Killing Games: Wildlife in the Crosshairs Minnesota Premiere!

The days of industrial scale hunting might seem like something from a bygone era. Surely, we’ve evolved as a nation? Think again. Odds are there’s an event planned this weekend in a town near you where wildlife will be slaughtered en masse.

Across the country, barbaric contests aptly called “killing contest” are pegged as family fun where even Jr. can nab a defenseless critter for the chance to win a prize, more often than not a trophy or ribbon not unlike one you’d get at a county fair.

At these events, participants point, aim, and fire at anything that moves to rack up the most, the heaviest, the smallest: the superlatives are as endless as they are cruel. What’s worse is this isn’t the subsistence hunting or fair chase associated with ethical sportsmen. It’s killing for no other reason than slaughter.

One of the leaders in the effort to stop this unethical treatment of native wildlife is Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote, a predator education non-profit that seeks to teach the general public about coexistence strategies for both predators and people.

For the past 10 years Camilla and her cohorts at Project Coyote have fought for the rights of native species to live in peace alongside us. And in doing so, a nascent movement to get states to ban wildlife killing contests has gained traction. Allies include a diverse mix of ranchers, scientists, conservationists, and everyday citizens who care about wildlife.

Through various programs that include community education, partnerships with farmers, and wildlife advocacy in the halls of government, Project Coyote has helped turn the tide against the unabated exploitation of wildlife. But it’s not easy.

“The view that wildlife is here for our exploitation, for our recreational and commercial use is at the base of practices like killing contests,” Fox tells me over the phone. “And until we change that fundamental perspective of viewing wild animals as something that we can kill in unlimited numbers for fun and prizes, we won’t really be getting at the base core problem…”

Attacking that problem will require a mix of tactics, ranging from advocacy to legal action, all of which Fox is poised to use in an effort to bring awareness to how we as a country mismanage wildlife. One of her most recent projects includes the production of an award winning documentary style film called Killing Games, Wildlife in the Crosshairs.

The film is shot through the lens of those most affected by predator contests – coyotes. While they are the focus, however, the film employs a host of narratives from stakeholders, like ranchers Becky Weed and Keli Hendricks, who want to see an end to killing contests.

With reason and raw emotion, storytellers give voice to the voiceless through science-based data and personal anecdotes. The result is a film that offers a compelling mix of stories that both pull at your heart strings and offers an alternative way to view and live with predators.

“I look at killing contests as an exercise in cruelty”, says Michael Soule, a Project Coyote science advisory board member, in the film. “Why would you want to kill creatures just for the fun of it? We’re talking about mammals, animals that have a pretty high level of consciousness. They’re aware of what’s happening to them and that means they suffer.”

The victims are often some of our countries most important species – coyotes, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, and sometimes even wolves.

Proponents will tell you that they’re managing pests, helping ungulate populations, and reducing conflicts with wildlife. But all of these reasons have been debunked by peer reviewed studies. And some studies show that indiscriminately killing coyotes can actually have the opposite effect.

But research and organizations like the Human Society of the United States say otherwise.

“Research suggests that when aggressively controlled, coyotes can increase their reproductive rate by breeding at an earlier age and having larger litters, with a higher survival rate among the young,” reports the HSUS website. “This allows coyote populations to quickly bounce back, even when as much as 70 percent of their numbers are removed.”

So in effect, wildlife killing contests may actually create more problems than they purport to solve. In addition, by killing predators, the participants are destroying ecosystems that predate our existence and time on this continent.

While wildlife killing contests have been happening in the shadows of America since the late 50’s, the advent of social media has brought them and their participants into the wider public view. And many aren’t pleased by what they see.

“There’s no justification for this other than … the cheap exploitation of human power and weaponry over defenseless animals”, says Project Coyote advisory board member Peter Coyote in Killing Games. “That’s not sport. That’s just massacre.”

By highlighting ethical ways to manage and live with wildlife, the film shows how our current system is woefully lacking. Scenes are replete with beautiful stories from ranchers and scientists who work with community members to reshape the narrative around predator management. Their focus is on one that includes a host of non-lethal techniques like using guard dogs, fladry, and range riders to deter predation.

As the film also wonderfully captures how key native predators are to the ecosystems in which they inhabit. They keep environments healthy by managing rodent populations and keeping grazers in check.

“All of these carnivores, … they all have their particular niches to maintain the health of ecosystems,” says veterinarian, bioethicist, and author Michael W. Fox (also Camilla’s father). “When they are disrupted, when they are exterminated, ecosystems change.”

This change often has a decremental impact on other species and the environment overall and some states have taken notice. Project Coyote scored a big win in 2014 when California, their home state, prohibited the awarding of prizes or other inducements for the killing of non-game and furbearing animals as part of a contest, derby or tournament. This ban covers not just coyotes, but also bobcats, foxes and raccoons who are often targeted in killing contests.

Since then, the momentum has only increased. Last year Vermont banned coyote killing contests. New Mexico followed up this year by doing the same. And most recently Arizona Game and Fish passed a rule that would ban killing contests as well.

The goal of the film is to call attention to the shadowy business of killing contests while building on the success of bans at the state level. But the ultimate goal is to inspire grassroots action to ban this bloodsport nationwide.

And this is where you come in. If you want to get involved, Fox offers a number of suggestions to voice your concerns. One of the lowest hanging fruits is commenting in the comments section online. If you’re really looking to speak up, write letters to the editors of the major news outlets in your area to express your opposition. And for those that are ready to role their sleeves up, you can write letters to your state legislature, governor’s office, and state fish and game commission encouraging a ban of wildlife killing contests.

More than exposing wildlife killing contests for their cruelty and pointlessness, the film offers a chance for you to learn about what’s happening in your backyard.

If you’re in the Great Lakes area this week, come check out the Minnesota premier of Killing Games this Wednesday, July 24th at 7pm at the Landmark Edina Cinema, in Edina, Minnesota, just outside Minneapolis. The screening will be hosted by Rachel Tilseth, herself, and is a part of the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Purchase tickets here .

Additionally, Camilla and colleagues from the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests will be part of a post panel discussion to answer questions, hear your thoughts, and talk to you directly about wildlife killing contests and how to stop them.

To learn more about Project Coyote and the film, please visit http://www.projectcoyote.org/

Opinion: A once-proud conservation group has lost its way

By Dave Stalling August 31, 2012 Opinion: High Country News

Recently, (2012) the family of Olaus J. Murie demanded that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation cancel the organization’s Olaus J. Murie Award. The surprising reason? The foundation’s “all-out war against wolves is anathema to the entire Murie family.”

Wolf chasing elk, Yellowstone National Park. Before the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone there was an over population of elk. Wolves have now reduced the numbers greatly. Copyright Daryl L Hunter Wolf chase, the story http://daryl-hunter.net/wolf-chase

I sympathize with the family’s position for several reasons. In 1999, while working for the Elk Foundation, I created the Olaus J. Murie Award, with the coordination and the approval of the Murie family. The award recognized scientists working on behalf of elk and elk habitat and was given in the name of Olaus J. Murie because he is widely considered the “father” of modern elk research.

Murie, who did groundbreaking work at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in the 1940s, also wrote Elk of North America, the first comprehensive and scientific treatise on elk and elk management.

During most of its 28-history, the Elk Foundation and its more than 185,000 members, who are primarily hunters, avoided controversy. Instead, the group focused on its mission: “To ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat.” Most of the foundation’s leaders had solid backgrounds in wildlife biology, ecology and wildlife management, and they resisted the occasional pressure from hunters to get involved in issues such as gun rights or wolf reintroduction.

“We are not a hunting organization supporting conservation; we are a conservation organization supported by hunters,” former foundation director Gary Wolfe used to say.

But starting in 2000, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s board of directors changed, many staff members were fired, and the nonprofit group went through a string of short-term directors. Then in 2007, the foundation board hired David Allen, a former marketer for NASCAR and the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, as its director. At first, it seemed that Allen would follow a path similar to former leaders.

“We are not a hunting club. We don’t intend to be a hunting club. We are a membership organization that has an overwhelming number of hunters … but we’re not doing wildlife conservation to improve our hunting,” Allen said when he took on the job. That approach did not last long.

“Wolf reintroduction is the worst ecological disaster since the decimation of bison herds,” Allen said recently, as he claimed that wolves are “decimating” and “annihilating” elk herds. “To keep wolf populations controlled, states will have to hold hunts, shoot wolves from the air and gas their dens,” he said.

When asked about the utility of predator-prey relationships, Allen explained, “Natural balance is a Walt Disney movie. It isn’t real.” Under his leadership, the Elk Foundation recently offered the state of Montana $50,000 to contract with the federal Wildlife Services agency to “aggressively” kill more wolves. “And the next step is the grizzly bear,” he said. “We’ve got bear issues with elk calves in the spring — both grizzly and black bear. We can’t have all these predators with little aggressive management and expect to have ample game herds, and sell hunting tags and generate revenue.”

This approach has not gone over well with some conservationists. Ralph Maughan, director of the Western Watersheds Project and the Wolf Recovery Foundation, said that foundation director “Allen has not only taken a strongly anti-wolf position, but he has done it taking an ‘in your face’ way to traditional conservation organizations such as those supported by Olaus Murie, which he now calls ‘extremist.’” “Allen has also expressed contempt for many of the concepts of ecology, as he seems to be moving the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation toward a single species, single value of elk (hunting) approach.”

There has been a lot of good, solid research on elk and wolf interactions, some of it funded by the Elk Foundation in years past. Most of it that shows that when wolves are restored to an ecosystem, both habitat and elk herds improve. Allen’s claims are not backed by science.

“Mr. Allen and his anti-wolf rhetoric has alienated him and his organization from many of the very organizations that have helped the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation — in subtle and profound ways — garner the successes it has over the years,” said Bob Ferris, a 30-year wildlife researcher who was involved in bringing wolves back to the Yellowstone ecosystem.

The family of Olaus J. Murie, the “father” of modern elk research and management, agrees with these criticisms. A foundation that once understood the complex relationship between elk and wolves has succumbed to the pressures of hunters who don’t like wolves.

Dave Stalling is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is an elk hunter, fisherman and wildlife conservationist and lives in Missoula, Montana. High Country News

Meet the Advocates Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy: The Yellowstone Story currently in production by Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Films. Click here to donate to this film project

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Sen. Udall and Rep. Beyer Revive Wildlife Corridors Bill to Make Movement Easier and Safer for Wildlife

There are over 4 million miles of highways, roads, and other transportation arteries throughout the US and many of them cut through the heart of vital habitat for endangered and threatened species. While key to our mobility, they are often designed without consideration for wildlife movement.

The impacts of these paved paths can be devastating for wildlife. On a basic level, isolated islands of biodiversity are formed that fragment wildlife populations, divide habitats, and degrade ecosystems. At its extreme, human development cuts off entire migration routes and blocks any chance of adapting to changing ecosystems.

Earlier this month, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) introduced a bill that would make movement safer and easier for wildlife. The impetus for the bill was the recent UN report that found at least 1 million species are in danger of extinction due to accelerated human activity.

The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act of 2019, as it’s known, would help stem the tide of declining species and habitats by connecting ecosystems with over crosses, underpasses, and culverts. They would create a system of corridors that connect and extend habitats so that animals can move over large areas, whether it be for daily foraging, seasonal migration, or finding a mate.

“Widespread habitat destruction is leaving scores of animal and plant species both homeless and helpless. We must act now to conserve wildlife corridors that would save species and mitigate against the mass extinction crisis we are rapidly hurtling toward,” said Sen. Udall in a press release. “In New Mexico, our millions of acres of public lands are home to thousands of iconic species that could vanish if we fail to take action that enable species to survive.”

There are approximately 1 – 2 million wildlife vehicle collisions annually. A Federal Highways Administration study found road mortality is one of the leading threats to at least 21 endangered and threaten species. And according to the same study, accidents cost Americans approximately eight billion dollars a year. While the damage is mostly monetary for people, wildlife often end up squished roadkill.

The idea for a unifying wildlife corridors framework is hardly new. Rep. Beyer sponsor a wildlife corridors bill back in 2016 and, most recently, a similar bill was sponsor by both Sen. Udall and Rep. Beyer in December 2018. Both proposals stalled in the House after being submitted to subcommittees.

Nevertheless, research on places like Banff National Park have shown that building wildlife corridors can be a powerful tool for protecting biodiversity. One study found that the installation of wildlife crossings along stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway reduced collisions on average by 80% over a 24-year period.

Such success has spurred some states to warm up to the idea of animal crossings. The Western Governors Association and several New England states, along with south eastern Canadian provinces, have already drafted agreements that recognize the importance of increasing wildlife connectivity. And at least seven states have proposed legislation that would require Fish and Wildlife departments to identify, study, or install wildlife corridors. In many of them, linking habitats would protect some of our most iconic species like big horn sheep, pronghorn, grizzly bears, wolves, and the Florida panther.

“With roughly one in five animal and plant species in the U.S. at risk of extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation, one of the simplest yet most effective things we can do is to provide them ample opportunity to move across lands and waters,” said Rep. Beyer. “The U.N. report on accelerating extinctions makes it clear that the window for action to protect the planet’s biodiversity is closing.”

Wildlife corridors are especially useful for connecting national parks, which act as refuges, but are being pushed to their limits as climates change and development erodes what habitat is left. As such, the once vast areas degrade, reducing their ability to sustain the myriad of species and plants that depend on them.

In practice, the bill would grant authority to key federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Interior, and Transportation to designate wildlife corridors on federal lands. And they would work with state, tribal, and voluntary private stakeholders to identify, build, and manage the corridors on non-federal land. Regional Wildlife Movement Councils will identify and rank non-federal projects and use money from the Wildlife Grant Program to incentivize land owners willing to participate. The goal would be to connect federal and non-federal lands to create an entire system that will traverse the entire country.

Despite the bill’s support among conservation groups and bipartisan sponsors (one republican, Vern Buchanan (R-FL), cosponsored it), it’s unclear whether it’ll pass the House, let alone a Republican lead Senate. In all likelihood, more momentum is needed across the aisle before there’s any further movement. Yet the bill’s sponsors remain resolute.

“The science is clear: human activity is destroying and disrupting the habitats of wildlife around the world. If we don’t change course, entire ecosystems will be lost and entire species will be wiped out forever. It’s already happening,” said Sen. Wyden (D-OR), a cosponsor, in a statement. “The United States needs to do its part in taking better care of our planet and protecting the one million plant and animal species now facing extinction before it’s too late.”

Compassionate Conservation—Saving The Lives of Wild Carnavore and Livestock

Real world solutions to using non lethal wolf management for people and wild Carnavore.

I’ve been a volunteer for Wisconsin’s wolf recovery since 1998. There were only 66 wolf packs in the state at that time. Today there are roughly 232 wolf packs spread through the northern and central forests. Thankfully wolf and livestock conflicts are at a minimum, and there are many non lethal solutions available for livestock producers to employ. There are many factors involved, and employing them as soon ass possible is being proactive. There are several abatements available, such as; Foxlights a nighttime predator deterrent, flandry, and guard animals. These solutions need to be put in place before wolf depredation occurs to any livestock. Also producers need to burry any livestock so the carcasses don’t attract wolves.

One very important step to coexistence for people & gray wolves is to educate and advocate by helping & guiding those living in wolf country. The objective is to save the lives of Gray wolves and livestock. Whether we live in the city or urban areas, in or out of wolf range, it’s all about solving how we live alongside wolves! Wisconsin’s wild wolf is now living on the landscape and has been since the late 1970s. Wisconsin is fortunate to have gray wolves back in the forests. The Gray wolf is an essential part of the ecosystem. Let’s work together to save Gray wolves and livestock!

I’m a distributor of Foxlights a nighttime predator deterrent.

The following is a short video I filmed of Brad Khole WDNR Wildlife Damages Specialist.

Click here for more reading about ways to reduce conflicts between wolves and Livestock owners.

What I learned attending a weekend workshop about gray wolves.

Long maligned in folklore, wolves have an image problem that has hindered conservation efforts since their recovery. Just last week, the Trump administration announced that it will move forward with delisting the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act, the 1973 law that affords legal safeguards for at risk species and their habitats.

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Films

Long maligned in folklore, wolves have an image problem that has hindered conservation efforts since their recovery. Just last week, the Trump administration announced that it will move forward with delisting the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act, the 1973 law that affords legal safeguards for at risk species and their habitats.

Until 2011, congressional attempts to remove protections for wolves were blocked by the courts. That changed, however, when two Western Senators, from Montana and Idaho, slipped a provision into the Federal Spending Bill (a measure called a “rider”) that stripped wolves of federal protections. In doing so, they circumvented the courts and escaped judicial review. Since then, there have been over 350 legislative attacks that would undermine species specific laws or erode provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) entirely.

Sean Duffy, representative for Wisconsin’s 7th district, was the latest to go after wolf protections…

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Meet the Advocates: Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy—The Yellowstone Story

This documentary tells the story of advocates working to preserve the legacy of Yellowstone National Park wolves that face an uncertain future because of legal wolf hunts just beyond the park’s border. A famous wolf, known as 06, was killed in a legal wolf hunt when she left the park’s sanctuary in 2012. Six years later 06’s daughter, known as Spitfire, wolf 926F suffered the same fate in November 2018. Today, Wolves in Yellowstone have become the “rock stars” of their species due to the hundreds of thousands of people that venture into the park hoping for a glimpse of a Yellowstone wolf. The death of 06 and other collared wolves has ignited a battle to create a buffer zone around Yellowstone National Park to protect it’s wolves because legal trophy hunts take place in Wyoming, Idaho & Montana. The film is set in our nation’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park is a nearly 3,500-sq.-mile wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot. By 1926, as a result of federal and state predator control efforts, gray wolves (Canis lupus) were officially extirpated from Yellowstone National Park. Northern Rocky Mountain wolves were eventually listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973.

Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf Will Likely Pay the Price for Sheep Farmers’ Mistakes!

Non lethal wolf management can work, but only if everyone is onboard. Recently a sheep farm in Northern Wisconsin’s wolf range lost a number of sheep to wolves. Several factors contributed to the loss. For one, the farmers locked up the expensive guard dogs at night fearing the wolves would kill them. Then the farmers slept through the night not even hearing the penned up guard dog’s alarm barks. This is the second time, 2016, that predation has occurred on this sheep farm. Now due to these mistakes anti wolf politicians will have a field day crying-big-bad-wolf again.

This is not the first time this Sheep farm as had wolf depredations.

“This is the second time the Caniks have suffered a large loss of sheep from their farm. In 2016, wolves, potentially of the same pack, killed 17 of their bighorn sheep, valued at $1,200 each. After that depredation, the USDA Wildlife Service installed two miles of fladry — a string of colored flags that move in the wind — accompanied by electric fencing around the perimeter of the pasture. That fencing had not been installed yet this year when the attack happened Monday.” Source

“All 17 (killed in 2016) were a variety of bighorn sheep, being raised to breed and give birth to more bighorns. The Caniks sell the bighorns to hunting clubs and game preserves across America, helping those organizations stock their lands for trophy hunters.” Source

The couple kept their expensive guard dogs penned up at night.

But if you live in wolf range, are a sheep farmer, one shouldn’t lock up the expensive guard dogs at night. Using non lethal wolf management requires being proactive. That means establishing methods early on before predation occurs. It seems obvious in this case the farmers have made the mistakes this time, and you can bet the wolf pack will pay the price. Pay the price for the mistakes made by these sheep farmers, who lost Big Horned Sheep being raised for canned hunting in 2016. Again, they cry wolf!

“Evidently we were sleeping too sound and didn’t hear the dogs,” Paul said. “They usually bark loud enough to alert us whenever the wolves are around.”

USF&WS is preparing to delist wolves in the Lower 48 states.

Make sure you get your comments in regarding USF&WS proposed delisting of Gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. Click here to make your comment.

And the public comment period has been extended to July 15, 2019.