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Frontline Dispatches – February 2024 Vol. VI, No. 2


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NORTH AMERICA

Grizzly bear reintroduction to the Bitterroot Mountains moves ahead. Following a court decision last year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has until late 2026 to issue a new environmental impact statement for the recovery of grizzly bears in the Bitterroot ecosystem of southwestern Montana and eastern Idaho. Public comment is being accepted until March 18.


More than 8,000 wild horses and burros were adopted or sold in 2023, the second-highest number in 25 years. However, the Bureau of Land Management estimates that there are still about 83,000 in the western U.S, which is more than public rangelands can handle. The Bureau’s Adoption Incentive Program saved $181 million in taxpayer dollars. Since 1971, 290,000 wild horses and burros have found new homes.


image: Cory DeStein, The Narwhal

“Boo shacks” used to protect the critically endangered Central Selkirk caribou herd. Now the most southern deep-snow mountain caribou remaining in western Canada, this herd is on the verge of extirpation. Read more about the conservation efforts, including work by the Kalispel Tribe, to protect females and their calves.


image: Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Wyoming wildlife crossing project receives $24 million federal transportation grant. The Kemmerer Wildlife Crossing Project, which includes underpasses, overpasses, and fencing along 30 miles of U.S. Highway 189, is expected to eliminate 80–90% of wildlife-vehicle collisions. This project will help the Wyoming Range and Uinta mule deer herds as well as the Carter Lease pronghorn herd.


‘Elk rent’ is a novel approach to mitigate economic impact on ranchers. Extended elk use of private land in Montana’s Paradise Valley area causes forage competition with livestock, damage to fences, and potential disease transfer of brucellosis. Artificial intelligence and camera traps are being used to identify elk use and estimate rent to be paid to ranchers. Read more about this innovative ‘elk rent’ program in OutdoorLife.


WATCH: 28 bighorn sheep, 1 helicopter, and crews of biologists. Capture operations conducted by the New Mexico Game & Fish Department, like that in the Red Rock Wilderness Management Area, have translocated 566 sheep since 1979 – helping to increase the state’s population from 46 to more than 1,100.


U.S. Supreme Court denies Alaska’s proposal to reconsider Pebble Mine. The Environmental Protection Agency had previously blocked development of the mine, citing concerns for potential impacts to Bristol Bay – the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.


image: USDA

Canadian ‘super pigs’ are a new invasive species threat. These feral pigs, larger than those in the U.S., can cause millions of dollars of damage to agriculture and alter native ecosystems. The Conversation explains how this invasion from the north could complicate ongoing management.


image: Jason Miller, CBS News

Lucky video of rare jaguar caught on camera in Arizona! The new image and video, captured in the Huachaca Mountains near Tucson, marks the eighth individual jaguar to be documented in the U.S. since 1996.


WATCH: Why do moose shed their antlers? Rare footage captured a bull moose shaking its head, which caused his antlers to shed. Members of the deer family, including elk, caribou, and moose shed their antlers every winter after the mating season to save energy by not carrying the extra weight.

AFRICA

Scimitar-horned oryx downlisted from ‘extinct in the wild’ to ‘endangered’. According to Sahara Conservation, 600 oryx now live in their native habitat in Chad after a successful reintroduction program with Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency and other partners. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s reclassification is a major milestone for the species and good reason for optimism.

EUROPE

Humans once drove European bison to extinction. Is there room for the bison now? Herds of bison roamed Europe until 1927 when the species became extinct in the wild. Since then, the continent’s free-ranging population has increased to 7,300 bison but land use change and poaching are still threats. A new study mapped historical range to determine areas most suitable for bringing more bison back, including potential range in Slovakia, Romania, and the Caucasus, in addition to other regions if habitat is improved.

WORLD

image: Saiga Conservation Alliance

Saiga antelope’s remarkable recovery is celebrated by conservation partners! Once numbering 48,000 in 2005, there are now more than 1.9 million saiga in Kazakhstan and the antelope has been reclassified from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. However, the species still faces threats such as disease, poaching, and infrastructure development. Additional recovery for saiga also is possible in Mongolia, Russia, and Uzbekistan. (image: Saiga Conservation Alliance)


First cheetah cubs are born in India after translocation from Namibia. The recent birth of 3 cubs is the latest development in the world’s first intercontinental carnivore translocation project. There are now 18 cheetahs in India’s Kuno National Park, but most are still held in protective bomas.


Mongolia recovered its wild horses, but can it save other wildlife? The population of Przewalski’s horse, the only equine never to be domesticated, has increased to almost 1,000 across 3 sites in Mongolia. However, conservationists in the region remain concerned about poaching, overgrazing, and desertification that could threaten this and other species.


Indigenous people are key to saving Argentina’s Chacoan peccary. Conservationists hope to use the peccary as an umbrella species to protect Gran Chaco dry forest habitat from deforestation and feral pigs. At least 44% of remaining forests are in areas where indigenous peoples’ land rights are recognized. Learn more via Forbes and watch a video about the project that is empowering the conservation work of indigenous peoples.


image: Maxi Jonas, NewScientist

Mass death of seal pups raises concerns for bird flu in marine mammals. An estimated 17,000 elephant seal pups recently died from avian flu in Argentina. Other reports confirmed deaths of fur seals on South Georgia island, 20,000 sea lions in Chile and Peru, and even a polar bear in Alaska.