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A report recently published on Live Mint has revealed that over half of India’s wildlife budget goes to protecting tigers. For the 2012-2013 year, $31 million of the $63 million budget were allocated to Project Tiger. Tigers are listed as endangered in India, but the country is also home to over 130 species that are listed as critically endangered (the status preceding extinction).

Elephant conservation efforts received the next largest funding amount, at $4 million, while–ironically–$1 million went to efforts to prevent illegal wildlife trade.

It’s not new news that more glamorous endangered species tend to receive the most funding for conservation efforts. Tigers and elephants are two examples, along with polar bears, snow leopards, and gorillas, to name just a few. The allocation of conservation funding, which is already in short supply, says a lot about a country’s priorities. There are both pros and cons to this allocation method–that is, spending more money on conserving the most globally-treasured species.

The obvious tendency, in India and worldwide, is to funnel money towards more popular endangered species while focusing less on smaller, less impressive species. While this affects species existing outside of the realm of public knowledge, it does propel conservation as a broader topic into the general population’s awareness. So while the Indian Bustard is facing extinction with only 250 left in the wild, tiger conservation efforts are, at least, making people more aware of the need to conserve wildlife.

This funding method also has its drawbacks. By focusing attention, money, and efforts on the these hot-ticket species, we are failing to account for the chain of events that occurs when any species, even a fish or a small bird, has on the ecosystem. Any time any species is removed from their habitat, other species will be affected. There will be disruptions in prey availability, foraging availability, nesting or burrowing options, or disease or pest control. Conserving less publicly-compelling species is necessary for protecting an overall habitat, and it’s likely that a hot-ticket species, such as the tiger, exists in an ecosystem that incorporates one of these critically endangered ‘lesser’ species.

Also worth pointing out in the break-down of India’s conservation spending is its prioritization of illegal wildlife trade efforts. In spending only $1 million on reducing illegal trade, while spending $31 million on tiger conservation, are they approaching the issue backwards? If they instead focused the majority of their budget and efforts on illegal trade, would tiger numbers naturally start to recover? Obviously there are economic considerations at play here, about which I’m not qualified to speculate. but the break-down is interesting, and would be an interesting study to take further.

Links:

Tigers Get the Conservation Love in India

It’s Time to Look Beyond the Tiger

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Florida’s 2013 Python Challenge came to a close last week, with the total number of pythons killed coming in at 68. Although there were 1,600 registered participants, pythons are notoriously difficult to hunt and kill, as the challenge proved. There are estimated to be over 100,000 burmese pythons living in the Florida Everglades, but they are a rare sight and are hard to track. Wildlife officials say that while the take is low and will not have an impact on python numbers, the challenge increased public awareness of pythons, which is an important step towards controlling the species.

Pythons were first introduced to the Everglades in the last 1970s, most likely when exotic pet traders released snakes into the wild. Pythons are wreaking havoc on local flora and fauna: opossum and bobcat populations are down 99% since the pythons became established in the Everglades. Because the snakes have no natural predators and have an abundance of prey in the area, population numbers are growing faster than they can be controlled.

Link:

2013 Python Challenge

HB249

A new bill that would allow private landowners to shoot and kill bison found on their property is receiving mixed reviews form Montanans and wildlife supporters. The bill was created by Montana Republican legislator Alan Doane, and its main purpose would be to allow private landowners to shoot and kill bison found on their property. It would, by default, challenge elements of the recently overturned lawsuit between Park County Stockgrowers, et al and Montana Department of Livestock, et al.

Proponents of the bill point out that it protects landowners’ rights to manage their property and livestock, and that wild bison are dangerous and disease-ridden. Critics claim that the bill devalues native wildlife, and sets the precedence that killing wild animals is an appropriate solution to land conflicts.

 

The proposed bill brings up several valid arguments from both parties, those who support the bill and those who oppose it. While disease is an important and potentially devastating threat to ranching, one common criticism of this bill is that it fails to address elk, another wild animal that can transmit brucellosis to cattle. If the bill is primarily aimed at protecting cattle from disease, shouldn’t it account for both bison and elk? Nonetheless, it makes clear the importance of continued brucellosis research. Ranchers have a right and a reason to be worried about their cattle, their livelihood. However, there have been no documented cases of Yellowstone bison transferring brucellosis to cattle, so the weight of the bill’s argument seems unsupported. More research would help both bison advocates and ranchers understand the risks associated with the disease, and allow the two parties to come to an educated agreement regarding bison management.

Property damage is another argument found within the bill. According to residents in the area that the bill affects, bison cause significant damage to fences, land, and other property. They also create other disturbances, from congregating at a school bus stops to harassing horses and other livestock. There is no doubt that bison cause problems and create disruptions for local citizens. In fact, bison have become so disruptive that some residents are likening them to vermin. However, as the judge who dismissed the original lawsuit stated, Montana is a wild place, and those who live in the state must expect and be prepared to share their land and lives with wildlife.

Montana has done an excellent job in setting the precedence that native wildlife, especially bison,  is important. That being said, there are reasonable concerns in this bill that should be addressed, validated, and resolved. The common support of citizens of Montana will be key to the continued and progressive protection of bison. Although this bill is not likely to pass, I am curious to see what the next steps taken are to reach a balance between wildlife advocates and ranchers.

Links:

The Wildlife News

Missoulan

The plan's 2-mile focus area. CREDIT: City of Boulder

The plan’s 2-mile focus area. CREDIT: City of Boulder

After an increase in coyote attacks along Boulder Creek Path in recent months, the city of Boulder has released a coyote management plan, aimed at controlling coyotes on and around a 2-mile section of the path. The plan is includes a 28-day hazing program, which will be evaluated upon completion, after February 15th.

Between December 24th and January 2nd, seven reported incidences of coyote aggression have been filed with the city, including a report made by a jogger who was bitten on the calf by a coyote, and one filed by a cyclist who was chased by a coyote. The incidents have been taking place along the path, primarily between 30th st. and 55th st.

The city has long held the policy of killing any coyote that shows serious aggression, and the new plan does not make an exception to that policy. Hazers will be out on the path daily, looking for coyotes. They will haze any that they find using non-invasive scare tactics, with the goal discouraging coyotes from coming near the path.

Wildlife officials say it is not realistic to expect coyotes to avoid the targeted area altogether, and that an emphasis must also be placed on public awareness. Informing residents about coyotes and what to do in the event of a coyote attack is half the battle. Under state law, coyotes cannot be legally relocated. In the event that a non-aggressive coyote does not want to leave the area, people will have to learn to accept the animal’s presence and learn to conduct themselves appropriately around the coyote.

The plan is a temporary response targeting a specific area, and is not intended to be a city-wide or permanent coyote management plan.

Links:

Daily Camera

Coyote Management Plan: PDF

Last week, a Montana judge dismissed the lawsuit filed against supporters of Montana’s Interagency Bison Management (IBMP), effectively permitting bison to roam on a 70,000 acre range outside of Yellowstone National Park boundaries.

The lawsuit was filed by the Park County Stockgrowers Association and the Montana Farm Bureau Federation in response to changes made to the IBMP in 2011, which included an addendum allowing bison to roam outside of park boundaries. The petitioners argued that allowing bison to roam on public and private land outside of the park would expose cattle in the area to brucellosis, a disease that causes cattle to abort their fetuses. Bison living within the park, along with elk and deer in the area, have tested positive for the disease, which can be transmitted to cattle through contact with an infected animal or the infected animal’s fluids.

According to the petitioners, the changes made to the IBMP failed to adhere to the Montana Environmental Policy Act and the Montana Code,  and that the changes violated the petitioners’ “right to a clean and healthful environment.”

Park County Attorney Brett Linneweber was dissapointed with the ruling, claiming that it failed to consider alternatives such as moving bison to Indian reservations. However, last year’s relocation of a herd of bison to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation has drawn heavy criticism from ranchers in the area.

The 78-page ruling, issued by District Judge E. Wayne Phillips, acknowledged the petitioners’ argument that bison pose a threat to people and cattle, but said that such a threat is part of co-existing with Montana’s wildlife. Judge Phillips concluded his report by saying, “In this case there is certainly a large potential of over-abundance of bison . . . That refusal, however, is beyond the purview or jurisdiction of a Montana District Court.”

The petitioners have 60 days to decide whether to appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.

Links:

Strange Bedfellows Hold Ground for Bison in Montana

Judge Upholds Montana’s Free-Roaming Bison Plan

Complete Ruling

One of the Boulder police officers involved in the shooting of a bull elk poses with the dead animal.

One of the Boulder police officers involved in the shooting of a bull elk poses with the dead animal.

The Boulder Police Department has announced that two Boulder police officers are responsible for the death of a bull elk in the Mapleton neighborhood late Tuesday night. The elk had become a common sight in the neighborhood, and is believed to be the same elk that trapped a postal worker on a porch last week. Although the elk had shown defiance towards humans it had not attacked any people or pets.

According to the press release, an on-duty officer shot the elk around 11pm on Tuesday night. An accompanying off-duty officer took the elk home to ‘process the meat’. Neither officer filed incident reports, and both officers also failed to notify their supervisors about the incident. Boulder police are required to file a report any time they discharge a weapon.

Boulder police stated that the officer claimed to have shot the elk because it was injured. The officer is quoted as saying that the elk was limping, and had a broken rack. However, photographs of the dead elk show no signs of a damaged rack. The elk was in a residential yard when the officer shot it.

Residents of the area have reported witnessing the incident. One resident reported hearing a shot, and, later, going outside to see what appeared to be Boulder County Sheriff’s Office deputies loading up the animal.

Boulder Police and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are working together to determine whether criminal charges can be applied to this case. Parks and Wildlife is investigating from a ‘wildlife’ perspective, while Boulder Police has launched an internal investigation. Possible criminal charges could include poaching, discharging a weapon within city limits without cause, hunting within city limits, hunting without a tag, and hunting an elk with a firearm not approved for elk hunting.

Links:

Daily Camera

Daily Camera (with video)

*Thank you for your understanding as The Wildlife Blog took a break for the holidays. Regular posting will now resume.*

The 2008 Farm Bill that was temporarily halted in October has received a one-year extension in the days leading up to the proposal’s deadline. On Tuesday, Congress voted to extend the bill for the 2013 fiscal year, thereby easing some concerns and raising others. Stipulations of the extension include a retention of existing programs such as crop insurance and a prevention of dairy subsidies, which will effectively prevent a predicted doubling in price of dairy products in the coming year. However, the bill also slashed funding in other key areas, such as disaster relief and conservation funding. Farmers are also expressing concern over Congress’ failure to pass a more concrete five-year bill, bringing into question the future of the bill this time next year. The lack of long-term protection could leave the bill vulnerable to even deeper spending cuts in 2014.

The Conservation Reserve Program was specifically affected by the new bill. As of Tuesday, the adjusted bill “[doesn’t] provide funding for some conservation measures. A short term extension, even to Sept. 30 will likely prevent FSA and NRCS from sign-ups for new CRP or CSP contracts.”(1)  Current contracts will continue to be honored, but new contracts may not be issued. The new bill will also “likely lower the maximum acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from the current level of 32 million acres down to a maximum of 25 million acres in CRP, in order to increase crop production acreage in the U.S.” (2)

Links:

Agriculture.com (1)

Corn and Soybean Digest (2)

USA Today