Groups Sue Feds Over Failure to Protect Wolverines

Wolverine | Photo: Josh More/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Eight conservation groups today filed suit in Federal court to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its recent decision not to list the American wolverine as a Threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The wolverine (Gulo gulo), a rare and fierce predator in the weasel family faces an uncertain future as a warming planet reduces the deep mountain snowpacks the animal requires to dig its breeding dens. USFWS scientists studying the wolverine's prospects for survival unanimously agreed the carnivore merited protection as a Threatened species. The agency itself proposed listing the wolverine in February 2013.

But in May of this year, USFWS Regional Director Noreen Walsh quietly ordered her staff to drop work on listing the wolverine, citing "uncertainty" in climate change modeling. USFWS Director Dan Ashe made that order official in August with a formal withdrawal of the listing proposal. This week's lawsuit seeks to rescind that order and restart the listing process.

Group Seeks State Protection For Imperiled Tricolored Blackbird

A male tricolored blackbird | Photo: Alan Vernon/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Citing alarmingly steep declines in the species' population, a conservation group is asking the state of California to list the tricolored blackbird as Endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The group also wants the state to take emergency action to prohibit plowing and harvesting on farmlands where the blackbirds are breeding.

The tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) breeds in massive colonies of up to 50,000 birds, and especially favors open fields in the Central Valley that have replaced the Valley's formerly extensive floodplain marshes. Agricultural activity such as harvesting crops when the birds are nesting can thus injure or kill tens of thousands of tricolored blackbird adults, eggs and nestlings in a single stroke.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the petition to list the blackbird with the California Fish and Game Commission, the birds hit an all-time low count of 145,000 adults in the 2014 breeding season. That's down from almost 400,000 adults in 2008, and untold millions in the 19th century.

Rare Weasel May Get Federal Protection

Pacific fisher | Photo: USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that it may add Pacific fishers in three western states to the list of Threatened Species. The increasingly rare member of the weasel family has come under increasing pressure from loss of habitat, as well as from exposure to rat poisons used at illegal marijuana grow sites.

The West Coast population of Pacific fishers (Pekania pennanti) ranges from California's north coast and the Sierra Nevada through the Cascade Range into Oregon and Washington. The carnivorous fishers are rare in the best of times, making them especially vulnerable to population declines caused by human intervention in their habitat.

According to USFWS, one of the biggest threats to the fisher is widespread exposure to anticoagulant rat poisons, which are taking a toll on many other predator species across the U.S.

Group Opposes Coyote Cull in Seal Beach

More conflict over urban coyotes in Orange County | Photo: ODFW/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Animal welfare activists are opposing the use of gas chambers to kill coyotes in Seal Beach, and have scheduled a demonstration Sunday to make that opposition public.

Coyote sightings are increasing in the Long Beach area, and Seal Beach residents have been asking for their city to respond to an increasing number of apparent coyote attacks on pets. In response, the city has hired an animal control contractor, "Critter Busters," to cull the local coyote population.

But the contractor has been using a controversial method of euthanasia to kill coyotes whose use is discouraged under all but the most controlled circumstances by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): asphyxiating the animals with carbon dioxide in closed chambers. And wildlife advocates charge that killing Seal Beach coyotes is approaching the issue from the wrong end.

Imperiled California Bird Gets Federal Protection

Yellow-billed cuckoo | Photo: Kelly Colgan Azar/Flickr/Creative Commons License

After waiting more than 15 years for the federal government to agree that it needs protection, the western population of the yellow-billed cuckoo will be listed as Threatened Friday under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

In a decision to be published Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ruled that the small, strikingly patterned bird (Coccyzus americanus) is at risk of becoming endangered throughout its range in the western U.S., due to threats to the riverside forests and groves the cuckoo relies on as summer breeding habitat.

Those riparian forests are threatened by agriculture, hydrological changes due to dam building and water diversion, and an influx of invasive exotic plants, as well as the omnipresent threat of a warming, drying world.

'Red Bugs' Confirmed in San Diego County

Scantius aegyptius | Photo: Ferran Turmo Gort/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A red bug native to the eastern Mediterranean that was found in Ramona has been positively identified as Scantius aegyptius, the San Diego County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures said Wednesday.

A woman first noticed the bugs last summer, and county officials recently confirmed their identity. The bugs were first identified in Southern California when one was found in Orange County in 2009.

The winged, black-and-red bugs, distinguished by geometrical markings their backs, are about a third of an inch long. They're known to feed on the seeds of non-native weed plants such as knotweed and mallow, but it's unclear whether they might eat native plant seeds as well.

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