In a political culture where bipartisan legislation is a rare species, lawmakers in one state have come together to agree major new conservation efforts that will help that other endangered animal – the Florida panther.
The big cat, whose habitat has a history of being swallowed up and its numbers hunted by humans, is expected to benefit from a $400m cash boost.
Legislation recently passed in Florida with unanimous support will boost protected land and expand “wildlife corridors” running almost the length of the state.
Conservationists believe the bill has a good chance of being signed when it reaches the desk of the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, ready to go into effect on 1 July.
The bulk of the spending will be set aside to protect wildlife corridors under the Florida Forever land conservation program, creating a network of undeveloped public and private patches of land so animals can safely cross the state, a local CBS affiliate reported.
Expanding protected territory will help the threatened panther roam more freely and safely, as well as helping other wildlife, such as bears and plant life, with connected land “spanning from the Florida Bay in the south to the Georgia and Alabama borders”, Tori Linder, managing director for advocacy group Path of the Panther, said.
She added: “A connected corridor will help farmers and ranchers, will foster tourism and outdoor recreation, and help protect our vital natural resources like our springs and our wildlife, including the Florida panther.”
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida panther is “the only known breeding population of puma in the eastern United States”.
In order to be taken off the danger list, the Florida panther needs three established populations and sufficient habitat to support those animals.
“Landscape connectivity is essential for wide-ranging species like the Florida black bear and the panther,” Linder said, adding: “In the case of the Florida panther, you have a big cat making a recovery in a time where big cats around the world are really in decline. The Florida Wildlife Corridor helps ensure the habitat is protected for the species in perpetuity.”
But risks remain. The leading cause of death for Florida panthers is currently vehicular collision, and Linder says the second leading cause of death is territorial dispute with other panthers, exacerbated by lack of habitat.
Other animals that experts predict would benefit from expanded wildlife corridors include the Key deer, the Florida manatee and loggerhead sea turtles.
According to the non-profit organization Florida Wildlife Corridor, the passageway would encompass nearly 17m acres. About 10m acres are already protected, while another 6.9m of unprotected acres are made up of working farms and ranches. And 992 named rivers and streams cross the area, which also includes 5,170 miles of trails.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act passed with a 115-0 vote in the Florida state house and with a 40-0 vote in the state senate late last month.
Lawmakers voted to allot $100m to Florida Forever, the state’s conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, and agreed to put $300m from federal stimulus funding towards conservation.
Linder says she is optimistic the governor will sign the legislation, noting that the act is the result of the “actions of hundreds of people” over a number of years, including artists, conservationists, farmers, fisherman, mapmakers and scientists.
In February, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission (IDFG) announced a proposal to extend the season for wolf hunting and trapping across the state on public and private land. The IDFG offered a total of seven hunting proposals and eight trapping proposals.
In general, the proposals aim to extend all hunting and trapping opportunities, including to:
Allow year-round wolf trapping on private land
Establish a 12-month wolf hunting season statewide
Allow use of snares in some hunting units, including the hunting units that border Yellowstone National Park
Allow trapping on public lands in southwestern and southern Idaho
IDFG is accepting public comment on the proposals through February 25, 2021. It only takes a few minutes to comment and your efforts will have a profound impact on Idaho wolves.
How to Comment
Review these instructions and then click the button to comment.
Under the blue banner Proposals and Comment Period, click on the blue Browse all Proposals button.
In the Comment Opportunities section, under Species, select Gray Wolf from the drop down list and click the blue Apply button.
Click the blue Review and Comment button in the first row.
Scroll down to the blue Proposal banner.
Select I do not support this proposal for all proposals.
Enter Comments, if desired. (Comments are optional.)
Enter your name, email and city.
Click the blue Submit button.
After clicking Submit, you will be redirected to the main proposals page. Repeat steps 1 – 8 for the remaining proposals.Comment Now
Reasons to Oppose Wolf Hunting and Trapping
Snaring is a primitive, archaic, and torturous method of killing animals.
Although snares are intended to kill the animals quickly, once snared around the neck, wolves can still live for up to two days, and in some cases beyond. Snares do not have the ability to quickly render wolves unconscious. Less than 50% of canids (wolves and coyotes) captured by the neck in killing neck snares lose consciousness within five minutes; death may come after hours or days, depending on the killing efficacy of the snare and the frequency of visits by trappers. (Proulx G., Rodtka D. 2019)
Unable to free themselves, the noose slowly cuts off blood circulation from wolf’s head to their heart; meanwhile, the carotid artery keeps pumping blood into the brain. Then the brain swells up until the wolf’s head explodes. Trappers refer these swollen heads as “jelly heads.”
If a wolf escapes, they’re still with the snare around their neck. All the while, the snare keeps slowly tightening, working its way through the hide and the flesh of the wolf.
Traps are indiscriminate, killing many non-target animals in addition to wolves.
Traps are indiscriminate, capturing those not intended for the trap, including endangered animals, pets and people, and can leave permanent physical damage to anything that gets caught. Animals suffer pain, trauma and stress when held by traps, and immobilized animals can experience dehydration, hunger, panic-induced self-mutilation, exposure to weather and predation, all of which constitute animal cruelty.
Wolves do not have a negative impact on Idaho’s elk population.
IDFG states they are expanding wolf hunting and trapping seasons in areas where “elk populations are under objective” but the state’s elk population is at near-peak levels. The current population estimate in Idaho is more than 120,000 elk, just 4% below the all-time highest count of 125,000. In 1995, the same year wolves were reintroduced to Idaho, the elk population was estimated to be 112,333.
Killing wolves leads directly to more livestock deprivation by the eradication of wolf family groups.
IDFG claims expanded hunting seasons are necessary to “reduce livestock depredations” but this has been refuted by numerous peer-reviewed studies. Researchers at Washington State University found that for every wolf killed in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming over the past 25 years, there was a 5 percent increase in the sheep and cattle killed the next year. Killing wolves causes family groups (packs) to fragment, often resulting in the targeting of easier prey (domestic livestock) rather than more challenging prey (native ungulates).
A study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that government killing of wolves can increase the risk to nearby farms, providing further evidence for the ineffectiveness of the so-called “lethal control” policy approach.
Idaho’s History of Wolf Management
Since federal protections for Idaho wolves were lifted in 2011, the state has made clear its intentions to “manage” wolves with a heavy hand. Not only does the Gem State sanction robust trophy wolf hunting/trapping seasons, it also established a state “Wolf Depredation Control Board” on which Idaho budgets $400,000 annually to exterminate wolves, often by aerial gunning, and even in wilderness areas.
The neighboring states of Montana and Wyoming closely mirror Idaho’s treatment of wolves. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is proposing to extend the wolf hunting and trapping seasons in northwestern Montana. If the proposals are approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission, they would:
– Expand the trapping season to begin the Monday after Thanksgiving and end March 15 – Allow trappers to snare wolves
In Wyoming, wolf hunting is legal 365 days a year across 85% of the state, where wolves are classified as shoot-on-sight vermin. Guns, snares, explosives, trucks, and snowmobiles – almost any form of violence is allowed to kill wolves – even mothers with young pups.
Thousands of wolves have been killed for trophy in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming since 2011. The West may be wild, but its wildlife policies are sorely lacking.
Brucella infection, or brucellosis, was once a lot more common. Many animals in the wild can carry these bacteria, as can livestock. In some countries, a common name for the disease was “goat fever”—highlighting a very common symptom and animal source. Other common signs of infection include sweating, fatigue, and weight loss. More rarely, the bacteria can invade the nervous system, causing serious inflammation in the brain and neurological symptoms like severe headaches, seizure, and changes in behavior.
Since the early 20th century, though, efforts to stamp out brucellosis have been largely successful. There’s an available vaccine for livestock, while countries like the U.S. routinely test for Brucella in cows. The process of pasteurization, which gets rid of many disease-causing bacteria in dairy products, has further lowered the risk of exposure. These days, in fact, the few cases of brucellosis in the U.S. reported annually are usually tied to people consuming raw, unpasteurized milk or cheese. But this new case study, published in BMJ Case Reports this month, suggests that hunting may be another source of infection for humans.
According to the report, the man had been dealing with fever, headache, and other nonspecific symptoms affecting various parts of his body for 11 months by the time he saw doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Given his reported love of hunting feral pigs—animals that carry their own species of Brucella bacteria—the doctors suspected and confirmed that he had neurobrucellosis. He was then given an extensive course of antibiotics orally and through IV.
The infection was successfully treated, but the man was left with some lingering neurological complications. According to study author Julio Mendez, though, he’s doing well now.
These bacteria remain a real public health danger in poorer areas of the world, where it’s difficult to vaccinate livestock or effectively control outbreaks when they happen. But the rarity of the disease in the U.S. also means that doctors here could miss diagnosing it at first, especially since its symptoms tend to be vague and resemble many other diseases. One lesson that Mendez and his team hope that other doctors take away from this report is to strongly suspect these infections in people at high risk of exposure, a group that should include feral swine hunters. Hunters should also watch out for Brucella in the wild, both during hunting (the bacteria can enter the skin through open wounds or be inhaled when in close contact with a freshly killed infected animal) and afterward.
“Hunters need to protect themselves when hunting animals and avoid eating or drinking raw or uncooked meats or unpasteurized milk, respectively,” Mendez told Gizmodo in an email.
As for the feral pigs, this is really the only latest trouble they’ve stirred up. Growing hog populations in places like Arkansas and Puerto Rico are causing property and crop destruction, as well as occasional injury to residents unlucky enough to get in their way.
TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Wildlife officials in Idaho have closed some forest areas statewide, affecting hunters and other recreationists during record-breaking fires across the West.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced closures south of Twin Falls in the Sawtooth National Forest, affecting big game hunts for hundreds with tags for deer, elk and pronghorn, the Boise State Public Radio reported.
More than 139 square miles (360 square kilometers) have burned in the region.
“Over the past decade, we’ve kind of learned to deal with it and adapt and go other places,” Backcountry Hunters and Anglers CEO Land Tawney said. The Montana-based outdoors organization focuses on protecting public lands for hunting and fishing.
“I think that’s one of the great things about public lands, in particular, is that you can pick up camp and go someplace else.”
Fires can improve landscapes and wildlife habitats but poor forest management and climate change have made fire behaviors unpredictable, Tawney said, adding that it could affect hunters even after the fire is out because of unstable trees.
“You have to worry about widowmakers from all the trees that are left,” he said, “so sometimes those have been shut down even after the fire is out.”
The U.S. Forest Service has also implemented closures this year in the Payette National Forest and the Boise National Forest because of nearby fires.
“It was a freak accident, just a freak accident,” Carsten Kiefer said.
A veteran of other alligator hunts, Kiefer shared a photo of an 11-foot gator he and his friends caught early last week. He never dreamed that while hunting at Lake Jesup in Seminole County, Florida, last Thursday he’d end up in an alligator’s jaws.
“Every now and then you get gators that are crazy, and we happened to be in a very shallow part of the lake. He was able to get ground and launch himself out of the water and doing that I kind of lost balance, and he came flying up so he could get a hold of my arm,” Kiefer said. “It’s below the elbow, a partial amputation.”
A 911 call brought much needed help.
“Once I heard the crunching, and I saw the lower part of my arm pretty much get amputated. That scared me, that’s it, that’s the end of my life as I know it,” Kiefer said.
Kiefer, who is also a paramedic, says he was lucky he had another paramedic on board.
“My friend did everything by the book, tore his belt off, made a tourniquet,” Kiefer said. “It was terrifying in the moment. Luckily my buddy who was there did everything right that he could possibly do.”
Kiefer aid he had six hours of surgery Thursday and a follow-up procedure Monday.
“I’m very blessed and I’ve been working with some of the best reconstructive surgeons I can wish for,” Kiefer said. “I have movement in all my fingers, and I do have sensation as well.”
Fish and Wildlife officials hired a trapper to remove the 12-foot gator, but it has not yet been captured.
SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A man who was alligator hunting Thursday on Lake Jesup was bitten by a gator and suffered a severe arm injury, according to Seminole County Fire Rescue.
The man was on the water hunting around 5:05 p.m. near Lake Street when the gator latched onto his arm, causing it to nearly be amputated.
According to a report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 41-year-old Carsten Kieffer was in an open motorboat with two other men when they hooked a “large” alligator and brought it alongside the boat.
“While the men were positioning the vessel and working the lines attached to the animal, the alligator jumped partially out of the water headfirst and bit the victim on the right arm,” the report read.
FWC said the gator briefly rolled while it was still latched onto Kieffer’s arm then it released and returned to the the water.
Kieffer was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center as a trauma alert patient, but his injuries are not life-threatening, officials said. The two other men on the boat were not injured.
A trap has been set for the alligator, according to wildlife officials. A report referred to the animal as “large” but didn’t provide its exact size.
Alligator hunting season in Florida began Aug. 15 and runs until Nov. 1. FWC said the men were licensed to hunt.
Black bears have historically been at the losing end when they cross paths with humans: they are hit by cars, shot by poachers and trophy hunters, often unfairly killed in the wake of human encounters and specifically targeted if there are conflicts with livestock. Photo by Sarkophoto/iStock.com
Last month, so many Floridians were shocked when the decaying body of a yearling bear cub, fondly nicknamed Bailey by members of the sprawling community that he sometimes visited, was discovered. This was an unlawful killing on its face, one that violated Florida regulations, but what was even more shocking was the manner in which Bailey had died: he had been killed with bird shot and left to bleed to a slow, agonizing death.
Bailey’s shooter, it turns out, was an experienced hunter who should have known that killing Bailey was illegal. At the very least he should have notified authorities right away after shooting the animal, which he didn’t. Among other things, his act made him a poacher.
The perpetrator has since been arrested and charged by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and we are urging the prosecutor and the commission to pursue aggravated cruelty charges against him. Florida’s legislature recently passed increased penalties for killing a black bear illegally, but in this case, the penalty–$500 in fines and/or 60 days in jail—falls too short of delivering justice.
Bailey’s case was not the only recent instance of a black bear shot illegally. In late June, a black bear in a North Carolina neighborhood was killed after he ran away from a crowd that gathered to see him and climbed a tree. Someone returned to the scene later and shot him, although wildlife officials said the bear did not pose a threat and would have left by himself eventually.
One reason we are hearing about black-bear-human interactions more than ever before is that rapid human development is encroaching into wildlife habitats. Interactions with wild animals will continue, as some species learn to adapt and even flourish in urban, suburban and exurban areas.
Bears, of course, make headlines because of how big and powerful they are. They inspire awe and fear and that is only natural; they are wild animals who should be taken seriously. But it is also important to understand that bears are naturally shy animals who avoid people. Human-bear conflicts are rare and can be minimized with a few simple and commonsense precautions, keeping both people and the animals safe.
Black bears have acute eyesight and hearing, with a sense of smell seven times greater than a bloodhound’s. They have a keen ability to detect pet food, garbage, barbecue grills and bird feeders—and once they locate a food source, they remember where it is. Steps like securing garbage bins, enclosing your compost pile, keeping barbecue grills clean and removing any other food attractants can go a long way in toward keeping bears out of your backyard.
Black bears have historically been at the losing end when they cross paths with humans: they are hit by cars, shot by poachers and trophy hunters, often unfairly killed in the wake of human encounters and specifically targeted if there are conflicts with livestock. Some states have permitted trophy hunters to kill them. Recently, I told you about Missouri, which is now trying to open its small and recovering black bear population to trophy hunters.
There is a lot that is wrong here, and it starts with the fact that these are native American carnivores, who have occupied and thrived in our nation for a very long time. Shooting them just because they show up in areas that once used to be their home is no kind of solution. We have to turn this around and quickly. Learning to coexist with these iconic mammals can lead to positive experiences for both the people and the bears. But what’s more, it will keep our nation’s ecosystems healthy and thriving for generations to come.
The black bear population dwindled to the low hundreds back in the 1970s
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Black bears, once a threatened species in Florida, will get stiffened protections against poachers, some of whom see the animals resurgence as a growing nuisance.
Gov. Ron DeSantis agreed to increase the penalties against illegal bear hunting to further deter hunters from killing the once-imperiled creatures. The bill was among a slate of 21 pieces of legislation the governor signed Saturday.
The black bear population dwindled to the low hundreds back in the 1970s, but has since come roaring back with more than 4,000 of the creatures now roaming the state.
Under the new rules, which go into effect July 1, the minimum fine for bear poaching would rise to $750 from $500. Hunting licenses could also be suspended for three years, instead of the current yearlong maximum.
Bear advocates decried the existing rules as inadequate to deter hunters. In fact, the penalties for killing turkey and deer out of season is currently more severe than killing a bear.
The rise in the black bear population — coupled with the rising numbers of humans in Florida — have led to friction, as bears and people encroach on each other’s turf.
The population explosion prompted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to draft a management plan that it said takes a scientific approach toward addressing the rising numbers.
Earlier this year, the commission decided to keep the bears off-limits to hunters, despite calls to allow them to be hunted, as part of a 10-year management plan.
The commission last authorized a hunt in 2015 — the first in more 20 years — and hunters killed 304 bears in two days.
The hunt drew criticism from animal advocates. The commission reconsidered another hunt two years ago but declined then, as it did last month, to authorize another hunt.
Sumter County sheriff’s deputies rescued a man Monday afternoon who had gotten lost while turkey hunting.
Deputies responded at about 12:41 p.m. to the area of Jumper Creek and Bear Island in Lake Panasoffkee after the hunter was unable to find his way back. They used ATVs, K-9 teams and a Polaris side-by-side and started searching the swampy wooded area.
Deputies were able to locate the man after using his last known coordinates. He wasn’t injured and suffered only minor dehydration.