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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 833, June 30, 2016

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New Map Reveals How Many Carnivores Were Killed in Your State

Bobcat graphicTexas, Oregon, Minnesota and California are the states where the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services killed the most black bears, mountain lions, wolves and bobcats in 2015, according to a new Center for Biological Diversity report.

Those are just some of the results of an interactive state-by-state map we've created of Wildlife Services kill data for 2014 and 2015 for those four key species of carnivores. The secretive federal program killed 3.2 million animals throughout the nation last year, mostly on behalf of the livestock industry and other agribusinesses.

A sample: Wildlife Services killed 121 bears and 80 mountain lions in California last year, as well as 220 wolves in Minnesota, 193 black bears in Oregon and more than 600 bobcats in Texas.

"It's repugnant that taxpayers throughout the country have to pay for the cruel destruction of animals on behalf of special interests," said the Center's Michael Robinson. "Wildlife Services resists reform and day by day is proving its incompatibility with conservation."

Read more in our press release and check out the nationwide map.

Trade Sanctions Sought Against Mexico to Save Vanishing Porpoises

VaquitaVaquitas -- small porpoises that live only in the Gulf of California -- are the world's most endangered marine mammals, with fewer than 60 left on Earth. To stop vaquitas from vanishing completely, on Tuesday the Center urged the Obama administration to take a serious step: impose trade sanctions on Mexico to halt its illegal trade in totoaba, an endangered fish. Nets for the country's totoaba fishery are the biggest threats to vaquitas' survival.

This latest Center action follows a series of steps we've taken, both in the United States and in Mexico, to save both vaquitas and totoaba from extinction. No measures taken by Mexico so far have stopped either the trade in the endangered fish or the decline of the tiny porpoise.

"The facts are simple -- Mexico's failure to stop the ongoing totoaba trade violates its treaty obligations and is killing off the vaquita," said Sarah Uhlemann, our international program director. "The totoaba and vaquita have waited too long for effective action. It's time to ban seafood imports until Mexico stops its destructive totoaba trade."

Read more in our press release.

Has Another Wolf Made It to California?

Lassen wolfThere's news about the possibility of a new wolf in California. The state wildlife department has released new evidence -- not yet conclusive -- that there may be a wolf in Lassen County. The information includes photos from four trail cameras between August and May and a hair sample from one of the sites. The fact that the animal persisted through the winter in this remote location leads agency officials to believe the animal is likely a wolf.

In late 2011 a wolf called OR-7 was the first of his kind to enter the Golden State in nearly a century -- a radio-collared wolf that dispersed to California from the Imnaha pack in the northeastern part of his home state, Oregon. He has since found a mate and has had litters of pups for three consecutive years. Another wolf family, dubbed the Shasta pack, was confirmed last year in California's Siskiyou County.

"We're crossing our fingers that another wolf has arrived in this state as part of the ongoing recovery of wolves across the West," said the Center's Amaroq Weiss. "Wolves continue to prove what scientists have said all along -- that California has great habitat for them."

Read more in our press release.

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Black Bear Hunting Defeated in Florida for 2016

Black bear snackingThe Florida black bear hunting season has been canceled for 2016 thanks to the work of the Center, our allies and passionate members of the public who traveled hundreds of miles (and waited for hours) to speak up for bears at a state commission meeting last week.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission heard hours of testimony from citizens and scientists last Wednesday and ultimately decided, by a close 4–3 vote, against a black bear hunt for 2016 (though hunts in future years are still on the table).

Last year was a deadly one for Florida black bears: About 590 out of an estimated population of 4,300 were killed by people in 2015. In March, with more than a dozen partner groups and scientists, the Center petitioned to protect Florida's black bears under the Endangered Species Act.

"Florida black bears almost blinked out of existence once before on our watch," said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center. "This is a great victory for the bears, but the fight to protect them is far from over."

Get more in this video from FOX 13.

Rare Puerto Rican Bird Gets Federal Protection -- Plus 27,000 Acres

Elfin-woods warblerThanks to a landmark settlement agreement with the Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given Puerto Rico's elfin-woods warbler Endangered Species Act protection and proposed habitat protections across more than 27,000 acres. Most of the warbler's habitat has been lost to urban and agricultural development.

The elfin-woods warbler is a 5-inch bird that was first discovered in the dwarf forests of El Yunque National Forest in the 1970s. In 2004 the Center petitioned to protect it under the Act, but it took our historic 757 species settlement, in 2011, to bring protection to the animal.

"With the help of the Endangered Species Act, the elfin-woods warbler will recover, like other Puerto Rican birds before it," said the Center's Jaclyn Lopez. "The Act has an excellent track record of increasing or stabilizing populations of birds like the Puerto Rican parrot, yellow-shouldered blackbird and Puerto Rican plain pigeon."

To date our 757 species agreement has resulted in U.S. protections for 145 species and proposed protections for another 33.

Read more in our press release.

First Large-scale Alaska Fracking Project Threatens Belugas -- Take Action

BelugaAn oil company plans to conduct the first large, multistage offshore fracking project that has ever taken place in Alaska's environmentally sensitive Cook Inlet -- putting some of the world's most endangered whales at further risk through exposure to toxic fracking chemicals and the killing or harming of their prey.

So last week the Center urged the National Marine Fisheries Service to use its authority to block those plans.

"Cook Inlet belugas already face a barrage of manmade hazards threatening their survival -- the last thing they need is offshore fracking," said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney. "If federal officials are truly committed to saving these incredible animals, they need to step in and prohibit oil companies from fracking Cook Inlet."

Of the five genetically unique beluga populations in Alaska, Cook Inlet belugas number the fewest: In recent years their population has fallen from about 1,300 to barely more than 300.

Tell the Fisheries Service to protect Cook Inlet belugas by keeping their habitat safe from toxic fracking.

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Appeals Court Urged to Reject Idaho "Ag-gag" Law

CowsThe Center and our allies at Food & Water Watch this week urged the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm a lower court's ruling that struck down an Idaho law stifling the public's access to information about industrial animal agriculture operations.

We filed a "friend of the court" brief as part of a constitutional challenge to Idaho's "ag-gag" law, which criminalizes undercover documentation of food-safety, worker-safety and animal-welfare violations inside industrial animal agricultural facilities and has a chilling effect on public speech about the conditions in these facilities.

"The public has a right to know what happens inside facilities where our food is produced, whether it's in Idaho, Iowa or anywhere else in the country," said the Center's Hannah Connor. "Health, safety and animal-welfare issues are critical in understanding how our food is made -- but that discussion can't happen if the public is kept in the dark."

Read more in our press release.

Entangled Blue Whale Found Off California Illuminates Larger Problem

Blue whaleThe nation watched this week as crews desperately tried to untangle an endangered blue whale caught in fishing line connected to a crab trap off the California coast. Officials said the whale is badly entangled, weak, and will likely die unless rescue efforts succeed. The drama played out against a larger backdrop as whale entanglements along the West Coast are on pace for another record year.

The incident with this blue whale comes on the heels of news earlier this month that there have been about 40 reports of whales entangled off this coast this year. The Center has called on crab fishermen to remove more fishing lines from Monterey Bay and other entanglement hot spots. We're also urging regulators to take swift action to address the problem, including the removal of more of the lost fishing gear that litters the coast.

Read more about the blue whale in The Orange County Register and get details on other 2016 whale entanglements in our press release.

Wild & Weird: The Bizarre Beauty of Alaska Cold-water Corals -- Watch Video

Sea penIf you close your eyes and imagine a coral reef, does your mind conjure up tropical fish and warm Caribbean waters? Maybe the smell of piña coladas? You may be surprised to learn there are coral reefs off the coast of Alaska, too -- as otherworldly as they are beautiful.

Surviving at depths from 1,700 feet to 20,000 feet below sea level in icy, cold and dark waters, Alaska corals are some of the most diverse assemblages of cold-water corals in the world. They occur in patches throughout the North Pacific and Bering Sea. High-density, lush coral "gardens" thrive off the central and western Aleutian Islands, while "forests" of red tree corals growing up to 10 feet tall are found off southeast Alaska near Sitka.

Underwater volcanoes called seamounts host a wide variety of corals in the Gulf of Alaska, and vast, submarine Bering Sea canyons are also home to coral populations. Many of the species live for hundreds or even thousands of years, growing and reproducing very slowly, in rhythm with the relatively unchanging environment of their seafloor habitat.

Watch our video of some of Alaska's amazing cold-water corals.

Kieran Suckling

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Bobcat graphic based on photo by Kevin H/Flickr; vaquita courtesy Paula Olson/NOAA; Lassen County canine courtesy California Department of Fish and Wildlife; black bear by rustybadger/Flickr; elfin-woods warbler by Mike Morel/Wikimedia; beluga courtesy NOAA; cattle by hannesebner/Flickr; blue whale courtesy NOAA; sea pen courtesy P. Malecha/NOAA.

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