By Melanie Gade with contributions from Haley McKey
Washington Wolf Management Done Right: Last week we updated you on an evolving livestock-wolf conflict situation involving the Dirty Shirt wolf pack in Northeastern Washington. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has continued to prioritize nonlethal wolf management to resolve this situation as quickly as possible. WDFW is implementing nonlethal strategies like hazing (air horns, spot lights, and whistles) and range riders, designed to stop future conflicts from occurring. In response to WDFW’s efforts to put coexistence first, Defenders’ President and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark, said: “WDFW is doing wolf depredation management right in Northeastern Washington with regards to the Dirty Shirt pack. During this difficult and evolving situation, they have aggressively supported the use of nonlethal wildlife management tools to avoid further livestock-wolf conflicts. They have worked collaboratively with local livestock operations, the conservation community and other key stakeholders to allow wolves and livestock to safely share the same landscape. It’s an example of how livestock-predator conflicts should be managed and WDFW is to be commended for their actions to date in employing nonlethal measures.” You can be sure Defenders will continue to work with WDFW, livestock operators and our partners in the conservation community around the clock to protect the cattle, save wolves, and resolve this situation as quickly as possible.
A Victory in the Arctic: This week we’re celebrating a new victory for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge! The U.S. District Court has rejected the state of Alaska’s effort to conduct harmful seismic exploration on its fragile coastal plain– an area so precious the Obama administration has proposed to give it a Wilderness designation, the highest level of federal protection that wildlife habitat can receive. The 19.2 million-acre Arctic Refuge is America’s largest tract of unspoiled land and invaluable habitat for caribou, polar bears, wolves, fish and migratory birds, and the coastal plain in particular is critical calving habitat for caribou.
Manatees Make Headlines: Two different events recently brought Florida manatees into the news spotlight. Visitors to Florida’s Homosassa Springs spotted a mother manatee with her new baby twins in Homosassa River. It’s highly unusual for a manatee to give birth to twins, so check out these sweet photos we know will warm your heart! Due to the naturally-occurring warm water springs, Homosassa and better-known Crystal River in Citrus County are popular among manatees. Defenders collaborates with our conservation allies to make these waters safer for manatees. We supported the establishment of the Kings Bay Manatee Refuge, we work to reduce disturbance of manatees by visitors in Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and other areas and advocate for designation of clearly marked slow speed zones in dangerous areas.
In addition, last week Maryland locals spotted a Florida manatee all the way up in the Chesapeake Bay! It’s not without precedent for a manatee to travel this far up the coast, but it is highly unusual. Since 1994, a manatee affectionately known as “Chessie” has been sighted in the bay’s tributaries several times. We hope these highly publicized manatee sightings will also remind folks that this imperiled species needs our help! The leading human-caused threat to manatees is collisions with watercraft. Scientists believe that unless this cause of death is controlled, the Florida manatee population will not recover. To learn more about our efforts, click here.
Discussing Threats to Orca: This week Defenders’ Northwest team attended an annual event – “Superpod 4” — to celebrate and support the population of 81 endangered orcas living off the coast of Washington and Oregon. This orca population — called the southern resident orca — face several threats. This event brought players together to discuss the ongoing causes of this population’s decline, as well as opportunities to collaborate. Much discussion was had about the decline of the orca’s primary food source, Chinook salmon. Dams in the Columbia River basin block hundreds of miles of salmon spawning habitat, and collectively the 400 plus dams in the Columbia River basin account for an estimated 80% decline in all salmon species in the watershed. Our team met local conservation groups and took the opportunity to view the southern residents from shore. By all measures, Superpod 4 will continue its success and Defenders looks forward to continuing to collaborate to save southern resident orca!
Help Save the Littlest Porpoise! The vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise species, could go extinct within the next three years if we don’t make changes to save them. New estimates place the global population at around 50 animals. And at current rates of loss, scientists predict the vaquita could be extinct by 2018. Vaquitas live in shallow waters in the northern Gulf of California, between the Baja Peninsula and the Mexican mainland. The primary threat to vaquitas is illegal fishing for another critically endangered species, a fish called the totoaba. The swim bladders of the totoaba are considered a delicacy in China, where these fish parts fetch more money per ounce than gold. In other words, vaquitas are going extinct because they are bycatch – accidental victims – of pervasive illegal fishing operations in their habitat. Help us by telling Interior Secretary Jewell and Secretary of State Kerry to take immediate action to protect vaquitas.