GOP Candidate for Congress Kills Mama Prairie Dogs with Trump Jr in Montana

black-tailed-prairie-dog-public domain

Black-tailed prairie dog (Public Domain)

On May 25, voters in Montana will participate in a special election for a vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The two frontrunners are Democrat Rob Quist and Republican Greg Gianforte.  Gianforte recently got an assist from Donald Trump Jr. who campaigned with him in four cities.  One of the campaign events was shooting prairie dogs, currently in their breeding season.  On Earth Day.  Because fun:

“As good Montanans, we want to show good hospitality to people,” Gianforte said. “What can be more fun than to spend an afternoon shooting the little rodents?”

Animal advocates were horrified.  But fun:

Gianforte, whose campaign has focused on gun rights, dismissed the [Prairie Dog Coalition’s]  concerns.

“Clearly they’ve never shot a prairie dog,” he said. “They don’t know how much fun it is.”

No word on how many pregnant or nursing prairie dogs were killed in the campaign event or how many orphaned pups were left to slowly die agonizing deaths in their burrows.  But yeah, sounds like fun.

(Thanks Clarice.)

Sanctuary: a place of refuge or safety

lion public domain image

Lion (Public Domain)

A suck story out of Elbert County, Colorado:  Lion’s Gate Sanctuary was apparently flooding due to the location of the property, leaving the 11 lions, tigers and bears who lived there in poor conditions.  The animals were reportedly elderly and frail.  The sanctuary owner submitted a request to county commissioners to allow for relocation of the sanctuary to another appropriately zoned property in the county.  When the county refused to approve the relocation, the owner had a veterinarian kill all 11 animals.  Suck #1.

The county commissioners say they denied the transfer for very excellent reasons, including that such a move would be hard on the old animals and maybe they wouldn’t survive the trip.  Also, the request was apparently thin on details.  So yeah, I guess those are both absolutes which leave no room for negotiation of any kind.  Suck #2.

The owner says she tried to find placement for the animals at other sanctuaries but there were no takers.  Then there’s this:

The news that Lion’s Gate had euthanized all its animals stunned Pat Craig, the founder and executive director of Colorado’s largest animal refuge, The Wildlife Sanctuary in Keenesberg.
[…]
“[T]hey have so few animals, they would easily be able to place every animal with another wildlife sanctuary,” Craig said.” “I can guarantee you that a lot of organizations would be glad to help.”

Hmm. Guarantee? A lot of organizations? But the owner says none? Whatever the truth is, that’s suck #3.

But wait, there’s more:

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department told Denver7 they were aware of the mass euthanasia and the burial of all 11 animals on the sanctuary grounds. But it said that though it was done before the department was informed, it found no regulations were broken.

Suck #4.

In this country, mass animal killings have been institutionalized by our municipal shelter system.  As in the sanctuary case, mass killings in shelters are largely unregulated and left to the discretion of directors.  Killing – wholly different from euthanasia to end the suffering of a medically hopeless animal – should not be optional, let alone unregulated.  There ought to be a law.

Manly Men Totally Not Compensating for Anything Hope to Kill Baby Bears in Alaska Thanks to GOP

You and I and all American taxpayers fund 16 wildlife refuges in Alaska representing 85% of our country’s federal wildlife refuges.  So we all – not just Alaskans – have a vested interest in the management of these 76 million acres.

For years, Alaskan state officials have been asking the feds for permission to extend their so-called predator control tactics to these refuges – basically seeking sanction to allow for cruel and unbalanced killing of bears and wolves.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly denied these requests and last year, the denial was made permanent via a federal rule.  This year, the Republican controlled Congress and President Trump have officially revoked that rule, creating an opening for kill-freaks to get their rocks off:

These [anti-predator] tactics include killing black bear cubs or mother with cubs at den sites; killing brown bears over bait; trapping and killing brown and black bears with steel-jaw leghold traps or wire snares; killing wolves and coyotes during denning season; and killing brown and black bears from aircraft.

Now sure, that all sounds horrible and revolting and vomity but have you considered the other side’s argument?

“Some of you will say, ‘Oh, we have to protect the wolf puppies,”‘ [Representative Don] Young [(R- AK)] told colleagues on the floor of the House.
“That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the law.”

Oh those uppity we-shouldn’t-shoot-animal-familes-in-their-dens people.  Sheesh.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) adds that anyone who gets ill thinking about sadists running down animals in helicopters for slaughter should be comforted knowing that it’s still illegal to use “gas against wolves” in Alaskan wildlife refuges.  So see, not actually worse than Hitler on the Sean Spicer scale, I guess.

And as usual with political issues, we can follow the money:

At the heart of the disagreement between state and federal wildlife managers is what each group thinks should guide its purpose. The federal government has argued that the goal on refuges and in parks should be biodiversity. The state Board of Game has an interest in ensuring maximum sustained populations for hunting.

In other words, kill the predators so there are more prey (e.g. moose and caribou) for richie rich trophy hunters who have powerful lobbying groups like the NRA behind them, supporting the revocation of this rule.  And never mind about a balanced ecosystem or any of that science stuff which, as we now know, is FAKE NEWS.

But as we have seen with other flailing attempts by the Trump administration to govern, the courts may end up sorting this out:

Geoff Haskett, former Alaska regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, […] left the agency and is now acting director of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Even though President Trump signed the congressional resolution, Haskett believes it will not give the state of Alaska carte blanche to begin predator control on federal refuges.

“It doesn’t change the laws and authorities and existing regulations that the service already has,” Haskett said. “It’s really back to square one.”

Ken Marsh, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, agreed. Without a blanket rule, federal refuge managers likely will consider predator control requests on a case-by-case basis, he said, under provisions of federal environmental law.

Thankfully, common sense and decency still have defenders. And they are willing to go to court. Stay tuned.

Feds Strip Manatees of Endangered Species Status Despite Serious Threats

manatees teco

Manatees gathered near the TECO power plant in Tampa.  (Photo via Save the Manatee)

Your tl;dr Summary:

Feds: There are more manatees so that endangered species thing is solved.

Scientists:  What about the fact that we are providing a lethal habitat for them?

Feds:  There are MORE MANATEES.

***

Data from recent years shows that manatees are being killed in record numbers due to human induced threats such as boat strikes and red tide.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced its decision to remove the animals from the endangered species list (downlisting them as “threatened”) citing an increase in population.  Current estimates put the Florida manatee over 6600. But Save the Manatee points out that population numbers were not the only issues that landed the animals there in the first place:

[H]uman threats to manatees and habitat, not low population counts, were the reason for the manatee’s Endangered Species listing. The species still faces these threats today and mitigating these factors is the standard for recovery.

Not only have the factors not been mitigated, they’re going to get worse:

We believe this is a devastating blow to manatees,” said Patrick Rose, Executive Director for Save the Manatee Club (SMC). With regard to Florida manatees in particular, Rose stated, “FWS decided to prematurely downlist manatees without a proven viable plan for reducing record-high watercraft-related manatee deaths and without establishing a long-term plan for the anticipated loss of artificial winter warm water habitat on which more than 60% of the Florida manatee population depends. A federal reclassification at this time will seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee’s long- term survival. With the new federal administration threatening to cut 75% of regulations, including those that protect our wildlife and air and water quality, the move to downlist manatees can only be seen as a political one.”

Politics, politics everywhere and all the boards did shrink.

Downlisting is dangerous for manatees for several reasons.  It puts manatees on a slippery slope where disputed population numbers alone may be used to remove protections in future.  People will see the current measures as being adequate in saving the animal when in fact many of the issues threatening the manatee remain unaddressed.  As an example, an increasing number of manatees gather near the artificially warmed waters near power plants in winter.  There are currently no plans in place to replace these habitats if and when these power plants shut down.

The Washington Post reports:

The Center for Biological Diversity also opposed the federal reclassification, calling 2016 “the deadliest year to date” for the animals[.]
[…]
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) called it “HUGELY disappointing” and promised to reach out to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

WaPo also reminds readers about the orphaned manatee calf rescued by a Florida zoo last fall who died 3 months into his care because he had eaten so much trash off the ocean floor – a tragic example of the continuing human threat to manatees.

So yay, there are more manatees but geez, it seems like before removing them from the endangered species list the feds should conduct an in-depth and comprehensive examination of all the factors threatening the animal and obtain input from manatee advocates who study them – not just punch up a calculator.

Nobody knew that protecting lives could be so complicated, I guess.

What you can do: Contact the USFWS (and/or tweet them) and ask them to reconsider removing the manatee from the endangered species list and focus their efforts on addressing the human induced threats to the manatee’s habitat and long-term recovery.

Save

TN Aquarium Threatened by Fire, Animals Left Inside

In the argument over keeping wild animals captive for public display and corporate profit, here’s one for the CON side of the ledger:  More than 10,500 animals at the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies are on their own after staff was forced to evacuate when the Gatlinburg wildfire came within 50 feet of the structure last night.  At this time, the building is still standing and security webcams are reportedly still broadcasting.  The aquarium has generators to maintain power so the animals can survive, at least until the fuel runs out.  But there is no one there to feed, medicate or assist any animals in need.

Some of the animals at this aquarium:  penguins, stingrays, sea turtles, sharks, octopuses and clownfish.  A live penguin cam, offered on the Ripley website, says “video unavailable” this morning.  I guess the corporation doesn’t want a live internet feed of whatever may happen to the penguins.

Ontario Police Oops-Torture Pet, Meant to Torture Wild Animal

Merrick, as pictured on the CTV News website.

Merrick, as pictured on the CTV News website.

Residents in an Ontario neighborhood contacted police about a coyote roaming the area Monday night.  Ontario police sent a car in response and an animal approached the car:

“It just kept hanging around and it wasn’t afraid of the vehicle at all, of anything. It was just lurking around looking at the vehicle,” resident Kelly O’Neill told CTV Barrie on Tuesday. “It wasn’t afraid at all.”

Instead of capturing the animal, O’Neill said the police cruiser ran over it several times. One of the officers then got out of the car and shot it.

On Wednesday morning, OPP confirmed the animal was a dog, not a coyote.

Oops. I guess that’s why she wasn’t afraid. The 21 year old dog, called Merrick, was blind, deaf and suffered from dementia according to the owner. After a windstorm blew open a gate in Merrick’s yard, she wandered out. When she saw the police cruiser, she apparently ambled toward it before she was violently tortured to death.

The killing was caught on a cellphone video which was spread on social media. It caused a public outcry which resulted in the police having to admit that the animal was a pet dog, not a coyote.

But: EXCUSES FOR THE EXCUSE GOD.

The police commander wants to remind everyone that Merrick looked like a coyote. And as far as the standard police response to a report of a roaming coyote being Brutalize First, ID Later, that’s still fly:

The OPP “remain committed to destruction of wildlife that is an imminent threat to public safety,” the statement said.

To be clear, the “destruction” the Ontario police is committed to involves slow and deliberate cruelty to animals. Which sounds so crimey. Especially when it’s based on what the victim looks like. In the dark. From inside the car.

The historically awful Ontario SPCA has received requests from the public to investigate but has declined to lift a finger.  Police will investigate themselves in the matter.

(Thanks Jan for the link.)

Thoughts on Cecil

Regardless of where one falls on the rather broad spectrum of views on hunting, I think nearly everyone agrees that poachers – those who hunt animals illegally – are the worst of the worst.  Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer is a poacher, having plead guilty in 2008 to a felony related to a bear he illegally killed in Wisconsin.

Earlier this month, Palmer paid professional hunting guides $55,000 so he could go to Zimbabwe and kill a lion with a crossbow.  Palmer and his guides tied a dead animal to the back of their vehicle and scented an area just outside Hwange National Park to lure the lion out of the protected area at night.  The 13 year old lion, a beloved tourist attraction named Cecil who was wearing a GPS collar and being monitored by researchers from Oxford University, followed the scent out of the park and onto private property where Palmer lay in wait.  Palmer reportedly shot Cecil with an arrow and the lion fled in terror.  Palmer and his guides tracked the injured lion for 2 days and finally killed him with a rifle.  He then allegedly tried to destroy Cecil’s tracking collar, cut off his head and skinned him, leaving the headless, skinless remains to rot:

The hunt was illegal, according to Zimbabwe parks authorities, who say that the hunter and the landowner did not have permits to kill a lion. The landowner and professional guide accompanying Palmer will face court in early August for poaching charges[.]

Calls for the prosecution of Palmer have been swift and numerous.  In a statement, Palmer threw his guides under the bus and claimed he didn’t know Cecil was collared until after he finished killing him.  His statement fails to address why at that point he didn’t report the killing to authorities but instead went ahead with the beheading and skinning of Cecil.

Trophy hunting is big business and Americans make up the vast majority of trophy hunters.  Lion “trophies” get sent to the U.S. more than any other place in the world.  And some conservationists support trophy hunting as a means to manage and fund conservation efforts.

I don’t know if Walter Palmer is concerned about conservation work or whether he has ever used his money to help animals stay alive.  In researching this post, I found that in 2009, he paid $127,500 and agreed to undergo sexual harassment training to settle a claim filed against him by a female employee who said she “was subjected to verbal comments and physical conduct involving her breasts, buttocks, and genitalia.”  In 2012, he donated $5000 to the presidential election campaign of fellow animal abuser Mitt Romney.  I did not find any record of Palmer funding conservation efforts directly.

Whether one supports or condemns trophy hunting, it is legal and will continue to take place, courtesy of rich Americans mostly.  Poaching of course is illegal but it too will continue so long as there is someone with cash in hand.  On Monday, under cover of darkness, poachers killed an adult female elephant and 4 of her offspring in Tsavo West National Park in Kenya, hacked off their tusks then escaped on motorcycles.  The story barely made the news.

In the midst of all the back and forth over the sinister killing of Cecil, many people have been deeply moved.  Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel choked up on live television when talking about the story.  An interview with Ernest Small, an academic who specializes in biodiversity revealed that, despite understanding the science behind the emotional reaction to Cecil’s death, even he feels upset:

“I was disgusted frankly. If there was a lynch mob I’d probably join it,” he said, acknowledging the irony.

Our relationship with animals is complicated.  I don’t have any particular wisdom to impart regarding Cecil and I am just as sad and angry as everyone else.  I don’t think that signing a petition or making a donation is going to make me feel better although I’m certainly not opposed to either.  Being human is a heavy burden and a great responsibility.  Animals have always made that burden easier for me and in return, I try to be as compassionate and respectful as possible.  It’s not enough and it doesn’t negate the Walter Palmers of the world, but it’s something.  And something beats the hell out of nothing any day of the week.  Where there’s life, there’s hope.

Cecil with a lioness.  (Photo by Brent  Stapelkamp)

Cecil with a lioness. (Photo by Brent Stapelkamp)

Orange Co ACOs Under Investigation After Cutting Deer’s Throat

On the night of September 29, California veterinarian Kathleen Johnson and her husband were walking their dogs when they came upon a deer whose rear leg was impaled on a wrought iron fence.  He was hanging upside down, screaming and thrashing.  Dr. Johnson called 911, assessed the deer and waited on Orange Co ACOs to arrive.  When they did, she introduced herself as a vet and explained that the deer could be saved.  The ACOs said the deer should be killed.  Although the vet disagreed, she asked if they had euthanasia drugs with them.  They told her no and she offered to get some from her home which was nearby.  They refused.

The ACOs hogtied the injured deer, who was still hanging upside down and thrashing, and pulled out a knife to cut off his leg:

“I told them it was inhumane to cut off the buck’s leg while he was still alive without any anesthesia,” Johnson said. “The officer told me, ‘What does it matter, he’s going to be euthanized anyway?’”

Dr. Johnson offered to have her husband cut the fence but the ACOs told her to leave, threatening to let the deer to suffer in pain and do nothing at all so long as she was there.  After she left the ACOs slit the deer’s throat and watched him to bleed to death.

Dr. Johnson filed an animal cruelty complaint with Orange Co Animal Care:

Scott Weldy, a Lake Forest veterinarian who for years has helped Fish and Wildlife officers as well as animal control officers deal with wildlife, was called to do a report on the buck’s death.

When Weldy and fellow veterinarian Kristian Krause went to perform the necropsy, they were horrified. The buck’s front legs were tied together and one hind leg was attached to his neck.

Dr. Weldy characterized the suffering endured by the deer after his throat was slit as “inhumane and unbearable.”  The two ACOs have been on paid leave since October 1.  The Orange Co DA is investigating but the results of the investigation sound like a foregone conclusion:

“Whether you agree with what they did or not, it’s not a crime,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff at the District Attorney’s Office.

If that’s the case I imagine Ms. Schroeder will have no problem pointing out the applicable statute which states that ACOs can hack up animals with knives as they see fit.

Mercifully, it sounds like there is at least one person willing to do his job in Orange Co:

County Supervisor Todd Spitzer has been investigating this on his own since being notified by Johnson.

“County training does not authorize the slitting of an animal’s throat so it can bleed out slowly,” Spitzer said. “It’s inhumane and unconscionable with folks we want in the county dealing with animals.”

Yeah, that would be like the minimum requirement for an ACO I would think:  the not cutting animals thing.

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)

Feds Round Up Geese Families and Gas Them

The next time you see a cat hater spewing misinformation about how cats kill zillions of birds, remind them of the verifiable fact that the US government killed 4 million animals, mostly birds, last year.  That number includes tens of thousands of beautiful Canadian geese.

The government’s only criteria for killing appears to be a complaint from someone/anyone describing the birds as a nuisance.  And the killing is done in the cruelest of ways, as detailed in this recent story from Youngstown, Ohio.

Goslings [Image via Wikipedia]

Goslings [Image via Wikipedia]

Two hundred thirty-eight adult geese and their babies were targeted for extermination at Mill Creek Park.  Wildlife officials waited until June to kill the geese since they are most vulnerable at that time – the goslings are too young to fly and the adults have temporarily lost their ability to fly due to molting.  Unable to escape their killers, these adult and baby geese were herded into a chamber and gassed to death – an agonizing way for animals of any age to die.

Let’s be clear:  these are not fabricated numbers based on junk science like the now debunked cat claims, these are government reported numbers of kills.  All done for convenience in the most horrifying manner imaginable.  And paid for by American taxpayers.  The feds seem to have something in common with local government run “shelters” with regard to convenience killing of animals – and that is not a good thing.

(Thanks Arlene for the link.)

Potential Good News for Whales (Giant Asterisk)

Warning: Second link contains an image of a dead whale.

Minke whale, [x]

Minke whale, [x]

In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling but this did not prevent countries from hunting whales.  Indeed, a few countries dropped out of the IWC or simply “opted out” of the ban in order to continue killing whales for profit.  The 1986 ban also offered exceptions for aboriginal people, such as those in Alaska, to continue their traditional whale hunts and for the killing of whales in the name of science.  Japan has infamously made use of the scientific research exception, killing hundreds of whales every year, including endangered species.

Australia filed suit against Japan for its whale killing in the United Nations’ International Court of Justice.  This week, the court agreed with Australia that Japan’s whale killings do not appear to be scientific in nature, citing:

  • Japan could use non-lethal methods to collect the data it purportedly seeks.
  • The sample sizes are not justified.
  • There is no time-frame for the research to be concluded.
  • Japan doesn’t talk whale science with other whale scientists.
  • Very little scientific output has been produced as a result of the mass slaughter.

The UN Court determined Japan’s science was not so sciencey and ordered the country to stop hunting Antarctic whales.  Japan says it will comply with the order but Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, who regularly eats science whale meat, vowed to “closely examine the ruling and swiftly figure out ways to continue whaling” which doesn’t exactly scream Compliance so much as it does Sinister Scheming 2.0.  The ag minister seems very enthusiastic about continued killings, apparently because science must not be thwarted whale meat is ALL THE DELICIOUS.

There do not appear to be any meaningful repercussions if Japan decides not to comply with the order or comes up with some new loophole to exploit.  And the order only applies to large whales, meaning that Japan’s slaughter of dolphins and small whales in Taiji Cove will continue.  But the ruling is significant in that it calls out fake science (more, please) and puts additional international pressure on Japan to stop the killing, for what it’s worth.

By the way Australia, next time we run into each other I’ll be giving you a long hug, past the point of awkwardness and bordering on creepy.