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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 770, April 16, 2015

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New Death Tally for Wildlife Services: 2.7 Million Animals in 2014

Black bear cubThe U.S Department of Agriculture's misnamed "Wildlife Services" program apparently has no interest in changing its deadly ways. New data reveals this secretive program killed more than 2.7 million animals during fiscal year 2014. Despite increasing calls for reform, the program last year wiped out 322 gray wolves; 61,702 coyotes; 580 black bears; 305 mountain lions; 796 bobcats; 22,496 beavers and nearly 3,000 foxes.

It's an ugly killing campaign carried out every week of the year with aerial snipers, exploding poison caps and cruel traps. The Center for Biological Diversity is pushing for a sweeping reform of this rogue program, which is also under investigation by the Agriculture Department's inspector general.

"Wildlife Services continues to thumb its nose at the growing number of Americans demanding an end to business as usual," said the Center's Amy Atwood. "This appalling and completely unnecessary extermination of America's wildlife must stop."

Read more in our press release.

California's Mendocino County Suspends Contract With Wildlife-killing Program

CoyoteAround the same time that the USDA's Wildlife Services released its kill data for 2014, California's Mendocino County -- under pressure from the Center and allied groups -- suspended the renewal of its contract with the federal wildlife-killing program.

The county's decision came after the coalition and a local resident sued it last fall for violating state law, requiring a full review of impacts of its Wildlife Services contract. In response, the county agreed on Monday to suspend its contract, pending an environmental review that will include looking at nonlethal predator-control methods. Mendocino County's previous $142,000 contract authorized Wildlife Services to kill hundreds of coyotes, bears, bobcats, foxes and other animals in the county without assessing the ecological damage or reviewing less deadly alternatives.

Get more from KCET News.

On Anniversary of Oil Disaster, Obama Pushing More Offshore Drilling

Deepwater Horizon oil spillMonday marks the fifth anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people, unleashed the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and also killed hundreds of thousands of dolphins, birds and other wildlife. So have we learned our lesson about the dangers of offshore drilling? Apparently not.

The Obama administration is pushing for more drilling off America's coasts, including in the Arctic and along the Atlantic Coast. Next week the administration will hold a hearing in Florida on the use of deafening seismic blasts to find and map oil off the Atlantic Coast. Seismic surveys use noise as loud as jet engines to map the ocean floor by blasting airguns nearly nonstop for days, weeks and even months on end.

The Center is organizing a rally in opposition to these seismic blasts, which could harm as many as 130,000 animals. Read more about our work to halt offshore drilling.

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Four Species Clear First Hurdle to Endangered Species Act Protection

Alaskan yellow cedarFour species -- a fish, a snail, a turtle and a tree -- moved closer to Endangered Species Act protection this week in response to legal work by the Center and allies when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed with us that they may warrant protection.

The Clear Lake hitch, a large minnow that lives in Northern California, is threatened by dewatering and drought; the Mohave shoulderband snail is threatened by an open-pit gold mine in its desert home; the western pond turtle, a mostly river-dwelling species in Washington, Oregon and California, is threatened by habitat destruction caused by agriculture and development. And the yellow cedar, threatened by climate change and logging, would be the first Alaska tree species protected by the Act.

The species' futures will be decided within the next year.

Read more about the yellow cedar victory in the Los Angeles Times, and get details on the other three species (plus some wins for even more imperiled species) at KCET News.

Win for Bees and Other Pollinators: Lowe's to Stop Selling Neonicotinoids

BumblebeeIn response to work by Friends of the Earth, along with allies including the Center, the national home-store chain Lowe's has committed to eliminating neonicotinoid pesticides -- toxic chemicals that are contributing to alarming honeybee declines -- from its stores. The company will phase out the dangerous pesticides as alternatives become available.

"We are pleased Lowe's is listening to consumer concerns and to the growing body of science telling us we need to move away from bee-toxic pesticides by taking steps to be part of the solution to the bee crisis," said Lisa Archer of Friends of the Earth. "Bees are canaries in the coalmine for our food system and everyone, including the business community, must act fast to protect them."

The Center has already helped to get neonics banned in the 150-million-acre national wildlife refuge system and, most recently, in the city of Portland, Ore. We're also fighting the approval of new neonics in court and working with a diverse coalition urging the White House Pollinator Task Force to take decisive action to protect our bees, butterflies and hummingbirds from these dangerous insecticides.

Read more about our Environmental Health program.

Your Plate vs. the Planet -- Remember to Take Our Survey

Cows grazingCan we talk about what you're eating? Every time you take a bite, you're making a decision that ends up having a big influence on not just your health -- but the health of the planet, too. The average American diet continues to include quantities of meat that many experts have called wildly unsustainable -- not only for our water and our climate but also for the habitat needed by wolves, grizzlies and other wildlife.

We at the Center want to know what your food choices are. So on Monday we put together a brief survey to find out. We know conversations about food choices are often challenging and controversial. But we've never shied away from tough issues when it comes to protecting life on Earth -- from wolves and birds to, well, you.

If you've already taken our short, confidential survey, thank you. But if you haven't done it yet, please act now to help make sure our campaigns around food systems and the meat industry continue to be effective and hard-hitting.

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Suit Launched to Save East Coast Seabird From Offshore Oil Drilling

Black-capped petrelThe black-capped petrel, a cliff-dwelling seabird surviving in just a few colonies off the Atlantic Coast, was once believed to be extinct -- and could soon get there if Big Oil has its way. Oil companies are champing at the bit to drill in its last foraging habitat offshore, so the Center has filed a notice of intent to sue challenging the feds' failure to decide whether this bird receives Endangered Species Act protection.

The Obama administration recently opened the Atlantic Coast to seismic exploration activities for oil and gas, is reviewing 10 applications for drilling permits, and has proposed to offer an area off the mid-Atlantic for drilling in its five-year plan for offshore oil leases. The black-capped petrel is especially vulnerable to possible oil spills because it's nocturnal, with an attraction to oily surfaces.

But the Fish and Wildlife Service still hasn't made a decision on a petition to protect it filed back in 2011. The Center announced Monday we'll sue if the agency doesn't respond within two more months.

Get more from the Haiti Sentinel.

Wild & Weird: Bobcat Goes Fishing for Shark

Bobcat with sharkBobcats are opportunistic predators with a diet including rabbits, gophers, squirrels, rats, small birds, reptiles, the occasional domesticated pet -- and, when given the right opportunity, even deer. But apparently some bobcats aren't satisfied with those menu options.

A recent photo at Sebastian Inlet State Park in Vero Beach, Fla., captured a bobcat dragging a 3- to 4-foot-long shark out of the surf for a snack.

National Geographic's Photo Editor Ken Geiger scrutinized the image and said it appears to be authentic. A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission concurred. Check out the photo and read more at National Geographic.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Black bear cub courtesy Flickr/Bob Jagendorf; coyote courtesy Flickr/Larry Lamsa; Deepwater Horizon oil spill courtesy Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy; wolves by John Pitcher; Alaskan yellow cedar by Walter Siegmund, GNU; bumblebee courtesy Flickr/Will Marlow; cows grazing courtesy Flickr/Pic Basement; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; black-capped petrel courtesy Flickr/cotinis; bobcat with shark by John Bailey.

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