Many of the West’s native carnivores including mountain lions, coyotes, and black bears are threatened by habitat loss and overkill. Generally, these native carnivores enjoy no federal protections; even the federal government wages war on them using our taxpayer dollars.
When it comes to native carnivores, many state wildlife agencies hold little regard for the best available science and ignore most people’s values, which strongly favor native carnivore conservation. WildEarth Guardians watchdogs federal and Western state agencies to ensure their policies and practices allow for healthy populations of native carnivores to thrive.
WildEarth Guardians promotes respect for coyotes and other wildlife, and actively advances public education about coexisting with wild carnivores including wolves, black bears, coyotes, cougars, grizzlies, lynx, and wolverines to keep both humans and animals safe.
The “song dogs” of the West, coyotes face persecution from government agents and barbaric killing contests across the West. Despite the assault, coyotes are resilient: when indiscriminately killed, oftentimes more of the surviving coyotes breed and 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 small mammals, birds and other animals.
WildEarth Guardians promotes common sense, non-lethal approaches to coyote management. We are making progress in our work to end lethal poisoning, trapping and aerial gunning campaigns against these essential carnivores. Guardians is also a leading voice in advocating for the end of horrific killing contests on our public lands. Killing contests are cruel events in which participants are awarded prizes for killing the most animals in a given time and place. Such immoral displays of carnage have no place on our public lands and we are working to protect essential native carnivores, like coyotes, from such slaughter-fests.
Arguably the West’s most “badass” carnivore, the wolverine is able to scale 9,000+ foot mountain peaks and maintains an average home range of over 150 square miles. Unfortunately, only 250-300 wolverines remain in the lower-48 states, and the species needs our help to ensure it will remain a part of our alpine landscapes. 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 high elevation habitat will remain suitable for wolverines even with anticipated climate change impacts. Guardians is working hard to ensure wolverines remain in the North American West. We are currently challenging the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s 2014 decision not to list the contiguous U.S. population of wolverine under the Endangered Species Act. And, in summer 2015, we prevailed in ensuring that Montana’s wolverines will not be caught in cruel traps by extending the ban on wolverine trapping in the state. Learn more about wolverines and WildEarth Guardians’ efforts to protect them.
Canada lynx are an iconic species of the high mountain regions of the West. Known for their beauty, these medium-sized cats have long ear tufts and large snowshoe-like feet. Lynx’s primary prey is the snowshoe hare. Despite our success in getting the species listed under the Endangered Species Act as “threatened” throughout its entire North American range, Canada lynx remain threatened by trapping, logging, roads, motorized recreation and the impacts of climate change.
WildEarth Guardians is working to protect these rare cats throughout their Rocky Mountain habitat. In summer 2015, we successfully settled litigation resulting in increased restrictions on trapping in lynx habitat in Montana. Our similar suit seeking better protections for lynx from trapping in Idaho is moving forward. We are also challenging the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s “critical habitat” designation for lynx for the agency’s failure to include the species’ essential Southern Rockies range.
With only 109 wild Mexican wolves (also known as “lobos”) in the southwestern wilds of New Mexico and Arizona, Mexican wolves are one our nation’s most endangered carnivores. WildEarth Guardians is actively working to ensure the lobo is fully restored across the southwestern landscape, including opposing state government attempts to obstruct reintroduction efforts for imperiled lobos.
In summer 2015, we challenged the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s revised rule designating the last remaining Mexican wolves in the wild as non-essential to species’ recovery. The Service’s new rule also places an arbitrary cap on the wild Mexican wolf population of just over 300 animals, sets unscientific politically-based geographic boundaries on wild wolves’ ability to roam, and allows for the increased killing of endangered lobos by government officials and private landowners. Our lawsuit seeks to overturn the parts of the management rules that will thwart Mexican wolf recovery efforts.
Guardians is also challenging the Department of Justice’s harmful “McKittrick Policy,” which allows hunters to get away with the killing of endangered species, such as lobos, by claiming they did not know the animal they were shooting was a protected species. We will see to it that the howls of essential lobos are once again heard across the Southwest.
The Endangered Species Act has protected the West’s iconic grizzly bear since 1975. After being largely exterminated from their native habitats by the 1950s, grizzly populations are slowly on the path to recovery. However, many populations continue to face threats resulting from the negative impacts of roads and development in their remaining habitat and climate impacts to key food sources, as well as illegal poaching.
Despite scientific evidence showing grizzlies are clearly benefitting from the protections being afforded to them by the Endangered Species Act, federal and state wildlife agencies are planning to remove grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone area from the federal list of endangered and threatened species. WildEarth Guardians is keeping a close eye on grizzly recovery efforts and projects affecting grizzly habitat––such as federal sheep grazing allotments––and will ensure that these great bears receive the protections they need to fully recover.
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, which can result in conflicts with humans and high levels of bear mortality. With development comes roads, and roads spider-webbing into once pristine habitat make it easier for hunters and poachers to kill bears and lead to vehicle-bear collisions. Climate change may especially affect hibernating species such as black bears because changing temperatures impact food sources and biological responses.
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 seeds and nutrients and foster 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 reproduce slowly and are vulnerable to over-exploitation. A Colorado study showed that female bears 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. Guardians will continue to fight for black bears in states like New Mexico, which recently increased the black bear hunting quota across the State by 25%, despite the lack of scientific data to support such a dramatic increase.
Mountain lions (also known as cougars, pumas, or panthers) are integral to the health of Western ecosystems. Mountain lions once boasted the broadest geographic distribution of any terrestrial mammal––except humans––in the Western hemisphere. However, because of human persecution due to exaggerated fears, mountain lions now inhabit only a fraction of their historic range. Today, the greatest threats to mountain lion conservation come from habitat loss and overhunting for sport––mountain lions are hunted in great numbers in all Western states except California as a “trophy” animal.
WildEarth Guardians has worked hard to protect female cougars––the species’ biological bank account––and their dependent kittens by pressuring states to adopt online hunter education to assist hunters in determining the sex of the animal before a kill, and by limiting the number of allowable female takes. Because of our work, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico adopted online hunter education programs.
Guardians has educated members of the public about cougars’ natural history to reduce the likelihood of conflicts with humans, pets, or livestock as well. We will continue to challenge proposed cougar extermination campaigns by states, such as New Mexico and Oregon, and are leading efforts to end trapping of cougars and other animals on our public lands.
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