US Fish and Wildlife Service

Eastern cougar may soon be declared extinct 

Photo source || June 16, 2015. 

After a four-year long review, the US Fish and Wildlife service has proposed declaring the eastern cougar extinct. This would remove them from the endangered species list.

The agency says that while eastern cougar sightings do occur from time to time, they’re most likely astray individuals from western North America, or ones that have been released from captivity. The last eastern cougar was believed to be shot by a hunter in 1938. 

[US Fish and Wildlife service report]


Even though we may not see them often, great-horned owls are quite common and can thrive in urban areas. This nest is located in a busy park in Minneapolis, Minnesota! Video of a baby great-horned owl by Courtney Celley, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Petition: Save the Alexander Archipelago wolf

The Alexander Archipelago wolf is in danger of being hunted out of existence.  Their population has plummeted from 221 to as low as 60. The state of Alaska has announced that it will be allowing the hunt of 9 Alexander Archipelago wolves this year.

Demand that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) protect the Alexander Archipelago wolf with an emergency Endangered Species listing - sign the petition here

7 Million Bats Killed By White Nose Syndrome: How You Can Help

This is an issue very dear to my heart. Years ago I used to live on an island in the North filled with bats. Over the years I have watched their numbers dwindle.

Part of this is due to tourists. People that aren’t used to bats often worry that they are going to fly into their hair or attack them.  The chances of this happening are so slim it’s almost nonexistent. So sometimes people squish them. They spray them with bug spray. (Extra crazy considering the little guys do a marvelous job keeping bugs away from us) They scream and flail about when they fly overhead. But the bats aren’t interested in you. They are shy and (understandably) scared of people. They would occasionally cling to a window screen or nestle in an archway, but they don’t bother people even when they are being poked with sticks or being surrounded by flashbulbs and clicking cameras. 

White nose syndrome is very serious. It’s wiping them out. We need bats. They are a vital part of the ecosystem. These little guys provide billions in free pest removal services. (Seriously. They eat bugs. Want less mosquitos? Advocate for the bats!) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been warned about the severity of the situation but have yet to take any serious action.  Defenders of Wildlife are asking to have the Northern Long Eared Bat listed as endangered. While although there is presently no cure for white nose syndrome, the protection this would provide would extend to to their habitats in an effort to better study and preserve them. 

The Eastern Cougar is officially extinct
Nearly 80 years after it was last seen, the eastern cougar will be officially recognised by US conservation authorities as 'extinct'.

Nearly 80 years after it was last seen, the eastern cougar will be officially recognised by US conservation authorities as ‘extinct’.

Following a four-year review, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will next month remove the eastern cougar from its list of endangered and threatened species — where it has been for the last 43 years.

The big cat, which once roamed North America from Canada to South Carolina, will no longer receive Endangered Species Act protections.

Cougars - along with their cousins panthers and pumas - were once the most widely distributed land mammal in the western hemisphere, but have been driven out from two-thirds of land that they once occupied, wildlife biologists have said.

Continue Reading.

Bison calves born this spring are growing quickly, building relationships and learning survival skills. Sometimes called “red dogs” because of their orange coats, bison calves are slowly becoming dark brown like their parents. Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa has a small herd of bison in a 700-acre enclosure and visitors can safely observe them from the visitor center or the auto route tour. Photo by Joanna Gilkeson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Upper:  Whooping Crane in a field of gold (from the Nature Conservancy website)

Lower: A Sandhill Crane in flight in the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge (taken from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region facebook page)

Wolverines Get Their Day In Court (Again)

Wolverines, once plentiful in the lower 48 United States, saw their numbers plummet around the turn of the century. They were hunted, poisoned, and eventually completely exterminated by Americans who saw them as vermin. The few hundred wolverines that run around the states today are though to be descendants of Canadian wolverines.

Way back in 2013, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed that the wolverine be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Wolverines need snow to reproduce - they raise their young in snowy dens. Climate change means less snow, which could be a problem for wolverines.

Of course, such a designation comes with increased government regulation, and Idaho, Wyoming and Montana opposed the change. When the FWS announced they would not be listing the wolverine as threatened, some scientists and environmental advocacy groups cried foul. They said the agency had ignored science and caved to political pressure.

On Monday, Montana District Court’s Chief Judge Dana L. Christensen said that the US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed. She told the FWS it was time to take action to protect wolverines in America.

Both sides of the conflict acknowledge that it is hard to get hard science on wolverines because they are so rare and reclusive. The judge cited a 1925 description of the animal her decision:

The wolverine is a tremendous character … a personality of unmeasured force, courage, and achievement so enveloped in a mist of legend, superstition, idolatry, fear, and hatred, that one scarcely knows how to being or what to accept as fact.

Read more from the New York Times here.


America’s public lands are wonderful places to love and be in love. Every year thousands get engaged and married in national parks, wildlife refuges and scenic wildernesses. We’re celebrating these great love stories with this video of proposals and weddings on public lands. Thanks to everyone who shared their photos and helped make this sweet Valentines Day video!

US Army Corps of Engineers announces it will move forward with plan to slaughter 11,000 cormorants

March 20, 2015: The US Army Corps of Engineers has issued a final record of decision announcing it will move forward with the decision to slaughter nearly 11,000 Double-crested Cormorants and destroy more than 26,000 Double-crested Cormorant nests on East Sand Island in the Columbia River Estuary.

Cormorants will be shot out of the sky with shotguns as they forage for food and with rifles at close range as they tend to their nests. The Corps still must obtain permits from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to commence the killing, and the Audubon Society of Portland urges the Fish and Wildlife Service to deny those permits. However, if those permits are issued, the Audubon Society of Portland’s Board of Directors has voted to sue the Corps and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to stop this unprecedented slaughter.

The Corps intends to kill 15 percent of the entire population of Double-crested Cormorants west of the Rocky Mountains. By the Corps’ own admission, the slaughter will drive western populations below a level that it has defined as sustainable.

“We are deeply disappointed that despite more than 145,000 comments opposing this decision, the federal government has chosen to move forward with the wanton slaughter of thousands of protected birds,” said Audubon Society of Portland conservation director Bob Sallinger. “Rather than addressing the primary cause of salmon decline, the manner in which the Corps operates the Columbia River Hydropower System, the Corps has instead decided to scapegoat wild birds and pursue a slaughter of historic proportions. Sadly this will do little or nothing to protect wild salmon but it will put Double-crested Cormorant populations in real jeopardy.”

Although the Corps asked the public for comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement, it issued its final record of decision approving the killing of cormorants only five days after the comment period closed. This continues a pattern with the Corps of ignoring the public, ignoring the science and obfuscating the real causes of salmon decline for which they bear primary responsibility.

“This has never been about birds versus fish,” said Sallinger. “This has always been about the Corps refusing to stand up and fix the problems that they created. Blaming wild birds that have coexisted with salmon since time immemorial is nothing more than a diversion.”

Audubon Society of Portland believes the Corps should focus on the primary causes of salmon declines – including management of the federal hydropower system, habitat loss and hatchery fish – rather than scapegoating wild birds. The US Army Corps of Engineers has been tied up in litigation for more than a decade due to its ongoing failure to address the impacts of dams on salmon. In addition, the science on which the Final Environmental Impact Statement is based is remarkably weak both in terms of documenting the impacts of cormorants on wild salmon and also in terms of predicting the benefits of the proposed lethal control on salmon recovery. Finally, the proposed lethal control could have significant impacts on western populations of Double-crested Cormorants. The proposed killing represents 15 percent of the Double-crested Cormorant population west of the Rocky Mountains. Double-crested Cormorant populations in the west are an order of magnitude smaller than they were a century ago and the only place in the west where Double-crested Cormorant populations have seen significant increases in recent decades is on East Sand Island.

Audubon Society of Portland has been engaged with protecting birds on East Sand Island for more than a decade. The island is internationally recognized as an Important Bird Area and is home to the largest colony of Caspian Terns in the world, the largest colony of Double-crested Cormorants in the western United States and the largest Brown Pelican post-breeding roost on the West Coast. Audubon Society of Portland is committed to the recovery of federally listed salmon, but supports science-based strategies that address the primary causes of decline, not the persecution of fish-eating birds for simply doing what comes naturally.

View the Audubon Society of Portland’s full comments on the final Environmental Impact Statement, and learn more about our work to protect birds on East Sand Island.


Did You Guys Hear About the Bison that Got Struck by Lightening and Walked Away?

Can you imagine being struck by lightning? Sparky, a bison at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa knows exactly what it’s like! Sparky was struck in 2013, and is doing surprisingly well. We recently checked in with Wildlife Biologist Karen Viste-Sparkman to learn more about Sparky’s amazing story.

Sparky joined the herd at Neal Smith in 2006 after being transferred from the National Bison Range in Montana. As you may have guessed, Sparky earned his name after the lightning strike and is the only bison that has been struck at the refuge - although it does occasionally happen across the country.

Karen does regular checks on the bison to watch for signs of illness and check body condition. During a survey in late July 2013, she noticed a bull standing by himself. When she took a closer look through her binoculars, she noticed that Sparky looked bloody…

(read more: US Fish & Wildlife Service)

photographs by Karen Viste-Sparkman/USFWS

Here’s a seriously cute photo for your Wednesday: A monk seal watches a baby turtle crawl on the beach at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Papahānaumokuākea encompasses 139,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean – including the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (usfwspacific). Many of the islands and shallow water environments are important habitats for rare species such as the threatened green sea turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

Photo by Mark Sully.
Nearly 500,000 More Americans Speak Out Against Federal Plan to Strip Wolves of Protections


“These new comments and the results of the scientific peer review follow on the heels of the submission of approximately 1 million comments in late 2013 requesting that the Fish and Wildlife Service continue to protect gray wolves. These comments represent the highest number of submissions ever to the agency on an endangered species, showing America’s overwhelming support for the charismatic wolf.

"In addition to the nearly half-million comments submitted by the American public in recent weeks, ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released a bipartisan letter co-signed by 73 House members urging Secretary Jewell to continue protections for gray wolves and rescind the proposed delisting rule immediately.”

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I’ve been working on this for years. I’ve submitted my own comments to FWS, in addition to the “form” comments promoted by several environmental and conservation organizations. I’ve written to and contacted Representatives and Senators, and made a few additional contacts. I’m proud to be one of the million who believe that preservation of a species and a part of our national heritage trumps the orgiastic pleasure of the hunter pulling the trigger.

We’ll see what happens next.