Apr 082015

There are two ways of looking at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's recent wolf monitoring report: The number of wolf deaths declined 24 percent (from 473 to 360) and the estimated number of wolves in the state increased from 684 to 770. Also, said the report, "The number of reproductive wolf packs (or pairs) in Idaho is far higher than the number of wolf packs documented to meet the federal breeding pair criteria." (IDFG press release)

But another take is that the documented number of wolves was actually down in 2014 from the year before. And, despite an increase in the number of documented breeding pairs (from 20 to 26), the number of breeding pairs is down significantly since Idaho began allowing the hunting of wolves.

"Unlike Montana and Wyoming, Idaho does not base its population estimate solely on observation of wolf packs by the state's biologists, but rather combines direct observations with extrapolated wolf numbers," the Center for Biological Diversity said.

"Idaho's biologists actually documented only 272 wolves in 43 packs, but the state claims 770 wolves in 104 packs based on hunter reports and an average pack size of 6.5 wolves. There are probably more than 43 packs, but because hunters likely report dispersing wolves or even coyotes and pack size varies considerably, the exact number is unknown. This is why both Montana and Wyoming present a minimum count of just the wolves that they themselves count."

Number of documented wolf packs and documented breeding pairs in Idaho, 1995-2014. Annual numbers were based on best information available and were retroactively updated as new information was obtained.

Number of documented wolf packs and documented breeding pairs in Idaho, 1995-2014. Annual numbers were based on best information available and were retroactively updated as new information was obtained. (from IDFG report)

Excerpts from the report:

Biologists documented 104 packs within the state at the end of 2014. In addition, there were 23 documented border packs counted by Montana, Wyoming, and Washington that had established territories overlapping the Idaho state boundary. Additional packs are suspected but not included due to lack of documentation.

Determination of breeding pair status was made for 43 packs. Of these, 26 packs met breeding pair criteria at the end of 2014, and 17 packs did not. No determination of breeding pair status was made for the remaining 61 packs. Reproduction (production of at least 1 pup) was documented in a minimum 55 packs. The year-end population for documented packs, other documented groups not qualifying as packs, and lone wolves was estimated at 770 wolves.

Mortalities of 360 wolves were documented in Idaho in 2014, 113 wolves (24%) less than in 2013. Human-caused mortality accounted for 342 of 344 (99%) wolf mortalities during 2014 where cause of death could be determined. Legal harvest was 256 wolves, agency removal and legal take was 67 wolves, and mortality from other human causes was 19 wolves. Sixteen wolf mortalities were attributed to unknown causes and two were attributed to natural causes.

The probability that a pack meets breeding pair criteria increases as pack size increases (Mitchell et al. 2008). Consistent with this relationship, the proportion of packs meeting the breeding pair criterion decreased noticeably as pack size diminished after harvest began in 2009. The increase in breeding pairs detected during 2014 was associated both with an increase in mean pack size, and with an increase in field effort during 2014.

Apr 082015

The Fish and Wildlife Service says there is now enough evidence to consider listing the northern spotted owl as endangered.

The service has made a positive 90-day finding, which has yet to be officially released. FWS did post a news release, however, and American Bird Conservancy (see below) and other groups have hailed the move, which is the result of a petition submitted by the Environmental Protection Information Center

Note: The spotted owl has not actually be proposed for endangered status, as claimed by ABC below. The service has made a 90-day finding, the first step in the petition process.


Contact: Steve Holmer,  sholmer@abcbirds.org

Northern Spotted Owl Continues to Decline – Endangered Listing Needed

(Washington, D.C., April 7, 2015) The Northern Spotted Owl has been proposed for endangered status under the Endangered Species Act, a decision supported by American Bird Conservancy. Endangered status is warranted by the owl’s rapid population decline, and scientific studies indicating that habitat loss and the Barred Owl’s incursion into Northwest forests are pushing the Northern Spotted Owl to the brink of extinction.

“Considering the Northern Spotted Owl’s population decline, a reduction in breeding success, and the growing presence of Barred Owls based on 2013 monitoring reports, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to take decisive action,” said Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor for American Bird Conservancy.

There are eight long-term demography studies that make up the federal government’s monitoring program for the Northern Spotted Owl. Populations in all eight study areas are in decline and well below historic averages for both total numbers and breeding success.

“In the Tyee demographic study area near Roseburg, Oregon, the population has seen a severe drop in the last five years; only 29 owl pairs were found in 2013 compared to 66 pairs ten years ago; the number of females nesting has decreased, as has the average number of offspring,” said Holmer. Researchers concluded that “the last 3 years of reproduction have been the lowest on record and resulted in the fewest number of young produced.”

In addition, the Northwestern California monitoring report found that over the past five years owl detections have decreased 30%. In Oregon’s Coast Range study area, the percentage of sites with spotted owl detection has declined from a high of 88 percent in 1991, to a low of 23 percent in 2013. And for three consecutive years no sub-adult owls were sited.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) submitted a reclassification petition for the northern spotted owl to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on August 15, 2012.

American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

Apr 082015

FWS has proposed a new 4(d) rule for the Georgetown salamander. Well, it will release the new 4(d) proposed rule officially tomorrow. But in the meantime, click on the link above for the proposal, now on Pubic Inspection at the Federal Register, and check below for an advance copy of the FAQ, graciously provided by FWS spokesperson Lesli Gray. Thank you, Lesli.

Here's the salient portion from the first answer. Of course, see below and you can read the whole thing. And here's the regulatory docket.

"The original proposed 4(d) rule for the Georgetown salamander stated that incidental take resulting from activities consistent with conservation measures in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone Water Quality Ordinance would not be prohibited under the ESA. Since publication of the proposed 4(d) rule, the City of Georgetown has incorporated, and expanded upon, the ordinance in their Unified Development Code (UDC), which is the primary tool used by the City to regulate development. The revised 4(d) rule proposes that incidental take of the Georgetown salamander will not be prohibited if the take results from regulated activities conducted consistent with the water quality protection measures contained in Chapter 11 and Appendix A of the UDC."