to know what a mountain lion looks like, this is the guy.
Mr. KOGUT: It looked at me, and then with one bound, it literally cleared the other lane, cleared the shoulder of the road, landed in the ditch, and the last I saw was it running south with a long, black tail tip.
MANN: Kogut thinks the cougar he saw was probably an exotic pet released into the wild. But it turns out, mountain lion sightings are tantalizingly common in the Northeast.
Bo Ottmann is a landscaper in Connecticut, who founded an organization in 2007 called Cougars of the Valley. He thinks the federal government knows that cougars remain in the Northeast. He thinks wildlife agencies don't want the hassle or expense of caring for the animals.
Mr. BO OTTMANN (Founder, Cougars of the Valley): I think they just want to put it behind them. If they take the eastern cougar off the endangered species list, that means they don't have to protect them. They don't have to spend the money.
MANN: This debate has been raging for decades. Mark McCullough is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's lead expert on eastern cougars. He acknowledges that people do sometimes think they see these big cats. He's convinced that mountain lions vanished as early as the 1930s, and most sightings are either mistakes or involve mountain lion pets released into the wild.
Mr. MARK McCULLOUGH (Endangered Species Biologist, Fish and Wildlife Service): All these lines of evidence suggest that cougars do turn up from time to time, but the eastern cougar is extinct.
MANN: McCullough uses the word extinction. But even if he's right - and most scientists think he is - the fate of the eastern mountain lion isn't as final or straightforward as it sounds. For one thing, scientists now think these vanished mountain lions were genetically identical to other cougar species that still thrive in the west. That means their gene pool is still alive and well.
The other big development is that those western mountain lions have begun a long migration, spreading fast from states like Idaho and Wyoming and reaching as far east as Indiana. A lot of scientists think they'll eventually reach the East Coast.
Mr. RAY CURRAN (Ecologist): Oh, I'd love to see them back here, because they're beautiful animals when they're hunting.
MANN: Ecologist Ray Curran trudges through spring snow in a pine forest in the Adirondacks. He points to a rugged bluff.
Mr. CURAN: Looks like something you'd see in the Rockies. They're great places for wildlife to hide. And it looks like really good mountain lion habitat.
MANN: Wild spaces like these are the reason cougars could stage a comeback. During the late 18 and early 1900s, most of the big forests in the east were wiped out by industrial logging. But in many areas, the forests have regrown.
The Fish and Wildlife Service's Mark McCullough says this is, once again, prime cougar country.
Mr. McCULLOUGH: We have areas in eastern North America that are large enough, have the right kind of habitat, adequate prey populations.
MANN: So if those western mountain lions continued their journey east, scientists say this is one extinction that could be reversed naturally.
 Brian Mann in New York's Adirondack Mountains.

Head Yellowstone Wolf Biologist Doug Smith once again emphasizing how Wolves provide important protein for the other animals in the System.......Grizzlies usurp Wolf kills anywhere between 50 to 80% of the time.............Talk about doing good by your neighbor.........Wolves should not be hunted wherever they are found............They should be transplanted into all habitat where the combination of prey species, road density and human density suggest that they will have a fighting chance at enriching the habitat..............Since we have all just paid our taxes, I would like to suggest that Wolves should qualify for some type of "tax deduction" for charitable giving"!!!!!!!!!!!

Bears butting in on Yellowstone wolf kills
Battle of carnivores ultimately has little effect on population.

Bears and wolves vie for a carcass in this Yellowstone National Park file photo. Park biologists say after wolves take down prey, bears often will move in to claim the kill. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

By Cory Hatch

Wolves and bears in Yellowstone National Park squabble over elk carcasses, but the two species have little impact on each other's overall population, a park biologist said last week.
Park wolf biologist Doug Smith outlined research and observation regarding the interaction of the two species in front of a group of bear managers who met at Spring Creek Ranch last week. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and the Yellowstone Ecosystem
Subcommittee of federal and state land and wildlife officials provide oversight for grizzly bear management in the ecosystem.
"When you see wolves and bears next to each other, 95 percent of the time there's something dead that they're both feeding on," Smith said. "Typically what happens is wolves kill it, and bears take it."
"Bears generally will find and take a carcass," Smith said. "It's not a matter of if, but when."
During confrontations between wolves and bears, especially over food, bears in Yellowstone win roughly 80 percent of the time, Smith said. In other places such as Banff National Park in Canada, bears win a carcass about 50 percent of the time. The reason for the discrepancy is unclear, Smith said.
That doesn't mean wolves give up on what's often their own hard-earned kill.

Opportunistic grizzlies

"Wolves will harass bears because they're much quicker," Smith said. "Bears are more powerful."
It's usually male grizzly bears that will claim a carcass from wolves. Researchers have documented up to 12, and perhaps as many as 20, grizzly bears on a single kill, with wolves typically hanging around the periphery as "bystanders," Smith said.

Grizzlies tend to take advantage of wolf-killed carcasses and other carcasses during poor whitebark pine seed crop years, according to data. Bears are found on wolf kills during August, September and October more often on bad whitebark years than during good years.More work is needed to discern whether those data are significant, Smith said. Whitebark pine nuts are an important fall grizzly food, and the high-elevation tree is under threat from global warming, beetles and blister rust.

Smith's report on wolf-grizzly interactions comes as the wolf population has taken a 60 percent plunge in the park's northern range, echoing a similar decline in the region's elk herd, Smith said.
"We peaked ... and now we're going down," he said. "Wolves are adjusting to their food base."
When wolves were first brought back to Yellowstone starting in 1995, pack sizes were generally large and wolves had plenty to eat. More recently, wolf packs have been documented fighting and even killing each other for the best territories.

Behavior varies with habitat

Smith showed one photo of a wolf that appeared to have starved to death. Back in the early days of the wolf recovery, "it was unheard of to have a wolf that died of starvation," Smith said.Researchers have found some wolf carcasses have had low fat content in their bone marrow, which can be a sign malnutrition, Smith said. Diseases such as mange and distemper also have impacted the park's wolf population.

On the other hand, grizzly bears appear to have little impact on the wolf population, and vice versa, Smith said."There's no relationship at all," he said. "These species have coexisted for a long time."Researchers have documented four grizzly cubs that were killed by wolves, Smith said. Unlike in the Yukon, where grizzlies have been know to dig out wolf dens, in Yellowstone that behavior is thus far unrecorded."We've never seen a bear dig a den out," Smith said.

"Wolves have very different behavior around a kill compared to a den," he said. "They kind of act like a mosquito on the bear. I've seen wolves biting bears on the butt ... harassing them away from the den."
As for the decline in Yellowstone's northern range elk herd, Smith said the answer is complicated. Drought has likely caused some of the decline, and predators certainly play a role."When you have this many carnivores, you probably can't expect to have as many prey as you did in a carnivore-free system," he said.

Still, this regulation of the elk population by grizzly bears and wolves could be a good thing. Instead of a boom-and-bust cycle, where the elk population increases then declines dramatically in the absence of predators, wolves and grizzlies might cause a smoothing effect on elk fluctuations.
"Wolves could be a buffer against climate change because of that smoothing effect," Smith said.

Center for Biological Diversity asking USFW to list the Sierra Red Fox as an Endangered Species,,,,,,,,,,,California already has this rare Fox on its State Endangered List...........Critical habitat would be set aside if the Feds list the Fox................As we have discussed, the backlog of species requested for Federal Protection is a mile long at this point with the Obama Administration not shoiwng a proclivity to get on with the important work of broad habitat protection for our imperiled wildlife

U.S. Forest Service

Logging and farming could be affected if the Sierra Nevada red fox is determined to be an endangered species.

Federal protections sought for Sierra fox

By Matt Weiser

A conservation group on Wednesday asked the federal government to protect the red fox under the Endangered Species Act, a move that may have broad effects on land management.

The petition came from the Center for Biological Diversity. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now has 90 days to review the petition, and then 12 months to make a ruling.

The Sierra Nevada red fox is one of the rarest mammals in North America. Until recently, only a few dozen were known to exist at Lassen Volcanic National Park.  But in August, U.S. Forest Service biologists found a handful more than 200 miles away, near Sonora Pass, a discovery later confirmed through genetic tests.The fox once existed throughout the Sierra Nevada, but its numbers were decimated by trapping, logging and development.
"It's really important to create a network of habitats, not just to prevent extinction, but to facilitate recovery," said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaign director at the center.He said protections could affect logging practices, because the fox may depend on old-growth forest characteristics, especially in winter. Livestock grazing could also be affected, because the rodents and small mammals that are prey for the fox may be negatively affected by grazing.
The timber and cattle industries are likely to oppose such protections for the fox.
Climate change may also become a factor, because the fox generally lives only above 7,000 feet – a habitat that may shrink as temperatures warm.The fox, which weighs only about 10 pounds, has been a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act since 1980."That it's still in such a perilous situation really underscores the need for federal protections," McKinnon said.He acknowledged more research is needed to understand threats to the species, a fact also highlighted by Ben Sacks, a canine expert and ecologist at UC Davis.
Genetic testing by Sacks verified three Sierra Nevada red foxes in the Sonora Pass area of Tuolumne and Mono counties. One was hit by a car and killed over the winter on Highway 395, he said. It was a young female that probably died while dispersing to establish its own home territory.Sacks suspects there are more foxes in the area."I don't think there's any question that it's biologically endangered, and that it's a very small population," said Sacks. "The most critical need is to learn more about the species. We honestly don't know the threats."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina Studies on the impacts of Coyotes on deer herds reveal that the Songdog can have a dampening impact on fawn recrutiment during the first 6 weeks post birth................Why is it that the recent State University of New York Coyote Study that was headed up by Biologist Jacqueline Frair revealing that Coyotes definitely scavenge deer, but they do not frequently make direct kills......................The Coyotes in New York are physically larger than their Southern counterparts due to their ancestors having intermingled with Eastern Wolves back at the turn of the 20th Century...........So, you would think NY Coyotes would be more likely to prey on deer..................Is there a flaw in the Southern Research on this topic??????............ Or is the Northern Research results missing something????????

Can Coyotes Stifle Deer Herds?

The Coyote's impact on deer herds can vary, here are the factors to look for.

By Patrick Durkin


When deer hunters use binoculars and scouting cameras to evaluate bucks roaming their hunting grounds from late summer through early fall, they should also pay attention to the herd's fawn-to-doe ratio if the herd seems to be shrinking.

If twin fawns with mature does are rare sights, and instead you see one fawn for every two or more does, it might mean coyotes or other predators are devouring much of the "fawn crop" each summer. In fact, if deer densities fall below management goals, it might be time to add coyote hunting and trapping into the management paradigm. That's because scientific research from eastern Canada to the southeastern U.S. shows coyote predation on fawns kill more deer than herds can replace in some areas.

Coyote impacts vary, however, depending on their population, their habitat and food options and the deer herd's size. In some ways, science is just beginning to analyze the East's coyote/whitetail relationship. These cagy, highly adaptable predators weren't found east of a line from central Texas to southern Wisconsin before the late 1800s. During the past 100 years, however, coyotes colonized North America's eastern corridor after gray wolves and red wolves were exterminated.

The Coyote Connection

Likewise, as coyotes increased in the East during recent decades, whitetail numbers declined in some areas. These shifts are prompting more researchers at universities and wildlife agencies to assess the connection.

Three recent University of Georgia research projects examined properties in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. All three studies found coyotes can be tough on fawns, especially during the fawns' first six weeks.In southwestern Georgia, researchers used trail cameras to survey fawn-to-doe ratios in two study areas 2.5 miles apart. They removed 23 coyotes and three bobcats from January to August in an 11,000-acre area, but removed no predators from a nearby 7,000-acre block.

Shortly before hunting season, their camera census estimated 0.72 fawns per doe where predators were killed, and 0.07 fawns per doe where no predators were killed. Translation: Two fawns were present for every three does in the predator-removal area, and two fawns were present for every 28 does where no predators were killed.In South Carolina, a 3-year study at the U.S. Forest Service's Southern Research Station on the 300-square-mile Savannah River Site found only 16 of 60 radio-collared fawns lived past nine weeks, a 27 percent survival rate. Most deaths occurred within five to six weeks of birth. Specifically, 16 (36 percent) died the first week; 26 (59 percent) died between week two and week six; one died in week seven; and one died in week nine. In other words, if two does gave birth to twins, by Labor Day they had one fawn between them.Researchers attributed only 13 percent (five) of those 44 deaths to bobcats. They confirmed coyotes as the predator in 65 percent of the deaths, the probable predator in 15 percent of the deaths and the most likely predator in 5 percent of the deaths. Therefore, coyotes were likely responsible for about 38 (85 percent) of the 44 dead fawns.Using swabs to collect DNA samples at kill sites, the researchers also concluded all coyotes kill fawns, not just dominant, experienced breeders. Of 15 kill sites used to identify individual coyotes and bobcats, researchers recorded only two individual coyotes at more than one site.In northeastern Alabama, a two-year study on 2,000 acres convinced researchers that coyotes were a limiting factor in the number of fawns "recruited" into the herd. Two findings guided their conclusion: First, laboratory analysis of coyote scat and stomach contents showed fawns made up 27.3 percent of the coyotes' July-to-September diet, the region's peak fawning months. Although small mammals (rabbits and rodents) also formed 27.3 percent of the summer diet, fawn meat was found more important because of its higher nutritional value. Second, the researchers documented a staggering jump in fawn abundance after trappers removed 22 coyotes and 10 bobcats between February and July 2007.

Data from experienced-hunter observations showed a fawn/doe ratio of 0.52 before the trapping program, and 1.1 after the removals. Similarly, a network of Web-equipped cameras showed 0.52 fawns per doe before removal and 1.33 afterward. Combined, that's a 190 percent increase in fawn-to-doe ratios.Coyote predation is as natural as human predation on deer. And, as such, it's not necessarily bad thing when deer herds are at or exceeding habitat limits; after all, when deer herds overpopulate they can be destructive to ecosystems. It is time to pay attention, however, if deer herds crash in your local area.

Wisconsin estimating that 1000 wolves now inhabit the State...As we saw in a previous Post, the majority of Wisconsin Sportsmen surveyed want Federal Wolf Delisting to occur asap..................At least in the surveys I have seen, a % of folks want the wolves trimmed way back to several hundred..................We need Wisconsin to more broadly interpret "minimimum population levels" as just that ...minimums and not maximums.........The Hunters will have to learn how to become better at their craft................while the Wolves do their thing and keep the Forest healthy and diverse

More than 1,000 wolves likely roam state

Gray wolves are expanding their range and growing in number in Wisconsin, increasing tensions between those who believe wolves need protection and those who want to see them killed.
Though the latest overwinter estimate on wolves outside of Indian reservations is in the mid-800s, it's a minimum number and doesn't include all the solo animals roaming the state. It also misses wolves in areas where they are not thought to be — but locals know otherwise. With that in mind, it's safe to say there were at least 1,000 wolves in the state this winter. That's before new pups, too.
Wolves are protected, but 16 were killed last year by federal and state officials due to concerns for human safety. At least 26 were killed by vehicles, and at least 14 — wildlife officials believe the actual number is likely much higher — were illegally shot and killed. Mange also takes its share of wolves, and wolves kill other wolves on occasion. Some also could die of age-related concerns, injuries or other diseases.
At least 207 wolf packs were identified this winter, most in northern Wisconsin but more than 30 in the central counties as far east as Oconto County. Some packs had 10 or more individuals; many had three or four.
Judging by comments on online message boards and in letters to the editor in Wisconsin Outdoor News, some people believe the only good wolf is a dead one. However, there's also plenty of sentiment that wolves simply need to be managed to goals originally set in state management plans. Think about it: When wolf numbers were thought to be in the 150 to 300 range, rarely did you hear of hunter complaints, livestock depredations or hounds and backyard pets killed by wolves. Additionally, deer kills were at or near record highs many of those years.
In my opinion, the overuse of earn-a-buck — and excessive antlerless tags used in units that weren't even under EAB regulations — did far more to reduce deer herds in the past decade than wolves ever did. The same could be said for severe winters and vehicle collisions.
Research in the Upper Peninsula has shown the coyotes and black bears kill more deer than wolves in areas where all three predators exist. It'll be interesting to see if the new Wisconsin studies this year find something similar.
For at least the third time in the past decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced plans to remove the Great Lakes population of wolves from the federal Endangered Species List. The last couple times, animal activist groups eventually managed to find a judge to stop state management, which involves lethal control of depredating wolves. With only emergency authority to kill wolves that were potential threats to human safety — and no legal authority to kill wolves targeting livestock or dogs last year — Wisconsin paid a record of more than $200,000 in confirmed wolf damage claims in 2010 on livestock, dogs and some fenced deer. Nearly four dozen farms reported wolf depredation.
If Wisconsin doesn't get federal help in the form of a new law guaranteeing state management, as Idaho and Montana recently did, look for some legislators here to follow Idaho's lead and introduce a "wolf disaster" bill.Even after getting help from a rider attached to the federal budget agreement signed last week, Idaho is taking no chances. Its governor signed a wolf disaster emergency bill that may prove useful if state management is revoked in the future or wolves are relisted under the Endangered Species Act.
Meanwhile, the Fish and Wildlife Service says it now recognizes two species of wolves in the Western Great Lakes: the gray wolf (Canis lupus), the wolf species currently listed under the ESA, and the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon), with a historical range that includes portions of eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States. Recent wolf genetic studies indicate that what was formerly thought to be a subspecies of gray wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) is actually a distinct species (Canis lycaon). To establish the status of this newly recognized species, the Service is initiating a review of C. lycaon throughout its range in the United States and Canada.

Roxanne Quimby continues to make her case for creating a National Park in Maine.........More and more Hunting and Snowmobiling Groups are coming to see that Quimby is willing to collaborate and find workable solutions for all stakeholders including allowing traditional use(hunting/fishing/snowmobiling) on 30,000 acres of her property..........We applaud Ms. Roxanne and her continuing efforts to keep Maine wild and free

From: Michael Kellett <>
Sent: Wed Apr 27 07:29:29 2011
Subject: Roxanne Quimby to visit Millinocket to discuss plans for land, BDN 20110426
Roxanne Quimby to visit Millinocket to discuss plans for land
MILLINOCKET, Maine — Noted environmentalist and Maine national park advocate Roxanne Quimby will make a rare public appearance on May 5 to discuss her land holdings, officials said Tuesday. The meeting at the Northern Maine Timber Cruisers Clubhouse on Lake Road will begin at 6:30 p.m. It is probably the first time Quimby has ever spoken at a public event in The Magic City, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said. The public is invited. "She wanted to come up and talk about these [land] acquisitions between her and the state, and how we negotiated the deal with the state," Conlogue said Tuesday.
Quimby and Mark Leathers, a resource consultant for James W. Sewall Co. who helps Quimby's business manage her lands, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Conlogue said that Quimby will provide an update on her plans for three parcels north of Millinocket that she has either sold to the state or accepted conservation easements on. The lands are the southern portion of Sandy Stream, Mud Pond and Three Rivers. Quimby, Conlogue said, hasn't specified that her efforts to give more than 70,000 wilderness acres next to Baxter State Park to the federal government to create a Maine Woods National Park would be on the agenda, but he would not be surprised if the subject was raised.
"It's the single biggest issue we know her by, but it's not the only issue that she's concerned about," Conlogue said.
Quimby announced plans last week for a visitor center dedicated to writer Henry David Thoreau at the 13.8-acre Lunksoos Camps that would anchor the proposed park within her lands.
The park would be nearly twice the size of Maine's Acadia National Park. In a giveback to sportsmen, her vision is to set aside an additional 30,000 acres of woodlands north of Dover-Foxcroft to be managed like a state park, with hunting and snowmobiling allowed.
Maine's congressional delegation has expressed concerns about her plan for a national park and remains skeptical. Conlogue, vice president of the Maine Woods Coalition, is a leading opponent of the plan.
He fears that a national park would smother a state forest products industry already devastated by mill closings, including one in East Millinocket earlier this month that left 450 people unemployed, and regional recreational efforts, such as snowmobiling, that are especially crucial to a largely undiversified Katahdin region economy.
National parks "impose very stringent regulations on the regions around them and, for one thing, they don't stick to the business within their own boundaries," Conlogue said. "We have seen enough of them over time that they don't hold enough water for me."
Quimby's practice of buying huge tracts of land and then locking them off from motorized uses, including snowmobiles and ATVs, and traditional access, such as by hunters, has made her a disliked figure to many Maine sportsmen.
One shouldn't read anything into the timing of Quimby's visit, Conlogue said, noting that its occurring after the closure of the mill was coincidental and that planning for her meeting was under way months before it.
It is rather, he said, the culmination of 5½ years of effort by a working group Quimby formed that's made up of forest industry proponents, sportsmen, recreation advocates and other landowners to achieve compromises that have helped all sides, including land swaps to maintain recreational accessespecially with snowmobile trails. Several committee members, including former Sportsman's Alliance of Maine President George Smith, Conlogue and Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association, also will attend the meeting, Conlogue said "Those of us who have gotten to know her have developed a good working relationship with her. We don't win all the arguments, but she does listen," Conlogue said of Quimby.
"We always must remember one thing: As much as we may not like her ideas on her land, it is her land, not ours, and she has certain rights to use her land as she deems fit," he added. "We cannot lose sight of that reality."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

U. Of California Santa Cruz Researchers tagging Cougars to get a better idea on how to recommend wildlife corridors that will help optimize the gene flow of the species across the State

On mountain lion patrol in the California wilds

  by Nadia Drake, Santa Cruz mountains, California

IT IS after dark, and I'm 2 metres away from a snarling mountain lion. We are in the mountains above Santa Cruz, California, across the road from a prison work camp. The lion - a young male - pauses in his pacing only to hiss at us. Filling the air is the powerful aroma of the half-eaten deer carcass that lured him into captivity.
"It's creepy out here," observes my guide, wildlife ecologist Chris Wilmers from the University of California, Santa Cruz. We retreat a short distance to let the animal calm down.Since 2008, Wilmers and his team of wranglers have been capturing the elusive animals (otherwise known as pumas, cougars and panthers, or more formally Puma concolor). They fit them with collars equipped with GPS transmitters that relay their location, and other instruments that record what they are up to, moment by moment - then let them go.
The data should reveal how pumas adapt to life in a habitat fragmented by roads, dotted with houses, and surrounded by water and concrete. This information can later be put to use by conservationists planning open spaces for the animals, or wildlife corridors they can use to travel safely. Though California's mountain lions are not endangered, the population is small enough that geographic barriers could lead to reductions in genetic diversity and ultimately population decline.
"The long-term prognosis is not very good if they're not interbreeding with other populations," Wilmers says. He points to the Florida panther as a classic case of inbreeding's harmful effects. "They've got a population of 80 or so individuals, and they are starting to have all these genetic defects like single testicles and infertile animals." Using DNA from captured mountain lions, he plans to analyse gene flow in the population.
The techno-blinged collars are essential to understanding the lives of these nocturnal and notoriously shy animals. "They're professionally secretive. They kill by being able to sneak up on things," says Paul Houghtaling, the team's primary field biologist. "Right now, biologists are limited to knowing where animals are, but they don't know what they're doing," Wilmers says. Successful conservation efforts depend on understanding the connection between an animal's behaviours and its habitats. The collars contain magnetometers, which act like tiny magnetic compasses and so reveal which direction a mountain lion is facing. They also carry accelerometers - similar to the devices in iPhones - which record speed and movement in three dimensions 64 times each second. This generates distinct signatures for different kinds of activities. "If the animal is walking, every time the foot hits the ground it's going to send a little jolt through the skeleton, and that will show itself in the data," Wilmers says. "If the animal is running, every time it hits the ground, it's going to really spike. If it turns its head, we'll know which direction it is looking."
Earlier that day, Houghtaling and I were on the trail of three pumas: a female called 2F and her two male cubs. At nearly 2 years old, 2F's cubs are ready to leave their mother. The fact that they haven't done so intrigues the team, but it gives them a chance to collar the youngsters before they disperse. We download 2F's location data, and searching in the woods stumble across a freshly killed, half-eaten deer. A fresh kill means the lions will likely return in the evening. We use the carcass to bait two 2-metre-long cage traps which we camouflage, then go home to wait. At 8.30 pm I get a call saying we have a catch. Inside the cage is one of 2F's cubs, called 9M. He is wearing the green ear tag he acquired when he was caught as a kitten. Field personnel sedate him and get to work measuring vital signs and taking blood, and measuring details such as paw width and tooth length. Finally, the collar goes on. In another hour, 9M will be up and stumbling around. Though he weighs 45 kilograms, "he's got a lot of bulking up to do before he's big and savvy enough to play king of the hill with a resident male", Houghtaling says. A team member will stay with him till he is fully alert, to make sure he doesn't wander onto a road. After that it's up to him. The puma project has another participant.
There's a postscript to my night in the mountains. Two weeks later, 9M does the adolescent thing and leaves his mother. He has recently killed a deer, a raccoon and a snake. "Not sure what he was doing with the snake," Houghtaling says.

Wyoming and Idaho Game and Fish feel that socially acceptable habitat(what humans will tolerate) for Grizzlies has been maxed out--Surprise, Surprise...........when have we ever heard any State fish and Wildlife Agency say there should be more habitat for carnivores----NEVER

Tolerance of grizzlies may play role in future management

CODY, Wyo. — The key to maintaining a strong grizzly bear population in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem may no longer lie in the numbers of bears roaming the area, but rather in the minds of the people who live there. With most wildlife officials in agreement that the grizzly bear is recovered in areas surrounding Yellowstone National Park, the next step may be locating socially acceptable habitat where people will tolerate living among an expanding grizzly bear population.
"We've done incredible bear management work, and now we're stepping out to the human aspect of management," said Gregg Losinski, regional conservation director for Idaho Fish and Game. "The bear needs to be able to go beyond the primary conservation area and expand into state and private lands." To achieve that, Losinski said, the grizzly will require habitat that is both biologically suitable for its survival and socially acceptable to humans. But not everyone agrees on what's considered acceptable habitat, or where people are willing to live with grizzlies.
A report by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department noted that despite five years of public input, there remains no clear consensus on grizzly habitat that is both biologically suitable to the animal and socially acceptable to people. Even members of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee, which meets next week to discuss the bear during its biannual meeting, may disagree on the topic.While some committee members advocate for expanding grizzly habitat and educating people on how to co-exist with the bear, others say the animal has already ventured far enough.
"We're not interested in grizzly bears occupying new habitat except in areas where they already are," said Brian Nesvik of Wyoming Game and Fish. "Socially acceptable habitat would be areas where grizzlies already occupy. We're not interested in expansion. We're maxed out on grizzly bears already." Nesvik said some areas within the greater Yellowstone ecosystem already provide both biologically suitable and socially acceptable habitat for the bear. They include areas of the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming, the Gallatin National Forest in Montana and the Targhee National Forest in Idaho, along with adjoining wilderness areas."I think those are places people would expect to encounter and tolerate bears, though there are questions over density," Nesvik said. "If they expanded into the Bighorn Mountains, that wouldn't be socially acceptable, or south into the Wind River Range."
Mark Bruscino of Wyoming Game and Fish placed last year's grizzly population within the greater Yellowstone ecosystem at 604 bears.
Wildlife officials also completed the Grizzly Bear Occupancy Proposal, which looked at Wyoming land-use practices surrounding the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, along with the quality of bear habitat."For long-term conservation of the bears, we don't see any need to expand the current range," Bruscino said. "They're in good, quality habitat right now, and it's at or near carrying capacity."Some believe grizzlies still have room to expand, but Bruscino believes the bear's wouldn't do well in surrounding areas, primarily due to existing land-use practices, such as sheep and cattle grazing on national forest lands. "It's pretty well guaranteed that grizzlies wouldn't do well if they tried to recolonize those areas," Bruscino said. "There's some land uses that simply aren't compatible for having a high number of bears."
Wherever grizzlies are deemed to be socially acceptable, biologists and wildlife advocates will work to build a foundation of tolerance to reduce conflicts.Losinski cited a new sanitation ordinance in Teton County, Idaho, as a step in the right direction. In Park County, Wyo., a "bear-wise" effort is also under way to increase public education and reduce conflicts with grizzlies."Based upon the bear's recovery and the way the bear is expanding its population, we're confident the population goals have been met," Losinski said. "Now we need to work on the human aspect."That's the key for all the agencies involved in this — to figure out what we can do to make sure the bears have socially acceptable habitat." The Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee meets this week at the Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson. Members will discuss habitat and white-bark pine, among other topics.

Fwd: All Northern Rocky Mountain Caves may be shut off to visitors come May 1 as a preventive measure against Bat White Nose Syndrome

Forest Service may close regional caves due to bat disease

Three hundred feet below the Flint Mountains, this pool chamber is more than 30 feet in diameter. "Sometimes the water is so clear you can't tell it's there," says caver Mike McEachern. "You think it's the cave floor and all of a sudden you step in a pool of water." McEachern worries that a national campaign to close public land caves to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome in bats could unfairly close off Montana's cave systems, which have few bats. Photo by MIKE McEACHERN

 The U.S. Forest Service Northern Region may close all caves in its territory starting May 1 in response to a growing disease threat to hibernating bats.
But local cavers contend the move is unwarranted in the Rocky Mountains, where bat populations aren't showing signs of White Nose Syndrome."It appears they're doing this under an emergency plan that allows them not to take public comments," said Mike McEachern, president of the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto cavers' association. "That's not the correct way to proceed. It was justifiable in the East when the outbreaks were occurring, but out here they've now had six years to learn about this."
Forest Service Region 1 spokesman Brandan Schulze said Regional Forester Leslie Weldon started considering the closure move last fall when the national agency issued cave equipment decontamination orders for all caves under its jurisdiction. But the onset of winter and the end of access to most backcountry caves delayed a more extensive decision, he said. "If we were to lose our bat populations to the extent we're losing them out east, it would be devastating," Schulze said. "White Nose Syndrome is a big concern, especially as we move into spring; the snow melts and more access to caves opens up."
White Nose Syndrome is a fungus-borne disease that causes white residue to grow on hibernating bats, killing them. More than a million bats have died in the East and Southeast since it first appeared in 2006. Whole colonies are typically destroyed within two or three years of first infection.
The Northern Region national forests are home to 16 species of bats, including a dozen that hibernate (and are most susceptible to White Nose Syndrome) and six that are on the agency's sensitive species watch list. "When the problem first emerged, it was kind of consolidated in the New York area," Schulze said. "It was a small spread. Then it wasn't until just last year it started jumping huge distances, across the Appalachian Mountain range and over to Missouri and Oklahoma. If it's just being transmitted bat to bat, how is it reaching across these big distances? Is it possible that people could be transmitting it?"
A lot of research is due to bear fruit this spring and summer, with much of it debuting at a national White Nose Syndrome symposium in May. The National Speleological Society's annual meeting in Colorado in June is also expected to attract a lot of new findings as well. On April 8, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced $200,000 in grant funding for state wildlife agencies to do work on White Nose Syndrome.
Cavers like McEachern contend bats here also live in much smaller concentrations than those on the East Coast, making them less susceptible to major outbreaks. Cavers have also embraced the decontamination protocols to ensure they don't contribute to the spread, he said.
Schulze said rules for the possible closures are still being discussed. Among the questions are whether to allow researchers, archaeologists and educational programs to continue using caves with some kind of permit system, and what kinds of caves to close. The Forest Service's definition of a cave includes most sheltered overhangs, while the National Cave Preservation Act refers to a more detailed system of passages or chambers.
Anyone interested in commenting on the possible cave closures can contact Forest Service Region 1 threatened and endangered species program leader Kristi Swisher at (406) 329-3558 or at