The Wildlifer
Issue 379 | OCTOBER 2011

IN THIS ISSUE
Ruminations from the Executive Director
2011 Conference News
Policy News
News from Headquarters
Related Wildlife News
Meetings of Interest

RUMINATIONS FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The Aliens Among Us
Michael Hutchins

“That native species should be given preference in management is a self-evident principle.”
Aldo Leopold

Introduced, exotic, or non-native species—whatever one wants to call them—are one of the most formidable challenges to contemporary wildlife and habitat conservation. These are species that humans have moved across natural barriers, such as bodies of water or mountain ranges, thereby introducing them to new habitats where they breed and disperse. Whether such introductions are purposeful or accidental, their impact on environments and the native species that evolved in them can be devastating. By some estimates, more than 90 percent of species introductions have been detrimental to native or endemic species. Once established, invasive species can prey on or compete with native species, interbreed with them (in the case of closely related organisms), transmit novel diseases, or permanently alter entire ecosystems.

The Wildlife Society (TWS) has recognized the considerable threat that exotic species pose to native wildlife and ecosystems and has developed a formal policy regarding invasive plants and animals. The guiding principle behind TWS’ policy is to “promote the maintenance of biological diversity and ecosystem integrity and oppose the modification and degradation of natural biomes by invasive species.” The Society supports “appropriate control programs of invasive species” and discourages “the further introduction of invasive species for any purpose.” It also encourages “the passing and enforcement of effective new laws and regulations at the state and federal level that would help control the spread of invasive species.”  TWS has followed up on this general policy by developing specific policies regarding several especially controversial invasive species—feral cats, horses, and pigs—which the Society views as particularly destructive to our native species and their habitats.

The Cat Crisis
Feral cats prey on migratory birds and other small animals, including threatened and endangered species such as Hawaiian crows and Key Largo woodrats. They also spread dangerous diseases to both wildlife and humans, the most problematic of which may be toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by a parasite Toxoplasma gondii, passed through cat feces. T. gondii has long been known to cause early death and fetal deformities in human infants in utero, but is now being implicated in human schizophrenia, autism, Parkinson’s disease, and possibly brain cancer (Gerhold 2011). Though the connections are not proven, correlational studies indicate that there is cause for concern, and numerous investigations are underway to further assess these risks. That being said, T. gondii infections are well-known to cause wildlife deaths, particularly in marine mammals such as sea otters (Jessup and Miller 2011). Animals such as sea otters and cetaceans are being exposed to T. gondii via run-off from feral cat colonies and landfills containing cat litter, which in is turn infecting prey species of marine mammals, particularly filter-feeders.

TWS has been attempting to educate the public and key decision makers about the conservation and human health threats posed by the growing population of feral cats in the U.S. and around the world. The problem was recently summarized in a special section of The Wildlife Society’s member magazine, The Wildlife Professional (Spring 2011) and a series of fact sheets produced by TWS’ Government Affairs Department. TWS also organized a major meeting of representatives from conservation organizations, professional and scientific societies, and federal and state agencies to discuss this issue in Washington, D.C. This resulted in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed by nearly 60 organizations asking that the DOI take this growing threat to our native species seriously. We have also begun discussing this issue with public health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control.

Vocal Opponents to Science
Given the consequences for our native habitats and wildlife, you would think there would be broad public support for TWS’ positions on non-native, invasive species. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Our stand on feral cats has generated outcry from cat-advocacy groups, particularly those that support trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs, which sustain populations of feral cats in the environment where they prey on native wildlife and spread disease. These groups have been very successful in convincing local municipalities to adopt TNR management and “no kill” shelters for feral cats, even though science shows that TNR is largely unsuccessful at reducing or eliminating feral cat populations (Longcore et al. 2009). TNR is not even good for the cats themselves, as many are hit by cars, killed by coyotes, or sickened by diseases. Even PETA—one of the most strident of animal rights groups—rejects TNR management as “inhumane.”

Like TWS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also drawing fire from cat advocacy groups.  After it became known that FWS is co-hosting a workshop on TNR at TWS’ Annual Conference in Hawaii, for example, FWS Director Dan Ashe received thousands of letters of protest from TNR supporters, some of whom may mount a public protest at the Conference itself. Such reactions speak to the passions—however misinformed—of those who put the lives of individual animals above science-based management that benefits native species and ecosystems.

Destructive Icons: Feral Horses
Just as cats inspire passionate supporters, so do iconic “wild horses” of the American West. Yet these non-native animals are destroying our western rangelands. By trampling and grazing, horses and burros can seriously damage native vegetation and wetlands, compromise water quality, and compete with native wildlife for scarce resources (Jeffress and Roush 2010). Yet activists have been successful in thwarting science-based management of feral horses and burros, the only non-native species protected by U.S. federal law.

The Wild Horse and Burro Act forces the federal government to maintain these animals, but it also gives them the authority to control populations so that damage to rangelands and native wildlife can be minimized. The Bureau of Land Management has been accomplishing this by pulling thousands of horses off of western landscapes annually and placing them in corrals, an activity that costs taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year. Horse advocacy groups want captures stopped and horses declared “native” to the United States, thus fully protected by federal law. That would be an ecological disaster: The feral horse population is growing at 20 percent a year, far beyond the land’s capacity to sustain them. At that rate, it would not take long for free-ranging horses to dominate the western landscape and to have permanent impacts on sensitive rangelands, water sources, and native species such as bighorn sheep.

Declaring horses “native” to the United States would set a precedent that would be difficult to justify from a biological perspective. Horses did evolve in North America, but went extinct during the Pleistocene along with many other animals including lions, tapirs, elephants, rhinos, and camels. The horses that currently reside in the U.S. are a mix of various breeds and the products of numerous generations of selective breeding, and thus can hardly be considered “wild” animals by any definition (Bies et al. 2011). TWS has been actively working to educate policymakers and the public about this crisis. For example, I recently testified to a Congressional Committee opposing the Corolla Wild Horse Protection Act, which would double the number of feral horses on a sensitive North Carolina barrier island—an island that also contains a National Wildlife Refuge. One of the panel members asked me, “How long do they (horses) have to be here before we give them a green card?” My answer: “It’s all about values. Do we really want to turn our national wildlife refuges into theme parks for exotic animals?”

This issue is so controversial that the federal government has assigned the National Academy of Sciences to convene a panel to look into it. Paul Krausman, TWS’ President-elect and a wildlife professor at the University of Montana, has been appointed to the panel. Yet this science-based, neutral body is now receiving blistering criticism from activists, who suggest that pro-horse representatives must be placed on the panel to achieve “balance” (Associated Press 2011). But this is intended to be a science-based endeavor, not one clouded by the emotion generated by a charismatic species. I would hope that the panel would have a broader mandate to look at the entire situation from a scientific perspective and come to some conclusion about how this country can maintain some “wild” horses while still protecting its rangelands and native wildlife and their habitats.

Problems with Pigs
Originally introduced to North America as domestic livestock and later as a game species, pigs (also called feral pigs, boar, or swine) are fast becoming among the most prolific and destructive of all invasive species. By wallowing, rooting, and trampling vegetation they are destroying habitat, property, and agricultural crops in more than 35 U.S. states. TWS supports intensive feral pig management, yet this position may place us into direct conflict with some portion of the hunting community—even though TWS supports legal, ethical hunting.

Why? Because commercial hunting operations depend on an ample population of feral pigs. I recently saw a television program showing individuals illegally releasing pigs around the country to enhance hunting opportunities. This activity would not be supported under TWS policy, which states that state and federal agencies should be encouraged to “eradicate feral swine whenever feasible.”  Some hunters may oppose the complete eradication of feral pigs, wanting this hunting opportunity to be perpetuated far into the future. That would be a mistake, as it would put hunters into direct conflict with mainstream conservationists and thus weaken the nation’s hunting heritage. Hunters could be conservation heroes if they were to help not only control but eradicate this destructive exotic.

Are Invasives All Bad?
Unfortunately, the fight to control or eradicate destructive invasive species was recently weakened by a group of ecologists led by Mark Davis of Macalester University, who suggested that some non-natives benefit their host ecosystems and that we should therefore not be “prejudiced” against them based solely on origin (Davis et al. 2011). The authors may have been making an esoteric academic point. However, this politically naive declaration was music to the activists’ ears and they immediately seized upon it as justification for their anti-management positions. Fortunately, there has been a massive backlash in the scientific community against this paper and a renewed recognition of the potential for invasive species to threaten native plants and animals (Price 2011).

Our determination of what is or is not “exotic” is going to be complicated by climate change. Some animals are likely to expand their ranges due to climate change, and such range extensions will need to be differentiated from other types of introductions. Given the size of the problem, we will also need to prioritize our efforts, seeking to control or eradicate those species that pose the greatest threat to native species or ecosystems. We must also fight for new legislation that will prevent future introductions from occurring. Last but not least, we must help train future wildlife professionals to begin to address the invasive species challenge, both from a practical and a human dimensions perspective. A failure to do so will leave us with considerably less biological diversity than we have now. Is this the legacy we want to leave our children and grandchildren?

References


Associated Press. 2011. Animal rights groups allege panel evaluating wild horse management is stacked against them. Washingtonpost.com, October 23, 2011.

Bies, L., Hutchins, M., and Ryder, T. 2011. The Wildlife Society responds to CNN report on feral horses. Human-Wildlife Interactions 5(2): 171-172.

Davis, M.A., Chew, M.K., Hobbs, R.J., Lugo, A.E., Ewell, J.J., Vermeij, G.J., Brown, J.H., Rosenweig, M.L., Gardener, M.R., Caroll, S.P., Thompson, K., Pickett, S.T.A., Stromberg, J.C., Del Tredici, P., Suding, K.N., Ehrenfeld, J.G., Grime, J.P., Mascaro, J., and Briggs, J.C. 2011. Don’t judge species on their origins. Nature 474: 153-154.

Gerhold, R. 2011. Cats as carriers of disease. The Wildlife Professional 5(1): 58-61.

Jeffress, J. and Roush, P. 2010. Lethal hoof beats: The rising toll of feral horses and burros. The Wildlife Professional 4(4): 50-55.

Jessup, D.A. and Miller, M.A. 2011. The trickle-down effect; How toxoplasmosis from cats can kill sea otters. The Wildlife Professional 5(1): 62-64.

Longcore, T., Rich, C, and Sullivan, L.M. 2009. Critical assessment of claims regarding management of feral cats by trap-neuter-return. Conservation Biology 23(4): 887-894.

Price, M. 2011. Are non-native species victims of prejudice? ScienceInsider, July 6, 2011.

Tegt, J., Mayer, J., Dunlap, J., and Ditchkoff, S. 2011. Plowing through North America: Wild pigs leave a trail of depredation and disease. The Wildlife Professional 5(2): 36-39.


2011 CONFERENCE NEWS

 Program Planner App
To assist you with your conference scheduling, we suggest you download the Program Planner App. If you have a smartphone (e.g., iPhone, Android, or Blackberry) you can download the app by using the QR code to the left or by going to this URL: http://download.abstractcentral.com/wildlife2011/index.htm.

For those who have an iPhone or iPad, you can download the app in the Apple App store; search for myitinerary.

System Recommendations:
iPhone 3GS, iPod touch (3rd generation+), and iPad with iOS 4.0 or later.
Web App: iPhone 3GS, iPod touch (3rd generation+), and iPad with iOS 4.0 or later. Most mobile devices using Android 2.2 or later with the default browser. Blackberry Torch or later device using Blackberry OS 7.0 with the default browser.


Opportunities to Meet TWS Council
The Wildlife Society Council will have its bi-annual meeting on Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm on both days. These meetings are open to members.

Also join us for Coffee with Council on Tuesday, November 8 from 7:00 am – 8:00 am. Following the Coffee with Council, an open Members Forum will take place, where TWS members are invited to make brief remarks (3 minutes) on any topic. A sign-up sheet will be provided at the door. Last year’s suggestions from members resulted in a new event at this conference, the Women in Wildlife mixer, the publication of Spanish abstracts for the latest online version of The Wildlife Professional and the successful student member sponsorship drive.

On Wednesday, November 9 from 9:00 am – 11:00 am, TWS Council will hold office hours, where members can spend time with Council members to share ideas and discuss new directions.

Conference Attire
Dress for all conference sessions and special events are “resort casual.” Since we are in a tropical region, shorts and short sleeve shirts are fine. Average temperatures will range from 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. We do recommend that you dress in layers. While it may be humid outside, the meeting rooms will be cooler. Rain is also common, although typically in short bursts  In addition, the exhibit area is open air and may be humid. If you are attending field trips, consider bringing sun block, hats, sunglasses, binoculars, water bottles, and other accessories.

Social Media
Be sure to participate in social networking prior and during The Wildlife Society Annual Conference. If you are presenting a paper or poster at the conference, let your network know about it. The Twitter hashtag for the conference is #tws2011. You are encouraged to blog about the conference on your own blog or comment on the TWS blog.

Advance registration closes at 6:00 pm EST on October 31. Onsite registration opens at 12:00 pm on November 4. For additional conference information visit wildlife.org/conference.


POLICY NEWS

Take Action

Conservation Groups Urge Reauthorization of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
On 9 September 2011 TWS, along with partner organizations representing millions of hunters and wildlife conservationists across the nation, wrote to Chairmen Barbara Boxer (D-CA) of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and Doc Hastings (R-WA) of the House Committee on Natural Resources calling for reauthorization of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). The letter emphasized the importance of NFWF as a key source of funding for voluntary, non-regulatory, on-the-ground conservation efforts that directly benefit the sporting community through improved fish and wildlife populations and hunting and angling opportunities. The Foundation partners with federal agencies and leverages public funding to garner matching monetary support for conservation projects across the country. NFWF has proven successful in these efforts, awarding more than 11,000 grants to 3,800 organizations and leveraging $490 million in federal funds into $1.6 billion for on-the-ground conservation since 1984. TWS hopes Congress will take NFWF’s success into account when considering its reauthorization.

TWS Comments on Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act
TWS wrote to Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) of the House Natural Resources Committee and Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) from the House Agriculture Committee on 19 September 2011 urging opposition of the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011 (H.R. 1581). The letter expressed concern that the Act has the potential to remove protections from millions of acres of forested land that currently serve as vital wildlife habitat and provide numerous recreational opportunities for sportsmen. H.R. 1581 would release 55 million acres of Wilderness Study Areas within the National Forest System and 7 million acres of roadless land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The release of these areas would open them for integrated management, which may include timber harvest and energy development. TWS outlined the ecological implications of exposing wilderness areas to habitat disturbance and potential overharvesting, as well as the economic impacts to the hunting and recreational industries. TWS encouraged House committee leaders to reject the legislation to prevent negative impacts to wildlife conservation on federal lands.

TWS Offers Comments on Public Lands Access Bills
On 20 September 2011, TWS sent letters to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA), National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) urging them to oppose H.R. 1444 and H.R. 2834. TWS requested that the language of these public lands access bills be amended to prevent unintended consequences that could undermine major pieces of conservation legislation such as the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the National Environmental Policy Act. The bills seek to open public lands to hunting and provide requisite access, which TWS supports. However, some language could allow actions such as road construction, logging, and motorized vehicle access on protected public lands without consideration of environmental impacts. Other consequences of the bill include a significant reporting burden for land managers, loss of agency discretion, and elimination of consideration of local circumstances in land management decisions.

TWS Submits Wild Horse and Burro Management Letter to Congress
In late July Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and 64 other Members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar concerning wild horse and burro (WHB) management. TWS, along with other wildlife conservation organizations, responded with a letter to Secretary Salazar and recently shared their response with those Members of Congress. The groups sent the letter to the signing Members to share their views and help educate and inform the Members about WHB management issues and the role of a science-based management plan.

TWS Provides Nomination for Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board
In September 2011, TWS nominated long-time member William Molini for the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board facilitated by the Department of the Interior. Molini is the former president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and since retirement has served as a member of the Wild Horse subcommittee of the Sierra Front - Northwestern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council to the Bureau of Land Management. Molini’s extensive wild horse and burro experience includes a thirty-year tenure with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, six of which he served as Director. If chosen, he will have the opportunity to provide sound, science-based advice on the management of wild horses and burros and their rangeland habitat.

TWS Joins Citizen Petition Regarding Toxic Substances Control Act
TWS and a broad base of invested organizations wrote to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson on 4 August 2011, petitioning for additional rules under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The collective organizations asked for tighter regulations on the chemical substances and mixtures used for the exploration or production of oil and gas (i.e. “E&P Chemicals”) in order to protect public health and the environment. The letter stressed the importance of accountability and transparency on the part of the manufacturers, processors, and distributers in the oil and gas industry and suggests that they be required to disclose the identity, toxicity, and health and environmental impacts of E&P chemicals used. The organizations noted the increased reports of the negative impacts of E&P chemicals on human and wildlife health as well as degradation of air, water and soil quality and urged the EPA to issue additional rules to address this threat.

TWS Opposes National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act
TWS signed on to a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee on 4 October 2011 urging members to oppose H.R. 1505, The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, sponsored by Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT). The bill, which was passed by the Republicans on the Committee along a party line vote of 26 to 17, would exempt the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) border security activities from many environmental laws designed to protect wildlife and their habitats. Waived laws could include landmark pieces of legislation such as the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act of 1964, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The bill seeks to increase DHS access to public lands along the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico and does not include a requirement to consider environmental impacts in their actions. Other signers included many partner conservation organizations as well as groups representing other sectors such as chambers of commerce, commercial ventures, and religious organizations.

TAKE ACTION

Sign Petition to Protect the Lacey Act
The Lacey Act has come under attack by deregulation activists who suggest weakening or even repealing the Act, which they feel impinges on personal freedoms and hinders businesses that import certain materials. The Lacey Act prevents illegal trafficking and importation of wildlife, fish, plants, and plant products and is responsible for the conservation of many forests that would have otherwise been subject to illegal logging. TWS is heavily involved in invasive species management and relies on the Lacey Act as a valuable tool to prevent the importation and spread of invasive species which puts American economies and ecosystems at risk. To help protect the Lacey Act from future actions to weaken it, contact your Representative or Senator and tell them to support the Lacey Act and prevent the importation of invasive species.


NEWS FROM HEADQUARTERS

Insuring the Future

Many of us have life insurance policies that have long since served their purpose. Perhaps you purchased a policy to make sure your children’s tuition needs were accounted for. But now the kids are on their own and doing well. Or perhaps you have a policy your parents purchased for you years ago. These are just a few examples of how insurance policies that have outlasted their original purpose can make a wonderful gift to support the work of The Wildlife Society. Here are two ways you can make a gift of a life insurance policy:

  1. Request a change of beneficiary form from your life insurance company and make TWS a full, partial or contingent beneficiary. A gift of life insurance in this way allows you the flexibility to change your mind at any time, should circumstances—whatever they may be—dictate such a change.
  2. Sign over a fully paid policy. You will be allowed a tax deduction for such generosity.
A gift of life insurance to TWS will not only help us ensure a strong profession in the decades to come, but your life will be remembered with fondness and gratitude. To discuss a gift of life insurance or to notify us that you have already included TWS in your estate plans, email Darryl Walter at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or call him at (301) 263-6000.

 

RELATED WILDLIFE NEWS

IV International Wildlife Management Congress
Call for Papers – Online Abstract Submission is Now Open. Submit your abstract at iwmc2012.org .

The theme of the IWMC is Cooperative Wildlife Management Across Boarders: Learning in the Face of Change. 

Subthemes for the conference are:

  • Human dimensions of wildlife
  • Management and conservation
  • Professional development and training
  • Climate change
  • Wildlife health and disease
  • Wildlife population management
  • Invasive species
  • Endangered species recovery
  • Trans-border cooperation and conservation
  • Natural resource use and sustainability
  • Habitat restoration, modification and stewardship


  

MEETINGS OF INTEREST

4th International Human-Bear Conflicts Workshop
This is a professional development workshop for people working to manage and prevent human-bear conflicts.  The workshop format is interactive and emphasizes group participation. The first day will include formal presentations while the following days will center on panel discussions, workshops, and break-out groups. Experienced wildlife professionals will present topics such as: (1) conducting bear research in today’s world; (2) community-based approaches to bear conflict management; (3) increasing the effectiveness of communication and outreach strategies; and (4) approaches to managing both people and bears.

Please visit cfc.umt.edu/humanbearconflicts for more information about registration, accommodations, deadlines, and abstract submission. Abstracts must be submitted by January 15, 2012. The Workshop will be at the DoubleTree Hotel in Missoula, Montana, March 20-22, 2012. To receive the early registration fee of $80/person or $40/student, please register no later than February 21, 2012.  

The 68th Annual Northeast Fish & Wildlife Conference will be held Sunday, April 15 - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at the Charleston Marriott Town Center in Charleston, West Virginia. The conference theme is: Celebrating 75 Years of Success: A Partnership for America's Fish & Wildlife.  The Plenary Session will focus on major accomplishments of the Wildlife and Sport Fishing Restoration Program from state, federal and industry perspectives. For conference and program details: neafwa.org/index.html

2012 Annual Winter Meeting TWS Virginia Chapter
Invasive Species Management: a waste of money or a sound public investment? February 7-8, 2012 at the Airfield 4-H Conference Center in Wakefield, VA. The deadline for abstract submission is December 31, 2011. Please submit your abstracts to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . We look forward to seeing you in February! 
 


Remember to check the TWS online calendar for a full list of meetings of interest from TWS Sections, Chapters, and Workings Groups, as well as from other organizations.

 
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