Idaho Receives Permit to Kill Ravens

Raven“The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will conduct lethal control actions on ravens in three study areas in southern Idaho beginning this spring, and evaluate whether the removal improves sage-grouse populations,” a department press release says. Sage-grouse are a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, the press release notes.

A Reuters article that ran in the Chicago Tribune points out that the department has ranked predation 12th out of 19 causes of the sage grouse’s decline. The Reuters article also notes that because ravens are protected under federal law, the state needed, and received, a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Department for the lethal control study.

The Reuters article also notes that Nevada has already killed thousands of ravens in recent years in an attempt to save the sage grouse.

The Idaho press release says that raven populations have risen dramatically in the West. It also says that it will “work with landowners and land management agencies to implement non-lethal control of raven populations into the future. The goal will be to limit the ability of ravens to nest on artificial nesting structures, such as water towers, old buildings and transmission structures, and reducing or eliminating attractants such as dead livestock and garbage.”

Read the Idaho Department of Fish and Game press release here. It contains a link to a map of the study area.
Read the Reuters story in the Chicago Tribune here.

Photo: Raven, by Gary Stolz, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service


Bears: Attacks and Responses

Black bearA black bear attack on a 12-year-old girl in Michigan made national news last week. However, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources press release says that a bear killed by DNR personnel shortly after the attack was not the bear in the attack. The bear was not killed because of any possible connection to the attack, but because it had been wounded by being shot by a home-owner who feared for his life.

The release says that DNA analysis shows that the bear that attacked the girl was female, while the bear that was killed was male.

Read the Michigan DNR press release here.
And if you haven’t seen the bear attack coverage, you can find some of it here.

NBC Nightly News notes that it was a busy week for bear attacks.

In Idaho, in a situation that closely echos the Michigan incident, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the shooting of a grizzly bear on private property to see if the bear is the same one that attacked two biologists earlier in the month, Reuters reports.

Read the Reuters story here.
Another Reuters story contains a single paragraph about the biologists, which is the most information I could find anywhere. Read the whole story in the Willmar, Minn. West Central Tribune:

Also on Thursday, Idaho wildlife officials reported that two biologists collecting grizzly habitat data in the eastern part of the state were knocked down by a charging grizzly after they startled it. Spray was used to scare off the bear, which bit one man on the backside and the other on the hands.


Photo: This is my generic black bear photo, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service. This bear has neither attacked a human nor been shot, to the best of my knowledge.

Northern Rocky Mtn. Wolf Population Is Down

The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2012 Annual Report for the Northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) Gray Wolf Population shows fewer wolves in more packs. The overall decrease in the number of wolves is seven percent, the report found. It’s the first decrease in wolf population since wolf collaringrestoration efforts in the region began.

An Associated Press story that ran in the Helena (Montana) Independent Press and elsewhere noted that wolf populations were down 16 percent from 2011 in Wyoming, four percent in Montana and eight percent in Idaho. There were population gains in eastern Washington and eastern Oregon, the article says.

An article in the Spokane Spokesman-Review sites a slightly different number, an 11 percent decrease, and says that state wildlife managers had hoped for a larger decrease in the population.

Read the 2012 Annual Report for the Northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) Gray Wolf Population here. (13-page PDF)
Read the US Fish and Wildlife Service press release here. (It is a less a summary of the report than support for current management strategies.)

Read the AP story in the Helena Independent Record, here.
Read the Spokane Spokesman-Review article, here.

Montana Wolf Management Advisory Council also met on the same day the report was released. It suggested a bounty system and creating a list of trappers among other things. Read the article in the [Montana] Missoulian, here.

Photo: National Elk Refuge biologist Eric Cole removes a whisker from a male yearling wolf. The sample can be used for a sample isotope analysis to learn about the animal’s diet. Credit: Lori Iverson / USFWS

Lots o’ Legislation

Gray_wolfI know, you are trying to focus on science and have no interest in the political scene. And I know that lots of bills get passed, but few of them become laws. Every once in a while, it is worth mentioning the gears of law, though. In this case it is worth mentioning because both the Idaho and Utah legislatures were very busy in late February creating new laws about endangered species.

The Associated Press reported that a bill that passed the Idaho Senate “would make it against state policy for federal officials to introduce or reintroduce any threatened or endangered species in Idaho without state approval.”

But there’s not much more than that on the bill. Read it the brief piece on The Oregonian website, here.

Utah was extra busy. They’ve got three bills in the works. One House bill would, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune, “allow county assessors to reduce a property’s tax burden if its value is impacted by designation as critical habitat for threatened or endangered species.”

Another House bill, “asks the federal government to not designate any private land in San Juan County as sage grouse habitat,” says the Salt Lake City Tribune. And a Senate bill which, “endorses Iron County taking over recovery of the Utah prairie dog” from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Utah legislature also put $300,000 in its budget to prevent the federal government from reintroducing the gray wolf into the state, another Salt Lake City Tribune article says. The article says that federal officials deny that any such reintroduction is planned.

Read the Salt Lake City Tribune article on the wolf payment here.

And props to Brian Maffly, the Salt Lake City Tribune reporter on both of those stories for making dull legislative news lively and easy to understand.

Photo: gray wolf by Gary Kramer, used courtesy USFWS

Lynx Killed in Idaho

lynx in snowA trapper killed a lynx in northern Idaho earlier this month, thinking it was a bobcat, the Coeur d’Alene Press reports. He immediately called state wildlife officials when he realized his mistake, the article says.

The animal was trapped just outside a region in northern Idaho that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had designated as critical habitat for the species listed as federally threatened. Even so, the CDA Press article says, lynx are rare in the region. The article says:

“Losing a lynx to trapping or any other cause is disheartening,” said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game regional wildlife manager for the Panhandle region. “Fortunately these are very rare events.”


Bobcats and lynx are similar looking, the article notes. Lynx have much larger feet and have fur between their foot pads.

Read the Coeur d’Alene Press article here.
This month’s Wildlife Express, a school newsletter from the Idaho Fish and Game Department focuses on lynx.

Photo: lynx in snow from USFWS

Feds Announce State Wildlife Grants

Oregon vesper sparrow and Mazama pocket gopher; mountain plover, burrowing owl and McCown’s longspur; the palila, a rapidly-declining Hawaiian honeycreeper; Karner blue butterfly, grasshopper sparrow, Henslow’s sparrow, and northern harrier; and white-tailed, Gunnison’s, Utah, and black-tailed prairie dogs are among the non-game species to benefit from this round of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grants.

The competitive federal grants focus on large-scale, cooperative conservation projects for Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) that are included in State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plans (also known as State Wildlife Action Plans — what would government be without changing terminology?).

Seven projects will take place in 12 states: Washington (2), Oregon, Idaho, Nebraska, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Alabama, Arizona, Montana, Texas, Wyoming (and also British Columbia, Canada).

Read about the projects in the USFWS press release, here. Don’t bother to follow the link in the press release for more information about individual projects. It takes you to information about the grants that hasn’t been updated in years.

Photo: Black-tailed prairie dog, by Gary M. Stolz, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service


Here A Pig, There A Pig

Old MacDonald never had it so good with his own domestic pigs. But if he has a farm in the Northwestern US, he may soon regret the success of feral swine, which have become a big problem in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

That has led those three states to create the “Squeal on Pigs” campaign to encourage hunters and others to report feral swine sightings. Local newspaper coverage (see below) reports a toll-free phone number for reporting the swine, but no info on a website for further info.

Read the article in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, here.
Read the Idaho Statesman article, here.

More info from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, here.

Of course, knowing how many feral swine you have in your state and whether that number is growing or declining is always an issue. “Squeal on Pigs” is one solution, but another is presented in the June issue of Wildlife Biology. European researchers have had success using DNA from fecal samples to model a feral swine population.

Read more in Wildlife Biology. (Subscription or fee required for full article.)

Photo: A feral swine piglet.

At Odds Over Critical Habitat for Caribou

Should a critical habitat designation include the species’ known habitat when it was more abundant, or just the area it was known to use when it was listed as an endangered species?

That’s the question the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is facing as it decides on a critical habitat designation for South Selkirk woodland caribou herd, says an article in the Spokane Spokesman-Review. The USFWS would like to protect 600 square miles of potential caribou habitat in north Idaho and eastern Washington, but Idaho’s two senators say, no, just the area where the caribou were last seen in the US should be protected.

The USFWS critical habitat designation for the caribou has been controversial, says the Spokesman-Review article. The agency received more than 300 comments on it.

Read more in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, here.

Photo: A woodland caribou, but not from the South Selkirk herd. rangifer caribou, by Erwin & Peggy Bauer, 7/93. 11444, 102.3.16

Fed Stimulus Helped Wildlife

The Idaho Statesman isn’t sure if the federal stimulus plan helped the nation recover from the recession, but in an editorial today it says that it was a good thing for wildlife because allowed a local partnership, including Idaho Fish and Game, built a wildlife underpass on Idaho 21. The underpass is a success.

Read the very brief editorial, here.

Read more about the underpass, and its success, also in the Idaho Statesman, here.

New Road-Kill Rules in Idaho

Allowing citizens to salvage road kill has it’s dicey issues, ranging from human health, human safety and enforcement issues. Idaho is plunging in with expanded road-kill salvage rules in the hope that letting people stop and pick up dead animals from the side of the road will lead to better data about where and when animals are being struck by cars.

There are a lot of caveats. See the press release for details.

It’s on clear what kind of data will come from limited access highways, since, as the press release points out, those roads only allow emergency stopping, and salvaging road kill is not an emergency.