Orca, © Katie Jones

Wildlife Weekly Wrap-Up: 01/06/2017

Your weekly roundup of wildlife news from across the country

Goodbye to Granny the Orca: Granny, the world’s oldest-known orca whale, is presumed dead. Officially named J2, researchers studying her and her pod over the past 40 years say she was last seen on October 12, 2016. By year’s end, they noted her officially missing from the Southern Resident Killer Whale population in the Pacific Northwest, and now sadly consider her deceased. Researchers estimate she was 105 years old. She was the leader of her pod, helping younger whales to find food as salmon numbers in the region continue to decrease. Her legacy will continue with orca research and conservation work. She will truly be missed.

Plans for recovery of the Cook Inlet beluga whale: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released its recovery plan on Wednesday for the highly endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale. Defenders fought for these whales from the beginning, working to get then listed as endangered species in 2007, and we’re proud to be a part of the drafting of this plan! These belugas have been separated from other whales for the last 10,000 years, living in a small stretch of the Cook Inlet near Anchorage, Alaska. They’ve developed into their own unique group, adapting to have smaller eyes and better hearing to navigate the turbid waters of the Cook Inlet. The number of these whales left dwindles, with only 340 individuals left as of 2014. We are ready, with your continued support, to make sure this plan is as effective as it can be to protect the Cook Inlet beluga whale.

BLM Final EIs for Sage Grouse: Victory for Wyoming Wildlife! Last month, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its final environmental assessment on whether or not to allow oil and gas leases on 39,590 acres on the eastern slope of the Wyoming Range within the boundary of the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Sublette County, Wyoming. No leasing remains the preferred alternative for BLM, which is a great victory for wildlife in the Bridger-Teton National Forest! The forest is recognized nationally for its wild lands, recreation opportunities, wildlife biodiversity and watershed values and contributes significantly to the Yellowstone region’s recreation and tourism. Because of the project’s long history and the significant level of public interest and concern for the proposal, expressed in over 62,000 comments on the draft assessment – including comments from members like you, the Undersecretary of Agriculture, Robert Bonnie, has elected to retain his authority to sign the Record of Decision (ROD) for this project, slated to happen around Jan. 16, 2017. Your actions have made a difference for deer, elk, moose, bears, bobcats, pronghorn antelope, lynx and more!

Tragic news for one of our most endangered canids: a red wolf was shot and killed on or around Dec. 19. The body was found Dec. 21 in Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). As of Jan. 3, the reward for information leading to an arrest is at $16,500. Defenders of Wildlife contributed $2,500, matching FWS’ original reward amount. Gunshot is one of the leading causes of death for red wolves, and it can be prevented. With fewer than 45 red wolves left in the wild, this loss is a huge blow to the species. Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups are contributing to the reward to send a clear message: poaching of these incredibly rare wolves will not be tolerated or go unpunished.