Frontline Dispatches – March 2022 Vol. IV, No. 3


CONSERVATION 101 – Gobble, Drum, Boom

Spring bird courtship brings its own unique noisemakers.

• Wild turkey toms strut by puffing out feathers, dropping their wings, fanning their tail and often adding a loud gobble.
• Male ruffed grouse pick a favorite downed log then, with increasingly faster wingbeats, “drum” to attract a hen.
• Male prairie chickens gather to strut while passing air through special sacks to create a repetitive booming sound to impress hens.




Solitary birds of dense forest, great gray owls emerge near meadows in winter.

Winter Wonders—Wildlife Viewing’s Prime Time
In Yellowstone, wolves’ dark coats stand out against the bright snow as they move to lower elevations to hunt. In Minnesota, breathtaking great gray owls emerge from the forests and peat bogs to hunt near meadows and roads. In Hawaii, 10,000-plus humpback whales breed, birth and nurse their young each winter. From Los Angeles to Florida, winter provides some of the best animal viewing opportunities of the year, reports The New York Times.

The travels of Canada geese are normally bound by traditions.

Nomadic Goose Surprises Researchers
A Canada goose collared and banded in Nanaimo, British Columbia, in 2016 was recently discovered in Chicago, leaving researchers at Vancouver Island University a bit baffled, reports CBC News. Typically, these geese fly north to south and rarely travel as far as Washington State or Oregon, but somehow this goose made it 3,000 km east. Speculation is the bird was pushed by a storm or followed another group of geese, but the researchers may never know why it made the unusual journey.

Bighorn Tag Nets Big Bucks For Conservation
KOIN Oregon reported that an opportunity to hunt for a mature, male bighorn sheep in Oregon sold for $345,000 at a conservation fundraiser sponsored by the Wild Sheep Foundation. One hundred percent of the proceeds of the hunt tag will be used for bighorn sheep management, conservation and research. Oregon’s bighorn sheep herd numbers nearly 4,000 animals. Funding is critical to the state’s continuing bighorn sheep conservation efforts.

Confused About Chronic Wasting Disease? 
Listen to an expert break down Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a podcast series presented by the National Wildlife Federation and Artemis Sportswomen. The podcast gives listeners all the facts, from the discovery of the disease to how it is affecting North American deer populations today. Join the discussion on this critically important wildlife topic.

A bachelor group of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep rams.

Helping A Struggling Herd
Colorado Division of Wildlife captured and then moved 21 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep by helicopter to a remote canyon where the current bighorn herd is facing a waning gene pool. Biologists hope to kickstart the declining herd by increasing population size and genetic diversity with the new additions, reports KDVR News.

Bison in Yellowstone National Park’s Hayden Valley.

Yellowstone Will Announce New Plan For Bison
Yellowstone National Park will be updating its 20-year-old bison management plan, reports AP News. The new plan will incorporate recent studies of bison in the park, input from indigenous tribes and new data on vegetation and carrying capacity. New plan alternatives include transferring live bison to tribes, hunting and, if necessary, organized harvest with meat and hides from slaughtered bison distributed to participating tribes.

Judge Restores Most Federal Protections For Gray Wolves
In February, a federal judge restored federal protections for gray wolves, except in the northern Rockies, reported the Idaho Capital Sun. This ruling reversed a 2020 U.S. Fish And Wildlife decision to remove the species from the Endangered Species List in 45 states. Wolf management continues to be a contentious issue in the U.S.

White-tailed Deer Test Positive For Omicron
In a recent study on Staten Island, N.Y., 19 of 131 white-tailed deer sampled tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID. These observations continue to highlight the need for surveillance to identify transmission networks and assess the potential risks to humans, reports The Wildlife Society.

Poacher Posed Illegal Game Meat As Beef Jerky
Following a tip on the Stop Poaching Hotline, Wyoming game wardens arrested a poacher for selling illegally harvested game meat as “beef jerky.” The criminal was ordered to pay $45,070 in fines and restitution for illicit misuse of wildlife resources, reports Meateater. After DNA evidence was processed, the jerky was determined to be from at least 18 different antelope and mule deer. No trace of beef was found.

Shorten Quail Season To boost Bird Numbers? 
Quail numbers in Oklahoma have been declining in recent years. In response, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission unanimously voted to shorten future quail hunting seasons by two weeks for out-of-state hunters in certain areas, reports the Oklahoman. Not everyone agrees that the change will solve the problem and biologists acknowledge that habitat and weather may be playing a larger role in quail decline than hunting pressures.


The distinctive long-crested eagle is struggling in Kenya. (Photo by Darcey Ogada)

Kenya’s Birds Of Prey Facing Major Declines 
Scientists found widespread declines in Kenya’s birds of prey over the past 40 years in a study reported in Biological Conservation. Nineteen of 22 species have seen a median rate of decline of 70%, and some of Kenya’s most iconic raptors, including the secretary bird and the long-crested eagle have almost disappeared. All vultures, large eagles and small and medium-sized raptors are failing.

Some Of The Best Team Hunters In The World: African Wild Dogs

Wild Dog Populations Continue To Grow
African wild dog populations might double by 2050, according to the Painted Wolf Foundation. Its 145-page report—”Securing the Future of the Painted Wolf”—assesses populations and conservation strategies by country. Africa Geographic also covered the welcome news.

Cat teeth showing signs of snare wire encounters.

Big Cats Show Scars Of Poaching Attempts
Evidence of poaching activities can be seen in the teeth of a significant number of big cats, reports UCLA biologist Paula White, whose research in Zambia links notches on lion and leopard teeth to snares. Of 112 hunted lions she examined in two Zambian conservation areas, 37% carried snare scars and tooth notches; 22% of 45 leopards showed the same evidence. Thirty of the lions had shotgun pellets in their skulls and 13 of the 30 had both shotgun and snare injuries. White recommends scientists and hunters work together to advance conservation efforts.

Namibia’s Successful Conservation Model Under Attack
Animal-rights groups are targeting Namibia’s community-based conservation model because it earns income from trophy hunting. A coalition of Namibian conservation groups explains why animal protectionists are fixated on the country’s uniquely successful conservation program, which is one of the world’s major conservation successes.

Hunting Quotas In South Africa Reflect Sustainability
South Africa’s Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment late last month announced some 2022 hunting quotas: 10 male leopards, seven years of age or older; 10 adult male black rhinos; and 150 elephants. The numbers are based on comprehensive research into sustainability, population dynamics and genetic diversity.

Cheetahs occupy only about 9 percent of their historic range.

Cheetah Successes And Challenges Explored 
Scientists are rewilding cheetahs in Mozambique. Read this ABC News interview with biologists working in the Zambezi Delta to learn about the latest developments in cheetah conservation—and watch the TV report about the enormous potential for harming cheetahs through social media.

Using Genetics To Identify Poaching Sources
Elephant genotyping reveals the scope of ivory trafficking, writes U. of Washington biologist Samuel Wasser in a study in Nature Human Behaviour. The tests can pinpoint where poaching occurs, identify new regional trends in poaching and connect contraband to international criminal organizations.


The markhor is the national animal of Pakistan. (photo by Imran Shah)

Pakistan’s Hunting Programs Provide Conservation Funding 
Twenty-six communities in Pakistan received more than $400,000 from markhor and ibex hunting programs administered by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Government. Markhor numbers especially have increased significantly since revenue-sharing began.


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and wife Carrie.

British Officials Continue To Ignore African Leaders 
“Colonial racism” was on full display as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie pushed a proposed ban on importing big game trophies. To them, it’s a way to end hunting; but Forbes examines how colonialism and condescension lead British officials and celebs to ignore African leaders, rural people and conservation experts. (Context: How hunting can be a conservation tool; the harm caused by wildlife import bans.)

Too Much Wolf Talk?
 Conservationists and country people can’t agree on managing Norway’s growing wolf population. After a court set aside the Ministry of the Environment’s decision to let 25 wolves be killed, John Linnell of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and the Inland Norway University of Applied Science suggested, “Perhaps it would be best if we all stopped talking about wolves for five years.”

Strategies For Austrian Wildlife Is Conference Theme
The Future of wildlife in Austria is the theme of the 27th Austrian Hunting Conference in May. Academics, wildlife professionals and hunters will discuss challenges and strategies, pandemics in wild animals, marketing strategies for wild game meat, the influence of wolves on livestock and prey animals, and more.


Ailing Eagles Suffering Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning is suppressing eagle populations across the US, according to a study in Science. If you like to eat venison, odds are that you will ingest lead particles in game meat. US wildlife agencies encourage the use of non-lead ammunition. (In Wyoming and Montana, Conservation Science Global leads two non-lead ammunition distribution programs.) In Europe, wildlife no longer suffers from lead poisoning—hunters have overwhelmingly gone lead-free. In South Africa, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife transitioned to lead-free ammunition for all wildlife management, and in Namibia Gail C. Thomson wants her venison unleaded, please!

Shane Mahoney honors his friend, Valerius Geist.

Geist Honored At Wild Sheep Banquet
Video: Speaker Shane Mahoney honored Valerius Geist—one of the most influential conservationists of all time—in an address at the Wild Sheep Foundation’s 2022 Legacy Night Banquet. Listen to Shane’s tribute to a man who influenced wildlife conservation and management around the World.

Wildlife conservation and trophy hunting are subjects of a new review.

An Enlightening Look At Colliding Concepts
“Comprehending Trophy Hunting: Hunting, Hunters, Trophies and Antis” is the title of Dr. Nikolaj Bichel’s PhD thesis, which delves deeply into conflicting views on wildlife conservation, especially regarding the definitions, aspects and concepts of trophy hunting. Last October, non-hunter Steve Cracknell reviewed Bichel’s thesis in “Wilding the Pyrenees” and found it enlightening.

Following The DNA Trail
Tracking animals (even insects) by DNA they leave in the air is possible, report several teams of European scientists in Anthropocene. Airborne environmental DNA holds promise as a way to better monitor how land-based creatures are faring, or if endangered species are present somewhere.