The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation in Wyoming: Understanding It, Preserving It, and Funding Its Future


In 2013, both the Wyoming Legislature and the public lambasted the
Wyoming Game and Fish Department (Department) for requesting license fee
increases to help fund the agency. They argued that hunters and anglers already
shouldered the bulk of the fiscal responsibility for managing wildlife, and a new fee
increase could discourage some from purchasing licenses. Ultimately, the funding
measure failed, but the debate brought to the forefront the risks and challenges of
relying exclusively on the funding model known as the North American Model of
Wildlife Conservation—an ideology developed over the past several generations
to manage and protect the future of all Wyoming’s wildlife…..Wyoming Law Review NAMWC Who Pays for Wildlife 2014

Authors:  David Willms and Anne Alexander

92% drop in bear conflict: Co-existence works!

There once was a problem in Yosemite National Park. Bears were getting into cars (more than 600 in 1997), turned over garbage bins and generally wreaked havoc. And then something incredible happened: it stopped. The San Jose Mercury News is reporting a 92 percent drop in bear conflict in the park after staff implemented co-existence strategies, primarily focused on changing humane behaviour.

“Reports of bears damaging property or injuring people in the park have fallen 92 percent – from 1,584 in 1998 to 120 last year,” wrote Paul Rogers for the Mercury News. “And the number of bears that park officials have had to kill because they pose safety problems has fallen from about 10 a year in the 1990s to one or two a year now.”

The Mercury News notes a few major steps that led from intentional feeding of bears to increase tourism, to the new, peaceful co-existence:

–Expanded the staff of rangers, biologists and volunteers working on bear issues from two to 20 with a $500,000 grant from Congress;
–Installed bear-proof food lockers for hikers and campers around the park – a total of about 4,000 (over half came from a non-profit);
–Education was ramped up, including forms that visitors must sign stating they understand it is illegal and dangerous to feed bears, videos about bear safety are played on loops at visitor’s centres, and rangers visit campgrounds at night to ensure safety measures are being followed; and,
–Invested in GPS collars for bears identified after causing trouble – the rangers are able to track their activity and employ hazing techniques if they approach campsites.

It wasn’t easy and surely wasn’t cheap. But Yosemite National Park worked with local non-profits, animal welfare groups and every level of government to get what they needed. And today, Yosemite isn’t just a vacation destination for tourists – it’s a paradise for bears, too.

Thank you FurBearerDefenders for this piece.

The beginning of the end of over-suppression of predators in Alaska?

When Jim Stratton, deputy vice president for the National Parks Conservation Association, heard last week that the National Park Service had announced a sweeping new rule banning the manipulation of predators and prey in Alaska’s national preserves, his reaction was — to put it mildly — unfettered joy. “This is totally exciting news,” he says. “I’ve only been working this for ten years. Game on.”

The reaction of the state Division of Wildlife Conservation? A little more tepid. Director Doug Vincent-Lang sees any attempt by the feds to usurp Alaska’s wildlife management authority as overreach, and this new rule — which maintains hunting rights on Alaska’s 22 million acres of national preserves but bans certain controversial practices — is overreach at its worst: “unfounded and unjust,” he told Alaska Dispatch News.

The proposed rule is currently up for public comments, and will likely be implemented next year. It prohibits the baiting of brown bears, the killing of wolves and coyotes when pups are in tow, and the use of artificial light to kill black bears in their dens. It also pre-emptively prohibits any other practice “with the intent or potential to alter or manipulate natural predator-prey dynamics.” In other words, killing predators to boost ungulate populations will no longer be allowed in Alaska’s national preserves.

To understand just how big this is, it helps to backtrack to 2002, when former Republican governor Frank Murkowski took office. One of Murkowski’s first actions was to remove five of seven members of the Board of Game — the body responsible for most wildlife decisions — and replace them with new appointees more supportive of “intensive management:” reducing predator populations to bolster the moose and caribou that many Alaskans depend on for food. Almost overnight, the state went from non-lethal management to gunning down wolves from the air.

In the dozen years since, Alaska’s predator control efforts have only intensified. In addition to allowing aerial shooting, the board eliminated a 122-square-mile buffer protecting wolves around Denali National Park; allowed the baiting of brown bears, illegal since statehood; extended the wolf and coyote hunting season to months when the animals have pups (and their pelts are worthless); and approved “spotlighting,” or using artificial light to rouse hibernating black bears to shoot them as they emerge.

Many environmentalists dislike such practices, but they accept that Alaska has the right to do what it will on state land. Yet because Alaskan agencies manage wildlife on both state and federal land, the board also tried to implement such practices on Alaska’s national preserves, where hunting is allowed.

The issue drove a wedge between state wildlife agencies and the National Park Service. The Board of Game says it’s only adhering to a 1994 food security law; the Park Service maintains that manipulating the predator and prey dynamic is antithetical to their very existence: “We’re managing parks not as a game farm that produces high numbers of prey species, but as an ecosystem where you see natural gains and losses in predator and prey populations,” says spokesman John Quinley. “That’s based on (federal) law.”

Since 2001, the Park Service has asked the Board of Game roughly 60 times to exclude certain practices from national preserves, to no avail. So each year, the Park Service goes through the complex, costly process of individually overriding each of the state hunting regulations in each national preserve. Each year, public notices and meetings are held around the state. They’ve become so routine hardly anyone bothers to show up any more.

That’s about to change. The new rule will not only replace temporary, inefficient bans with a permanent, statewide ban, it’ll also enable the agency to opt out of any future hunting regulations that could inhibit natural diversity. “We don’t know what (the state) is going to come up with in the future,” says Stratton. “If they decide they want to allow brown bear baiting in some place where they don’t have it now, this gives the Park Service a way to push back.”

Yet though the proposed rule will help the Park Service maintain natural conditions on the land it manages, it won’t help predators that inadvertently wander beyond the agency’s invisible boundaries. In the past several years, the state has responded to feds’ temporary bans by dropping an agreement to spare wolves radio-collared for scientific research. Last year, roughly half of the wolf population of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve were shot from helicopters when they left park boundaries, including the entire Lost Creek pack, which had been studied by Park Service biologists for 20 years.

See full story and links click here.

Steel Jaw Traps

Every year, trappers kill 10 million raccoons, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, opossums, nutria, beavers, otters, and other fur-bearing animals. Trappers use various types of traps, including snares and conibear traps, but the steel-jaw trap is the one that’s most widely used. The American Veterinary Medical Association condemns these traps and has classified them as “inhumane.”  In Nevada, these traps are allowed, trappers are only “required” to check there traps once every 4 days, and 50% of trappers admit to not visiting that often.   There is not one scientific report supporting Nevada’s 4-day visitation rule and there is robust evidence suggesting this is too long, causing needless harm and cruelty.

When an animal steps on the steel-jaw trap spring, the trap’s jaws slam shut, clamping down on the animal’s limb or paw. As the animal struggles in excruciating pain to get free, the steel vise cuts into his or her flesh—often down to the bone—mutilating the leg or paw. Some animals, especially mothers desperate to return to their young, will even attempt to chew or twist off their trapped limbs.

Animals often struggle for days before they finally succumb to exhaustion, exposure, frostbite, shock, and death.

Because steel-jaw traps have been banned in 88 countries. Their use is banned or restricted in several U.S. states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington. The European Union has banned the use of steel-jaw traps in Europe and banned the importation of pelts from countries that use these cruel devices to trap and kill fur-bearing animals.

Trapping Myth No. 9: Trapping is necessary to protect livestock

The money spent on efforts to eradicate predators, mostly coyotes, is taxpayer money; these eradication programs are not paid for by the ranchers. And despite endless annihilation programs, coyotes’ ranges have vastly increased. The government would save precious taxpayer money by simply paying ranchers for lost livestock.  Guard dogs, llamas and donkeys; birthing sheds; electric fencing have all proven to protect livestock while allowing predators to continue their important roles in the ecosystem, and at a lower cost to both the ranchers and the taxpayers.