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Many of the West's native carnivores such as mountain lions and black bears are threatened by habitat loss and overkill. Generally, these native carnivores enjoy no federal protections, even the federal government itself wages war on them. When it comes to native carnivores, many state wildlife agencies hold little regard for the best available science or even fail to match most people's values-which strongly favor native carnivore conservation. WildEarth Guardians watchdogs some western state agencies to ensure their policies and practices allow for healthy populations of native carnivores. WildEarth Guardians promotes respect for coyotes and other wildlife, and actively advances public education about living with wild carnivores such as coyotes, black bears, and mountain lions to keep both humans and animals safe.
Black bear habitat is disappearing due to unprecedented rates of suburban and urban growth. Because of habitat loss, bears increasingly find themselves in ex-urban areas resulting in conflicts with humans and high levels of mortality. Roads spider-webbing into once pristine habitat makes it easier for hunters and poachers to kill bears, and roads increase the opportunity for vehicle-bear collisions. A shift in global temperatures may especially affect hibernating species such as black bears.
Black bears, the third largest carnivore in North America (behind grizzly and polar bears), survive mainly on plant materials. Black bears prefer forest habitat for forage and movement. They disperse seed and nutrients and create biological diversity by creating small-scale disturbances that open up the forest canopy.
In arid climates such as Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, bears are slow to recruit new members to their populations and are vulnerable to over-exploitation. A Colorado study showed the females do not breed until they are almost five years of age, and the birth interval comes every two years-depending on sufficient food availability. Stochastic events such as food failures, droughts, or late frosts can decrease forage and increase human-bear conflicts leading to bear mortalities. Winter can add further stresses. Because black bears are not resilient due to their slow reproduction rates, they are seriously affected by habitat loss, negative encounters with humans and overkill.
The "song dogs" of the West, coyotes have long been persecuted. In response, these animals have increased their range three-fold. But coyotes are also resilient: when exploited, more of the surviving coyotes may breed, and they may produce larger litters. Important ecosystem actors, coyotes check the populations of smaller carnivores such as skunks and foxes. As a result, coyotes indirectly benefit populations of birds and other animals. WildEarth Guardians promotes and common sense, non-lethal approaches to coyote issues.
Mountain lions (also known as cougars, pumas, or panthers) are integral to the health of the West's ecosystems. Mountain lions, once boasted the broadest geographic distribution of any terrestrial mammal-except humans-in the Western hemisphere. Because of exaggerated fears, mountain lions now inhabit a fraction of their historic range. Today, the greatest threats to mountain lion conservation come from habitat loss and overhunting for sport-lions are hunted in great numbers in all Western states except California as a trophy animal.
WildEarth Guardians' strategy for ensuring proper state management of mountain lions includes:
Only a few hundred wolverines occur in the lower 48 states, and the species will need our help if they are to persist. Climate change is a primary threat to wolverines, particularly in lower elevation alpine habitat in the Northern Rockies (i.e., Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming). Experts agree that wolverines must be restored to the Southern Rocky Mountains, particularly in Colorado, where at least some habitat will remain in an era of global warming. Colorado is currently home to one male, radio-collared wolverine called “M56,” who walked from Wyoming’s Teton mountain range. His chances of finding a mate are very low. M56 needs a mate or two in order for wolverines to reclaim their place in Colorado.
Wolverines also are harmed by trapping, particularly in Montana where wolverine trapping is still allowed despite their tiny population there. Learn more about wolverines and Guardians’ efforts to protect them.
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