Gray Whale Deaths
Since January, more than 70 dead gray whales have washed up on the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Canada. That’s the most in a single year since 2000, and scientists are concerned.
So far this year, 73 dead whales have been spotted on West Coast beaches: 37 in California; three in Oregon; 25 in Washington; three in Alaska; and five in British Columbia, Canada. Most of them were skinny and malnourished, which suggests they probably didn’t get enough to eat during their last feeding season in the Arctic.
The condition of the dead whales also suggests there are many that scientists aren’t counting because emaciated whales tend to sink. The numbers that actually wash up do represent a fraction of the true number. Some estimates suggest it’s as few as 10%.
These gentle giants were once severely threatened by whalers. There were only around 2,000 of them left in 1946, when an international agreement to stop gray whale hunting was initiated to help the population recover, according to The Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit organization that rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals in California. Gray whales were removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1994, when the population was estimated to be about 20,000. In 2016, scientists estimated there were about 27,000.
USDA Kills Millions of Animals
The arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture known as Wildlife Services killed nearly 1.5 million native animals during 2018, according to new data released by the agency this week.
The multimillion-dollar federal wildlife-killing program targets wolves, coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals for destruction — primarily to benefit the agriculture industry. Of the 2.6 million animals killed last year, nearly 1.5 million were native wildlife species.
According to the latest report, the federal program last year intentionally killed 357 gray wolves; 68,186 adult coyotes, plus an unknown number of coyote pups in 361 destroyed dens; 515,915 red-winged blackbirds; 338 black bears; 375 mountain lions; 1,002 bobcats; 173 river otters plus 537 killed “unintentionally”; 3,349 foxes, plus an unknown number of fox pups in 133 dens; and 22,521 beavers.
The program also killed 17,739 prairie dogs outright, as well as an unknown number killed in more than 47,547 burrows that were destroyed or fumigated. These figures almost certainly underestimate the actual number of animals killed, as program insiders have revealed that Wildlife Services kills many more animals than it reports.
According to the new data, the wildlife-killing program unintentionally killed more than 2,700 animals last year, including bears, bobcats, foxes, muskrats, otters, porcupines, raccoons and turtles. Its killing of non-target birds included chickadees, cardinals, ducks, eagles, hawks, herons, owls and turkeys.
Dozens of domestic animals, including pets and livestock, were also killed or caught. Such data reveals the indiscriminate nature of painful leg-hold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and other methods used by federal agents.
“The barbaric, outdated tactics Wildlife Services uses to destroy America’s animals are appalling and need to end,” said Collette Adkins of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves, bears and other carnivores help balance the web of life where they live. They should be protected, not persecuted.”
The wildlife-killing program contributed to the decline of gray wolves, Mexican wolves, black-footed ferrets, black-tailed prairie dogs and other imperiled species during the first half of the 1900s and continues to impede their recovery today.
4,000 live reptiles rescued
Global police forces have carried off the largest reptile trade bust to date, arresting 12 suspects and seizing more than 4,000 live reptiles at airports, breeding facilities, and pet stores across Europe, North America, and elsewhere throughout April and May.
The initiative, dubbed Operation Blizzard—a play on words referring to the deluge of activity around lizards—was coordinated by Interpol and Europol in response to the illegal trade in snakes, turtles, and other protected reptiles. Trafficking of these animals is threatening some species with extinction and also fueling disease outbreaks among humans.
The exotic reptile trade has exploded in the past two decades, with millions of the animals now imported—legally and illegally—into the European Union and United States as household pets. Some reptiles are also coveted for their skins, made into high-end fashion items such as shoes, belts, and handbags.