Low Lead in Arizona Condors

Condor_bloodwork_webIt’s been a good year for lead levels in condors in Arizona and Utah. While last year saw the second worst levels on record, this year saw the lowest level in a decade, says a press release from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

“The ups and downs of lead poisoning over the years demonstrate that any single season does not make a trend, but our test results are encouraging,” said Eddie Feltes, field manager for The Peregrine Fund’s condor project in the release. “If this ends up being the beginning of a trend, we hope it will continue.”

Arizona Game and Fish, as well as the Peregrine Fund, which also distributed the release, believe that voluntary lead ammunition measures in the two states has contributed to the lower lead levels in condors there. Another factor may be the unseasonably mild winter, the release says.

In an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune, Chris Parish, condor program coordinator for The Peregrine Fund is quoted as saying, “The half life of lead in blood is a very short period. That gives us a relatively good indication of where and when exposure may have happened.”

The Tribune article also says that 78 percent of hunters in condor country who were contacted were voluntarily using non-lead ammunition. In 2011 the number was 10 percent.

More details in the Arizona Game and Fish press release here. (Halfway down the page.)
The same press release is here on its own page at the Peregrine Fund website.
The Salt Lake City Tribune article is here.

Photo: Courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department

 

 

 

 

Fish and Wildlife to the Rescue

Florida panther kitten FWCFish and Wildlife personnel rescue wildlife all the time. Sometimes they rescue rare wildlife. But this week there were two rescues of critically endangered species in adjoining states. Actually, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staffers were involved in both rescues.

Off the coast of Georgia, a rescue team that included Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologists cut over 100 yards of heavy fishing rope from a 4-year-old male North Atlantic right whale, allowing it to swim more easily. The young whale one of only about 450 remaining North Atlantic right whales.

Read the Georgia Department of Natural Resources press release here.

In Florida, biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida discovered an approximately week-old Florida panther kitten while conducting research at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County in mid-January.

There are 100 to 160 Florida panthers in the wild today, but this kitten will no longer be among them. Because it is too young to have learned survival skills from its mother, it will have to live in captivity. But with a gene pool this small, even captive individuals help with diversity.

Read the Florida Wildlife Commission press release here.

Photo: When you look at this Florida panther kitten, make sure you are thinking, “populations, not individuals.” Photo by Carli Segelson, courtesy Florida Wildlife Commission.

 

Are There Wolves in Maine?

Gray_wolfIt’s not news. Every once in a while someone sees something that either looks like a wolf or is proven to be a wolf in northern Maine. Sometimes this matters, such as when, as it did about 20 years ago, the US Fish and Wildlife Service kicks around the idea of returning wolves to Maine. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter. Most of the time, actually.

But now that the US Fish and Wildlife Service may remove all gray (aka timber) wolves from the federal endangered species list, it may matter if there are wolves in Maine. It may also matter if those wolves are gray wolves or eastern wolves (sometimes known as eastern Canadian wolves).

This column in the Bangor Daily News addresses the questions of whether there are wolves in Maine, whether the wolves that may wander into Maine occasionally are eastern wolves or something else, and why any of this matters.

A blogger for the Boston Globe tackled a similar set of issues back in September.

Read the Bangor Daily News story here.
Read the Boston Globe blog here.

Photo: A gray wolf. Not in Maine. Gary Kramer, USFWS

Western Wildlife Agencies Request Delay on Wolverine Listing

WolverineSnowWestern states are “feeling that climate change models are not a reason to list species under the Endangered Species Act,” said Bill Bates, wildlife section chief for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) in an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune last week.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed listing the wolverine as threatened in the lower 48 states, where they are dependent on having snow on the ground between January and May, their denning season. Climate change puts that snow coverage at risk.

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has asked the USFWS to extend its comment period by three more months.

Read the Salt Lake City Tribune article here. It includes a nice map.
Read the Associated Press article in the Missoulian, here. It includes a photo of adorable wolverine cubs.

Photo: Wolverine. Photo Credit: Steve Kroschel

New Era in Ferret Reintroductions

black-footed ferret closeup

High Country News’s Goat blog says that things are looking up for black-footed ferret reintroductions. It says that safe harbor agreements and new approval from the Colorado state legislature have opened new vistas for the species, which was once widespread across the West and then, in 1979, was thought to be extinct.

If you don’t know the black-footed ferrets’ saga already, the Goat blog has a nice summary, plus all the reasons why having new places to inhabit in Colorado is a good thing. The reintroductions began in late October.

Read the High Country News Goat blog entry, here.

ferret release

Photos: Ferret close up and transport to reintro site, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region.

Lobbyist-fueled Lizard Monitoring in Texas

dunes sagebrush lizard“Comptroller Susan Combs’ office, of course, knows doodly squat about lizards,” says a Houston Chronicle editorial on the dunes sagebrush lizard, federally listed as a threatened species. The problem is that the Texas state comptroller’s office is in charge of monitoring the lizard population to make sure the stipulations of a free-market habitat conservation plan are being obeyed.

State law forbids the US Fish and Wildlife Service from so much as reviewing the state contractor’s paperwork, an August article in the Chronicle reported. Even stranger, the editorial reports, the comptroller’s office keeps the identities of the landowners participating in the habitat enhancement program a secret.

And of course, because this is Texas, the editorial mentions that independent oil producers are worried that the lobbyist group monitoring the lizards will favor large producers over the independents.

Read the whole editorial in the Houston Chronicle, here.
Read the news article about the lizard monitoring, in the Chronicle’s oil industry news section, here.

Photo: Dunes sagebrush lizard, courtesy USFWS

US Fish and Wildlife Service Gov’t Shutdown News

Because the federal government shutdown has shutdown not only the USFWS website, but all the DOI websites, here is the USFWS press release announcing its operations or lack there of during the shutdown:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Suspends Operations Due to Federal Government Lapse in Appropriations

Because of the shutdown of the federal government caused by the lapse in appropriations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will suspend most programs and operations, including public access to all National Wildlife Refuges and all activities on refuge lands including hunting and fishing.

“Closing off public access to our national wildlife refuges and public lands is the last thing we want to do, but is consistent with operations called for during a government shutdown” said Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe. “This is difficult news for the families, birdwatchers, hunters and anglers, and recreationists who enjoy the great outdoors on the refuges – as well as for the many local businesses who depend on the tourism and outdoor recreation economy they generate. I think it’s most difficult for the thousands of furloughed Service employees who are impacted in carrying out their mission to protect our nation’s resources and providing for their families.”

Main impacts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the lapse in appropriated funding include:

• All 561 National wildlife refuges are closed to public access. Visitor centers and other buildings are closed.

• The National Wildlife Refuge System hosts more than 46.5 million people per year, and generates more than $342 million in local, county, state and federal tax income. Refuges also support more than 35,000 private-sector jobs.

• All activities on federal lands and in public buildings are canceled. This includes hunting and fishing activities on refuge lands.

• No permitting work or consultations will occur with respect to the Endangered Species Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species, the Lacey Act or the National Environmental Policy Act.

• The shutdown will affect more than 7,000 Service employees, who are furloughed until an appropriation is passed.

• Employees and others may not volunteer their services on behalf of Service functions or on federal lands.

Services and programs that will remain operational fall into the following exempted categories:

• Programs financed by sources other than annual appropriations.
• Activities expressly authorized by law.
• Activities necessary to protect life and property.
• Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration.
• Natural Resource Damage Assessment Fund activities
• Refuge Law Enforcement emergency operations
• Firefighting emergency operations
• Care and feeding activities at hatcheries and captive breeding facilities.

Because the website will not be maintained, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website will be down for the duration of the shutdown. Additional information will be available at http://www.DOI.gov/shutdown as well as at OPM.gov, which will contain information about the government’s operating status on Tuesday, Oct.1, 2013, and the days following.

Burying Beetles and Goshawks Up

goshawk-259x300Here’s some good news for a Monday morning.

- Wildlife biologists with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have discovered Northern Goshawks successfully breeding in the State for the first time since 2006. Read the Maryland Department of Natural Resources press release, here.

- A second wild American burying beetle population now calls Nantucket, Massachusetts home, thanks to a successful captive breeding and reintroduction program, which began in 1996 at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. Read this Endangered Species Act Success Story on the US Fish and Wildlife Service website, here. Lots of photos.

Photo: Can I tell you how lucky you are that I went with the goshawk and not the burying beetle grubs? Courtesy of the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources.

NPR on Sage Grouse Initiative

Sage Grouse vs transmission linesOn Wednesday, NPR had a piece on the Sage Grouse Initiative in Montana. There are photos and audio (or you can just read the article).

The initiative was started by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the piece says. It was joined by The Nature Conservancy, universities and state wildlife agencies. The initiative’s key tools seem to be portable electric fences, and widely distributed watering sites. That’s because having cattle graze intensely in small areas, leaving the grass in other areas to grow tall, as the sage grouse like it, is the goal of the program.

While sage grouse are found in only a few states, the effort to keep the species off the federal endangered species list should be of interest to all wildlife managers, particularly those managing other species at risk. At what point should we take action to keep a species from being listed? At what point does the species need to be listed so the protections of the Endangered Species Act can kick in and save it from extinction?

Stay tuned.

Photo: Greater sage grouse by Stephen Ting. Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service.

New Sierra Bighorn Herd in California

Sierra bighorn“Our recovery goals are both numeric and geographic,” said Tom Stephenson, California Department of Fish and Wildlife bighorn recovery program leader, in an article in The Los Angeles Times about the recent establishment of a new herd of federally endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep.

“This is the first reintroduction effort of a new herd of Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep since 1988,” he said in a CDFW press release. The release explains:

During the week of March 25, 2013, ten female and four male bighorn sheep were captured from two of the largest existing herds in the Sierra Nevada and reintroduced to the vacant herd unit of Olancha Peak at the southern end of the range in Inyo County.

The newly created herd is the tenth herd of Sierra bighorn between Owens Lake and Mono Lake, the release says. Three additional herds are needed to meet recovery goals. There are now 500 Sierra bighorns, which as an increase from the low of just over 100 of them.

Read more in The Los Angeles Times, here.
Read the CDFW press release here.

Photo: A Sierra bighorn is released in a new area to create a new herd. Courtesy CDFW.