News Article | March 11, 2016
The U.S. government announced that the Louisiana black bear, the furry beast that inspired the creation of teddy bears, has recovered enough to pull it off the list of federally protected species. The number of Louisiana black bears (Ursus americanus luteolus) has rebounded after 24 years of conservation efforts. It was listed as endangered in 1992, when only about 150 bears existed in its habitat. At present, about 500 to 750 bears live in the forests of Louisiana and Mississippi, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. These bears faced tremendous decline in population due to overexploitation and rapid habitat fragmentation. Most of the black bears live on lands owned by private individuals. With the help of Louisiana farmers, the country's Interior and Agriculture departments helped reinstate more than 485,000 acres of forests in areas which are considered priority for conservation. "Farmers played a pivotal role in helping the Louisiana black bear recover, using easements and other Farm Bill conservation programs to sew together primary habitat corridors," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "By working together, we're able to achieve more conservation, direct resources where biological returns are highest and achieve a larger habitat footprint spanning public and private lands," he added. During the time the black bears were listed, there were only three established breeding populations limited to Lower, Upper Atchafalaya river basins and Tensas in Louisiana. The population of these groups stabilized and more breeding populations formed in Mississippi and Louisiana. "Since listed as a federally threatened subspecies, considerable work towards restoring the Louisiana black bear has occurred, and multiple state and federal agencies, research universities, and nongovernment organizations have played integral roles for bear recovery over the previous two decades," posted the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in Louisiana. The famous black bear was introduced to the American culture in 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt declined to shoot and kill a bear that was captured by hunters. The Washington Post featured the incident and as a result, an owner of a candy store based in Brooklyn created the now famous "Teddy" bear. "Working together across private and public lands with so many partners embodies the conservation ethic he stood for when he established the National Wildlife Refuge System as part of the solution to address troubling trends for the nation's wildlife," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. She added that the Louisiana black bear is another success story for the country and government agencies.
News Article | March 11, 2016
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials announced that the 13 bald eagles found dead in Maryland in February did not die of natural causes. The massacre is the largest die-off among U.S. national birds in three decades, prompting officials to offer a reward to capture the assailant responsible for the killing. Laboratory results have shown that the eagles did not die of any natural cause from a disease. Wildlife officials are hinting that the birds were killed by man-made actions but the agency declined to say whether they were poisoned. "Our investigation is now focused on human causes and bringing to justice the person(s) responsible for the death of these eagles," said Catherine J. Hibbard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman. On Feb. 20, a citizen reported finding several dead eagles in the field near Laurel Grove Road and Richardson Road. When officials arrived in the location, they found a total of 13 dead bald eagles. This follows the removal of bald eagles in the list of endangered species. They are, however, still protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which predisposes the assailant to fines of $100,000 and $5,000 respectively. The person or people, who may have murdered these birds, face up to one year imprisonment. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which was passed in 1940, provides protection of the bald eagle or the golden eagle by prohibiting its sale, purchase, transport and barter. It also prohibits the "take" of these animals which may include shooting, killing, poisoning or trapping them. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act which aims to protect birds that migrate across international borders. The Service is contributing about $2,500 reward for the capture of the one responsible for the killing. The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust offered an additional $5,000 reward. Other agencies, however, joined the pledge to make sure justice will be served. A combined total of $25,000 in reward money will be offered for information leading to the arrest of the persons responsible. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Phoenix Wildlife Center contributed to raise the reward money. The bald eagle is a U.S. National Emblem chosen on June 20, 1782 because of its long life, astonishing look and strength.
"Thousands of archaeological artifacts — and maps detailing where more can be found — are kept inside the national wildlife refuge buildings currently being held by an armed group of protestors angry over federal land policy. Ryan Bundy, one of the leaders of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon, says they have no real interest in the antiquities. Still, their access to the artifacts and maps has some worried that looters could take advantage of the situation. "There's a huge market for artifacts, especially artifacts that have provenance, where you can identify where they came from," said Carla Burnside, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's refuge archeologist. More than 300 recorded prehistoric sites are scattered across the refuge, including burial grounds, ancient villages and petroglyphs. Some of the artifacts — including spears, stone tools, woven baskets and beads — date back 9,800 years. The artifacts and remains came from ancestors of the Burns Paiute Tribe. Chairwoman Charlotte Rodrique says she feels helpless knowing that her tribe's cultural heritage is now in the hands of the armed group." Rebecca Boone reports for the Associated Press January 15, 2016.
News Article | July 15, 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has tapped the usage of drones in an effort to give an endangered species hope for survival. The endangered species in question is the black-footed ferret, which is affected by the declining population of prairie dogs. Prairie dogs are the main source of food for the ferrets, and the underground burrows that they dig out serve as shelter for the ferrets. However, the prairie dog population is likewise decreasing because of the sylvatic plague, which is a disease that is being propagated by fleas and rats. To counter the effect, biologists have developed and distributed a vaccine for the sylvatic plague. The vaccine, which is mixed in with bait and dropped in certain points along pre-determined routes, would help the prairie dogs develop immunity to the sylvatic plague. However, the process of walking through the routes by foot and dropping vaccine-laced bait by hand is very time consuming, with biologists only able to release about 150 to 300 doses every hour. This is where the drones come in. An environmental assessment (PDF) released by the Fish and Wildlife Service for the use of unmanned aerial systems in delivering sylvatic plague vaccines to prairie dogs stated that up to 10,000 acres of land will be covered by drones per year. The Fish and Wildlife Service will be providing the vaccine-laced bait and the perimeter boundaries of prairie dog colonies to a private contractor, which would be operating the drones to deliver the vaccines to the specified areas. To carry and deploy the vaccine, a "glorified gumball machine" has been devised to be used by the drones, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Randy Machett. The device will be fitted to the drones, which will be using GPS systems to dispense the vaccines at intervals of 30 feet in three directions. The vaccine will be injected in peanut butter, which will be smeared on M&M candies. According to tests, this treat is the one that prairie dogs are very attracted to, as a dye that has been added to the mix often shows up on the whiskers of the animals. The actual type of the drone that will be involved in the project has not yet been determined, as the proposal has not yet received the final approval. However, according to Machett, using drones is the cheapest and fastest way to distribute the vaccine, which should mean that it will soon be given the green light. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Two species of wild bumblebees found from Alaska to North Carolina and in Canada will be considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. government said Tuesday. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to study the Western bumblebee and yellow-banded bumblebee to see if they warrant listing as threatened or endangered. The review could take a year or more. The yellow-banded bee's historic range includes 23 states from the Great Plains to New England, part of the Atlantic Coast and eight Canadian provinces. The Western bee's range includes 14 Western and Great Plains states, as well as three provinces and one territory in Canada. The two species overlap in both countries. The environmental group Defenders of Wildlife, which asked the service to consider protecting the bees, said they are important pollinators of both native plants and commercial crops. "They provide (pollination) services all over the nation for free that otherwise people have to hire beekeepers to provide," said Jay Tutchton, a Defenders of Wildlife staff attorney in Denver. "These are species that are very valuable to humanity." Tutchton said the bees are threatened by a category of pesticides called neonicotinoids and a parasite called nosema bombi. The bees are in decline on the coasts and in river valleys where commercial farming is widespread, he said. Neither Tutchton nor federal officials could say how big the two populations are. "We know the numbers are down," said Mark Sattelberg, a field supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Cheyenne, Wyoming, who will be part of the study of the Western bumblebee. Western and yellow-banded bumblebees live in the wild and are different from bees raised commercially to produce honey and pollinate crops, Tutchton said. Protections could include restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides in critical bee habitat and steps to ensure commercial bees are disease-free before they are imported or moved across state lines, he said. Diana Cox-Foster, a bee researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Logan, Utah, said the effects of neonicotinoids and the parasite have been documented in commercial bees but less is known about their impact on wild bees. USDA has reported widespread failures of bee colonies because of parasites, disease, pesticides and nutrition problems.