Trapper tells story of capturing rare Michigan lynx and how he now faces some blowback

Officials trapped this rare Canada lynx in Harbor Beach Sunday, March 17, 2019, and relocated it to the Howell Nature Center's Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic Monday, March 18, 2019.

Courtesy | Howell Nature Center

Officials trapped this rare Canada lynx in Harbor Beach Sunday, March 17, 2019, and relocated it to the Howell Nature Center’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic Monday, March 18, 2019.

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HARBOR BEACH, MI — The Michigan trapper who captured a rare lynx after it killed a farmer’s pet geese says he wanted to release the animal back into the wild and regrets that state officials took it to a nature center.

He also says he’s faced social media criticism for trapping the animal and some people are wishing him dead.

Jordan Cook, 29, is a beekeeper by trade who lives in Applegate, a village of about 250 people in Sanilac County, along Lake Huron. He’s also a self-taught trapper.

Cook says the owner of McCoy Honey Co. in Harbor Beach, Joseph McCoy, asked for his help after spotting two apparent lynx on the property, at least one of which attacked and killed McCoy’s pet geese and a duck.

Cook was out to dinner with his girlfriend, Stacey Pattee, on Friday, March 15, when McCoy called.

“He swore up and down that it was a lynx or a bobcat and I said, ‘I don’t know, Joe, no one’s ever caught one around here.’”

Cook found a grisly scene at McCoy’s farm.

“I shined the field and I saw the dead geese. There was blood all over the goose coop,” he said. “It looked like a murder scene, you know?”

He said he then saw “cat eyes” in the darkness.

Cook contacted the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and explained the situation. After watching a lynx attack another goose Saturday, the men set traps, as directed by DNR officials. By 6 a.m. Sunday morning, March 17, they had captured what biologists would later confirm to be a female Canada lynx.

This is the first verified sighting and capture of a lynx in Michigan’s lower peninsula since 1917, according to the DNR. It comes about a month after an apparent lynx was seen on a video shot in nearby Lexington. The DNR has not confirmed McCoy’s account of a second lynx roaming the area.

Pattee captured video of the lynx in the leg trap as Cook and several others released the lynx from the trap and transferred it to a waiting dog cage. Cook called the DNR again to let officials know they had captured the cat.

Cook said he wanted to release the lynx back into the wild, in a remote, swampy area in the Thumb, away from McCoy’s farm and away from people, but officials told him to keep it in the cage. DNR officials later relocated the lynx to Howell Nature Center’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, where it was evaluated.

Cook said he wouldn’t have turned the cat over to the state if he knew it would end up in captivity.

But wildlife experts say the cat’s behavior was unusual and veterinarians must evaluate it before potentially releasing it back into the wild.

Howell Nature Center, where the lynx was being cared for, posted an update on its Facebook page Tuesday, March 19. It read, in part:

“The Canada Lynx brought to us yesterday by the DNR is doing well under our care! Our goal at the Howell Nature Center is to offer the best possible outcome for animals brought to our Wildlife Clinic. According to a DNR representative, this is the first live lynx captured in the state in more than 40 years.

“At this time, it has been determined that additional resources are needed to include a full physical and behavioral assessment. As such, this animal will be transferred to the Detroit Zoological Society later this week. It is not yet clear if the lynx is a released/escaped illegal pet or is in fact, truly wild. After the evaluation, a determination by the DNR will be made if it can be released back to the wild.”

Dan Kennedy, endangered species coordinator for the Michigan DNR, confirmed state officials gave Cook permission to trap and then cage the animal.

“The Detroit Zoo has the staff, the equipment and the expertise and facilities to do a thorough evaluation to let us know the lynx’s overall health,” Kennedy said. “Once we get that information from them, then we’ll sit down with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine an appropriate course of action.”

‘I never thought it would be lynx’

Since he caught the lynx, Cook said he’s received positive feedback and messages of support, but he’s also received vitriol from some hunting and trapping critics. Some people have wished him dead, something he says has happened before in response to his trapping-related posts on social media.

“A lot of them are upset with the idea of trapping in general,” he said, noting that there are misconceptions about trapping and the types of traps used today. The trap he used to capture the lynx did not injure the animal, he said. “That’s just a big misconception about what I do and what trappers do. We’re here to conserve nature and maintain healthy populations of animals.”

“That, and I was wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat (in the video),” Cook continued. “I think if it wasn’t for that hat, a lot of them wouldn’t be saying what they are and treating me how they are.”

Cook has been trapping as a hobby for the past decade, a tradition he was first introduced to as a young boy that he now shares with his own children.

“I ran my great-grandpa’s trap line with him when I was very young,” Cook recalled. “I have two little girls that absolutely love it and they were born into it.”

Cook said he runs about 50 to 100 traps for coyote, beaver, muskrat, mink, just about “anything with fur in Huron County,” but “I never thought it would be lynx.”

Kennedy couldn’t confirm whether or not the lynx was uninjured in the trapping process but said, “I know that it can look rough on the video, but, he was also, you have to consider human health concerns as well while handling a wild lynx. You have to use that pole and there’s certain protocols to follow while doing that.”

He added, “The animal appears to be doing OK right now, but we’re waiting on the veterinarians to do a thorough evaluation.

Hunters plead guilty to illegal duck hunting in Loudon County

Exposing the Big Game

https://www.wvlt.tv/content/news/Hunters-plead-guilty-to-illegal-duck-hunting-in-Loudon-County–507440061.html

ILLEGAL DUCK HUNTERS PLEAD GUILTY IN LOUDON COUNTY COURT

LOUDON, Tenn.—Three hunters charged with multiple violations associated with illegal duck hunting pled guilty in Loudon County General Sessions Court today.

Dalton Giles (23) of Philadelphia, Stephen Giles (50) of Loudon and Justin Thompson (30) of Loudon, faced charges of Hunting In a Baited Area, Violation of the Daily Bag Limit of Redhead Ducks (12 over limit), Violation of Gross Limit of Waterfowl (5 over limit), 

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In Memory of Yellowstone Wolf 926F

She was a survivor and an alpha. And then she was legally shot and killed by a hunter. Yellowstone Park’s legendary wolf researcher Rick McIntyre reflects on the life of one of the park’s most famous canines.

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Until the last moment of her life, no matter what challenges and tragedies she faced, she always figured out a way to survive, to carry on. Then in late November, just a mile outside Yellowstone National Park, a hunter’s bullet struck and killed wolf 926.

I knew her well, starting with her days as a pup. I also knew her parents and other ancestors, back to two of her great-great-grandmothers. Rather than dwell on her death, let me tell you about the extraordinary life she lived and why so many people cared about her.

Born in the spring of 2011, wolf 926 lived seven and a half years (that’s about 60 in human years). Her famous mother, known as the “06 Female,” the founder of the Lamar Canyon pack, was also shot and killed in the Wyoming wolf hunt, in late 2012. Her daughter eventually became the pack’s alpha female and had her first litter in the spring of 2014. The only other adult in the family was wolf 925, her mate and the father of their six pups.

Life was hard for the two young adults as they struggled to feed and protect the large litter. By March 2015, the 11-month-old pups were healthy and strong. Their mother was halfway through a new pregnancy at that time. The pack left the safety of its territory—one of the smallest ranges of the park’s nine packs, at roughly 88 square miles—and traveled west, into the land of a rival pack, looking for elk to hunt. The alpha pair were undertaking a dangerous mission, but they had to feed their pups, so they took on the risk.

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Wolf watchers on Bob’s Knob (Kathie Lynch)

When she was apart from the rest of her family, 926 spotted a cow elk and chased her. The cow ran to the top of a 100-foot cliff and turned to defend herself. Wolf 926 repeatedly lunged and snapped at her. The cow, who was five times bigger than her opponent, charged forward each time the wolf approached and tried to kick and trample her. Then 926 darted in one more time, and the cow reflexively took a few steps back. Her hind legs slipped past the edge of the cliff, and she fell to her death.

The wolf ran around the far end of the cliff, raced down to the flats, confirmed the cow was dead, ran back uphill, got her mate and pups, and led them back to her kill. After feeding, the pack needed to get back to its own territory. The alpha male led the family east. I saw them coming through a pass, just west of Slough Creek. A few more miles of traveling would get them home.

Suddenly, 925 stopped and intently looked down at the creek. I turned that way and saw the Prospect Peak pack, a group of 12 wolves. They were resting after feeding on a bison carcass. The rival pack was between the Lamar Canyon wolves and their territory.

Something caused the Prospect wolves to jump up and see the other pack. Wolf 926, doing exactly the right thing, spun around and ran back through the pass. The six pups ran after their mother. But 925 stayed in place and calmly watched as the 12 wolves ran uphill at 35 miles per hour, directly at him. His primary responsibility was protecting his family, so he defiantly stood there, between the charging pack and his mate and pups.

When the other wolves were about to reach him, 925 finally ran off, not away from them but past them and toward the creek. They fell for his strategy and pursued him, not understanding that he was leading them away from his family. The Prospect wolves caught up with 925, pulled him down, and attacked him. He died from the wounds they inflicted, but he had saved his family.

Soon 926 and her pups were back in the middle of their territory. She was due to have her new litter in a few weeks, and her existing pups were too inexperienced to support her. As a single mother, 926’s chances of keeping her new pups alive were slim.

Then four of the big Prospect males found her den. The mother wolf desperately tried to save her current pups by taking them deeper into her territory. Early the next morning, I found her in a meadow five miles from her den. None of the pups were with her. A few yards away, the biggest of the rival wolves was glaring at her. As I watched the confrontation, I could not see any way out for 926. The male was far larger and stronger than she was. She could not win if they fought. And due to her advanced pregnancy, she could not outrun him.

Doing the unexpected, 926 suddenly relaxed. That confused the big male. Then she slowly wagged her tail. The other wolf was now even more bewildered. She romped over to him and started the wolf version of flirting. After a few moments of taking in the situation, he responded in kind. That was it—she got him to join her pack as the new alpha male. He brought in the three males that had come with him into her territory. Wolf 926 took four of the wolves that had killed her mate and got them to help her raise the new pups that had been sired by 925.

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Lamar Valley at sunrise (Kathie Lynch)

There are many other stories to tell of 926, but the ones I just related give you a sense of what she was like. She had a long, exciting life and overcame great difficulties. Tens of thousands of people got to see her live that life and were inspired by her grit and determination. Her family is carrying on. Next April, her adult daughter will likely have a litter of new pups at the pack’s den.

In my attempt to deal with the death of a wolf I knew so well and admired so greatly, I thought of something I could do. Wolf 926 was shot about a mile from my cabin. I found the site where she had bled out and collected some of her frozen blood. I trudged through the snow to where 926 had been born, and where I had seen her play with her pups, and left her remains there. I did it for her family, but mostly I did it for her. She deserved to come back home.

Rick McIntyre worked for the National Park Service in Yellowstone National Park as a naturalist and wolf researcher from 1994 through early 2018. His forthcoming book The Rise of Wolf 8: Witnessing the Triumph of Yellowstone’s Underdog will be published by Greystone Books in October.

Body of Dead Vaquita Porpoise Found as Report Says Only 10 Left

MARCH 19, 2019 / MODIFIED MAR 19, 2019 12:26 P.M.

The critically endangered marine mammal found in the Sea of Cortez is in danger of extinction due to illegal fishing nets.

Sea ShepherdThe Sea Shepherd pulls an illegal fishing net from the water in the vaquita refuge area. On March 12, 2019, the crew found a net with what they believe was a dead vaquita marina porpoise entangled in it.

Petey Crawford/Sea Shepherd
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Activists found what they believe to be the body of a critically endangered porpoise in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez last week. It’s the first vaquita marina that has been found dead so far this year.

Patrolling Vaquita VIEW LARGER The activist crew aboard the Sea Shepherd’s patrol ship in the Sea of Cortez hauls in an illegal net that ensnared what appeared to be a vaquita marina porpoise on March 12, 2019. (Carolina Castro/Sea Shepherd via Fronteras Desk)

Crew members aboard Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s patrol ship in the Sea of Cortez discovered the dead vaquita marina porpoise tangled in an illegal fishing net.

The nets are used to catch a large fish called the totoaba that is valuable on the black market in China. But they also trap and drown the vaquita marina, the world’s smallest and most endangered marine mammal.

Scientists identified the dead marine mammal found in the net on March 1 as a vaquita based on its appearance and physical structure, said Eva Hidalgo, Sea Shepherd science coordinator.

“Everybody agrees that it looks like a vaquita,” she said.

Dead vaquita VIEW LARGER Sea Shepherd recovered the body of what appears to be a dead vaquita marina from an illegal totoaba fishing net in the Sea of Cortez on March 12, 2019. (Carolina Castro/Sea Shepherd via Fronteras Desk)

However, because there was no head and the body had been damaged, Sea Shepherd turned the animal over to Mexican authorities who are expected to confirm that it’s a vaquita with genetic testing.

While finding the dead porpoise is tragic, Hidalgo said, it also brings volunteers fighting to protect the little porpoise some hope.

“It shows us that they are still out there and we can still save them and protect them,” she said.

There are likely only 10 vaquitas left in the Sea of Cortez, according to a new report released last week from the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA).

“You’re dealing with a very critical and urgent situation,” said D.J. Schubert, a wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute. “It’s not hopeless, and it’s very important that people realize it’s not hopeless. But unless the illegal trade in totoaba is stopped, unless we can clean the illegal nets out of the upper gulf of Mexico, the vaquita doesn’t stand a chance.”

The Animal Welfare Institute is one of many organizations working to pressure the Mexican government and the international community to crack down illegal totoaba fishing and trafficking.

The last time CIRVA released a report about the number of vaquitas in 2016, there were an estimated 30 remaining. There were an estimated 60 left the year before that and nearly 600 in the late 1990s, according to data from CIRVA.

dead vaquita 2 VIEW LARGER What appears to be the body of a vaquita marina recovered by Sea Shepherd in the Sea of Cortez on March 12, 2019. The animal was caught in an illegal totoaba fishing net. (Carolina Castro/Sea Shepherd via Fronteras Desk)

“What’s really sad about this situation is that everybody knows. Everybody knows what’s causing the extinction of the vaquita,” Schubert said.

But he and others believe not enough has been done to curb cartel-backed totoaba smuggling operations. He said new Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador needs to make the vaquita a priority or the species will very likely go extinct under his administration.

But while it’s clear the vaquita’s situation is dire, Schubert said, there’s still hope the species can recover if the remaining animals are protected.

Hidalgo of Sea Shepherd agreed.

“What’s important, I think, is that the report shows that there is still hope,” she said. “There are still enough animals out there that if we fight it hard enough to protect them from the nets, they still have a chance.”

Fronteras Desk
This story is from the Fronteras Desk, a collaboration of Southwestern public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Fronteras Desk.

Elephants Live Longer in the Wild, Study Shows

Exposing the Big Game

Elephants have a much longer lifespan in the wild than in captivity, according to a new study from Science.

The study, which compared female African elephants in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park with those in zoos, found that the wild elephants lived three times as long on average, surviving to a median age of 56 years compared with 17 years for elephants living in captivity. The findings were similar for Asian elephants kept in captivity to support the logging industry.

Common health problems for elephants in zoos include herpes, tuberculosis, arthritis, and obesity. The effect of captivity on this highly intelligent, social and wide-ranging species also likely has psychological effects, as sometimes evidenced by unusual aggressiveness or repetitive behaviors.

The findings of this study highlight the importance of implementing conservation strategies that ensure elephants and other species have the space and resources they need to…

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Trump’s Sons Entrusted Hunting Retreat to Undocumented Immigrant

Carlos Barria/Reuters

Juan Quintero, an undocumented worker, was employed by the Trump family for over 18 years and was so trusted by the powerful family that he had two jobs for them. Until recently, he was employed as a groundskeeper at the Trump National Golf Club and worked as caretaker of the Trump sons’ hunting retreat Leather Hill Preserve.

In January, Quintero lost his golf course job, after almost two decades of employment, as part of a purge of undocumented workers from Trump’s businesses amid revelations that the company relied on illegal labor for years. The Trumps employed many undocumented workers well into Donald Trump’s presidency.

“All of the years you give them, and they just let you go,” Quintero said in a recent interview. “They do not say, ‘Let’s do something, let’s try to help you.’ They simply said, ‘Your documents are not valid,’ and that is it.” Quintero said he never directly told the Trumps about his immigration status, but remained employed at the retreat after not providing owners with a Social Security number. His close relationship with the Trumps demonstrates that despite the family’s repeated vilification of undocumented immigrants, they knowingly relied on such low-wage, undocumented labor.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/trumps-sons-entrusted-hunting-retreat-to-undocumented-immigrant

RACCOON BEATING IN OCEAN COUNTY COULD BAN TEENS FROM BUYING TRAPS

LACEY — Following the baseball-bat beating of a raccoon on video last year, a lawmaker wants to ban the sale of traps to teenagers.

In the video posted to the Ocean County Scanner News website in December, a raccoon caught in a steel trap is smashed at least eight times by an aluminum baseball bat.

“Hit ’em, hit ’em, hit ’em,” one teen says to the other, who strikes the critter in the head as it hisses.

Toward the end of the video, the creature twitches.

“You see that animal cry out in pain,” state Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, said.

The horror he said he felt watching the “gruesome” video went beyond the borders of his district, prompting him to introduce Senate bill  S3611, which would ban the sale of traps to anyone under the age of 18.

“I don’t think minors should be trapping animals, especially without adult supervision. When you’re under 18, your mind is still maturing,” Gopal said.

In the Lacey case it was not clear who set the trap.

“A lot of FBI studies and investigative studies have shown that usually young men and women who have tendencies to abuse animals at an early age can get some [violent] tendencies later in life,” Gopal said.

He cited Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who killed 17 people last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, as an example of someone with a history of animal abuse.

“I had a lot of residents in the Forked River area contact me and say ‘I know the law says we can’t know more about these two young men but I feel we might be seeing them on the news in a few years so there should be some protection.'”

Gopal said that he is not against hunting but believes that a more humane way should be found for trapping and suggested lethal injection as an option.

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer in February said he is “keenly aware” of the public outcry over the video but cannot reveal the outcome of the investigation because juveniles are involved.

“As a matter of law, by statute, information concerning juveniles shall be strictly safeguarded from public inspection and dissemination. This office, as the chief law enforcement agency of Ocean County, would be violating the very law we are sworn to uphold if we were to comment on an investigation involving juveniles,” Billhimer said in an email.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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