Lawsuit challenges Wildlife Service’s killing of wolves

Indian Country Today Media Network

The second lawsuit in three weeks has been filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services program over the federally sanctioned killing of wolves and other wildlife.

Most recently the Western Environmental Law Center filed suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle on March 3 on behalf of five conservation groups, alleging that Wildlife Services has overstepped its authority in killing wolves to protect livestock. The agency’s efforts are based on outdated analysis of how to deal with wildlife, the complaint states, and more often than not the job is bungled—as with the shooting last year of the female leader of a wolf pack instead of another wolf that had been seen attacking livestock, Reuters reported.

“Wildlife Services’ activities related to wolves in Washington have been extremely harmful,” said Western Environmental Law Center attorney John Mellgren in a statement. “The science tells us that killing wolves does not actually reduce wolf-livestock conflicts, but Wildlife Services is continuing its brutal assault on this iconic animal, and it needs to stop.”

In mid-February, five conservation groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Idaho over what they called the indiscriminate killing of wolves, coyotes and other wildlife, the Associated Press reported on February 13.

“The lawsuit notes that the federal agency in 2013 killed more than 200,000 animals, much of that number representing the killing of birds that can pose problems on cattle feedlots or dairies,” AP said of the Idaho lawsuit. “The agency in 2013 also killed 2,739 coyotes and 79 wolves.”

Both suits allege that Wildlife Services’ actions are antithetical to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, which mandates that federal agencies conduct thorough environmental analyses of the effects of their activities. The Idaho lawsuit also includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as defendants because the groups allege that it is inadequately enforcing the Endangered Species Act by not challenging Wildlife Services, AP said.

The Endangered Species Act protects wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington State, according to Reuters, but in eastern Washington, protection is up to the state. The same is true in both Idaho and Montana, Reuters said.

In western Washington, the Wildlife Service’s activities constitute negligence under the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires an in-depth environmental impact statement, said the Washington plaintiffs—Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense and The Lands Council.

“The agency completed a less-detailed environmental assessment, but the document contains significant gaps and does not address specific issues that will significantly impact wolves and the human environment,” the groups’ statement said. “The EA prepared by Wildlife Services fails to provide data to support several of its core assertions. For example, Wildlife Services claims that killing wolves reduces wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research from Washington State University directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves actually leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. The EA also fails to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.”

Wolf culling is causing controversy in several states and at least one Canadian province.

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Is trapping doomed?

Tom Reed
High Country Times, April 12, 1999

The day after Christmas 1997 is a day that Liz Kehr shudders to remember.

Kehr and her husband, Kevin Feist, live in the Flathead Valley in northwestern Montana, snug against Glacier National Park. It’s a place where publicly owned land stretches for miles in all directions, though in the past 10 years the valley has boomed with more and more people moving in. Flathead County swelled from 59,218 people in 1990, to an estimated 71,707 in 1997.

It’s an outdoor community where many people enjoy hunting and fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling – and trapping.

Kehr chokes up when she recalls Dec. 26, 1997, an overcast day with snow threatening and everything washed in the gray of a northwestern Montana winter. Kehr was out for a little afternoon skiing, a chance to burn off some holiday sloth and exercise her two dogs. She chose the Trail Creek road, which is often impassable to even four-wheel drive vehicles but still sees heavy use from snowmobilers and cross-country skiers. Near Kalispell, the road is on public land – the Flathead National Forest.

With her were Tara and Buddy, the family’s two mutts. A year before, Buddy, a good-natured dog with a seemingly perpetual grin, had come to Kevin and Liz’s house, a stray looking for a home.

“It was like he picked us,” remembers Kehr.

Now, Buddy was part of the family. Leaving her car parked beside a few others, Kehr moved up the road, following the ruts made by other skiers and enjoying the rhythmic squeak of the snow beneath her skis. Two miles up the trail, Buddy peeled off to investigate some smells. He had moved just out of sight behind a snow berm, less than 50 feet from Kehr, when “there was this horrible screaming sound,” she says. “It was Buddy, and he had this thing around his neck. I didn’t even know what it was.”

The dog had come across some raw chicken parts in a white bucket. At the mouth of the bucket was a Conibear 220, a steel trap designed primarily to catch and kill beaver, otter and raccoon. Buddy had gone for the chicken and gotten the trap.

When new, a Conibear 220 exerts an impressive 90 pounds of pressure per square inch. It can break a human hand, and it is designed to quickly kill whatever it catches. It is among a family of so-called humane traps that dispatch an animal rather than hold it by a foot or leg.

It also requires some knowledge to use. Springs line the sides of the trap and must be squeezed in order to release or unspring the trap. It usually takes a strong person using both hands to squeeze each spring. If you know how to open it, you have between three and eight minutes to save an animal from suffocation.

This was the contraption that Kehr was faced with, a trap she had never seen or even heard of. A high-pitched scream came from Buddy as the Conibear clamped around his throat. Her other dog barked frantically, running in circles. Kehr wrenched off her skis and threw aside her ski poles, screaming for help. She struggled to figure out how to release Buddy as the dog thrashed in pain. Kehr is a small woman, barely five foot three.

“I was just pouring sweat, trying to figure this thing out,” remembers Kehr, her voice trembling. “Then I finally figured out how to release it and I couldn’t. I didn’t have enough strength. I worked and worked on it and I moved it, but it only made it worse for Buddy. Cut off more air. Which was probably good. He was really suffering.”

She squeezed the springs to no avail and called for help for what seemed like a long time. Finally, Buddy’s howls of pain quieted, though Kehr still tried to free him. “I heard voices and Bob and Laurie showed up.”

Bob and Laurie Muth were neighbors out for an afternoon ski. Bob helped pry Buddy out of the trap. “But he was gone,” says Kehr.

“I’ve never seen anything as traumatic as this girl trying to raise the dog from the trap,” Bob Muth later told a local newspaper.
The fight to ban it all

But is there a “need to trap’? No, say a half-dozen animal-rights groups around the country.

“We’re not going to rest until body-gripping traps are banned from all of the states,” says Wayne Pacelle, vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States. With 6.7 million members, the Humane Society is the largest animal protection group in the world.

“There’s this stubborn attitude among trappers that “By God, this is my lifestyle, and I’m not going to change,” “””says Pacelle. “Trappers have been coddled by the state agencies for so long, and the state agencies have been controlled by hunters and trappers for so long, that trappers haven’t been held accountable until recent years.”

It is in the 1990s that animal-rights groups have made significant inroads in the fight to ban commercial and recreational trapping. In 1992, voters in Arizona were asked to vote on Proposition 200, which proposed a ban on leghold, instant kill, and snare traps on public lands. That measure was rejected, only to reappear in 1994 as Proposition 201. It passed.

In 1996, voters in Colorado and Massachusetts approved similar laws that included both public and private lands.

This spring, state lawmakers in Oregon are debating Senate Bill 599, which would prohibit the trapping of wildlife for recreation or commerce. Trapping is on its way out, maintains Pacelle.

“We’re taking it to the next tier,” he says, noting that states such as Nevada, Washington and Maine could pass similar laws in the coming years.

Click HERE for the full article.

A baited conibear trap near trail killed my dog

Valerie Strain
Pet owner, outdoor enthusiast and founder of No Traps on Trails
20 February 2015

It started out as a normal afternoon walk through the woods near our home in the Kawarthas; cottage country near Peterborough, Ontario. It was a beautiful December day. My friend and I set out with my two yellow labs, George and Gracie, on a well-used snowmobile trail on Crown Land. The dogs were a bit ahead of us but within sight. Suddenly, George yelped and I knew he was in trouble. The dogs had been lured to a baited kill-trap and George’s head was caught. He died a slow death while I struggled unsuccessfully to free him.

The dangerous “conibear” trap that killed George was set within a few feet of the trail. We were shocked to learn from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry that there are no rules in Ontario about how close to trails traps can be set and no requirement to notify the public that they are there. There does not seem to be any way for the public to find out where traplines are — they could be anywhere on Crown Land, on your neighbour’s property, even in Provincial Parks and you wouldn’t know. Tourism groups promote our great outdoor spaces and show families cross-country skiing or hiking with their dogs running beside them off-leash. I’d like to know where it’s safe to do that.

The reality is that it’s not only pets that are at risk. Anyone using a trail could easily stumble upon an unmarked hunting trap. While leashes are one way to keep dogs close, many pet owners use extendable leashes that can reach up to 20 feet. And there’s nothing to prevent someone from setting a trap closer than that to a trail.

My husband and I both grew up in rural areas and we thought we knew all the potential hazards of the woods. But we had no idea the risk we were taking every time we took our dogs out on this trail. One of our responsibilities as pet owners is to keep them safe. We failed George in that regard.

We don’t want this to happen to another family pet, or worse, a curious child. That’s why my family started the No Traps on Trails Campaign including a petition. In just over a week, more than 43,000 people signed their names and lent their support. Many have shared their own experiences with encountering baited traps. Unfortunately, we are not the only family to experience a traumatic loss because of an unmarked trap.

We’re gratified that our petition has caught the attention of MPP Bill Mauro, Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources, who has asked his staff to review current trapping regulations. Mauro told the CBC, “…it’s also about young children that could be walking with their families on the trails. I just want to look into it. I think it’s a legitimate issue.”

Here are our recommendations to Minister Mauro:

1. Improve trapping practices and regulations by setting a minimum trapping distance from public trails and roadways, and marking trails that run near traplines.

2. Launch a public awareness initiative to promote safe practices, including an online map showing where registered traplines are.

Our goal is to enable the public to avoid traps and traplines; a goal that we hope everyone, including trappers, can support. Other jurisdictions have already successfully addressed this issue.

We are still struggling with the experience of losing George in such a horrific way. My family hopes we can turn this terrible tragedy into a positive force for change. More than 43,000 Canadians — and counting — are insisting on it.

Facebook: notrapsontrails
twitter: @notrapsontrails

See the full article here

Humanity is in the “Existential Danger Zone,” study confirms

January 22, 2015, by James Dyke

The Earth’s climate has always changed. All species eventually become extinct. But a new study has brought into sharp relief the fact that humans have, in the context of geological timescales, produced near instantaneous planetary-scale disruption. We are sowing the seeds of havoc on the Earth, it suggests, and the time is fast approaching when we will reap this harvest.

This in the year that the UN climate change circus will pitch its tents in Paris. December’s Conference of the Parties will be the first time individual nations submit their proposals for their carbon emission reduction targets. Sparks are sure to fly.

The research, published in the journal Science, should focus the minds of delegates and their nations as it lays out in authoritative fashion how far we are driving the climate and other vital Earth systems beyond any safe operating space. The paper, headed by Will Steffen of the Australian National University and Stockholm Resilience Centre, concludes that our industrialised civilisation is driving a number of key planetary processes into areas of high risk.

It argues climate change along with “biodiversity integrity” should be recognised as core elements of the Earth system. These are two of nine planetary boundaries that we must remain within if we are to avoid undermining the biophysical systems our species depends upon.

The original planetary boundaries were conceived in 2009 by a team lead by Johan Rockstrom, also of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Together with his co-authors, Rockstrom produced a list of nine human-driven changes to the Earth’s system: climate change, ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone depletion, alteration of nitrogen and phosphorus cycling, freshwater consumption, land use change, biodiversity loss, aerosol and chemical pollution. Each of these nine, if driven hard enough, could alter the planet to the point where it becomes a much less hospitable place on which to live.

The past 11,000 years have seen a remarkably stable climate. The name given to this most recent geological epoch is the Holocene. It is perhaps no coincidence that human civilisation emerged during this period of stability. What is certain is that our civilisation is in very important ways dependent on the Earth system remaining within or at least approximately near Holocene conditions.

This is why Rockstrom and co looked at human impacts in these nine different areas. They wanted to consider the risk of humans bringing about the end of the Holocene. Some would argue that we have already entered a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – which recognises that Homo sapiens have become a planet-altering species. But the planetary boundaries concepts doesn’t just attempt to quantify human impacts. It seeks to understand how they may affect human welfare now, and in the future….

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Woflandia: the fight over the most polarizing animal in the west

From Outside magazine.

Twenty years after wolves were reintroduced in the Northern Rockies, many politicians would still love to see them eradicated, and hunters and ranchers are allowed to kill them by the hundreds. But the animals are not only surviving—they’re thriving, and expanding their range at a steady clip. For the people who live on the wild edges of wolf country, their presence can be magical and maddening at once.

The switchbacks on the old logging road still held two-foot-deep patches of snow in late March, when we set off on four-wheelers to scout for wolf tracks in the Boise National Forest, north of Garden Valley, Idaho. The riding was easy lower down, where the hardpack traced the course of a snowmelt-swollen stream through a tight canyon. Spiny rock towers rose from the banks, disintegrating into forbidding walls of scree and timber. If you were an elk or a deer, it would be a tempting place to come for a drink, but you’d be taking your life in your hands. Wolves love a terrain trap.

As we climbed, our engines strained against the grade, mud, and snow. We were headed to a vantage point above a place called Granite Basin, where we could scan hundreds of acres of forest with spotting scopes. Zeb Redden, a 35-year-old soldier based in Fort Carson, Colorado, carried his girlfriend, Joni, on the back of his ATV. Zeb had paid Deadwood Outfitters, owned by Tom and Dawn Carter, $3,500 for the weeklong wolf hunt. I was along as an unarmed observer.

Zeb’s tricked-out, AR-15-style rifle was tucked into a scabbard built into his backpack. A couple of days before, I’d watched him drop to the prone position, press his cheek onto the stock behind his scope, and put a 7.62-millimeter round on a bull’s-eye-painted rock 600 yards away. He was deadly at long range, but he said he probably wouldn’t take a first shot at anything farther out than about 500 yards.

“I’m shooting jacketed hollow-point boat-tails, and at that distance they’ll just go right through. They won’t open up like they’re supposed to,” he’d explained. “If he’s wounded and beyond 500, I’ll keep putting lead on him. But if it’s a first shot, I’d rather get in closer.” I wondered if adrenaline would change his mind if we actually saw a wolf…..

“Some people find it ironic that U.S. taxpayers paid tens of millions to restore Northern Rocky Mountain wolves under the Endangered Species Act, only to have hunters tart blowing them away as soon as they were delisted.”

For the entire article please click here.