tagged w/ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Biologists, volunteers rush to save Florida butterfly species
By Phil Gast, CNN
updated 10:38 PM EDT, Wed June 13, 2012
The Schaus swallowtail butterfly is contained to a relatively small area in southeast Florida.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues emergency authorization
Biologists hope to capture four females of the species, gather and raise eggs
The Schaus swallowtail butterfly is listed as endangered
It lives only in a small area within South Florida, mostly on small islands
(CNN) -- In a region saturated with spectacular aquamarine waters and bright coral reefs, the colorful Schaus swallowtail butterfly once was a familiar sight as it flitted over Biscayne National Park in South Florida.
But the insect's numbers have declined over the past decade. With only five recent sightings, three confirmed, at the island park, federal wildlife officials are trying to save the species from extinction.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service late last week issued an emergency authorization to collect up to four Schaus swallowtail females within the park and collect and raise their eggs.
"This is a very low number of individuals compared to what should be in the field," said Jaret Daniels, an entomology researcher with the University of Florida.
Biologists and state and federal officials, in a conference call Wednesday, said there was no one factor responsible for the butterfly's decline.
Habitat destruction, drought, hurricanes and pesticide use outside Biscayne National Park are likely contributing, they said.
Also, the Schaus swallowtail's breeding habits aren't helping.
"It has one generation a year, which is unusual for a subtropical butterfly," said Daniels.
The Schaus swallowtail, contained to a relatively small area in southeast Florida, in 1976 was listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened. It reached the endangered status eight years later.
During the 2011 survey, there were 41 sightings, mostly on Elliott Key, the park's largest island. Six of the 41 were found on north Key Largo.
Finding, or for that matter catching, four females won't be easy. Of the five sightings since May, only one was a female.
"This is needle in a haystack stuff," said Elane Nuehring, president of the Miami Blue chapter of the North American Butterfly Association.
Once collected -- very carefully -- females will be temporarily confined in a mesh cage in their natural habitat, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service.
The hope is that they will lay eggs on host plants inside the cage. Females will be confined for up to four days and then released. The eggs will be placed in small vials and transported to the University of Florida in Gainesville for rearing.
The butterflies will emerge bearing black-brown wings with yellow markings and a broad rusty patch beneath the hind wing. Adults have a life span of one month.
Captive breeding also was done in the 1980s and 1990s, boosting the Schaus numbers for a time.
"There was great hope at that time the reintroductions would bolster the population," said Nuehring. "As time went on, the reintroduced populations began to dwindle yet again. This time, it has been harder to figure out why."
"Captivation is normally a last-ditch effort," said Ricardo Zambrano, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Surveys of the species, assisted by the North American Butterfly Association and other volunteers, will continue through the end of June.
Normally hardy, the Schaus swallowtail is accustomed to living in a harsh environment that is accompanied by the occasional hurricane.
"Extended drought has played an extensive role in this butterfly's decline," Daniels said.
Biscayne National Park, south of Miami, supports intact native habitat, critical for the Schaus swallowtail's survival, and does not use pesticides to control mosquitoes.
The butterfly's food sources include cheese shrub, guava nectar and the torchwood tree, according to the Butterfly Conservation Initiative.
In a separate habitat restoration project in the area, officials are replacing invasive plant species with ones more typically found in hammock forests, said Dana Hartley, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist.
Experts say pollinators such as butterflies are at risk throughout the United States.
Elsa Alvear, chief of natural resources at Biscayne National Park, said the reduced use of pesticides at home and in gardens, coupled with the introduction of native plants, will help their numbers.
Schaus swallowtails are big, charismatic butterflies, said Nuehring.
The butterfly group is concerned about other imperiled butterflies in South Florida and elsewhere.
"Some people might argue extinction is a natural thing, that we lose species all the time," Nuehring said. "(But) you lose genetic diversity whenever something disappears."
Biologists, volunteers rush to save Florida butterfly species
By Phil... more
Los Angeles Times...
U.S. probes golden eagles' deaths at DWP wind farm
The toll makes the Pine Tree site in the Tehachapi Mountains among the deadliest in California's wind farm industry. Activists say birds' behavior should be studied before erecting more sites.
Wind turbines in operation in the Tehachapi Pass. The flight behavior and size of golden eagles make it difficult for them to maneuver through turbine blades.
(Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times / July 13, 2011)
By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times
February 16, 2012
Two more golden eagles have been found dead at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains, for a total of eight carcasses of the federally protected raptors found at the site.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to determine the cause of death of the two golden eagles found Sunday at the Pine Tree wind farm, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles and 15 miles northeast of Mojave, said Lois Grunwald, a spokeswoman for the agency.
The agency has determined that the six golden eagles found dead earlier at the 2-year-old wind farm in Kern County were struck by blades from some of the 90 turbines spread across 8,000 acres at the site.
Those deaths give Pine Tree one of the highest avian mortality rates in California's wind farm industry. The death rate per turbine at the $425-million facility is three times higher than at California's Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, where about 67 golden eagles die each year. However, the Altamont Pass facility has 5,000 wind turbines — 55 times as many as Pine Tree.
The flight behavior and size of golden eagles make it difficult for them to maneuver through forests of wind turbine blades spinning as fast as 200 mph — especially when the birds are distracted by the sight of squirrels and other prey. Golden Eagles are about 40 inches tall and weigh about 14 pounds,
The DWP is developing a avian and bat protection plan that "will include measures for mitigating risks to golden eagles," utility spokesman Brooks Baker said.
Critics say the problem is fundamental. "The increasing golden eagle mortality at Pine Tree clearly points to wind turbines built in the wrong location," said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. The utility needs to redesign its 250-megawatt Pine Tree network and Kern County needs to put a moratorium on construction of nearby wind farms to prevent deaths, Anderson said.
Garry George, renewable energy project director for Audubon California, said the best solution is to devote years of research into golden eagles' behavior in an area before deciding where to erect turbines. "If you don't ... you wind up with a Pine Tree," George said.
Killing golden eagles is illegal under federal law, but so far, federal authorities have not prosecuted any wind farm operators for violations.
A prosecution in the Pine Tree case could force the booming alternative energy industry to revise its approach at a time when Kern County is drafting boundary maps for wind resource areas for dozens of proposed wind projects designed to generate electricity for Los Angeles County.
A year ago, the Kern County Board of Supervisors adopted a renewable energy goal of having 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production by 2015. Los Angeles has a renewable energy goal of 35% by 2020.
A coalition of environmental groups including the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Defenders of Wildlife recently sued Kern County to block construction of the proposed North Sky River and Jawbone wind energy projects, which would operate on 13,535 acres of mountainous terrain adjacent to Pine Tree.
According to the lawsuit, the projects would have an unacceptable effect on protected bat and avian species, including the golden eagle and the rare and protected California condor, and on an important avian migratory corridor.
.Los Angeles Times...
U.S. probes golden eagles' deaths at DWP wind farm... more
Los Angeles Times...
Catalina Island fox makes astounding comeback
Since falling to a low of 100 in 1999, the Catalina Island fox has rebounded to a number — 1,542 — above its previous level, thanks to conservationists' efforts.
A Catalina Island fox awaits the attentions of biologists who trap the animals in order to inspect them for illnesses, vaccinate them, outfit them with telemetry collars and monitor their behavior.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times / September 1, 2011)
By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times
January 19, 2012
The Catalina Island fox has made one of the most remarkable recoveries known for an endangered species, rebounding in just 13 years from near extinction brought on by a distemper epidemic, wildlife biologists announced Wednesday.
The number of foxes has reached 1,542, surpassing the population of about 1,300 seen before the animals were ravaged by the disease that scientists believe was introduced by a pet dog or a raccoon from the mainland that hitched a ride on a boat or a barge.
"We're beyond proud," said Ann Muscat, president and chief executive of the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy. "It's a testament to what hard work, passion, money and the resiliency of nature can accomplish."
The animals' growing presence is evident across the island in "scent advertisements" — clumps of telltale scat — left on boulders, retainer walls, barbecues and picnic tables. But despite their growing number, Muscat said, "we can't relax. These furry treasures are still just one infected dog or raccoon away from extinction."
The fox — a subspecies found only on the 76-square-mile island — has become this resort destination's emblematic endangered species in part because of its fierce appeal.
The omnivorous 5-pound animals are gray with pointed noses, reddish ears and feet and black-tipped tails. They live about 10 years, pair for life and, with no natural predators on the island, generally enjoy a relatively laid-back existence.
But the population crashed to roughly 100 in 1999, prompting the conservancy and the Institute for Wildlife Studies to launch a $2-million recovery program that included vaccinations and a captive breeding facility. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the fox as endangered in 2004.
The rebound has federal wildlife authorities elated. "It is one of the great recovery efforts — up to this point," said Stephanie Weagley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We still have a lot of management and fieldwork to do."
The agency is conducting a five-year status review of the fox, an effort that could lead to eventual removal from the endangered species list. The review takes into account factors such as fluctuations in population and continuing threats.
On an island shared by 3,200 humans, and visited by more than 1 million tourists a year, the leading causes of death for foxes include pet dogs, feral cats and "road kill." The cat-sized foxes are fearless and frequently wander out to sniff at passing vehicles.
Managing the animals now includes trapping foxes, inspecting them for illnesses, vaccinating them against distemper and rabies, outfitting them with telemetry collars and monitoring their behavior.
At daybreak Wednesday, conservancy senior wildlife biologist Julie King and wildlife technician Tyler Dvorak strode through waist-high brush, inspecting the contents of 12 wire box traps baited the night before with kibble and cat food to attract customers. They found four tenants, which growled nervously as King and Dvorak lifted them out to record their vital statistics in a log that chronicles more than a decade of fox research on the island.
Wearing leather gloves, King cradled one of the foxes in her lap and injected a microchip the size of a grain of rice just under the skin between its shoulder blades. Fox No. 57410 was about a year old and somewhat pudgy.
"These are not lean, mean killing machines like wolves," King said. "There's plenty here for them to eat — cactus pears, Catalina cherries, mice — and they can get downright obese."
News of the robust fox population was a main topic of conversation on the island. At the conservancy's nature center a mile south of town, school and youth program specialist Rich Zanelli said, "I'm going to put up a big sign that says, 'Ask me about 1,542.'"
.Los Angeles Times...
Catalina Island fox makes astounding comeback
White Wolf Pack...
December 17, 2011
Feds Shoot Lonely Mexican Gray Wolf Attracted to Dogs
SILVER CITY, N.M. – At the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an endangered Mexican gray wolf was shot dead on private land within the Gila National Forest of New Mexico Wednesday. The lone 4-year-old female wolf was reportedly attracted to a residence to consort with domestic dogs and was shot as a purported threat to human safety. Earlier this year the same wolf had mated with a dog elsewhere and given birth to five hybrid pups, four of which were captured and euthanized; the fifth has not been found.
“This very sad episode is a result of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to release enough wolves into the wild to allow this single female to find a mate of her own kind,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.
The 1996 environmental impact statement on reintroducing Mexican wolves to the wild addressed potential hybridization and promised to minimize it in part through “reestablishing wolf populations in numbers sufficient that potential wolf mates are available for dispersing wolves.” But this has not occurred.
The document projected that by the end of 2006, 102 wolves, including 18 breeding pairs, would live in the wild, with the numbers expected to continue to rise after that; a 2001 scientific review concluded that the recovery area spanning the Arizona and New Mexico border had sufficient deer and elk to be able to support 468 wolves. Yet the highest number of wolves counted was 59 in 2006; at the end of 2010, only 50 wolves, including just two breeding pairs, could be found in the wild.
Despite this shortfall, over the past five years of the reintroduction program, which began in 1998, the federal agency responsible for helping endangered species has only released a single wolf from the captive-breeding pool into the wild (in November 2008) along with 11 wolves who had been captured from the wild in previous years.
Dozens of other wolves were captured and have been indefinitely locked up (and 11 other wolves were shot by the government for livestock depredations, though none in the past four years). Today, 12 once-wild wolves are biologically suitable and legally eligible for release into New Mexico.
“This lonesome wolf did not have to die,” said Robinson. “If there were enough potential mates for her to choose from, this social creature wouldn’t have desperately sought the company of domestic dogs. “To ensure another wolf doesn’t pay the same price, the Obama administration must release more wolves into the wild.”
.White Wolf Pack...
December 17, 2011
Feds Shoot Lonely Mexican Gray Wolf... more
Los Angeles Times...
Court ruling keeps Yellowstone grizzlies on 'threatened' list
November 22, 2011 | 1:16 pm
A ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2007 decision to remove the "threatened" designation for Yellowstone grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act
Conservationists won a major battle Tuesday in their campaign to protect Yellowstone grizzly bears when a federal appeals court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service erred in removing Endangered Species Act protections for "one of the American West's most iconic wild animals."
The ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the wildlife agency's 2007 decision to remove the "threatened" designation for the bears under the Endangered Species Act.
Tuesday's ruling cited climate change as having accelerated a beetle infestation destroying the bears' vital white-bark pine food source. The grizzly is only the second wildlife species, after the polar bear, to earn protection in recognition of harm caused by global warming. Both are considered "threatened."
The three-judge panel embraced conservationists' warnings that the decline in the grizzlies' fodder would likely drive them to forage in more populous areas around the park, increasing incidents of confrontation between humans and the omnivorous bears.
Los Angeles Times...
Court ruling keeps Yellowstone grizzlies on... more
U.S. beefs up conservation efforts for endangered sea turtles
By Shelby Lin Erdman, CNN Radio
September 18, 2011 8:03 p.m. EDT
PHOTO: Loggerhead turtles will be divided into nine distinct population groups based on where they live, according to new regulations.
(CNN) -- The government has revised its rules on sea turtles to try to decrease the number killed every year and reduce the threats they face.
The new regulations place the Loggerhead turtle into nine distinct population groups, depending on where they live, instead of listing the marine animal as a single worldwide species. In all nine segments the turtles are listed as either threatened or endangered.
Officials at both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, both responsible for overseeing the turtle conservation efforts, say they can better address the challenges the turtles face with the new geographical division.
Loggerhead or marine turtles live in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. The new "distinct population segments" for the turtles are: The Northeast Atlantic Ocean group, the Mediterranean Sea, the North Indian Ocean, the North Pacific Ocean, the South Pacific Ocean, the Northwest Atlantic, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and our Atlantic Coast, the South Atlantic Ocean, the Southeast Indo-Pacific Ocean and the Southwest Indian Ocean.
Researchers estimate more than 4,500 loggerheads are killed every year by commercial fishing, but environmentalists believe the number is probably much higher.
Commercial fishing is one of the biggest risks for the turtles, whether they live in the Indian, Pacific or Atlantic oceans, said Jim Lecky, the fisheries director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"They all continue to be challenged by a number of threats, incidental capture in fishing gear, longlines, gill nets, trawl gear, trap and pot lines, which tangle turtles and other species, and dredges; all have incidental mortality of sea turtles in those fisheries," he said.
But Lecky says that's not the only threat for the turtles. "They are all also challenged by losses of habitat, degradation of nesting habitat. There still is direct harvest of eggs in adults ... at some level and they are all subject to vessel strikes."
The turtles are facing all those threats, but at different levels. So the new rules will allow fine-tuning of sea turtle conservation measures and regulations.
"We believe that this revised listing of the Loggerhead will help us and our partners to better focus recovery and conservation efforts by allowing us to take a more regional approach. But, again, the separation of Loggerhead into these population groups will not reduce our current conservation efforts," said Sandy MacPherson, the national sea turtle coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
MacPherson also told CNN Radio, "These new listings will help us to provide more focused recovery and conservation, as well as more focused threat analysis and evaluation of conservation successes."
The Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement that Loggerhead populations "need more protection to survive this century."
The rule revisions also included designating five regional populations as endangered species, which the group characterized as "a wake-up call that a whole host of threats, from oil spills, channel dredging and commercial trawling to longline and gillnet fisheries, continue to kill off turtles faster than the animals can possibly hope to reproduce."
CNN's Ninette Sosa and Barbara Hall both contributed to this report.CNN...
U.S. beefs up conservation efforts for endangered sea turtles
Los Angeles Times...
Judge rules polar bears still 'threatened'
June 30, 2011 | 3:51 pm
Polar A U.S. District Court on Thursday upheld a Bush-era decision that polar bears are a threatened species, despite challenges by the state of Alaska and others seeking to strip the bear of its protection.
Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to protect the bear because of the melting of the Arctic sea ice was well supported and that opponents failed to demonstrate that the listing was irrational.
“Plaintiffs’ challenges amount to nothing more than competing views about policy and science,” Judge Emmet Sullivan wrote.
The polar bear was the first species added to the Endangered Species List solely because of the threat from global warming.
The status of polar bears became an issue in 2005 after the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace filed a petition arguing that shrinking ice impaired the bears' ability to catch prey and could lead to their extinction. In December 2006, then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne declared the bears "threatened," rather than endangered and in imminent danger of extinction. Endangered and threatened species receive the same protections, such as protection of critical habitats, population recovery assistance and prohibition of harm to the species or its habitat. For threatened species, however, the government can reduce protections or allow exemptions.
If the bears were listed as endangered, new power plants could be blocked, as well as other sources of carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to global warming. It also could make petroleum exploration more difficult.
As a result, Kempthorne created a "special rule" stating that the Act would not be used to set climate policy or limit greenhouse gas emissions, pesticides, mercury and other pollutants outside of the Arctic that harm the bear. The Obama administration upheld this policy.
The state of Alaska and hunting groups argued that the listing was unnecessary because the bear is protected by other laws.
“With the population of the species in decline, the needless hunting of them for sport must not be an option,” said Jeffrey Flocken, D.C. Office Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare. “As pro-trophy hunting organizations continue the fight to skirt existing laws and import polar bear trophies, today’s decision serves to reinforce the fact that the species is in jeopardy. The short-term special interests of hunting groups must never take precedence over long-term conservation efforts for the protection of polar bears.”
Currently, conservation groups are challenging Kempthorne's special rule in court.
“This decision is an important affirmation that the science demonstrating that global warming is pushing the polar bear toward extinction simply cannot be denied,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “While we are disappointed that the polar bear will not receive the more protective endangered status it deserves, maintaining Endangered Species Act listing for the polar bear is a critical part of giving this species back its future.”
Studies show that rising temperatures are quickly melting the Arctic sea ice, forcing polar bears inland. In September 2007, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey released a comprehensive nine-volume analysis of the science and reached a dire forecast: Two-thirds of the bear's habitat would disappear by 2050.
Polar bears are experts at hunting ringed seals and other prey on sea ice. But they are so unsuccessful on land that they spend their summers fasting, losing more than 2 pounds a day. Overall, scientists believe the global population of 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears remains robust. But virtually all polar bear experts predict rapid population declines in the Arctic, which is warming faster than anyplace else in the world, changing too rapidly for the bears to adapt and find another source of food.
.Los Angeles Times...
Judge rules polar bears still 'threatened'
Los Angeles Times...
Environmental news from California and beyond
Newhall Ranch developers must not harm California condors, feds say.
June 7, 2011 | 6:12 pm
CALIFORNIA CONDOR NEWHALL
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday said it would not tolerate the harm or killing of an endangered California condor during construction of a proposed Newhall Ranch community of 60,000 residents along the Santa Clara River.
In a long-awaited, 178-page opinion, the agency also said, however, that it would allow the developer to capture and relocate one condor over the next 25 years, if necessary, according to agency wildlife biologist Rick Farris.
“We anticipate that there might some occasion over the 25 years in which a California condor may become attracted to some human activity such as construction of a house,” Farris said. “If it can’t be hazed off the property without hurting it, then they will have to capture it.”
“Additional condors that become habituated to such activities, however, would not be covered by the exemption."
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has questioned whether the Army Corps of Engineers, which is set to permit the development's construction 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, has adequately considered its impacts on an array of rare and endangered plants and animals.
The corps is expected soon to issue a Clean Water Act permit authorizing the developer, Newhall Land, to use 20 million cubic yards of excavated soil to fill in wetlands in areas to be developed over the next 20 to 30 years on the 12,000-acre ranch.
Of particular concern to the EPA are plans to fill in much of Potrero Canyon, which includes roosting and foraging grounds for condors.
Adam Keats, spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “I’m pretty happy to hear that the agency will is not going to let them harm one of these magnificent birds.”Los Angeles Times...
Environmental news from California and beyond... more
Tsunami washes away feathered victims west of Hawaii
By the CNN Wire Staff
March 19, 2011 3:43 a.m. EDT
Birds walks beside debris at a port in Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture on March 18, 2011.
Officials say 22% of new albatross population is lost
Four tsunami waves hit the Midway Atoll after the earthquake in Japan
Official: Tsunami a "disaster at many levels, including for wildlife"
A 60-year-old albatross is missing since the tsunami wave hit
(CNN) -- The massive waves that churned across the Pacific after the Japan earthquake last week swept away nests protecting seabird chicks unable to fly, leaving scores dead west of Hawaii.
The death of seabirds at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge are much higher than initially thought after tsunami waves pounded the islands, officials said.
Four successive waves hit the refuge, which is comprised of an outer reef that protects three small islands -- Sand Island, Eastern Island and Spit Island. Lots of birds were affected at the refuge, which is part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
The tallest wave was nearly 5 feet and completely washed out the reef and Spit Island, the smallest in the Atoll.
The waves washed over nests that protected seabird chicks, authorities said.
In the hours after the tsunami waves struck the refuge, officials concentrated on freeing some 300 birds that were either waterlogged or trapped in debris.
After the rescues, biologists turned their attention to surveying the damage, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement.
The survey shows that 22% of this year's albatross hatchlings were lost as a result of the tsunamis and two winter storms that struck the refuge earlier this year.
About 110,000 Layson and black-footed albatross chicks were killed, along with 2,000 adults, officials said.
Biologists initially thought losses were around half those numbers.
"This tsunami was indeed a disaster at many levels, including for wildlife," said Barry Stieglitz, a project leader for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Stieglitz said that albatross numbers can rebound, but added that biologists "remain concerned about the compounding effect of this tsunami on the existing stresses of invasive species, global climate change, incidental mortality from long-line fishing and other threats to albatross and other wildlife populations."
Among the missing is a so-called "celebrity" albatross called Wisdom. Officials believe Wisdom, age 60, may be the oldest wild bird in the world.
Wisdom recently hatched, and biologists said they haven't seen any sign of her or her chick.
Biologists at the refuge also suspect that thousands of Bonin Petrels were lost, but have been unable to confirm any numbers because the birds nest underground.
The national monument and the wildlife refuge are home to 3 million seabirds from 21 different species, according to officials.
It serves as an important habitat for various species, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, the threatened Hawaiian green turtle and a trans-located population of the endangered Laysan duck.
Officials will work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to evaluate the impacts of the tsunami on the Hawaiian monk seal and the Hawaiian green turtle.
The earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11 killed thousands of people in Japan, police said.
CNN's Kimberly Hutcherson contributed to this report.Tsunami washes away feathered victims west of Hawaii
By the CNN Wire Staff
March 19,... more
Endangered whooping cranes shot dead
Only about 400 whooping cranes exist in the wild, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.
January 12th, 2011
03:17 PM ET
Three endangered whooping cranes were shot to death in southern Georgia, wildlife officials say.
The three dead birds were found and reported by hunters near Albany, Georgia, on December 30, according to a release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The cranes, which were banded and fitted with radio transmitters, were part of a group of five that were migrating to Florida together, the service said. They had last been tracked 20 days earlier in Hamilton County, Tennessee.
The cranes are part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership effort to reintroduce whooping cranes into the eastern United States. There are about 570 whooping cranes left in the world, 400 of which are in the wild, according to the wildlife service. About 100 cranes are in the eastern migratory population.
The cranes that were killed were not among those famously led south by ultralight aircraft, but instead were part of the Direct Autumn Release program, in which cranes are encouraged to follow other migrating birds, such as sandhill cranes.
In addition to the Endangered Species Act, whooping cranes are protected by state laws and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The wildlife service and Georgia Department of Natural Resources are investigating. Several organizations have contributed toward a $12,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.Endangered whooping cranes shot dead
Only about 400 whooping cranes exist in the... more
More tigers in American backyards than in the wild worldwide?
A lack of regulation allows the United States to have one of the largest populations of captive tigers in the world.
Tigers Among US
Captive tigers in the United States and their impact on tigers in the wild
Did you know that there are more tigers in American backyards than there are in the wild around the world? The United States has one of the largest populations of captive tigers in the world − estimated at perhaps 5,000 tigers, compared to as few as 3,200 in the wild. They are found in backyards, urban apartments, sideshows, truck stops and private breeding facilities.
In many jurisdictions, people can legally keep a tiger on their property without reporting it to local officials or neighbors. In some states, it is easier to buy a tiger than to adopt a dog from a local animal shelter. Rarely can officials determine how many tigers there are in captivity within state borders − or where they are, who owns them, or what happens to their body parts (highly prized on the black market) when they die.
It’s critical that the United States better regulate the captivity of tigers. When tiger ownership and breeding aren’t monitored, captive tigers become easy targets for black market sales, and those sales end up threatening wild populations. Here’s how that happens: The illegal trade in products derived from captive tigers stimulates demand, especially for wild tigers. The more demand there is, the more wild tigers are poached.
The lack of regulation of captive tigers is also a major threat to public safety. Lax oversight means tigers can be held in areas that may not be adequately secured. Let’s not wait for another tragedy to occur before taking action.
There has never been a better time to make it right. In 2010 − the Year of the Tiger − WWF is working to close loopholes in regulations for tiger ownership set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We also play an active role in supporting tiger range countries’ commitment to Tx2, WWF’s ambitious goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.
In November, world leaders will gather at a Tiger Summit in Russia to discuss the plight of wild tigers and agree upon a range-wide recovery plan for these big cats. Take action today by encouraging Secretary Clinton to attend the summit and ensure strong U.S. commitment to global tiger conservation.More tigers in American backyards than in the wild worldwide?
A lack of regulation... more
08:06 AM ET
3,634 dead birds collected in Gulf, wildlife service says
A laughing gull wallows in sludge in June on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the first time is breaking down the species of oiled birds collected - alive and dead - in the Gulf of Mexico since the April 20 BP well blowout.
As of Tuesday, 4,676 birds had been collected; 3,634 of those were dead. Of the dead birds, 1,226 were visibly oiled.
Of the dead birds, the largest numbers are laughing gulls (1,591), followed by brown pelicans (376) and northern gannets (182).
Live birds are taken to rehabilitation centers in Hammond, Louisiana; Gulfport, Mississippi; Theodore, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida.
Once the birds are stabilized, they undergo several washings, feedings, and the collection of vital health information. They stay at the rehabilitation centers until their natural body oils are replenished and they are sufficiently recovered for release, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.
Rehabilitated birds are banded and released into suitable habitats along the coast where they are not likely to get oiled again.08:06 AM ET
3,634 dead birds collected in Gulf, wildlife service says
Saving nature's unborn from the Gulf oil disaster
By Kim Segal, CNN
July 9, 2010 7:50 p.m. EDT
Sea turtle eggs are packed into a cooler along with sand from the Gulf Coast beach they are leaving.
* U.S. wildlife experts are moving sea turtle eggs by hand to save them from the oil disaster
* Such a relocation effort has never been done before
* They are being taken from Florida Panhandle to Kennedy Space Center
* They will be stored in a special NASA building, then released into the Atlantic Ocean
Port St. Joe, Florida (CNN) -- One by one, with a hand as steady as a surgeon's, Lorna Patrick removes eggs from a sea turtle's nest on a Florida beach.
"If it falls, you probably killed the hatchling that's developing inside," said Patrick, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Patrick admits she holds her breath each time she takes an egg out of the sand and places it in the foam cooler.
Sand is delicately placed in the cooler between and on top of each egg. Patrick uses the sand from the nest, which is located just a few inches from the beach's surface.
This process is part of an unprecedented sea turtle relocation program. Moving sea turtle nests days before the eggs are to hatch has never been done before.
It is also the first time that wildlife experts had to deal with oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.
"Shy of letting the hatchlings swim in oil, it's our best alternative," said Sandy MacPherson, the national sea turtle coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service.
"We're confident if they go into oil they're going to die."
Patrick is working on the second sea turtle nest to be moved since the program started. Ninety percent of the United States' sea turtle population can be found on Florida's beaches, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
It is estimated that 700 nests can be found in the Florida Panhandle, an area vulnerable to the oil spill.
"This is a huge relocation effort," said Thomas Strickland, assistant secretary of interior for fish and wildlife and parks. "As many as 50 to 100,000 eggs over the next six to eight weeks will be dug up."
An average nest has anywhere from 100 to 120 eggs. Sea turtles come out of the water a few feet from the coastline and lay their eggs in the warm sand.
Loggerhead turtle eggs, the type Patrick is handling, usually hatch within 60 to 70 days. The eggs are moved just over a week before they are expected to hatch.
Wildlife officials want to keep the eggs in their natural environment as long as possible.
"Through the eggs it's believed they actually connect to the landscapes where they were born," Strickland said.
Once the turtles mature it is hoped that they will return to the original nesting area and the natural birthing cycle will continue. Once Patrick's two coolers are full, with the nest's 107 eggs, they will start a journey across the state.
A special climate-controlled truck donated by Federal Express will deliver the eggs to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The coolers will be stored in a special NASA building that will be regulated to the warm summer temperatures to which the eggs are accustomed.
Instead of the beautiful white sandy beach, the hatchlings will be born in the transport coolers.
Once they break out of their shells, the warm blue Atlantic Ocean will be awaiting them.Saving nature's unborn from the Gulf oil disaster
By Kim Segal, CNN
July 9,... more
NASA's latest mission doesn't have anything to do with spacecraft or satellites. The space agency is helping thousands of baby sea turtles make their successful pilgrimage to the ocean. Biologists are digging up some 700 turtle nests on northern Gulf beaches affected by the BP oil spill, from Panama City to Apalachicola, Florida, and relocating them to NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Florida's Space Coast.
To simulate the natural environment, the eggs will be buried in damp sand inside Styrofoam coolers and transported via a temperature-controlled truck to KSC. There, they will be held and monitored at an undisclosed facility until they hatch. Once the turtles begin to break free from their shells, they will be moved quickly to nearby beaches to make their trek to the sea, where they feed exclusively along the line of Sargassum seaweed at the edge of the current. Most of the nests are made by the threatened loggerhead sea turtle, but some are possibly from three endangered species -- Kemp's ridley, leatherback, and green sea turtles. Each nest has 100-120 eggs.
Only about one in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings typically survives to adulthood under the best conditions. Experts say that with oil right off the Gulf Coast, the turtles' odds of survival there drop to virtually zero. BP's ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill has released hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and is considered the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission all played a role in developing the relocation plan. NASA offered to house the turtles until they hatched at its climate-controlled facilities at KSC. Although biologists can't be certain the sea turtle relocation plan will succeed, they say all of this year's hatchlings from the northern Gulf of Mexico will be lost if nothing is done.
http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-07/nasa-will-rescuethousands-sea-turtle-eggs-oil-leak-areasNASA's latest mission doesn't have anything to do with spacecraft or... more
The map shows the amount of oil on the coastline as reported each day by the federal government based on information from air and ground surveys. The amount of oil on portions of the coastline often changes from day to day because of many factors, including recent visits by cleanup teams or tides washing in new oil.
For the first month of the spill, the oil stayed mostly in the gulf. But in the last week of May, waves of oil began washing into Louisiana’s fragile wetlands and beaches. In June, oil landings began to be reported more frequently in the states to the east. Survey areas for Louisiana were first released on May 24 and for Mississippi, Alabama and Florida beginning on June 12. Survey data were not available for some days.
By ERIN AIGNER, JOE BURGESS, SHAN CARTER, JOANNE NURSE, HAEYOUN PARK, AMY SCHOENFELD and ARCHIE TSE || The New York Times
Sources: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; National Park Service; state and local officialsThe map shows the amount of oil on the coastline as reported each day by the federal... more
Rescued birds will return to wild Sunday
* By Katherine Rosenberg
* Corpus Christi Caller Times
* Posted June 25, 2010 at 7:23 p.m.
CORPUS CHRISTI — About 50 rehabilitated birds are to be released at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge this weekend.
The birds were rescued from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and are to be released back into the wild at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge around 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
A U.S. Coast Guard flight should arrive from New Orleans in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about 9:30 a.m. at the Aransas County Airport. The birds should be released about an hour later. It is the third such release at the refuge.Rescued birds will return to wild Sunday
* By Katherine Rosenberg
* Corpus... more
Added On June 25, 2010
An army of volunteers readies to help animals as oil approaches Florida's coast.
CNN's Tom Foreman reports.Added On June 25, 2010
An army of volunteers readies to help animals as oil... more
By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
June 10, 2010 6:18 p.m. EDT
A brown pelican coated in heavy oil tries to take flight on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana.
Some experts see it as a well-meaning flight of fancy. To others, cleaning a bird soaked with oil from the Gulf of Mexico is the only chance it has for survival.
In the case of the brown pelican, removed last year from the endangered species list, it may be the only way to save the entire lot.
"It's like triage on a battlefield. You have to weigh where you can have your best success," said Ginette Hemley, the World Wildlife Fund's senior vice president for conservation strategies and science.
Earlier this week, a German biologist painted a less rosy picture in an interview with the magazine Der Spiegel. Silvia Gaus of the Wattenmeer National Park said it was more humane to euthanize the birds because they will suffer a painful death regardless of whether the oil is scrubbed from their feathers.
"According to serious studies, the middle-term survival rate of oil-soaked birds is under 1 percent," Gaus told the magazine. "We, therefore, oppose cleaning birds."
The statement spotlighted a similar statement in 2002 from the World Wildlife Fund, which said it was reluctant to advise cleaning birds after the Prestige spill off the coast of Spain. In that incident, a sunken tanker dumped about 20 million gallons of oil off the Galician coast.
The fund issued a statement earlier this week saying its 2002 remarks could not fairly be applied to the situation in the Gulf of Mexico. Thursday marked Day 52 of the gusher.
"In many cases, WWF believes there is value in trying to clean and rehabilitate wildlife, especially if productive, viable adult animals can recover from exposure to oil," the release said. "But every situation is different, and it is too soon to fully calculate the impact the Gulf spill will have on the long-term viability of populations of many species in the region."
Hemley said it could take up to three years to determine the spill's total impact on wildlife.
According to Wednesday's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service numbers, rescue officials have collected 1,075 birds. Of those, 442 were alive and "visibly oiled." Another 633 were found dead, and 109 of those were visibly oiled.
The report states BP's Deepwater Horizon spill is not responsible for all dead birds.
"How long will the birds survive that have been cleaned and released? We don't know yet," Hemley said, explaining it depends on a variety of factors.
Included are how quickly the bird was saved, the bird's age and size and the length of exposure to the oil, she said.
Lee Hollingsworth, a wildlife adviser with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Wales, said other concerns are the level of saturation and how much oil a bird has ingested.
Seabirds' feathers are weatherproofed by natural oils, stimulated by a gland in their lower back. This is why birds nuzzle their tail feathers when they're preening, Hollingsworth said.
"If that gland is damaged," he said, "then that no longer secretes oil."
Other rescue methods, such as holding the birds in captivity to protect them or moving them to a new habitat, can be dangerous as well, he said. Captivity is stressful, and changing a bird's environment introduces it to new prey and predators, whereas it was accustomed to its food and enemies in its natural habitat.
Many birds are quite specialized, he said, and don't do well in artificial, foreign or zoo-like environs.
The Welsh society joined the World Wildlife Fund in 2002, saying that heavily oiled birds could not be helped.
But on Thursday, Hollingsworth said the 8-year-old statement was specific to the situation in Spain, which happened in chilly November. The Gulf is warm, which could bode well for the birds, he said.
"The majority of [birds affected by the Prestige incident] didn't survive anyway. That, again, is due to the ingestion of oil and weatherproofing," he said.
Hollingsworth said many people cleaning birds are working for charities that don't receive much government funding, and it's important for such groups to prioritize their efforts and target areas where they'll do the most good.
In the Gulf of Mexico, that may mean focusing on brown pelicans. The birds, which are native to the Atlantic Coast and eastern Gulf, spent almost 40 years on the endangered species list until last year
"The chances of success increase every time we deal with one of these unfortunate situations. ... Hopefully we're getting better at this.
--Ginette Hemley, World Wildlife Fund
When salvaging just a few birds is so vital to the survival of a species, Hollingsworth said, "something has got to be done, and of course it's worth saving the bird."
Despite conflicting studies on the viability of washing birds, there are plenty of success stories. The International Bird Rescue and Research Center, which is working in the Gulf, cites several examples on its website.
After the 2000 Treasure spill off the coast of South Africa, rescuers saved 21,000 African penguins and released about 19,500 birds back into their colonies, according to the center.
The website notes rescuers also saved 32 snowy plovers after the 1999 New Carissa spill off the Oregon coast, 180 king eiders after a 1996 spill near Alaska's Pribilof Islands and 175 waterfowl after California's Santa Clara River spill of 1991.
"It may seem like a small number but it was significant to us, as we knew what those animals endured being covered in very heavy and thick oil," wrote Jay Holcomb, the center's executive director.
Hemley said the wildlife fund would generally "err on the side of recovering birds." After all, she said, it's not costly to rinse the birds and let them rest before scrubbing them with Dawn, the dishwashing liquid whose motto once was, "Takes grease out of your way."
Rescuers are always looking to improve on their methods for saving animals, and they've learned a lot since the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill off the coast of Southern California, she said.
"The chances of success increase every time we deal with one of these unfortunate situations," Hemley said. "Hopefully we're getting better at this."By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
June 10, 2010 6:18 p.m. EDT
A brown pelican coated in... more
For animal lovers, one of the most heartbreaking aspects of the Gulf spill is the oil-drenched wildlife washing up on shore. If you're too horrified to look at any photos, you're in luck — BP doesn't want you to see them.
As of Friday morning, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s tally of dead animals collected in the Gulf area was 527 birds, 235 sea turtles (six to nine times the average rate), and 30 mammals, including dolphins. Yesterday morning, the spill washed over Queen Bess Island (called “Bird Island” by locals), which is a habitat for Louisiana brown pelicans, the state bird that was once an endangered species. Forty-one of the birds were coated with oil, and that number is expected to rise.
Have you seen the terrible pictures of all this carnage? Neither have I. And neither has anyone else.
Wonder why? The New York Daily News reported on Wednesday that BP has ordered its contractors not to share pictures or otherwise publicize the scores of dead and injured wildlife.
An unnamed BP contractor gave a reporter a very different tour from the one presented to President Obama during his recent visit. Among the “highlights,” if that's what they can be called, was a decomposing dolphin that the worker said had been found filled with oil. The shoreline grass of Queen Bess Island was covered with stricken marine life, some dead and some struggling to breathe. The normally white heads of pelicans were dark with oil.
The worker said BP was insistent it didn't want any photos of the dead animals. "There is a lot of coverup for BP," the worker told the reporter. "They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence."
As extra assurance that most of us will never see photographic or any other evidence of the true extent of the carnage, Louisiana residents said BP quickly whisks off dead and injured wildlife to inaccessible buildings and offshore ships. Out of sight, out of mind ... but forever in locals' memories.
New York Daily News reporters trying to get a closer look at the disaster were escorted from a beach by police who said they were taking orders from BP. Even Louisiana residents have been required to sign non-disclosures.
Really, BP? Did you not get the memo this isn’t a police state? You may be able to control politicians by lining their pockets, but your bucks stop there. This disaster is going to affect all of us, and we have every right to see the extent of the damage.
In an encouraging development, this week Charlie Riedel of the Associated Press was somehow able to bypass BP's myriad roadblocks and snap some appalling photos. They may make us want to shield our eyes, but it's important we don't bury our heads just as BP would love for us to do.For animal lovers, one of the most heartbreaking aspects of the Gulf spill is the... more
On May 21, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several conservation organizations will observe Endangered Species Day to recognize the conservation programs underway nationwide aimed at protecting America’s threatened and endangered species.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has helped to prevent the extinction of hundreds of species. Co-administered by the Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the purpose of the ESA is to conserve imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.
“The Endangered Species Act is the nation’s premier law protecting biodiversity today,” said Acting Service Director Rowan Gould. “The bald eagle, American alligator and gray wolf are all species which once found themselves on the list, facing the brink of extinction, but have successfully rebounded. The wood stork, Kirtland’s warbler, Louisiana black bear and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle are still listed species that are showing good progress towards achieving recovery — the ultimate goal of the ESA. These species and many others continue to benefit from the protections afforded by the ESA and the dedicated people who work through the Act to ensure their continued existence.”
The Service and Endangered Species Coalition are cosponsoring four signature events around the country to focus public support on rare and imperiled species. Events will be held in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Maine and Montana. Michael J. Bean, counselor for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior, is scheduled to speak during the Washington, D.C. event, which will take place at the United States Botanic Garden.
In addition, many of the Service’s field and regional offices will be hosting events in their communities and providing unique programs to visitors on endangered species conservation. For more information on how you can find an event near you, please visit www.fws.gov/endangered/ESDay/2010.html
The Service works with other Federal agencies, state, local and tribal governments, environmental organizations, industry groups, academia, the scientific community and members of the public to help conserve our nation’s threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plants.
Endangered Species Day honors this national commitment to recovering endangered species and their habitats and provides an opportunity to learn about what efforts are being made to conserve them.
There are currently 1,324 species listed in the U.S.: 750 plants and 574 animals. To find out what endangered species are near you, and how you can help, please visit www.fws.gov/endangered.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service.On May 21, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several conservation... more
3 years ago