OUTFRONT: A defenders roundup

Green Sea Turtle, © NOAA

Lesser Prairie Chicken © Joel Sartore

Emergency Preparedness 

It’s something we never want to see, but with increased shipping and oil development in a warming Arctic, there’s a real chance of an oil spill. 

Making sure arctic marine animals like polar bears have a chance to survive, Defenders provided funding to create something new: polar bear washing tables so trained wildlife emergency responders can safely elevate and clean the big bears in the event of a spill. “These one-of-a-kind washing tables are valuable pieces of equipment that were tested in a spill drill and are stationed on the North Slope of Alaska with other wildlife-saving equipment,” says Karla Dutton, Defenders’ Alaska program director. “If an oil spill happens in the Arctic’s fragile environment, thanks to our members’ support, we will be one critical step closer to being prepared.”

Red Wolves in the Spotlight

In a move that imperils an already endangered animal, North Carolina officials are allowing night-hunting of coyotes with spotlights and artificial calls in red wolf territory. 

With their similar colors and size, red wolves and coyotes are difficult to tell apart. Defenders filed a court challenge in September to end coyote hunting in the red wolf recovery area, arguing that the agency is violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing hunters to harm wolves. Only about 100 red wolves exist in the wild—and between 2000 and 2013, 29 percent of the population was killed by gunshots. 

Plummeting Population

Drought and habitat destruction from energy development and agriculture are decimating a grassland grouse that once ranged widely beside bison, pronghorn and prairie dogs on the southern Great Plains. 

In just one year, the lesser prairie-chicken’s population has declined by 50 percent, according to a recent report from state wildlife agencies. Active breeding grounds—called leks—also suffered a 30 percent decline. This adds new urgency to protect the bird under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).“These birds are struggling in the face of accelerating habitat loss, a dangerously small population size, more frequent droughts and fragmented range,” says Mark Salvo, Defenders’ federal lands policy analyst. “The recent sharp decline is a clear indicator that their time is running out. Under the ESA, we can provide the prairie-chicken the help it needs while rewarding conservation efforts by landowners.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined listing the species was warranted in 1998. A final decision is expected in March. 

More Articles from Winter 2014

Florida Panther (captive), © Joel Sartore
On the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, these faces remind us that they matter
We will soon know the fate of gray wolf management throughout the majority of this country. If the federal government shamefully abandons its conservation responsibilities for this magnificent animal, the battle will surely move on to the federal courts.
Gray Wolf, © Angelique Rea
As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers abandoning gray wolf recovery across most of the lower 48 states—even eliminating Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in areas where they have yet to be restored or barely have a foothold—recent polls released by Defenders show that the public is against the idea.
Florida Manatee, © Joel Sartore
It was a tough year for Florida manatees. At press time in December, the death toll stood at 796—more than double the 2012 total, making 2013 the deadliest year on record.
California eliminates lead in hunting ammo, protecting condors and many other species.
© Flickr USer 24oranges.nl
Branded America’s favorite fruit, the banana isn’t usually grown in ways favorable for wildlife.
Defenders' staff get ready to release black-footed ferrets. From left: Russ Talmo, Kylie Paul, Charlotte Conley and Jonathan Proctor, Photo: Kylie Paul/DOW
Defenders' team helps reintroduce endangered black-footed ferrets to tribal lands in the West.
Green Sea Turtle, Photo: NOAA
Named for the color of their fat—a result of their exclusively vegetarian diet as adults—green sea turtles come ashore each year to nest as they have done since the age of the dinosaurs.

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In the Magazine
Habitat destruction from plowing the land for crops, exotic diseases and widespread poisoning of its prairie dog prey almost caused North America’s only native ferret species to disappear for good.
Learn More
During Wolf Awareness Week, we celebrate the vital role wolves play in the ecosystem, combat the misinformation that so often surrounds them, and share what you can do to help wolves survive.
Places for Wolves
The red wolf (currently recognized as a different species than the gray wolf) once ranged as far north as Pennsylvania and as far west as central Texas. Because of its wide distribution, the red wolf played an important role in a variety of ecosystems, from pocosin lowlands to forested mountains.