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Highly Contagious, Fatal Rabbit Disease Identified in Wyoming

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12031

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

More than 80 wild and domestic rabbits across nine Wyoming counties have died as a result of a highly contagious and lethal rabbit hemorrhagic disease called RHDV2.

And while wildlife officials continue to track the disease, it is not considered an epidemic yet, according to Sara DiRienzo, a public information officer for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Department officials tracked Wyoming’s rabbit population as the disease surfaced in 10 other western states last summer, but no sign of it was detected in Wyoming until December, when a wild eastern cottontail rabbit in Albany County was found to be infected.

As of July, 83 dead rabbits have been reported thus far, DiRienzo said.

Of the rabbit carcasses testing positive for the disease, nine were black-tailed jackrabbits and 74 were cottontails with the majority coming from Laramie County at 30, followed by 18 in Park and 16 in Albany counties, according to DiRienzo.

The highly contagious virus impacts all members of the Lagomorpha family, including hares, rabbits, pikas and pygmy rabbits, and can kill up to 80% to 100% of infected animals. It is spread through direct contact with infected rabbits, feces or carcasses, which can store the hearty virus for months in their tissues. 

It’s not clear how RHDV2 arrived in North America and the West, after first being identified in France in 2010, and less than a decade later in Canada, and later North America. 

As of July, according to WildlifeHealth.org, RHDV2 has been confirmed in wild rabbits in 11 states throughout the U.S. including Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Oregon in black-tailed jackrabbits, desert and mountain cottontails, antelope jackrabbit and eastern cottontails. 

The disease does not impact humans or other livestock or animals. Humans, however, can play a part in transmitting the virus by carrying it on their clothing or shoes.

The virus is resistant to extreme temperatures and can to survive for extended periods.

Given the relatively small number of cases in Wyoming thus far, DiRienzo said it’s far from being considered an epidemic, although the Game and Fish Department is carefully monitoring and tracking the spread of the disease in order to mitigate impact on wild and domestic rabbit populations, which could have lasting ramifications on the food chain and lead to other dissruptions in the natural world.

Of concern in Wyoming in particular, DiRienzo said, are the already vulnerable populations of pygmy rabbits, cotton tales, hares and pikas.  

“As a food base, it could definitely have an impact on other creatures on top of what the rabbit species have to contend with in general like plague and other diseases,” she said. 

Domestic rabbits are also vulnerable to the highly contagious viral disease, but thus far, there’s only been one known case reported in Wyoming, according to Dr. Hallie Hasel, assistant state veterinarian for field operations for the Wyoming Livestock Board.

To that end, Hasel suggested that owners of domestic rabbit pets fence them off from exposure to wild rabbits. 

Worrisome for Hasel and others is the capability of the disease to spread so rapidly and seemingly without control.

Little is known about the virus and why it is so instantly lethal and contagious to rabbits in particular, she said. 

Subtle signs that a rabbit might be infected include fever, respiratory distress, loss of appetite or other nervous system abnormalities like loss of coordination or convulsions.

Infected animals who have die of the disease will typically have blood-stained noses and mouths due to internal bleeding. 

There’s no treatment for the RHDV2 nor is there a FDA-approved vaccine, though one is currently in the works, but a vaccine is available in Europe which several Wyoming clinics have on hand.

DiRienzo said that the public has been of tremendous help in locating and reporting dead rabbits to the Game and Fish Department and she encourages people to continue reporting any dead rabbit carcasses they find whether in their yards or while out on a hike. 

Those reporting are advised not to touch the dead animal, but rather to report it to their local Game and Fish Department office.

Staffers will then pick up the rabbit and take it back to the lab for sampling, DiRienzo said. 

map of impacted counties is available on the WGFD website. 

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No “Feral Hog Death Squad” Like Texas, But Officials Say Wyo Is Ready If Hogs Invade

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Right now, the threat of feral pigs rooting through the wildlands of Wyoming is considered an almost non-existent threat by experts in the field who are paid to worry about such things.

Nonetheless, recent sightings of the invasive swine in northern Montana have some like David Stark wondering what will happen if the feral animals make it as far south of the Canadian border as Wyoming.

Stark, owner of Discreet Ballistics, an ammunition manufacturer that recently moved its headquarters from New Hampshire to Sundance, has firsthand knowledge of the havoc these hogs can wreak once they become established. Not only has he hunted them himself, he has also designed and sold a specific type of hunting ammunition for use by landowners and hunters throughout the South where feral swine run rampant.

There are reasons people like Stark don’t want the animals to crossing into Wyoming. First, they can carry up to 30 viral and bacterial diseases and nearly 40 parasites that can be transmitted to humans, pets, livestock and other wildlife. And second, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they’re also known to be incredibly aggressive and rabid scavengers, causing more than $1.5 billion in damage each year to rangeland and natural water systems, crops, lawns, ornamental gardens and fences while also destroying pastures. 

Currently, the USDA estimates there are more than 6 million feral swine throughout more than 35 states in the U.S., with the bulk of them – between 2 million and 3 million – found in Texas.

In fact, the feral swine have now invaded 253 out of Texas’ 254 counties, according to Jesse Griffith, a chef, hunter and feral swine expert who just released his book “The Hog Book.”

Speaking on Joe Rogan Show on July 1, Griffiths outlined the pervasive swine problem facing Texas. 

Feral swine aren’t indigenous to the U.S., Griffiths said, but rather were brought to Hawaii as a protein source by conquistadores at some point in the 1550s. 

Nearly 300 years later, during Texas’ fight for independence, many domestic hogs escaped or were released, thus creating a feral swine population. These feral hogs went on to fraternize with the European wild hogs that escaped after being imported by ranchers and sportsmen in the 1930s. 

Due to the mixing of breeds, there are very few true European hogs remaining, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Colorado saw its own invasion of feral swine in the past three decades, but effectively eradicated the problem by allowing year-round hunting by sportsmen and land owners. Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced in February 2020 that the state had eliminated the problem entirely.

Texas, Oklahoma and other southern states have yet to make that claim, however, and the recent sightings on the northern Montana border may be an indicator that the feral swine could eventually make their way to the Cowboy State.

As both Griffith and Stark note, feral hogs are a problem not just for the potential damage they can wreak but also because they are hard to get rid of once they take root. Along with being prolific breeders, they’re hardy and have uncanny street smarts. 

Once they leave a fenced area, Griffiths said, they almost immediately undergo a physiological change in which their snouts grow longer and they develop thicker hair — even former domestic pigs that escape.

“A feral pig is just a pig without an address,” Griffiths said

The feral pig problem in Texas prompted Stark to create the Feral Hog Death Squad, a data geolocation project to track the progress of hog eradication in more populated areas and those municipalities experiencing hog issues. The data thus far remains incomplete as the project went dormant during the pandemic. 

Nonetheless, hunters and landowners in the South are among the largest customers for his patented 300 AAC Blackout subsonic hunting load. Apart from being quiet, the projectile made with machined copper expands at subsonic velocities to pack a great punch upon impact. 

“Basically, folks need ammunition that is quiet and lethal, so as not to disturb during night time eradication activities,” he said. 

Mitigation plan

Although feral swine have yet to make it into Wyoming, the state has policies to deal with the situation.

First, Wyoming has laws and policies that make it illegal to import any members of the Suidae family, with the exception of domestic swine and pot-bellied pigs, according to Sara DiRienzo, public information officer for Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

In addition, if feral hogs show up in Wyoming, the Wyoming Livestock Board has policies in place to deal with the invasion.

Right now, it’s illegal for landowners or hunters to shoot feral swine — the same laws now in place in surrounding states including Montana, Nebraska and South and North Dakota. In some cases, experts argue that allowing hunting actually makes the population harder to control.

In Wyoming, state law calls for the director of the Wyoming Livestock Board or state veterinarian to locate any feral swine after receiving a report of a sighting of the animals and notify the owner of the livestock, who then has five days to take possession of the livestock. 

After the five-day mark, the animal is considered to be feral, at which point the agency may decide to destroy it. 

To date, no reports have been received about feral swine, according to Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Jim Logan.

Logan said goats, sheep and the occasional domestic bison are the animals his department most often sees go rogue and join wild herds.

According to Logan, natural migration of feral swine to Wyoming isn’t a worry at the moment. His primary concern instead is of swine being introduced or released into the wild by humans, at which point the state would step in to help mitigate the spread of herds.

Still another debate surrounds the issue of whether feral swine meat is safe to eat — or tasty.

Stark says yes. He’s both hunted and eaten wild hogs and says the meat require a lot of marinating.

“It’s no filet mignon,” he said, “but it’s pretty tasty.”

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Montana On High Alert For Invasion of Feral Swine From Canada; Wyoming Not Concerned Yet

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11824

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

While Montana is facing the potential threat of feral swine invading the state, Wyoming doesn’t have that problem to worry about — at least not yet.

The Montana Department of Livestock asked state residents to be vigilant about reporting sightings of feral swine coming in from Canada. The invasive species that can damage crops, pastures and waterways and introduce diseases among livestock, people and wildlife.

Sara DiRienzo, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that although Wyoming has been tracking the feral swine’s movements from Canada, the animals haven’t made it this far south.

“Wyoming has been tracking the feral swine issue since they breached the Canadian border, but we don’t see it as a threat at this point,” she said. “Though, if someone did spot a feral pig in Wyoming, we would ask them to report it right away to Game and Fish.”

The Montana Department of Livestock noted that at least 39 states have reported the presence of feral swine, so there is some concern that some may be brought into Montana illegally to be hunted.

Wyoming one of the few states with no presence of feral swine, as of now.

“They would be considered an invasive species, so most states are trying to keep them out and from spreading further,” DiRienzo said.

There haven’t been any sightings in Montana yet, but the risk of the animals coming into the state is high because of the state’s proximity to the Canadian border.

But because of proper management in neighboring states and in Canada, the pigs have not made it to Wyoming.

Feral swine cause at least $1.5 billion in damages and control costs every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

They can damage crops by eating them or by rooting, trampling or wallowing in fields. They tend to target crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, oats and rice, but will eat almost anything.

Feral swine are known to carry at least 30 viral and bacterial diseases and nearly 40 parasites that can be transmitted to humans, pets, livestock and other wildlife, according to the USDA. The animals can also be aggressive toward people and pets and have been known to attack humans, especially when food might be involved.

While Montana law does allow homeowners to kill feral swine on their property, this has been shown to be an ineffective form of management, according to the Livestock Department.

The USDA recommended installing fences around crops and vaccinating livestock as two ways to prevent further issues with feral swine.

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Gigantic Cat-Sized Flying Squirrels Unlikely To Move To Wyoming Says Squirrel Expert

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

There’s little chance that visitors to Yellowstone National Park will have to dodge a species of cat-sized flying squirrels discovered recently in the Himalayas. But one of the country’s leading squirrel experts said those who look closely might get a glimpse of its much smaller cousin soaring among the pines.

In fact, there are three species of flying squirrels in the Yellowstone area, according to John Koprowski, dean and professor at the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming. The squirrels, which can be found in the country’s western mountains and eastern United States, can fit in the palm of your hand, Koprowski said.

This means America’s flying squirrels would be dwarfed by the two species of gigantic wooly flying squirrels, which weigh in at about five pounds and are three feet in length.

The gigantic wooly squirrels were recently identified by scientists on the scraggy rock faces of the Himalayas as reported in a June 10 article of National Geographic in which Koprowski was quoted.

Koprowski, who is new to the University of Wyoming, is one of the country’s foremost experts on squirrels. He told Cowboy State Daily Friday that the discovery of the new species was exciting in that it further illuminates how much we still don’t know about the natural world and what else might be out there to still be discovered.

Flying squirrels do not actually have wings, he explained, but rather are kept aloft by a patagium, which is a furry membrane that connects their wrists and ankles and acts like a hang glider. They further use their fluffy tail as a rudder to help guide them and also have an extension on their wrist bone that flicks out like a switch blade to help them effectively steer between rock faces.

“They can actually control their flight well,” he said.

For those who may fear an infiltration of large flying squirrels from the Himalayans, that likely will never happen. The wooly flying squirrels are used to surviving at high elevations of up to 16,000 feet and would probably struggle physiologically at lower elevations given their large size and thick coats, though as Koprowski noted, there’s no way to be sure unless they’re actually tested in this environment.

Apart from the flying species, Koprowski is a big fan of squirrels in general and thinks they have much to offer in terms of conservation along with just being fascinating creatures.

He didn’t set out to become one of the world’s most renowned experts on squirrels, but more or less fell into it as kid growing up in Cleveland and later as an undergraduate at Ohio State University, Since he had no car, Koprowski was forced to study the animals he could find scampering around his suburban neighborhood or on campus. 

His goal had been to study lions, tigers and bears, but it would have taken him a while to get to a place to see one. In the meantime, his knowledge of squirrels allowed him to get his masters and doctorate degrees and now, he gets to study a variety of species in the U.S. and many countries abroad with a focus on ecology, wildlife conservation and management. 

But it all started with squirrels, which as he noted, can be a great way for city kids to connect natural world. 

They also serve as subtle harbingers when it comes to stressors in forests and grasslands. Because squirrels are sensitive to sound, an absence of squirrels can indicate noise pollution. It can also indicate overgrown forests since they leave areas where they cannot hear or see predators.

Squirrels also play a role in natural restoration as one of nature’s foremost seed redistributors and disseminators of leafy materials, Koprowski said. 

But for those who see them merely as backyard pests, Koprowski warns that given their tenacity and stellar capacity for population growth, it’s likely a losing battle for home owners wishing to eradicate the animals from their backyards.

“They usually win those battles,” said Koprowski, who also sees value in them as another wildlife species that’s just pretty cool to watch. 

“The more wildlife I see, the better,” he said. “When you realize their imperfections and quirky behaviors, they’re fun to watch.”

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Motley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx Shares Video of Moose In His Yard, Didn’t Pet It

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Rock star and Motley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx recently shared an Instagram post of a pretty incredible sight in his Jackson yard: a large moose.

Sixx posted the video late Wednesday evening of the moose in his yard in Jackson, where he has been living for more than a year at this point.

“It’s his yard, we just get to use it…sometimes,” Sixx wrote in text on the video of the moose, which was soundtracked by the late Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers.”

The video was (likely) taken by Sixx as he is driven past the moose, so we can definitely say he didn’t stop and try to pet it or take a picture with it.

The post had racked up more than 30,000 likes by Thursday morning and hundreds of comments from people who were amazed by the incredible creature just feet away from the rock star. Basically, we’re saying to be like Nikki Sixx and stay away from amazing (and aggressive) wild animals.

Plenty of fans urged Sixx to be cautious of the animal.

“Just don’t get too close to him, Nikki.  They’re very territorial and don’t like having humans too close,” said John McBride

“These fellas are amazing but they can turn on you in a second,” cautioned Scootomen.

Some had other advice.

“I would have shot him in the head right then and there. And then I would have put him on my grill and have mooseburgers by lunchtime,” Rico Wabbler said.

Last year, Sixx and his family made the jump to Wyoming officially, selling their California home and taking up residence in Jackson. The bassist spent much of last year praising the state and its offerings.

“It’s cheaper, no B.S. type of people, everyone is … extremely outdoors-driven…so because of that, everyone is extremely healthy,” Sixx said in a Los Angeles radio interview in September. “There’s no entertainment business here, so you’re not dealing with that type of stuff. You’re just dealing with blue collar people.”

Wyoming has also been helpful for his creative process, allowing him to paint, write and apparently make knives.

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Wyoming, Colorado Wildlife Officials Warn of Livestock, Bighorn Sheep Mixing

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming and Colorado officials are warning that the mixing of domestic livestock and bighorn sheep could lead to negative impacts for the region’s bighorn sheep populations.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials this week expressed concern about domestic goats that are used for weed and vegetation control mingling with the bighorn sheep population in Estes Park, due to concern of the potential spread of disease between the domestic animals and the sheep.

The problem is not limited to Estes Park, but could affect the entire state of Colorado and much of the Rocky Mountain West, including Wyoming. Since bighorn sheep are so closely related to the domesticated animal, it is easy for disease to pass between the two, according to Wyoming Wildlife Advocates.

This is a major concern for wildlife managers across the West because diseases such as pneumonia and conjunctivitis can wipe out up to 90% of a bighorn sheep herd, according WWA.

Colorado has around 7,000 bighorn sheep in the state, while Wyoming has around 6,500, according to a report from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep historically existed in tremendous numbers in the western United States.

After being reduced to near extinction in the region, bighorn sheep have made strong recoveries due to efforts by western wildlife management agencies and conservation groups. However, the sheep still face significant threats, especially from diseases transmitted by domestic sheep and goats. 

In the early 2000s, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department created a working group to develop recommendations for preventing the spread of disease between domestic animals and the wild game. The group recommended the introduction of effective vaccines for the animals and the relocation of bighorn sheep to safer areas where they would still be protected.

“It only takes one sheep that contracts a disease to hinder an entire herd,” said Chase Rylands, a wildlife officer in Estes Park.

Adult sheep survivors of such diseases can become chronic carriers and infect lambs every year.

The threat of disease introduction when domestic animals do co-mingle with wild herds is so severe that wildlife officials are sometimes forced to euthanize any wild bighorns that come into contact with the domestic animals and animals that appear to show signs of illness afterward.

Inaction may result in a cascading effect of disease outbreak, death and poor population performance, which could take decades to overcome, wildlife officials said.

“Disease transmission is nothing to be taken lightly with Colorado’s wildlife, especially with bighorns,” Ryands said. “Coexisting with wildlife isn’t always easy, but preventing the comingling of domestic animals with wildlife is most often preventable and essential to sustaining populations of all wildlife.” 

For those with domestic livestock that needs to be separated from bighorn sheep encounters, Colorado Parks and Wildlife suggested implementing sound fencing practices, such as using an electric outrigger fence (two feet from wire fencing) or double fencing (two wire fences with a minimum spacing of at least 10 feet in between and a height of eight feet).

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Park Service Asks Public Not To Drive Over Elk

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

While the thought of driving over a 700-pound elk may sound absurd, elk calves are at much higher risk because they are are significantly smaller and could end up beneath a car.

As a result, the National Park Service on Tuesday reminded people in areas frequented by elk to take caution and look around before putting their car into drive as a baby elk could be close by.

In fact, a photo the organization posted on Facebook shows an elk calf taking shelter beneath a vehicle right next to a tire, which could turn the animal into a burrito in matter of seconds.

“Check around corners and between cars before entering an area,” the Park Service advised. “In developed areas, calves are often stashed near buildings, under porches and stairs, and in between vehicles.”

Running over an elk would not be good, especially for the elk. But it could also be problematic for your car.

And then there’s the issue of the Mom elk — or cow elk as they are called. Cow elk do not like humans anywhere near their calves.

A 90-year-old man from Colorado found that out the hard way earlier in June as an elk plowed into him. Luckily the nonagenarian escaped injury despite going airborne.

“Give elk extra space as cow elk can be more aggressive this time of year and may kick or charge people and pets. If an elk charges you, take shelter in a vehicle or behind a tall, sturdy barrier quickly,” the Park Service said.

Noted outdoorsman and Pinedale resident Paul Ulrich said he escaped a charging elk three years ago by jumping off a cliff into a lake in the North Absaroka Wilderness.

“It wasn’t a big dropoff but it really was my only option,” Ulrich said. “Briefly I thought I would test out my matador skills but in the last second I decided jumping was the best choice.”

Ulrich said he was considering going to matador school in Spain to avoid lakes in the future.

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Fatal Disease Found In Devils Tower Bats

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Researchers have confirmed the presence of a deadly bat disease in bats at Devils Tower National Monument.

While this is the first time “white-nose syndrome” has been identified in the the state, the fungus that causes WNS was potentially detected in southeast Wyoming as early as 2018, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Biologists from the University of Wyoming discovered evidence of WNS during surveys in early May, when they captured bats and took samples to test for the fungus.
 
The samples were sent to the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, where they detected the presence of the fungus on four of the 19 bats tested. Two species, a northern-long eared bat and a fringed myotis, showed visible signs of WNS.
 
The presence of WNS in Wyoming is not a surprise for wildlife managers, since the disease was confirmed in the Black Hills in South Dakota in 2018, and more recently in a dead bat found in Fallon County, Montana, in April. 
 
“The spread of white-nose syndrome into northeastern Wyoming is disheartening and frustrating,” said Devils Tower Chief of Resources Management Russ Cash. “The devastation that white-nose syndrome brings to bat populations is terrifying. Bats are such an important piece of our ecosystem and our well-being as humans. Bats devour unbelievable amounts of insects and pests that are a nuisance to humans.”
 
Detection of WNS at Devils Tower demonstrates the continued spread of this deadly disease, which has killed millions of bats in North America since the fungus first appeared in 2006 in New York.

Scientists believe humans may have unintentionally brought the fungus from Eurasia to the U.S.

Wyoming is the 37th state to confirm the disease, which has also been found in seven Canadian provinces.
 
The fungus that causes this disease is primarily spread through direct contact between bats. However, people can spread the fungus when using clothes, footwear and gear that has been used at infected bat roosts, such as caves or rock crevices. 
 
The best way to reduce the risk of spread is to stay out of closed caves and mines; use site-dedicated footwear, clothing and gear; and clean and disinfect these items before and after visiting caves and other places where bats live. 

If a person sees a sick or dead bat, they should report it to park rangers or Game and Fish biologists, but should not touch or pick up the bat.

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Judge Blocks Development of 400,000 Acres of Oil/Gas Leases Due to Sage Grouse

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A federal judge is blocking the development of more than 400,000 acres of oil and gas leases in Wyoming and Montana, ruling the U.S. Bureau of Land Management did not adequately consider the impact of development on the region’s sage grouse.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Bush, in an order from his Idaho court issued Wednesday, ruled that the Western Watersheds Project was correct in its assertion that the BLM did not fulfill its obligations under the National Environmental Protection Act in approving development of the leases.

“BLM … failed to consider the reasonable alternative of deferring priority sage grouse habitat … failed to take a hard look at the direct and indirect impacts to greater sage grouse, and … failed to take a hard look at the cumulative impacts on greater sage grouse,” he wrote.

However, Bush also declined to vacate the leases themselves, as requested by Western Watersheds, because he found the BLM could solve the problems identified without nullifying the leases.

The ruling stems from oil and gas leases covering 334,000 acres in Wyoming offered in February, June and September of 2017 in Wyoming and covering about 69,000 acres in Montana offered in June of 2017.

Some of the parcels of land offered for sale included sage grouse habitat and as a result, some parcels were removed from the sale offering.

When preparing an environmental assessment to judge the impact of development of the lands, the BLM examined two options — one for full development of all the remaining land and one for no development. It found the development could proceed.

But Western Watersheds sued, saying the BLM violated the NEPA by failing to examine an option that would have removed more sage grouse habitat from development and failed to examine the direct and indirect effects of development on sage grouse habitat.

Western Watersheds offered alternatives to the BLM’s two options that proposed removing parcels from lease sales that contained priority sage grouse habitat, the decision said, but they were rejected.

Bush wrote that the BLM did not adequately explain why it rejected Western Watersheds’ proposed alternative.

“BLM violated NEPA by failing to provide an adequate explanation of why it failed to consider the reasonable alternative of deferring priority greater sage grouse habitat,” he wrote.

Bush blocked development of any of the lease parcels until the BLM can resolve the issues identified in the ruling.

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Wyo Female Wolf Previously Identified As a Male Wolf Has First Litter of Pups Since 1940s

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A wolf from Wyoming has given birth to Colorado’s first litter of pups since the 1940s.

The female wolf, F1084, was originally part of Wyoming’s Snake River wolf pack, but traveled to Jackson County, Colorado, (which sits close to Laramie) in 2019. She was originally thought to be male, but has actually been identified as a female and has been spotted traveling with a male in recent months.

A Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist and CPW district wildlife manager each reported visual sightings of multiple pups with the female and male, M2101, wolves.

“Colorado is now home to our first wolf litter since the 1940s. We welcome this historic den and the new wolf family to Colorado,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said. “With voter passage last year of the initiative to require re-introduction of the wolf by the end of 2023, these pups will have plenty of potential mates when they grow up to start their own families.”

In the last week, CPW staff conducted three separate observations of the den site from a safe distance approximately two miles away. Each of the three sightings included both M2101 “John” and F1084 “Jane”, collared wolves known to reside in the state, along with their three pups. While three pups have been observed over the past week, it is not yet confirmed that these are the only pups in the litter.

A typical wolf litter consists of four to six pups. 

“We are continuing to actively monitor this den site while exercising extreme caution so as not to inadvertently jeopardize the potential survival of these pups,” said Libbie Miller, CPW wildlife biologist. “Our hope is that we will eventually have photos to document this momentous occasion in Colorado’s incredible and diverse wildlife history, but not bothering them remains a paramount concern.”

All three observations of pups have been made at dawn or dusk in low-light conditions and featured quite a bit of movement of M2101 and F1084 with the small pups during brief observation windows.

As the pups grow larger and spend more time outside of the den, biologists and area staff will have additional opportunities to observe the animals. Staff are working with landowners in the area to implement practices to minimize the potential for conflict. 

“It’s incredible that these two adult animals have traveled the distance and overcome the challenges they have to get here, and to now have pups in Colorado,” said Kris Middledorf, area wildlife manager for CPW. “It’s our priority to ensure that they have the chance to thrive, so even as we have exciting news, we want to remind everyone that these animals remain endangered in Colorado.”

As an endangered species, killing a gray wolf in Colorado results in a fine of $100,000, jail time and a loss of hunting privileges. Harassment of wildlife is also illegal in the state. 

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