Wild Matters

Bison Calves Born at Fort Peck roundup

Bison, © Richard Peterson

© Richard Peterson

With the birth of 21 bison calves in April and May at Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana, the good news keeps coming for the 61 bison that Defenders helped relocate to some of the species’ historic stomping grounds in March. Members of the Yellowstone National Park herd, they are some of the only genetically pure bison left on the planet. (They have no cattle genes.)

When Yellowstone bison migrate out of the park, state and federal officials haze them back in—or even kill them to protect ranchers’ interests. But beginning in 2005, some bison were spared from slaughter. After a long-term quarantine to ensure they couldn’t transmit disease to cattle, these bison finally found a new home on the range. 

 “With these spring births, a new generation of wild bison begins, and restoration of wild bison to the Great Plains takes another important step forward,” says Jonathan Proctor, Defenders’ Rocky Mountain region representative.

Next stop: Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, where it’s hoped another free-ranging herd can be established.  


Thanks to all the Defenders supporters who helped bring these bison home. 

Watch your mailboxes for the full story of the bison’s homecoming in the next issue of Defenders.

Trapped, Poisoned and Shot in the War on Wildlife

Over the past decade, millions of animals have met a grim fate at the hands of Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including unintentional targets like family pets, protected wildlife like golden eagles and wolverines, and the sampling below.

"Wildlife Services should be making lethal options a last resort, not the first thing they do. The federal program relies too heavily on killing to resolve conflicts with wildlife. All too often, these methods are brutal, expensive and ineffective, with 100,000 animals killed each year. The solution for Wildlife Services is simple: Stop the kill-first mentality when it comes to wildlife and focus on using proven nonlethal deterrents to resolve conflicts." - Suzanne Stone, Defenders' Northern Rockies Representative

256 - Average number of predators Wildlife Services kills per day.
13 - Number of carnivore species killed by Wildlife Services that are state-protected and imperiled. 
10 - Number of carnivore species killed by Wildlife Services that are on the endangered species list.


Wolves 3,066
Mountain lions 4,052
Bears 4,559
Coyotes 915,868
Prairie dogs 43,640
Beavers 321,051
Foxes 50,682


Kit foxes 300
Swift foxes 197
River otters 4,514
Pronghorn 33

source: 2000-2010 Wildlife Services Kill Data compiled by the American Society of Mammalogists; The Sacramento Bee, “Wildlife Service’s Deadly Force Brings Environmental Problems,” May 1, 2012.

Blinded by the Light 

Migrating birds fly high, fast and far from the United States and Canada to Central and South America. But on a cloudy night, the sight of a red light on a communication tower can draw them in and hold them spellbound. 

Nearly 7 million migrating birds die a year, victims of the 84,000 towers that dot the North American skyline, according to a University of Southern California study, funded in part by Defenders of Wildlife.

During stormy weather, clouds obscure the stars and force birds to fly at lower levels without their navigational tools. Blinking tower lights don’t confuse them. It’s the steady-burning red ones. The birds end up circling the tower and run into the dozens of cables, known as guy wires, that prop up a tower.

Researchers found the taller the tower, the greater the threat. Of the 84,000 communication towers in North America, only 1,000 or so rise above 900 feet, but they account for 70 percent of the tower-related bird deaths. “That amounts to a staggering 4.5 million birds each year,” says Chris Haney, Defenders’ chief scientist.

The study does offer some solutions: Change the steady-burning lights on tall towers, share towers and build freestanding towers to reduce the need for guy wires. “Methods to reduce this lethal mortality are the best long-term solution,” adds Haney.

More Articles from Summer 2012

Patience, patience, patience. That is what James Yule—grand prize winner of Defenders of Wildlife’s 2012 photo contest—says was the key to his success in photographing this baby bear cub riding on its mother’s back.
One year after feds strip protections, states go all-out against wolves.
Defenders calls for changes in condor country, where lead poisoning continues to threaten these majestic birds.
Far from a bumbler, the bee is a productive pollinator with a reputation for diligence. That’s fortunate for us because close to 75 percent of flowering plants rely on insects to help them produce fruit and seeds.
Federally protected coastal habitat is no match for global warming
Gliding with orange and black outstretched wings, the monarch butterfly is a lucky omen that signals summer is on its way.
Throughout my life, I have felt a keen sense of wonder for the array of wildlife around me and the role that it plays in keeping our planet alive and functioning—from the iconic grizzly bear that keeps prey in check and eats his weight many times over in insects