Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mark your calendar - Cougars of the Pacific Northwest

Join Brian Kertson, wildlife scientist, for a presentation on the ecology, behavior and management of cougars. Thursday, February 4 at 7 pm. Click on the flyer to enlarge for details.

These big cats are solitary and secretive. Learn how to recognize signs in the field and how to co-exist with cougars.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Protection For Yellowstone Grizzlies Continues

In the back-and-forth volley over grizzly bear protection in the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy reinstated Threatened species protection for the bears under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on November 17, 2009. Two years earlier the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had de-listed the grizzlies in Yellowstone, saying the population had recovered and no longer needed federal protection. In September 2009, Judge Molloy ordered the bears back on Threatened status sighting that decrease in food sources such as white bark pine seeds (from climate change among other things), and lax state management regulations put the bear’s survival in jeopardy.

The November ruling puts to rest an appeal by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to release the bear from federal ESA protection. The appeal was supported by Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department as well as U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo and John Barrasso, R-Wyo and Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo. "To be honest, our concern up to this point was whether bear numbers in Wyoming were getting too big," said Wyoming governor Dave Freudenthal. Yellowstone grizzly numbers are estimated at about 600, up from 200 when the bears were originally listed in 1975.

“It is good that we have more bears,” said Louisa Willcox, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Wild Bears Project. “But even the federal government’s own computer models aren’t optimistic about the bears’ fate a century from now.” Several disturbing trends are coming together, she said. While housing and energy development in the counties surrounding Yellowstone are accelerating, key food sources (ungulate meat, whitebark pine nuts, cutthroat trout and army cutworm moths) are threatened and/or declining. This one-two punch of less habitat and less food could be devastating to the bears’ long-term survival, said Willcox. “We’re going to have less room for the bears just when they need more room to compensate for less food,” she said.

White bark pine seeds, for instance, are a critical food source for grizzly bears in the Rocky Mountains. The number of cubs a female will produce has been correlated to the availability of white bark pine seeds. This food source provides an important source of fats and protein at a critical time in the female’s reproductive cycle.

The ruling is expected to be appealed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

By Julie Hopkins, with excerpts by Brodie Farquhar for Yellowstone Journal Corporation/, 2006)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Trafficking in bear gall bladders draws fines and jail sentence

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

OLYMPIA - Investigations by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) detectives into illegal trafficking in bear gall bladders have resulted in hefty fines for two eastern Washington men and a year-long jail sentence for one of them.

William A. Page, 63, a Curlew meat cutter, was sentenced Dec. 18 in Ferry County Superior Court to a year in jail plus $3,000 in fines after being convicted a month earlier of six counts of unlawful trafficking in wildlife.

Page, of 49 Bjork Ranch Rd. in Curlew, also forfeited $1,600 he paid to undercover WDFW officers for the gall bladders.

Mike Cenci, WDFW deputy chief of enforcement, said Page admitted to buying 35 gall bladders in 2007 and 2008, including 17 he purchased from undercover officers during the course of the department’s investigation.

Some people believe bear gall bladders have healing powers, Cenci said. He noted that black market prices for galls can range between $100 to thousands of dollars, depending on whether the sales take place locally or overseas.

"Buying or selling bear gall bladders is a crime in this state, because it creates an increased demand for wildlife and their body parts," Cenci said. "That can threaten the long-term sustainability of populations that can’t withstand commercialization."

In a separate case, the Spokane County Superior Court fined the owner of a Spokane food market $1,000 on Dec. 22 for two felony convictions of illegally trafficking in wildlife.

A Spokane jury found Jason Yon, 51, owner of JAX Market on East Mission Street, guilty of purchasing four bear gall bladders from WDFW officers during an undercover investigation in 2008. In addition to the fine, Yon forfeited $800 he paid to buy the gall bladders.

Cenci said WDFW relies heavily on tips from hunters and people in local communities about illegal wildlife-trafficking operations. He asks that people who believe they have witnessed these crimes call WDFW Enforcement at (360) 902-2936.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Symbol of Justice

The wolf is not always a feared and hated creature. In the medieval village of Utrecht, Netherlands the symbol of justice is the wolf.

The courtyard of the criminal justice center displays a magnificent statue of a blindfolded white wolf. Why the blindfold? Because as the saying goes "justice is blind". This is done in order to indicate that justice is (or should be) meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness.

The irony is that today in America we are struggling to treat the wolf in this same frame of context and blind objectivity.

Utrecht was created almost 2,000 years ago by the occupying Roman army. The Romans introduced many cultural changes and advancements. They were ultimately "run out of town" by the invading germanic tribes.

The city was never bombed in World War II and still retains it's old world charm and unique architecture.

posted by Dennis Ryan, photo credits Dennis Ryan

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Cougar Ecology and Conservation

Announcing the release of Cougar Ecology and Conservation
edited by Maurice Hornocker and Sharon Negri

Internationally renowned biologist Maurice Hornocker and long time conservationist Sharon Negri have joined forces to produce Cougar Ecology and Conservation, a seminal go-to resource for scientists, wildlife managers, biologists, conservationists, and anyone who has an interest in large carnivores.

A rare anthology featuring twenty leading scientists from Canada to Patagonia, Cougar Ecology and Conservation is the first comprehensive book that spans the cougars entire range and includes a of topics surrounding this complex animal.

The book's contributors cover a wide range of experience, perspectives and topics. Some of the subjects covered include taxonomy, genetics, history, cougar behavior and social organization, predator-prey relationships, population dynamics, management, human dimensions, the role of government and citizens in conservation, conservation planning, and the future of research.

Cougar Ecology and Conservation contains 304 pages, including 36 color photographs, 70 halftones, 19 line drawings, and 25 tables.

To order the book link to: University of Chicago Press

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lookout Pack moves to winter range

Three adults, four pups in pack as they move to lower elevations in the Methow Valley for the third winter.

By Joyce Campbell, Methow Valley News

The Methow Valley’s wolf pack is back from their summer range in the high mountains of the Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness and Twisp River Valley.

A collaboration of agencies and conservation groups are monitoring the seven-member Lookout Pack by air and by ground using radio telemetry, verified sightings, howling surveys, remote cameras and follow-ups on reports by the public.

The pair of radio-collared wolves is being followed by a sub-adult wolf and four pups, as they inhabit a territory that reaches from the Wilderness to the valley floor. As the snow deepens in the mountains, biologists were expecting the pack to return to lower elevations.

They showed up the first week in November, similar to last year, said John Rohrer, wildlife biologist for the Methow Valley Ranger District. “They made bigger moves until the snow got deeper,” said Rohrer. The pack last year roamed the far reaches of the Twisp River Valley before settling in the Lookout Mountain area in late December.

Just because they did it last year, doesn’t mean they’ll do it this year. The pack has been unpredictable, staying later this year in their winter and denning range, according to Rohrer. “Last year, they moved to the Wilderness a lot earlier,” he said.

“There continue to be sightings all along the Cascades, but nothing documented,” said Andrea Lyons, Forest Service wildlife biologist for the Entiat Ranger District. She said there have been visual sightings, people seeing tracks and scat and hearing howling. The reports are not concentrated in a certain area or time.

Lyons has been tracking the wolf pack from the air all summer, flying every 10 to 14 days. Antennae are attached to both struts on a fixed-wing airplane to get directional signals from the radio-collared adults. The monitoring will shift to more ground telemetry during the winter, said Lyons.

To report wolf sightings call the state wolf reporting hotline at (888) 584-9038.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Human-Wildlife Conflict Training

It seems like more and more we are hearing about and dealing with human-wildlife conflicts which in many cases are more about conflicts between humans than about wildlife. As part of my job with the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP) and my job as a zoo keeper this topic comes up a lot. Dealing with this topic can be touchy so I was very excited to hear about a course that teaches about conflict dynamics and how to address them.

I attended the Conservation and Conflict Experiential Training course taught by staff of the Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration (HWCC). The course was held September 9-11 2009 in Washington, D.C. Our class had people from the US, Wales, France and Africa. It was a great mix of people with varied backgrounds; grad students, the Humane Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Society, USDA and the National Park Service etc. Having this mix of people really brought in some great ideas and information exchange which added to the wonderful learning experience of the class.

This is not a sit, take notes and listen to the instructors’ course. There are a lot of discussions and role play; the more you participate the more you get out of it.

”The objective of this course is to improve the ability of conservation practitioners to understand conflict dynamics and establish more effective ways to address them. Participants will accomplish this by drawing on tools, processes, and theory developed in the field of conflict resolution that have shown to be applicable to conservation realities. As a result, conservation practitioners will possess a broader set of skills to ensure that conservation solutions are more successful and sustainable.” (HWCC)

We practiced various roles: being a third party neutral, an observer and people involved in a conflict. Playing these different “characters” and being in someone else’s shoes brought a new perspective to the process and gave a glimpse into how the other side may be feeling. At the end of each role play the groups (usually made up of 4 people) would critique the people doing the role play providing constructive criticism and positive feedback. It was a safe environment to practice the new skills we were learning each day and to improve on the ones we already had.

I would recommend this course to anyone that has to deal with human-wildlife conflict; it really does provide tools and guidance to prevent or resolve conflict issues. As someone who has never been good at dealing with human conflict, I left the course feeling like I can go out accomplish my goals and when conflicts arise I can handle them.

For more information on HWCC and the training course go to their website:

Submitted by Wendy Gardner, photo credits: Joe Milmoe