endangered species

Wyoming Game and Fish

 

It’s true, we got a late start, the snow turning to mush in the warm sun under our snowmobile tread as we head out mid-morning. I'm tagging along with Wyoming Game and Fish Wolverine Biologist Lee Tafelmeyer into the south end of the Wind River Range to take down a motion-sensored camera he's been baiting with roadkill deer and beaver carcasses in an effort to take photos of wolverines. It's all part of a multi-state project to count this elusive species in the West. Last year, they took 53 photos of an estimated five animals.

J. Michael Lockhart / USFWS

 

Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are planning a historic venture this summer. They hope to bring black-footed ferrets back to Meeteetse, where they were found 35 years ago when the species was thought to be extinct.

Black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct in 1981 when John Hogg’s dog brought a dead one to his ranch house near Meeteetse. Hogg has since passed away. But, on the 25th anniversary of the ferret’s discovery near Meeteetse, Hogg told the story, again.

Ernest Thompson Seton

  

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced they were moving forward with de-listing Yellowstone area grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List. The news raised the hackles of many wildlife advocates. 

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As spring approaches, Yellowstone National Park’s grizzly bear population is starting to wake up. The first grizzly was spotted out of hibernation February 22nd.

Amy Bartlett is a spokeswoman for Yellowstone National Park. She says the bears are coming out of hibernation on schedule, even though it still feels like winter.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced its proposal to remove the Yellowstone area grizzly bear from the endangered species list.

In his announcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe called the plan a triumph.

“This population of bears has increased by more than 500% since efforts to conserve the bear began in 1981 from as few as 136 bears to probably over 1000 today.”

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Wyoming experts were cautiously optimistic Thursday when they learned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that Yellowstone Grizzly Bears be removed from the endangered species list.

Grizzly bears were listed for decades, before they were removed from the list in 2007. A judge put them back under federal protection in 2009.  Now, just as grizzly bears are starting to emerge from their dens, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it’s recommending delisting again.

Yellowstone’s expert on grizzly bears says it’s time to delist them. Bear Management biologist Kerry Gunther edited the recent Yellowstone Science magazine dedicated to grizzly bear recovery.

“Where are the grizzly bears” is one of the most frequently asked questions at Yellowstone Park Entrances. That question often gets answered now.

Yellowstone Bear Management Specialist Kerry Gunther said in the early eighties it was rare to see any bear in the Park. But things have changed.

National Digital Library of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service

A draft of a tri-state grizzly management and hunting practices agreement between Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming has been making the rounds on media sites, prompting outcry from some animal rights groups.

The memorandum plans for a possible delisting of the grizzly bear from the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It sets population goals, target mortality rates, and, most controversial, percentages of the management area outside the national parks that could possibly be used for hunting grizzlies. 58 percent of the hunt would occur in Wyoming. 

J. Michael Lockhart / USFWS

A new rule that will make it easier to restore black-footed ferret populations.

The 10(j) rule lets private landowners open up their lands to reintroduction in return for looser restrictions. Under the rule, if a landowner accidentally harms or kills a ferret, he or she will not be prosecuted under the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Ryan Moehring, says his agency partnered with Wyoming officials to develop the rule.

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Cody area lawmakers want the federal government to take grizzly bears off the endangered species list. They say there are more bears than ever outside Yellowstone. But others say the numbers don’t matter, and that the grizzly should remain protected.

Many Cody area residents have advocated for grizzly delisting for years. But, talk about delisting intensified this summer, after a grizzly killed a hiker in Yellowstone.

Bob Beck

  

Last weekend Wyoming’s annual sage grouse hunt began. Many hunters were worried that this could be the last hunt in a while, since the bird was facing the possibility of getting listed as an endangered species. When the chicken-sized bird started seeing declines in the 1990’s, some states stopped sage grouse hunting altogether. Wyoming continued its hunt after changing the start date and limiting the take. That will continue, even as the state continues mandated conservation efforts. 

Melodie Edwards

  

You might have heard a strange sound this last Tuesday morning around 10 a.m. It was a sigh of relief from ranchers, oil and gas workers and miners all over the West at the announcement that the greater sage grouse won't be listed as an endangered species. But you probably also heard the slapping of foreheads from wildlife advocates who say the grouse needs full federal protections if it’s going to survive.

In Tuesday’s announcement that the greater sage grouse will not be listed as an endangered species, the state of Wyoming got a lot of the credit by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe who said the state's strategy for bringing the bird back from the brink showed long range vision.

“I have to point out singularly the leadership from the state of Wyoming in designing the Core Area Strategy back in 2008. Because it was Wyoming’s leadership that showed us what was possible for sage grouse conservation.”

Ladder Ranch

Wyoming Ranchers are among those who are pleased with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision not to list the Greater Sage Grouse as an endangered species.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in her announcement that one of the main reasons the bird wasn’t listed was the cooperation among individuals, industry, and government in conservation efforts.

Pat O’toole runs the Ladder Ranch in Savery, Wyoming. He says his ranch took several steps to help Sage Grouse – from putting land in conservation easements to creating more sage brush habitat.

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With the decision not to list sage grouse as an endangered species, a new federal report says the current approach is effectively isolating the birds from each other like animals in a zoo.

U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Steven Knick worked on the report, and he says many of the sage grouse protected areas are like small islands scattered around the 11 Western states of its range.

Katrina Roberts

What do you think about the decision to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list, allowing western states to continue to manage the birds? 

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The Modern West #4: The Good, The Bad, And The Endangered

Sep 14, 2015
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Wyoming’s human population is low—and its animal population is high. But that doesn’t mean they don’t clash. This month: endangered species in The Modern West.

Governor Matt Mead released his plan for Sage Grouse conservation in Wyoming earlier this month, but September’s federal deadline to decide on endangered species listing is rapidly approaching. Scientists across the west are now engaged in a discussion of whether or not states are doing enough to adequately protect the bird’s numbers.

An upcoming panel at the University of Wyoming will attempt to address some of those issues.

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Cecil the lion was a favorite and well-known animal in the Zimbabwe Hwange National Park. Earlier this month he was killed by an American hunter and once the internet found out, it wanted justice. Now, a debate is raging on social media over big-game trophy hunting – both illegal and legal. Wyoming doesn’t have African Lions, but it does have mountain lions, elk, moose, bears, and a good number of big-game hunters. Renny MacKay is communications director for Wyoming Game and Fish.

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Polar bears are one of the species that’s been hardest hit by climate change. But scientists have long thought the bears might be capable of effectively hibernating in summer, to save energy during a longer open water season. New research from the University of Wyoming disproves that hypothesis though. Merav Ben David is a professor of wildlife ecology and one of the authors of the new study. She told Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce that without hibernation, it’s an increasingly long and hungry summer for the bears.

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Yellowstone’s grizzlies are unique in the world of bears. That’s according to a grizzly expert scheduled to speak in Jackson this week.

Yale wildlife biologist Dave Mattson spent 13 years in the field studying Yellowstone grizzlies. He says Yellowstone bears eat things like earthworms, pond weeds and pine seeds that no other grizzlies in the world do. And that’s not all.   

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A plague vaccine might help bring one of the most endangered mammals in North America back to Northwest Wyoming where they were discovered. Black Footed Ferrets may be restored to the Pitchfork Ranch near Meeteetse, because their food, prairie dogs, are coming back.

Ben Ramsey

In the small town of Pinedale, people have a lot of opinions about sage grouse. That’s because Pinedale just happens to sit in the middle of some of the best sage grouse habitat in the state. It’s also in the middle of some of the best oil and gas fields in the country. So when a Pinedale math teacher joined forces with a sage grouse conservation project, it started a community conversation.

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It’s been five years since Governor Matt Mead signed an executive order giving special protections to the state’s greater sage grouse populations. Now that order says it’s time to re-evaluate the plan and make sure it’s actually doing its job. The goal is to convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife not to list the grouse as an endangered species come September 30.

At a public meeting this week in Buffalo, the state’s sage grouse team heard ideas for increasing the Powder River Basin grouse populations. A new Pew Charitable Trust report shows that the area’s sage grouse are close to extinction with a 98 percent chance that in 30 years there will be less than 50 birds left there. Wildlife biologist Erik Molvar with the environmental group WildEarth Guardians says the coalbed methane industry played a role in the decline.

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After lengthy discussions, Jonah Energy has agreed to hold off on plans to drill some 3500 gas wells near Pinedale until an environmental impact statement is complete.

Governor Mead’s Sage Grouse Implementation Team could not reach a consensus on Tuesday on whether to include the area—known as the NPL or Normally Pressurized Lance—as protected habitat. Wyoming Game and Fish sage grouse coordinator Tom Christiansen says, the team didn't agree on whether or not to adopt the area into the grouse's core area habitat.

The Western Governor’s Association has released a special report outlining numerous programs Wyoming and other western states have adopted to stop the rapid decline of the greater sage grouse. But Wildlife Biologist Erik Molvar with WildEarth Guardians says sage grouse numbers have been plummeting and it’s going to take more than local, voluntary efforts to turn things around.

“It’s going to require range-wide commitments to science-based protections that are mandatory.”

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