War of Words Mounts in Race to Protect Desert Snail

The Mohave shoulderband | Photo: Lance Gilbertson

A small snail found only in a few small hills in the Mojave Desert has launched a public dispute, as mining interests and wildlife advocates spar over whether the species should be granted federal protection.

The Mohave shoulderband (Helminthoglypta greggi), which is restricted to north-facing talus piles and crevices on three hills in eastern Kern County near Mojave, is about to see most of its habitat excavated for gold mining. That prompted the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the snail under the Endangered Species Act in January.

That petition launched a 90-day deadline for USFWS to decide whether or not to propose listing the shoulderband as Endangered or Threatened. That deadline comes up on May 1. In the meantime, the mine owners are opposing protection for the species, and they'e doing so by questioning whether it even exists.

State Gets Closer To Ban On Wildlife-Killing Contests

Coyote in Death Valley | Photo: Beau Rogers/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The campaign to end wildlife killing contests like the annual "Coyote Derby" in Adin, California got a boost this week, as the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-2 to propose a rule that would ban offering prizes for killing predatory mammals in California.

The vote, held Wednesday at the Commission's meeting in Ventura County, means that the Commission will proceed with a public notice and comment period before making a decision on the ban in August. So far, according to the wildlife protection group Project Coyote, public comment has run overwhelmingly in support of a ban. Of more than 13,000 public comments on the proposed ban, only 10 have advocated to keep contests like the Coyote Derby legal.

"The bottom line is, these killing contests don't protect livestock. The only thing they do is perpetuate an endless war on wildlife in which many animals, both wild and domestic, needlessly lose their lives," said Sonoma County cattle rancher Keli Hendricks in testimony before the Commission Wednesday.

Griffith Park Mountain Lion Suffering From Rat Poison, Scientists Say

National Park Service biologist Joanne Moriarty takes a skin scraping from P-22 to test for mange | Photo: Santa Monica Mountains NRA/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A much-celebrated Los Angeles puma whose image graced the pages of a national magazine last year is suffering serious health effects from exposure to rat poison, according to biologists working with the National Park Service.

P-22, the Griffith Park puma who gained worldwide fame last year when his photo with the Hollywood Sign appeared in National Geographic, is suffering a bad case of mange, likely as a result of eating prey that contained commonly available rat poisons.

Though National Park Service biologists treated P-22 for his mange, his prognosis is uncertain. In 12 years of study, only two other pumas in the Santa Monica Mountains have developed mange. Both of those cats ultimately died of rodenticide poisoning.

Hundreds of Environmental Activists Killed Worldwide Over Past Decade

Assassinated Brazilian environmentalist Chico Mendes and his wife, Ilsamar Mendes, at their home in 1988 | Photo: Miranda smith Productions/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons License

A report released Tuesday offers a chilling bit of news: working to protect the world's wildlife and its habitat can make you some ruthless enemies. According to the human rights watchdog group Global Witness, at least 908 environmental activists worldwide were murdered in retaliation for their work between 2002 and 2013.

The report, Deadly Environment, was released Tuesday to commemorate the 25th year since the murder of Brazilian forest activist Chico Mendes by a local rancher who objected to Mendes' defense of local forests.

The study is sobering, especially with its release in a week in which the U.S. has seen a campaign by armed groups trying to prevent enforcement of environmental protection laws in Nevada.

San Joaquin is Most Endangered River in U.S., Says Group

San Joaquin River far upstream of Friant Dam, in the Devil's Postpile area | Photo: jcookfisher/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A national river protection and advocacy group has released its annual ranking of the most-endangered rivers in the United States, and a California watercourse that's been hammered by diversions and drought has the dubious honor of first place.

According to American Rivers, which has released its America's Most Endangered Rivers list annually since 1984, over-diversion for agriculture and urban use, and obsolete water management practices have put central California's San Joaquin River at greater risk than any other river in America in 2014.

Another California watercourse, San Francisquito Creek in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, took fifth place on the list due to an aging dam that threatens the stream's excellent steelhead habitat.

New Tar Pits Discovery Reminds Us The Past Wasn't Entirely Different

The leafcutter bee Megachile gentilis | Photo: Smithsonian Institution Entomology Department

You've almost certainly heard of the famous La Brea Tar Pits, those redundantly named fossil treasure troves in Hancock Park near the associated Page Museum. Oozing sticky tar to entomb hapless wildlife for at least 38,000 years, the tar pits have preserved a range of improbable former residents of the Los Angeles Basin ranging from sabretoothed cats to giant ground sloths to mammoths to leafcutter bees.

Wait, leafcutter bees? That's right: a paper published this week in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE describes a remarkable find of fossilized insects whose long-distant descendants may still be buzzing around your California garden.

It's a reminder that while present-day California is sadly deficient in cave bears, dire wolves, and many of the other animals that roamed its slopes during the Ice Ages, many of the Pleistocene California animals entombed in Wilshire asphaltum are still everyday sights around the Golden State.

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