Critical habitat for polar bears is finally designated

187,157 square miles of Alaskan land and (mostly) ocean to be for the bears-

U.S. Firms Up ‘Critical Habitat’ for Polar Bears. By Felicity Barringer. The Green Blog in the New York Times. Here is the web page on this from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Dept. of Interior).

This is very important, but designation of critical habitat can’t stop the ice from melting. The future of these bears looks grim.

More on close wolf encounters

What does wolves close up mean?

If a wolf approaches you, you should certainly not assume it wants to eat you.  On the other hand, watch it closely, it isn’t necessary benign.

Some people can “read” dogs, cats, horses, and other animals.  People who can’t fill in the blanks with their hopes, fears, and generalizations from other animals.

This last month we witnessed the fearful reaction of two Montana hunters to a pack of wolves nearby. Flathead Valley hunters shoot wolf, say they were surrounded. By Tristan Scott of the Missoulian. Over the years, we have posted a number of other accounts where people had “scary,” close wolf encounters.  Some folks will recall the humorous story of the Forest Service employees (from Utah) who encountered howling wolves in the middle of the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho (I don’t recall if they even saw one of the wolves), but they were so frightened by the howls they had a Forest Service helicopter fly into the designated Wilderness area to be evacuated.

I have heard no “scary” stories from people except from those already hateful or frightened of wolves, and who had a close encounter.

I’ve had two close encounters.  With the first (1997) I was so overconfident, I was just stupid. We (five of us) repeatedly approached the Rose Creek Pack on Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone when they had about 18 members.  The wolves kept trotting 50 to 100 yards ahead, stopping and bark howling. At the time I didn’t know a bark howl is a much different message than a howl.

I have posted the story how being circled by wolves was thought to be a wonderful experience.

Here is another interesting close encounter. Ken Cole posted this story today too.  It ended just fine, but it’s hard to know what the wolf was doing. Calm of the wild. Living with wolves takes some practice by Tim Lydon. Writers on the Range in the  Missoula IndependentKen also posts his own experiences.

I think if people have a scary wolf experience it is probably because they interpret most wolf behavior as something to be frightened of.  To take it step farther, a frightened person might look like prey to an otherwise uninterested wolf.

Maybe some people are natural prey.

Calm of the wild

A wolf encounter

Tim Lydon, who works in Alaska, writes of an encounter he had with a wolf there during the late summer that was very calm and seemed motivated out of curiosity more than anything.

Calm of the wild.
by Tim Lydon – Missoula Independent

This is similar to all of the “close encounters” I have had with wolves over the years in Idaho. On a number of occasions, while working near Clayton, Idaho, I actively sought out wolf encounters with the Buffalo Ridge Pack. On at least 4 occasions I encountered wolves, while on foot during the late evening or at night, and the wolves only expressed mild interest when they mistook me for other wolves after I howled.

On one of those occasions I surprised the whole pack that had come down to the steelhead pond that I was tending for the Idaho Fish and Game so that they could eat the smolts that hadn’t left the pond yet. I had been given a radio receiver so that I could monitor the wolves while they interacted with the turbo-fladry which was being tested around the pond after several consecutive years where they came to feed there.

Read the rest of this entry »

Obama to announce oil drilling and leasing moratoriums

Six month moratorium on new deep water well permits; lease auctions off Virginia and Alaska coast put in suspension. Partial ban on new spuds-

There is finally action by the Administration on oil leases and permits to drill in various places off-shore. It is expected that today the President will announce there will be no new deepwater wells spudded (to begin drilling)  in the next 6 months.  Oil lease auction sales in the western Gulf of Mexico and off the Virginia Coast are said to be canceled.  A freeze or cancelation of lease auctions is very important because once bought, cancellation of a lease by the government requires the government to repay the leaseholder. That can require a lot of money.

Lease sales and spudding in the Arctic Ocean (oh, my god, they were going to do that?) are on hold.

Meanwhile, we are waiting to see if BP was successful in their “top kill” of the big oil gusher under the Gulf of Mexico.

It occurs to me that one reason why the Administration might have been slow on this is that BP holds an important card.  If BP walks away, it’s not like the government has the knowledge or the resources to kill the gushing, ruined well.

AP source: Obama extends stop on deepwater wells. By Erica Werner and Charles Babington. Associated Press.

Update on May 28. U.S. to stop drilling already underway on 33 deepwater rigs! Reuters.

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Tracking the Oil Spill in the Gulf (map). New York Times.

Alaska Senator: Oil Company Whore

Lisa Murkowski blocks Senate bill To Raise Oil Spill Liability Cap (with VIDEO)-

Murkowski said wanted to protect the “mom and pop” oil companies from having to face large liabilities. Mom and pop oil companies?

If you can’t pay for your damages, you should not get a permit!

Story.

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Update May 18: Oklahoma Senator: Another Oil Company Whore

Inhofe Blocks Second Dem Attempt To Raise Oil Company Liability (VIDEO)

Wood bison are on the comeback

May be reintroduced to Alaska as an experimental, non-essential population.

Alaska wants to reintroduce wood bison from Canada but they are currently listed as an endangered species by the USFWS. In response there is an effort to classify them as an experimental, non-essential population under the 10(j) rule so that there will be less protection and no critical habitat designation. They would still be protected from intentional harm. It seems that the oil and gas industry is worried they won’t be able to exploit the land if there are protected species there.

There haven’t been wood bison in Alaska for 200 years or so but there are some plains bison which were introduced into the Copper River Delta in 1928.

You can read about the plan to reintroduce wood bison here.

Wood bison are on the comeback
Wild wood bison could be roaming Alaska again if effort succeeds
By MIKE CAMPBELL

Alaska Board of Game nominee cites Bible as he skins a wolf

(VIDEO): Legislature To Vote On Confirmation April 9-

I’m on vacation, but this item on Huffington Post was too good to pass up.

It is just pathetic that a person like this could rise to a position of overseeing wildlife management in such an important place as Alaska.

Story on Al Barette. Huffington Post.