Defenders In the News

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September 12, 2016

The federal government is halting its wild red wolf recovery program in North Carolina as part of a reevaluation of the strategy for conserving the species. The Monday decision comes nearly three decades after the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) started trying to reintroduce red wolves to the wild. About 45 of the wolves remain in the wild, and they will be moved to federal lands in North Carolina while the agency rethinks which wild areas it should pick for another reintroduction attempt, FWS said. That’s down from the about 150 wild wolves who were alive in 2012. The population has dwindled due in part to coyote hunters accidentally shooting wolves.

August 10, 2016
Pallid sturgeon, © Joel Sartore/

A group of Montana and federal wildlife officials has expressed opposition to a $57 million concrete dam and fish bypass that the U.S. government says would help an ancient and endangered fish species in the Yellowstone River. The U.S Army Corps of Engineers and Interior Department are proposing the irrigation dam and bypass on the lower Yellowstone near the Montana-North Dakota border. That’s where aging pallid sturgeon have been trapped for decades downstream of their spawning grounds.

July 20, 2016

Petitions bearing nearly half a million signatures urging protection of the endangered red wolf made their way to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week, about one year after the USFWS announced it would suspend a program reintroducing red wolves to the wild.The petition drive was organized by the Animal Welfare Institute, Care2, Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Species Coalition, Wildlands Network and a pair of North Carolina high school students.The only wild population of red wolves on earth, which once ranged throughout the Southeast, is in a five-county area of eastern North Carolina where they were reintroduced. The population includes only 45 red wolves.

July 10, 2016

Colorado animal-activist groups are outraged by the poisoning of several prairie dog colonies in the city of Monument not only because the prairie dogs are dying, but because other animals may be too. The groups raise concerns for the burrowing owl, a species that is federally designated as endangered, that lives in prairie dog holes, and for other animals that may eat prairie dogs that have been poisoned. They also fear that because prairie dogs are a keystone species, eliminating them will cause the food chain to collapse. However, city of Monument officials dismiss these accusations and say that the public's health is at risk if the animals aren't eliminated.

June 22, 2016
Florida Black Bear, © Eve Silverbach

In a surprise move, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 4-3 late Wednesday to hold off on having a second bear hunt later this year. The vote marks a major change from last year, when the wildlife commissioners voted 6-1 to go ahead with Florida’s first bear hunt in 21 years, which was held in October despite strong public opposition. The change in attitude was made more remarkable by the venue for Wednesday’s all-day meeting, the tiny Panhandle town of Eastpoint, where two of Florida’s five bear attacks on humans have occurred. Commission executive director Nick Wiley said that was just a coincidence.

June 21, 2016
Tricolored bat, © Ann Froschauer/USFWS

Officials with the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife Tuesday petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the tricolored bat under the Endangered Species Act. Like several other North American bat species, the tricolored bat has declined dramatically over the past 10 years due to the fungal disease called white-nose syndrome and is at risk from cave disturbances, habitat loss and wind energy.

May 14, 2016
Gray Wolf, © Dawn Hammond

Though the gray wolf is indigenous to Colorado, a wild pack hasn’t been seen here for nearly a century. The last were killed in the first half of the last century as part of a nationwide campaign — in many cases, encouraged by federal and state bounties — to eradicate the wolf from the American landscape. Since the mid-1990s, however, active efforts to restore the wolf to areas both north and south of Colorado have brought about a resurgence of the animal. Stable packs now make their homes in Yellowstone National Park, as well as parts of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico and Arizona.

May 13, 2016
Pallid sturgeon, © USFWS

“We should be grandfathered in.” That’s how the manager of the Lower Yellowstone Project irrigation district in Montana put it. His farmers have been using a dam on the river to supply water to their fields since time immemorial—or for 112 years, anyway—and see no reason to change. But the pallid sturgeon would certainly say it should be grandfathered in too. The monster fish has depended on the river for 78 million years, roughly since Tyrannosaurus rex ruled this region. The problem is that the farmers and their timber-and-rock dam are now killing off the sturgeon. Intake Dam is an unimpressive structure, located near Glendive, Montana, just before the Yellowstone River joins the Missouri River. The dam—really just a weir—stretches for 700 feet across the Yellowstone but does not even rise above the water surface in some seasons. The irrigation district has to pile on new stones each year just to make it back up enough water for its purposes.

May 2, 2016

Volunteer researchers have gathered more information on one of the most elusive and rarest of Montana's wild animals. The Wolverine Watchers program spent from December through April looking for wolverines, fishers and other forest mammals. Defenders of Wildlife and 150 volunteers set up wildlife monitoring stations form Florence to the south end of Hamilton in the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains. It partnered with Forest Service biologists who are studying animals in the southern Bitterroot National Forest. Wolverines are shy predators known to live in Montana's high country. They are rare.

April 4, 2016

Last Nov. 1, about 400 spectators watched in delight as 10 huge, shaggy bison rumbled out of a holding corral onto 1,000 acres of windy shortgrass prairie, 30 miles north of Fort Collins, Colorado. The fenced grassland here is part of some 32,000 acres of city and county natural areas stretching from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains. Local managers plan to gradually expand the herd’s range to 2,500 acres as it grows through a combination of natural reproduction and more reintroductions. The herd already has its own Facebook page and, of course, a limited-release commemorative microbrew, Prairie Thunder Imperial Brown Ale.The release restores the bison to the merest sliver of the species’ vast historic range, and yet it represents a major conservation success. These animals are descended from the bison in Yellowstone National Park, the only population to survive wholesale slaughter by settlers during the late 19th century, and the last major reservoir of bison genes that have not been polluted by cattle DNA from cross-breeding.