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Archive for August, 2008

Photo via Grizzly Bay by way of Kinship Circle.

Looks like John McCain has picked Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice president. Palin does have a lot going for her: she’s anti-corruption, smart, young. She is the anti-Ted Stevens. She has a reputation as a straight shooter, both literally and figuratively.

But in her recent moves to support aerial hunting of wolves, she has been acting more out of personal loyalties than her state’s best interest. One of the things that makes her so popular in Alaska is that she loves hunting and guns. She supports the controversial aerial shooting of wolves, a plan that leaves more moose and bear for hunters to shoot. This week Alaskans voted to keep aerial shooting–after an ad campaign that got $400,000 from the state and $350,00 from hunting groups.

Defenders of Wildlife tried to get animal lovers to write to her to stop aerial hunting. They posted a youtube video explaining how the wolves often survive the shot and die of exhaustion.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2006 survey of outdoor recreation, wildlife watchers outnumber those who went fishing or hunting in Alaska. For every three Alaska residents who go hunting or fishing, four just go watch wildlife. And lots of them would like to see wolves. And when you include non-residents enjoying the outdoors in Alaska the ratio goes to almost three to five. Even in Alaska, only 11% of the population hunts anymore.

The argument to kill wolves to support hunting is that hunters spend more money. But of $1.3 billion spent in Alaska on enjoying the outdoors, only $674 million was spent on hunting and fishing. The report doesn’t break out what’s just for fishing.

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Mexico just announced it would spend $16 million to get fishermen in the Bay of California to learn not to catch the vaquita porpoise, which is down to only about 150 animals. A website dedicated to saving the vaquita estimates 39 to 84 die each year in nets.

There are so few left that some have even argued they’re extinct, so why bother trying to save them? The Vaquita Marina group says people still do see them–and catch them in nets–so they know there are still some around. They’ve even come up with a handy map of vaquita sightings.
They say that the cartoon-faced porpoise “can not be easily observed, since it flees when boats appear and remains under the water for several minutes without having to come out to breathe.”

Go to the Best Places to See Anaimals in California
Where to See Dolphins

If there really are 150 left, the program amounts to $10,000 per vaquita–and a good example of how expensive it is to save a species if we let it dwindle so low. What they’ll actually be spending the money on, according to Discovery News, is paying fisherman $4,500 not to fish in the reserve, $30,000 to learn safer techniques and $60,000 to turn in their boat and quit fishing.

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Big Foot Tours $499

Nobody was impressed with the evidence presented at the Bigfoot press conference last week. Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer say they have a bigfoot carcass in a freezer in northern Georgia somewhere. But that’s not all! They also have video of a few live big foot or sasquatch hanging around the area.

Whitton and Dyer have alternately been described as hunters, hikers and big foot hunters. I tracked down an older story from a big foot blogger, who linked to their expedition site, bigfoottracker.com. Back then Whitton was were referred to as a cop and Dyer a former corrections officer. Dyer says he’s a married dad and former Army ranger. Matt calls himself Gary and says he’s a great tracker who “has associates who train bloodhounds for tracking.”

Most of their current stuff is on the site of Tom Biscardi, who is a more experienced and perhaps more oily bigfoot hawker. The sites share not only a quest for Sasquatch, but also a fondness for blaring completely unrelated music. Biscardi’s site includes field reports from around the country–but none in Georgia.

Whitton and Dyer on bigfootblogger describe getting started on the big foot hunt when being awakened by one “on the side of a mountain north of Helen, Georgia.” They claim to have sold out a trip to the Blue Ridge-Smokies in June where “there have been actual big foot sightings this year” and plan a September trip to “an even more specific area” in September. They brag that only eight seats remain, but say the maximum they’ll take is 10.

Their big foot tours cost $499 for four days, plus renting camping equipment if you don’t have any.

Where to See Animals Down South

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The Bush administration is making a last minute attempt to plunder the Endangered Species Act before they leave office. The Associated Press dug up a draft copy of new proposed rules that would eliminate the need to consult with scientists about whether major construction projects would impact any endangered species. Like taking all those animals off the list wasn’t enough, huh?

They’re just changing the rules, so Congress doesn’t even need to approve. Instead they have to let the public comment–but not actually listen to it. The San Francisco Gate reports that they’ve even stopped accepting emails. And cut the comment period from 90 to 30 days, says gristmill.

Just try to find a way to comment on the proposal. I couldn’t find it anywhere in the Fish and Wildlife Service page. Not even their page just on endangered species. To find it, I had to use the document number from the National Wildlife Federation. Here’s the magic word you need to know: “50 CFR part 402”. That’s the only way you’re going to find it. Here’s the official proposal online.

And here’s their instructions on how to submit a comment. Now it’s confusing because first they tell you where to comment, then they tell you they won’t accept your email.

If they do take it, here’s the place to submit a comment on 50 CFR part 402. I tried it and it seems to work.

And here are their ambiguous instructions:

Submit your comments or materials concerning this proposed
rule in one of the following ways:
(1) Through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.regulations.gov.
Follow the instructions on the Web site for submitting comments.
(2) By U.S. mail or hand-delivery to Public Comment Processing,
Attention: 1018-AT50, Division of Policy and Directives Management,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 222,
Arlington, VA 22203.
We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all comments on
http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any
personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section
below for more information).

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Baby Beluga Shows Up in Bay of Fundy

Teri at Bay of Fundy Blog reports that a young Beluga Whale has shown up in the bay between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick known for its record tides. What’s unusual is a) a Beluga showing in the bay at all and b) any whale showing up this deep in the bay.

CTV has a great story on the whale, known as Q, and describe the two-year-old as friendly and curious. This isn’t a story about an endangered animal increasing its range–which would be terrific. It’s more the story of an individual somehow getting separated from its family–which is sad and scary. Some belugas live up in the St. Lawrence, so maybe that’s where Q’s pod is.

Scientists are also worried about people hanging around Q too much. Local fishermen are taking understandably excited locals out to see Q. The Whale Stewardship Project on Nova Scotia says that “orphaned, lost or somehow separated from their family pods, juvenile whales often begin to seek out human companionship and interact with boats and other objects.” The project is worried that whales will get used to friendly boats then get hurt by not so friendly people or propellers.

Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into yet another story where the people who love an animal end up causing it harm.

Where to See Animals in Canada
Best Whale-Watching Spots Around the World

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When I went up to the Adirondacks recently I was hoping to see a moose. I should have been tipped off by the fact that the New York Department of Transportation still wants everyone to tell them whenever they see a moose that this wasn’t going to be easy. We stayed in Indian Lake, the self-proclaimed moose capitol of New York.
The Snowy Mountain Inn is keeping track of moose sightings for locals, especialy those around Indian Lake. When we stayed there we didn’t see any moose, moose tracks or even moose scat. The woman whose cottage we rented said a moose had been on her property this summer, but all she got to see was the tracks.
Now dogs that are specially trained to sniff out moose droppings are on the case, trying to get an accurate count of moose in the area. Nobody knows how many moose the park or state have, except to say that it’s in the hundreds and growing. That’s great news from just 20 years ago when the state figured it had only 15 moose.
I’d love to see New Yorkers catch onto what Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont offer: guided tours to go out and see moose at dusk.

Where to See Moose
See More Animals in the Northeast

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The Wildlife Conservation Society released a new study today saying they’ve counted 125,000 western lowland gorillas in northern Republic of Congo. That’s the highest density ever reported. Scientific American says that in the 1980s the estimate was only 50,000.

But everyone thought their numbers were severely diminished since then by people hunting the gorillas for bushmeat and by ebola. WCS called this find a “motherlode.” These gorillas are shy. WCS got their number by counting gorilla nests, which these primates build each night to sleep in.

Gorillas everywhere are under huge threat. The western lowland gorilla is one of four sub-species. Biologists already thought this one was the most plentiful. The others are in far worse shape, some with only a few hundred left.

It’s important not to confuse this relatively stable and sparsely populated country with its bigger neighbor the Democratic Republic of Congo, where rebels killd two people by rebels in in June and seven gorillas last year.

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