View From Kaktovik, Alaska on Polar Bears and Global Warming

courtesy of Alaska Dispatch
by Will Rose and Kajsa Sjölander

Beaufort Sea polar bears find themselves in the crosshairs of global warming, forced to adapt to less and less ice that’s critical to the way they hunt and survive.

As Arctic sea ice retreats up to 700 miles from the shoreline during summer months, bears must either head north or swim south to land as the ice breaks up. In 2011, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service scientists working in the area have counted 49 bears within 10 miles of Kaktovik, the largest concentration of the estimated 70-80 spread along the coastline.

Those bears represent up to 10 percent of the southern Beaufort population, estimated at 1,500 animals five years ago by U.S. Geological Survey.

The number of polar bears coming to land is increasing over the past decade but scientists are unsure why. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the primary threat to polar bears is the loss of sea ice habitat due to climate change. Whale remains left by local substance hunters may be another factor.

“A lot of bears showed up just after a big wind storm,” said polar bear guide Robert Thompson of Kaktovik. “Biologists said they saw eight dead polar bears floating in the water. We believe the thin ice broke up beneath them so they had to sink or swim.”

Click here to read the rest of the story

Wandering Wolf Now Too Famous to be Shot?

Courtesy of MSNBC

A young wolf from Oregon has become a media celebrity while looking for love, tracing a zigzag path that has carried him hundreds of miles nearly to California, while his alpha male sire and a sibling that stayed home near the Idaho border are under a death warrant for killing cattle.

Backcountry lodge owner Liz Parrish thinks she locked eyes with the wolf called OR-7 on the edge of the meadow in front of her Crystalwood Lodge, on the western shore of Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon, and hopes someday she will hear his howls coming out of the tall timber.

“I was stunned — it was such a huge animal,” said Parrish, who has seen her share of wolves while racing dog sleds in Alaska and Minnesota. “He just stopped and stared. I stopped and stared. We had a stare-down that seemed like a long time, but was probably just a few seconds.

“He just evaporated into the trees. I stayed there awhile, hoping he might come back. He didn’t.”

Click here to read the rest of the story

Should State Approve Wolf-Control Measures on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula?

Courtesy of Alaska Dispatch
by Rick Sinnot

Near the end of the movie “Season of the Witch,” a small band of medieval adventurers is surrounded by howling wolves. The monk says, “Wolves.” Another character asks, “What’ll we do?” Nicolas Cage, playing a knight in tarnished armor, says, “Kill as many as you can.”

Welcome to wildlife management as it is currently practiced in Alaska. Not so different from the way it was practiced in the Middle Ages.

I am not opposed to reducing numbers of wolves to increase numbers of prey animals — wolf control — so long as wolves constitute a serious problem and the program is scientifically justified, temporary and cost effective. Wolf control for the sake of killing wolves is none of the above.

This week, in Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States, the Alaska Board of Game was scheduled to consider wolf control proposals for two game management units on the Kenai Peninsula: 15A and 15C.

Why was the board considering wolf control plans for the Kenai Peninsula at a meeting in Barrow?

When the board adopts a predator control plan, it takes 60 days before a program can be implemented. Ted Spraker, a board member from the Kenai Peninsula, was bound and determined to start shooting Kenai wolves this winter. But the board tabled both proposals until their Anchorage meeting, scheduled Jan. 13-18, 2012.

Board members, including Spraker, found serious flaws in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s documentation and expressed concern that a required feasibility plan wasn’t completed before the meeting.

Now most Alaskans wouldn’t get a chance until next year to examine the reasons why the department believes wolf control is justified on the Kenai Peninsula. The reasons are not persuasive.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Does Science Back up Alaska’s Policy of Killing Grizzly Bears?

courtesy of Alaska Dispatch
by Rick Sinnot

Four years ago the Alaska Legislature offered Gov. Sarah Palin and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game a special deal: $400,000 to “educate” voters on predator control. The money — spent mostly on a video, glossy brochures and public presentations — was meant to persuade and reassure Alaskans that predator control is essential and effective.

Firmly convinced he’s doing the right thing, the new director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation at Fish and Game, Corey Rossi, is taking predator control to new levels. For the first time since statehood, Alaska has targeted grizzly bears for large-scale population reductions, not by hunters but by agents of the state.

The publicity campaign, Rossi, Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska Legislature would like you to believe that scientific experts on predator and prey populations — particularly the professional wildlife biologists and researchers with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game — unanimously support killing bears to increase numbers of moose and caribou.

But some of those experts have questioned the efficacy and advisability of reducing numbers of grizzly bears in a peer-reviewed article in the latest edition of the Journal of Wildlife Management.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Michigan Man Killed by Grizzly in Yellowstone

courtesy of MSNBC
by Matthew Brown

Wildlife agents were trying to capture a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park on Monday after it killed a Michigan hiker in the second fatal bear attack this summer at the famed park.

The body of John Wallace, 59, was discovered Friday in a backcountry area known for its high population of bears. An autopsy concluded he died from injuries sustained in a bear attack.

After a fatal mauling last month — the first inside the increasingly crowded park in 25 years — authorities let the responsible grizzly go because it was protecting its cubs.

This time, rangers have set traps with the intent to capture and kill the bruin that attacked Wallace. Its guilt would be established through DNA analysis connecting it to evidence found at the mauling scene, park officials said.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Groups Seek Protection for Wolf Subspecies in Southeast Alaska

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Becky Bohrer

Environmental groups want special protection for a subspecies of gray wolf found in Southeast Alaska old-growth forests.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace say the Alexander Archipelago wolf is threatened by unsustainable logging and road building in the Tongass National Forest.

The groups have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Endangered Species Act protection for the wolf. An agency spokesman hadn’t seen the petition Wednesday.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Bears Trapped in Downtown Juneau

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News

State biologists have trapped a black bear in downtown Juneau, but they say it’s not the nuisance bear they were looking for.

Fish and Game biologist Ryan Scott says the agency received reports of a mother and cub causing disturbances in the area. He says the wrong female bear was caught Wednesday.

Scott says that bear will be relocated out of town and that the agency will continue looking for the mother bear.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Wolf Recovery Leader Not Your Average Bureaucrat

courtesy of High Country News
by Ray Ring

Ed Bangs has long been a lightning rod for the controversy around the return of wolves to the U.S. Northern Rockies. Based in Helena, Mont., he led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf-recovery effort from 1988, when the region had only a few naturally occurring wolves, through the reintroduction of Canadian wolves in 1995 and ’96, until his retirement in June 2011. During those years, the number of wolves in the region increased to more than 1,700. A plethora of lawsuits, alarmist headlines and political maneuvers culminated with Congress removing most of the region’s wolves from the Endangered Species List (an action also being challenged by lawsuits) just as Bangs retired.

Throughout the wolf battles, people on all sides of the issue respected Bangs for his unusual frankness and good humor. HCN’s senior editor, Ray Ring, talked with the 60-year-old biologist on July 1 about his lifelong interest in wildlife and his reflections on wolves and human society in general.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Chicken Coops Prove Irresistible to Urban Bears

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Casey Grove

Chicken coop raids by local black bears are on the rise, just as Southcentral moves into its peak season for bear activity, according to an Anchorage biologist.

In July alone, at least five black bears caught pilfering poultry have been shot, either by homeowners or police, said Anchorage area Fish and Game biologist Jessy Coltrane, who said she suspects more bear kills go unreported.

“Chickens are one of our biggest attractants, aside from garbage and bird seed, and it’s growing because the number of chickens is growing,” Coltrane said.

Coltrane attributes the jump, in part, to a recent city ordinance that makes it easier to keep chickens within the municipality, from its northern boundary in Chugiak and Birchwood south to Girdwood.

Mostly, though, the problem stems from residents’ ignorance about bear deterrence in Anchorage, she said.

“I get, on average, a call a day about a bear getting into chickens,” Coltrane said. “They’re thinking I’m going to come do something about the bears. But what I really want is for them to secure their chickens.”

Click here to read the rest of the story

UAF Tests Unmanned Aircraft to Study Wildlife

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Dan Joling

Greg Walker is looking to fly in places where blue sky and runways are in short supply.

Walker is manager of the unmanned aircraft program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He’s at the beginning of a project to evaluate how unmanned aircraft can be used to monitor endangered Steller sea lions as they haul out on remote rocky outcroppings of the Aleutian Islands hundreds of miles between airports.

The project is a technology development experiment, evaluating manufacturers’ claims versus researchers’ needs, Walker said from his office at Poker Flat Research Range northeast of Fairbanks.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Biologist Shoots Motherless Bear Cubs; Neighbors Upset

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Casey Grove

A state wildlife biologist shot and killed two orphaned black bear cubs Wednesday on the Anchorage Hillside, upsetting some residents of the neighborhood.

The cubs’ mother was killed about three weeks ago when a resident shot the animal to protect his property, said Jessy Coltrane, Anchorage area biologist with the Department of Fish and Game. Without their mother, the cubs would have eventually been killed by another bear or died of starvation, Coltrane said.

“The most humane thing is to put them down,” she said. “It is hands-down the least favorite part of my job.”

Coltrane received numerous phone calls about the cubs in the weeks after the sow’s death, she said. But the calls always came in too late to provide accurate information on the cubs’ whereabouts. Then, Wednesday morning, Coltrane said, a caller reported the cubs were in a tree near his house in a subdivision south of Rabbit Creek Road and above Golden View Drive.

“Unfortunately, because black bears are very common in the Lower 48 and up here, there’s not a lot of facilities that want them,” Coltrane said. Any facilities that might have taken the cubs were already full, she said.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Anchorage Police Shoot Black Bear Attempting to Break Into Home

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News

Anchorage police shot and killed a young black bear that was trying to get into an East Anchorage home Friday afternoon.

The bear weighed about 50 or 60 pounds and was probably a yearling born last year, police Lt. Dave Parker said. It was crawling on a porch trying to get into a home on the 2400 block of Glenkerry Drive around 5:15 p.m. Friday, Parker said. That’s just north of Northern Lights Boulevard near the Anchorage Baptist Temple.

State Department of Fish and Game officials have instructed police to shoot bears that are trying to break into houses, Parker said. They are associating people with food.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Click here to watch a video of the bear before it was killed

Judge Backs Scientists in Polar Bear Ruling

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Dina Cappielo

A federal judge on Thursday backed a finding by government scientists that global warming is threatening the survival of the polar bear.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that a May 2008 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to place the bear on the endangered species list as threatened because of melting sea ice was rational given the facts and best available science. Environmental groups had sued, saying the polar bear needed more protection under the Endangered Species Act. The state of Alaska, under the leadership of then-Gov. Sarah Palin, and hunting groups argued that the listing was unnecessary. They say the bear is protected by other laws and that the scientific case is shaky when it comes to predicting global warming’s toll on the mammal.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Juneau Man Cited for Feeding Black Bears

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Casey Grove

Alaska Wildlife Troopers recently cited a Juneau man they say has been illegally feeding dog food to as many as 15 black bears at his home.

Arnold W. Hanger, 66, is accused of spreading AttaBoy! dog food on rocks and logs around his property near Tee Harbor, north of Juneau, for years, troopers said. As a result, 10 to 15 bears had been hanging around the area and scaring neighbors, some of whom have small children, trooper Sgt. Matthew Dobson said.

When Dobson drove to Hanger’s house earlier this month to investigate an anonymous tip, he found two of the bears strolling up the longtime Juneau resident’s driveway, the trooper said. Dobson said the bears paid him no mind.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Scientists Debate ‘Magic Number’ of Wolves Needed for Species’ Survival

courtesy of The Missoulian
by Rob Chaney

One of the biggest arguments left unresolved by last year’s wolf lawsuit was the most obvious: How many wolves are enough?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the gray wolf off the endangered species list in 2009, with the caveat that at least 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs endure in each of the three states in the northern Rocky Mountain population (Montana, Idaho and Wyoming). Recent surveys found at least 1,700 wolves in that area – more than enough to justify delisting.

But a coalition of environmental groups sued the government, claiming those numbers were wrong. To survive and thrive, they argued, the population needed at least 2,000 and preferably 5,000 wolves.

FWS biologists said they used the best available science to pick their number. Coalition members cited the well-established rules of conservation biology to justify their threshold. While the scientists dueled, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy decided the case on a technicality and Congress reversed him with a budget rider.

Wolves in the Northern Rockies are now delisted, but almost nobody’s happy.

Continue reading “Scientists Debate ‘Magic Number’ of Wolves Needed for Species’ Survival”