Sunday, August 05, 2007

India: Save tiger habitat or restore tribal land rights?

Friday August 3, 2007 8:16 PM

By GAVIN RABINOWITZ

Associated Press Writer

NEW DELHI (AP) - A bill to restore land rights to millions of poor tribal people in India could mean the end for India's endangered wild tigers, eliminating much of their protected habitat, conservationists warned Friday.

The struggle over the Tribal Rights Bill highlights India's dilemma as it tries to include hundreds of millions of impoverished people in its recent economic growth and at the same time preserve the environment.

"Our biggest problem is not from poachers but from the tribal bill," Valmik Thapar, one of India's leading tiger experts, told a news conference.

The bill, which is expected to be passed in Parliament in the next few months, would allocate land to an estimated 85 million tribe members, indigenous forest-dwellers who occupy the lowest rungs of India's complex social ladder. Much of this land falls in wildlife reserves.

Proponents of the bill say the most important issue is to undo the decades of discrimination and victimization faced by the tribal people.

Many have been displaced as mines and industry's took away their traditional lands and deforestation deprived them of their livelihoods. Denied an education in many cases, tribe members often fell prey to unscrupulous landlords and money lenders.

"We are trying to do a balancing act between restoring the rights of the forest-dwellers and the environment," said Tribal Affairs Secretary Gautam Buddha Mukherjee, adding there are sufficient safeguards in the bill to protect tiger reserves.

But environmentalists disagree, saying the move could decimate the country's already dwindling wild tiger population, which has dropped from about 3,500 to just 1,500 in the last five years.

The bill gives tribal members the rights to farm, graze cattle and sell forest produce such as honey, wax, medicinal plants and herbs from the once-protected forests.

While hunting animals would be banned, critics say the redesignation of land use would ravage the tiger population by reducing land dedicated for reserves from 4.5 percent of the land in India to just 1.5 percent.

"Wherever you have humans and tigers living in the same area, they just do not coexist," said Thapar, attributing much of the recent steep decline in tiger numbers to loss of habitat and poaching outside protected areas.

"Ninety-five percent of tigers outside the parks were wiped out. They do not exist," said Thapar. "We have never been in such a sorry state."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/ story/0,,-6825856,00.html

Colorado: Missing lynx kittens stump biologists

Biologists not sure why Colorado's rare lynx didn't reproduce this year

Bob Berwyn
Vail, CO Colorado
August 1, 2007

SUMMIT COUNTY — A dramatic decline in lynx reproduction the last two years won't change the way federal agencies manage the rare wild cats in Colorado.

"From our perspective, nothing will change," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Kurt Broderdorp, who works with the U.S. Forest Service to ensure that activities like logging, recreation and ski area expansions are consistent with the Endangered Species Act.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for animals listed as threatened or endangered. Most of the suitable lynx habitat in Colorado is on national forest land, so before the Forest Service approves a project, biologists from the two agencies try to make sure no harm will come to the lynx.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife reported last week that no newborn kittens were found this year. Biologists with the recovery effort said a shortage of snowshoe hares, a main food source for lynx, may be the main reason for the lack of new births.

Snowshoe hare numbers may be at a low point in a natural population cycle, the researchers speculated.

The state wildlife agency keeps close tabs on lynx via radio signals sent from special collars on the cats. In late winter, they track males and females in close proximity to each other.

Then, when the female stays in one place, they have a good idea that the lynx may be setting up a den for breeding. Biologists and trackers subsequently visit the den sites to count kittens.

For several years , hopes were high that the cats were well on the way to recovery after numerous lynx births were reported between 2003 and 2006. But the lack of newborn lynx kittens this year is troubling and has caused some concern among biologists involved with the recovery effort.

Rockies a good home?

Broderdorp said there is no reason to panic.

"This is not an unnatural event. It's not unexpected," Broderdorp said.

Lynx populations in Canada and Alaska are known to fluctuate dramatically in tandem with the number of snowshoe hares, he said.

But even when hare numbers drop to their lowest levels in those areas, there is generally still some limited lynx reproduction, he added.

"The cycles (in Colorado) may be more localized and lower amplitude," Broderdorp said, adding that there are no definitive studies from Colorado as yet to show a decline in hare populations.

"With the number of lynx currently in Colorado, we believe they could go two or three years without reproduction and still have enough survivors to rebuild the population," said Rick Kahn, lead biologist for the reintroduction effort. "We'll continue our intensive monitoring efforts and data analysis and wait to see what happens next year."

Kahn said it's possible there were some births among lynx that aren't equipped with collars. But the fact that there were no births among the cats that the agency can track leads researchers to believe that something is up.

"Anecdotally, we're seeing a lot fewer hares," Kahn said.

Tracking hares would require extensive monitoring over a widespread area. And pinpointing the length and intensity of a hare population cycle means studying the numbers through one or two entire cycles, said University of Wyoming biologist Steve Buskirk, who was part of an early science advisory team on the lynx recovery effort.

The Division of Wildlife has started an intensive hare monitoring effort in south-central Colorado, Kahn said, but the agency is nowhere near having definitive data on hare populations.

The DOW has released 218 lynx in Colorado's southern mountains between 1999 and 2006.

Lynx generally live for about 10 years and reproduce between the ages of three and eight, although older cats have been known to breed.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is not sure of the exact ages of the cats transplanted to Colorado from Alaska and Canada.

Global warming

It's hard for the biologists to imagine what else might be causing the drop in reproduction. Kahn said it's possible the lynx themselves might be be eating hares at an unsustainable rate.

There has also been speculation that repeated introductions of new lynx transplanted from Canada and Alaska could have an impact on breeding.

"It could even be more sinister than that," Kahn added, suggesting that biologists may have to face the reality that the southern Rockies simply don't provide good lynx habitat.

Gary Patton, a U.S. Forest Service biologist who was involved in the early stages of the state's recover effort, suggested that researchers should be open to other possibilities than hares for the drop in lynx reproduction.

"I don't know if there's a way to determine in the short term whether hare population cycles are the cause," Patton said. "It's still debatable whether snowshoe hare numbers cycle substantially in the Southern Rockies."

Patton said an extended drought in the San Juans, with diminished snow cover, could be a factor. Changes in the vegetation patterns due to drought or even global warming could also cause drops, he added.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@sum

----------

Lynx births

A total of 116 lynx kittens are known to have been born in Colorado:

16 kittens in 2003;

39 kittens in 2004;

50 kittens in 2005;

11 kittens in 2006

0 kittens in 2007

http://www.vaildaily.com/article/20070801/NEWS/70801008

India: Lion, leopard killed by vehicles in same day

Sibte Husain Bukhari

Junagadh, August 3: Within less than 24 hours, one more big cat — a young lioness, came under the wheels of an an unknown vehicle in Gir (east) forest division. The incident occurred on the state highway No. 90 between Chaturi and Khadadhar villages in Khambha taluka early on Friday morning. On Thursday too, a young leopard cub was killed when she came under the wheels of an unknown vehicle.

Deputy Conservator of Forests (Gir east) V G Rana rushed to the spot on being informed about the incident. He sent the carcass to Khambha for a post-mortem examination, which was conducted by the veterinary officer in Khambha.

Rana said, "The post-mortem report confirmed that the two-year-old lioness succumbed to injuries. It had multiple fractures in its right limb and the right side of the head. All the claws have been found intact. We are on the lookout for the vehicle."

Recent incidents have brought to light the increasing pressures on wildlife in and around the Gir forest, which is the last resort of the Asiatic lion. Though the wild animal population here, particularly that of lions and leopards has considerably increased in the last decade, so has the human population. This has led to an increase in animal-human conflict.

When contacted, Conservator of Forests (wildlife) Bharat Pathak said, "Every year we carry out about 60 operations to rescue lions and leopards in Junagadh wildlife circle comprising the three districts of Junagadh, Amreli and Porbander. More than half of these operations are carried out to save the leopard for which we regularly received complaints from the revenue area."

According to the last census of lions and leopards carried out in May 2006, the leopard population in Gujarat was estimated at 1,100 plus. About 30 per cent (nearly 380) leopards are found in Junagadh district particularly in Gir, Girnar, forests on the costal belt, reserved forest, vidi land and in protected areas under Junagadh wildlife circle.

When asked about accidental deaths of big cats, which mostly occur while crossing the road, Pathak said, "We have identified three roads which have frequent movement of wild animals. We have written to the government departments concerned to put up speedbreakers on these roads, for we cannot stop traffic on them altogether," he said.

When contacted Deputy Conservator of Forests (Gir-west) B P Pati said, "Whenever we receive complaints about leopards taking shelter in revenue areas particularly sugarcane fields, we trap them and then, release them deep inside the jungle. It happens all year round," he said.

Rana said, "The leopard population has increased in the last two decades. And wild animals know no boundary such as revenue or forest area.

About a decade ago, there was very little human population around the Gir forest area. But now things are different.

While in 1984 the estimated population of leopards in Gujarat was 498, in 2006 it reached 1,100. And, with animals and human both increasing in numbers there's bound to be encroachment from either side.

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=249121

S. Africa: Leopard freed from trap with help of police

By Lynn Williams

A YOUNG leopard was freed from a homemade snare in the Amanzi area near Uitenhage yesterday afternoon.

Police spokesman Inspector Gerda Swart said members of the Uitenhage stock theft unit had received a report from a local farmer, George Marais, that the leopard was caught in the snare.

Swart said Inspector Johann de Wet and a local veterinary surgeon had gone to the farm and with the help of farm workers had calmed the leopard so that the vet could administer a local anaesthetic.

"The animal was freed and taken to veterinary surgeon and nature conservationist Dr Bool Smuts," Swarts said. "The leopard will recover to such an extent that it will be able to be released into its natural habitat."

Yesterday's incident follows an announcement by the Baviaanskloof Valley Farmers' Association this week that all its members would in future refrain from using gin traps on their farms.

http://www.theherald.co.za/herald/news/n09_03082007.htm

Indian gov't confirms tiger population decline

Jay Mazoomdaar
Friday, August 3, 2007 (New Delhi)

A few days after NDTV reported a loss of 60 per cent of India's tiger population, the ministry has confirmed the figure in the agenda note for the next National Board for Wildlife meeting to be chaired by the Prime Minister.

The National Board for Wildlife is expected to confirm our worst fears. India has only about 1,300 to 1,500 tigers left.

Last week, Rajesh Gopal of the National Tiger Conservation Authority had told NDTV that the 60 per cent loss of tiger population reported by four states seemed like a sign of things to come in the national census.

"Situation is not good due to bad land use, the trend may get repeated," said Rajesh Gopal.

The figures will be announced only at the end of the year but NDTV has access to them now, prepared by the office of the Director General (wildlife) in the ministry of environment and forest.

So, it's official. India has indeed lost 60 per cent of its tigers. With the PM already issuing directives to the states, all eyes will now be on the National Wildlife Board meeting.

http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/ story.aspx?id=NEWEN20070021385

Fill up vacant staff posts in tiger reserves, says Indian primae minister

New Delhi, Aug 3: Within a month of taking stock of the work being done in tiger conservation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday asked all chief ministers to urgently take steps to tighten institutional arrangements in tiger reserves and recruit frontline staff in sanctuaries on priority basis.

"The prime minister in a letter to the state chief ministers, after a review of the implementation of the Tiger Task Force Report, said that a large number of frontline posts in the Department of Forests are lying vacant in several states," said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

After setting up the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) last year as part of the new strategy to shore up the dwindling numbers of big cats that have fallen prey to unchecked poaching by organised gangs, Manmohan Singh has been taking an active interest to save India's national animal.

In his letter, Singh pointed out that recruitment bans could have been imposed when state finances were under stress but maintained that matters had changed and urged chief ministers to fill up vacancies.

In its provisional findings in May, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) estimated that the number of tigers in India was not likely to be more than 2,000-2,200 after a study of tiger population in six states. The final findings of the WII study are expected in December.

The last tiger census had put the number at more than 3,500.

Singh also urged chief ministers to create a development agency in each tiger reserve for guidance in increasing local participation in tiger reserve management.

"These agencies would be under the field directors involving local panchayats and professional wildlife experts," said a statement.

On World Environment Day (June 5) over 140 tiger experts, NGOs and prominent citizens sent an open letter to the prime minister expressing the critical need to act immediately to save the tiger.

"Recent government monitoring studies have unequivocally confirmed what conservationists have been saying for years - the tiger is in steep decline, it is not adequately protected and unless action is taken now, it will be too late to stem the slide to extinction," said Belinda Wright, chief of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

As a follow-up action Prime Minister Singh has also asked the states to consider major parks and tiger reserves as autonomous profit centres suggesting the creation of a "development fund" in each reserve, which would be made eligible for tourism gate receipts and assistance from governments.

--- IANS

http://www.newkerala.com/july.php?action=fullnews&id=51321

Eco-tourists take to village life in India's snow leopard country

By Tripti Lahiri

ANSWERING the call of nature over a pit of manure with no flush water in sight and learning how to churn butter may not be everyone's idea of a great holiday.

But in India's "Little Tibet", the remote Himalayan region of Ladakh, a pioneering scheme to offer tourists the authentic tastes of mountain life is taking off - and could hold the key to preserving a fragile ecosystem. "Himalayan Homestays," as the programme is called, started out as one environmental group's way of protecting the endangered snow leopard, which roams the high-altitude plateau and towering peaks on the border with China.

In the past, villagers here hunted the predator that each year bit into their earnings by killing 13 percent of their livestock - sheep, goats, yaks and dzos, a cow-yak hybrid. "We wanted to do something that would serve as an incentive for the villagers not to kill the snow leopard," explained Rinchen Wangchuck, the head of the non-profit Snow Leopard Conservancy.

Now, residents have a new source of income. Wangchuck says his group helped villagers transform their wish to operate run-of-the-mill guesthouses into a niche tourism concept that would boost their income and protect the delicate environmental balance in the rural areas. Five years on, the homestay programme - which allows trekkers to sleep and eat with families in the Hemis National Park or Sham and Zanskar mountains - is catching on as a local model for eco-tourism.

About 15 villages with 65 households are involved, charging couples 700 rupees (17 dollars) a night for their stay. All but 50 rupees go straight to the family.

Alternative sanitation: For 35-year-old Swedish tourist Melinda Kinnaman, her stay at Padma Dolma's home in the tiny Ladakhi village of Rumbuk gave her a true break from her work back home as an actress - a taste of a simpler, old-fashioned life. "This morning the grandfather was churning the butter and I've never seen that before," Kinnaman said as she sat next to a window in Dolma's house looking out at snow-capped peaks and bright green fields of barley.

The home - a three-floor flat-roofed earthen house with carved wooden window frames - appeared, like its neighbours, to blend seamlessly into the surrounding mountains of the Stok range. There's little in the way of technology - a tape recorder sits in one corner of the room while government-distributed solar panels power a few bulbs after dark. "In Sweden, it would be much more modern and mechanised," said Kinnaman.

Visitors get breakfast and dinner - and a crash course in alternative sanitation, with Ladakhi villages still using dry composting rather than the flush toilets increasingly in vogue in Leh, Ladakh's main town. The region is dependent on glaciers for 90 percent of its water and with little infrastructure to deal with sewage or garbage, wasting water has never been an option.

A visit to the ladies' room during a Ladakh homestay involves crouching with a leg on either side of a rectangular hole over a storage chamber and pouring a shovel of dirt over any new additions to the pile below. Eventually, the whole lot turns into manure that is used by the villagers in the fields. "The toilet - sometimes it's a little difficult," laughed Kinnaman. Most food comes directly from the land, such as the Ladakhi pasta-type dish skyu - small thumb-indented flour balls that are boiled and served with freshly picked peas and cream.

"How I live, I don't even know who makes my food or where it comes from. They have so much knowledge that I don't," said Kinnaman, who had watched her hosts go out to gather food for meals from the farm. "It's such a different tempo from Sweden. There's just another sense of time here."

Cash for education, clean-up: The homestays are mainly run by women, who plough 10 percent of the proceeds back into a village conservation committee in charge of keeping the area free of plastic bottles, soft drink cans and the other kinds of tourist litter that ruins many of the world's scenic spots. Dolma, who was hosting Kinnaman, has also been able to send her youngest daughter to a private boarding school - something that would have been unattainable before Rumbuk, a picturesque but simple hamlet of nine households, joined the tourism industry.

"Here there is no income. Everyone would stay in campgrounds," said Dolma, reflecting on the previous tourism trends, which kept the money out of reach of villagers, to the benefit of mainstream tour operators and hoteliers. "Now we get four to five thousand rupees (over a hundred dollars)" a season, she said in her spotless mountain home, with woven mats spread on the kitchen floor for guests to sit on.

Dolma, who says she was the first one to sign up for the homestay programme, said she never doubted the wisdom of allowing strangers into her home but admitted feeling a little shy. "First we had problems in speaking. Now there's no problem - we speak a bit of Hindi and English," said Dolma, a smiling, rosy-cheeked mother of three who has embraced globalisation with the help of an English language cassette. "We had to learn how to cook and serve food. First we didn't even know if they would eat dinner like us."

In Leh, 30 kilometres away from Rumbuk, officials are hoping they can spread the homestay model to other villages - and perhaps even to Leh. Last year, 40,000 tourists visited Ladakh and the number is going up 10 percent each year - a major boost for the isolated region's economy but also laden with potential disastrous environmental consequences.

A 2005 study for the governing Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council found that Leh produced 6,000 tonnes of waste during the tourist season, about three times what it produces in the rest of the year. "We are never prepared. Every year there are more hotels and guesthouses," council chief Chering Dorjay told AFP. "They are not eco-friendly." afp

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp? page=2007%5C08%5C03%5Cstory_3-8-2007_pg4_24

Animal orphanage crucial to rehabilitate Nepal wildlife

BY PRAGATI SHAHI

KATHMANDU, Aug 4 - Government officials are having a hard time rehabilitating injured and orphaned wild-animals in their natural habitat due to lack of wildlife orphanage center.

"Most animals become domesticated due to prolonged human contact during their treatment and rearing period," said Laxmi Prasad Manandhar, chief conservation officer at Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC).

According to him, the ongoing practice of keeping rescued wildlife for a long period in human captivity has made it difficult for animals to adapt to their habitat.

The story of two orphaned-baby rhinos named Shiva Ram and Kumar of Chitwan National Park that were reared for more than five years inside the park is a case in point. Manandhar said the rhinos preferred to live in the human colony rather than the jungle. "When they were translocated to Bardiya National Park the rhinos often went to stay with the nearby human settlements where they were treated as horse or donkey and kids were often seen riding on the back of the rhinos," said Manandhar. A story of a three-month old baby leopard from Kaski district also illustrates this. Officials tried to send the leopard back to its habitat after it was four years old. "We left the leopard some 12-15 kilometers far in the jungle. But, it returned within a week," said Manandhar, a member of the rescue team at that time.

RK Manandhar, director of Central Zoo, Kathmandu, said the availability of orphanage center would help us rehabilitate animals in their natural habitat within a short period.

DNPWC is planning to establish an orphanage center at Godavari, Lalitpur. According to Manandhar, a proposed musk deer research center, which has not been in operation for the last 15 years, could be developed as orphanage center.

We can use the center for establishment of the orphanage center for injured, rescued and orphaned wild animals so that they can easily adapt to their natural habitat, he added.

Similarly, due to frequent cases of rescue operations in Chitwan, DNPWC is also planning to establish an orphanage center there. A tigress and a baby rhino were recently rescued in Chitwan. They are being cared for by Chitwan National Park, according to DNPWC sources.

Posted on: 2007-08-03 20:32:04 (Server Time)

http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?&nid=118020

Take steps for tiger conservation, says India's prime minister

Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked the States to take steps for strengthening institutional arrangements in tiger reserves and prioritise recruitment of frontline staff of the Forest Department especially in wildlife sanctuaries.

Dr. Singh, in a letter to State Chief Ministers, after a review of the implementation of the Tiger Task Force Report, has said that a large number of frontline posts in the Department of Forests was lying vacant in several States. This may have happened on account of recruitment bans imposed at a time when State finances were under stress, he said. He urged the states to fill in the vacancies at the earliest.

The Prime Minister also urged the Chief Ministers to create a "development agency" in each tiger reserve for guidance in increasing local participation in tiger reserve management. These agencies would be under the Field Directors involving local panchayats and wildlife experts. Enabling provisions for constituting such an institutional mechanism have been provided in the Wildlife Protection Amendment Act, 2006 and related guidelines issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, he said.

http://www.hindu.com/2007/08/04/stories/2007080455260700.htm

Friday, August 03, 2007

Conservationists sue Feds to recover endangered U.S. jaguar

For Immediate Release, August 2, 2007
Contact: Michael Robinson, (505) 534-0360

TUCSON, Ariz.— Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit in federal district court in Tucson to compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a recovery plan and designate critical habitat for endangered jaguars in the United States.

"Jaguars are powerful but shy," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. "They are retiring, elusive animals with exquisite camouflage for hiding in dappled sunlight or foliage. After more than a century of persecution, a few still survive in southern Arizona and New Mexico."

Recovery plans and critical habitat are required by the Endangered Species Act once a species is determined by the government to be endangered. The plans are a road map to restoring a species so that it no longer hovers on the brink of extinction; critical habitat protects the homes of wild creatures and has been proven to speed progress toward recovery.

Added Robinson, "Without a recovery plan and protected habitat, American jaguars just don't stand a chance."

The scientific community supports recovery planning and critical habitat. On June 10, 2007, almost 600 biologists from around the nation, members of the American Society of Mammalogists, unanimously approved a resolution calling for a recovery plan and critical habitat designation for jaguars in the United States. The mammalogists' resolution noted that " habitats for jaguars in the United States, including Arizona and New Mexico, are vital to the long-term resilience and survival of the species, especially in response to ongoing climate change."

Jaguars evolved in North America and still survive in a tiny corner of the Southwest. The jaguar is the largest cat native to the New World, and the third-largest cat globally. Fossils from the state of Washington, Nebraska and Maryland indicate that the jaguar evolved in North America, spread south to colonize Central and South America, then lost its far northernmost range, perhaps as recently as 15,000 years ago.

In historic times jaguars ranged from California, as far north as Monterey Bay, east all the way to the Carolinas. Persecution and loss of habitat shrank that range drastically. Jaguars were gone from the East by the 1800s, and the last was killed in California in 1860. The last jaguar in Texas was killed in 1948. In Arizona and New Mexico, at least one jaguar has been confirmed in every decade throughout the 20th century. Many of them were trapped, poisoned or shot by the Fish and Wildlife Service's predator-control program.

Since the 1990s, a total of four jaguars have been photographed in southern Arizona and New Mexico. Jaguars have also been seen but not photographed further north in the Gila National Forest of New Mexico, including one daylight observation by two biology professors from New Mexico's Highlands University.

A recent report in the scientific journal Wild Cat News suggests that the long tenure of two confirmed male jaguars indicates the presence of one or more mates for these animals, female jaguars that as yet remain undetected. The last confirmed female jaguar in the United States was killed in the Apache National Forest of Arizona in 1963.

Action to recover jaguars in the U.S. has been delayed since 1973. The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the jaguar as endangered under the predecessor law to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, but through what the agency termed an "oversight" failed to place the jaguar in the United States on the modern endangered species list. In 1979, the agency pledged to "take action as quickly as possible" to list the jaguar domestically, but did not do so. In 1992, Dr. Anthony Povilitis petitioned the federal agency to list the jaguar in the United States, but it was not until July 22, 1997, in response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity seeking action on that petition, that the jaguar was finally listed as an endangered species in the United States.

In 1997 the Fish and Wildlife Service stated it would not designate critical habitat in part because "To the extent that identification of habitats that are essential for recovery of the species rangewide is necessary, the Service would identify these areas as part of the recovery planning process." Yet no recovery planning is underway nor even planned at present — ten years after the jaguar was listed as an endangered species in the United States.

State-led Jaguar Team is all talk, no action. The Fish and Wildlife Service sometimes claims that the state of Arizona-led "Jaguar Conservation Team," established in 1997 when the jaguar was placed on the domestic endangered species list, serves as a de facto recovery team. But the "Jaguar Conversation Team," as it is informally known, was never intended to recover jaguars.

The Bush administration also cites the Jaguar Conservation Team as a replacement for critical habitat. Yet the team failed to fulfill its 1997 pledge "to coordinate protection of jaguar habitat." With the Center for Biological Diversity's help, the team identified and mapped more than 62 million acres of potentially suitable jaguar habitat in New Mexico and Arizona. But it has not protected any habitat anywhere.

"The Jaguar Conversation Team is not a substitute for a recovery plan and critical habitat," said Robinson. "After ten years of meetings and paper-pushing, the team has not protected a single acre of habitat for this highly endangered animal, which has all but disappeared from American soil."

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/press/jaguar-08-02-2007.html

Canada lynx protection: How not to make decisions

Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel

Yesterday, hearings began on Capitol Hill that focused on political interference by the Bush administration with federal agency science and decision-making.

Those hearings have a direct connection to Maine. In 2002, Julie MacDonald came to the Department of the Interior. A civil engineer, MacDonald was a political appointee who rose to the position of Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Several years after her appointment, federal officials began an investigation into charges that MacDonald "bullied, insulted, and harassed the professional staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to change documents and alter biological reporting regarding the Endangered Species Program."

Investigators uncovered a trail of, at best, questionable interference by MacDonald in decisions that would have protected wildlife and, at worst, downright intimidation of field staff. They found that the service's field staff were forced to change scientific analysis to suit MacDonald's preference for protecting industry from the restrictions of an endangered species listing. She leaked nonpublic, internal documents to private sector players when they would gain advantage from that information. In one particularly loathsome instance of interference over an Endangered Species Act designation, this engineer with no biological training declared that the Greater Sage Grouse was not dependent on a diet of sagebrush during the winter, saying, "They will eat other stuff if it is available." Should it have been renamed the "Greater Stuff Grouse?"

She also got involved in an endangered species issue in Maine.

Maine is home to the only breeding populations of the endangered Canada Lynx in the eastern United States. The Fish and Wildlife Service had proposed designating a little more than 10,000 square miles of the state's forestlands as so-called "critical habitat" for the lynx -- the land lynx would need to retain healthy, breeding populations. The designation would have meant an additional layer of federal protections; any habitat disturbance by landowners such as timber companies would face more rigorous review.

That designation had been supported by wildlife and conservation groups, but opposed by the state's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Staff there said the timber industry and other landowners' plans for voluntary conservation measures were enough to protect the lynx. The Fish and Wildlife Service staff agreed with that point of view, but nevertheless proposed to designate critical habitat for the lynx in Maine.

Yet before that designation could become law, MacDonald met in September with representatives of Plum Creek Timber Co., which owns much of those 10,000 square miles, the Maine Forest Products Council and staff from Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins' offices; the congressional representatives were there at the request of Gov. John Baldacci. The state and forestry interests didn't want the critical habitat designation, saying industry's voluntary measures to protect the lynx habitat should be sufficient.

Subsequently, MacDonald made it known to fish and wildlife staff the Plum Creek lands should be left off any critical habitat decision. Because field staff felt that leaving only Plum Creek -- and not other landowners -- out of the designation would be unfair, they excluded all private lands.

Late in the year, MacDonald also ordered all U.S. Forest Service lands to be taken out of any designation as well. The agency, in announcing that all Maine lands had been left out of any critical habitat designation, said their decision was based on "extensive peer review, public comment and biological information."

That's hardly the case. It's true that historically, many of this nation's decisions about management of its resources have emerged from the sometimes ugly intersection of commerce and nature. Yet MacDonald's meddling wasn't about policy or interpretation -- arguably the province of high-level agency staff -- it was about twisting the facts and distorting science.

And in the meantime, the Fish and Wildlife Service has publicly repudiated many of MacDonald's acts and initiated a review of almost a score of them which they say have a high likelihood of being reversed -- including the critical habitat designation for Maine's lynx.

We hope that this time around, a decision about the best way to protect Maine's valuable natural resources can be made on the merits -- not through an abuse of power. We may end up with precisely the same decision that was rendered, but we will have gotten there through legitimate means.

http://morningsentinel.mainetoday.com/view/columns/4141119.html

Mountain lion killed by car near Malibu

A male mountain lion collared by the National Park Service was found fatally injured Tuesday morning on Malibu Canyon Road near Tunnel One, according to authorities.

An NPS spokesperson said the young male named P-9 was apparently hit by a vehicle on the canyon roadway.

"We are pretty sure it was hit by a car," said Charles Taylor, a spokesperson for the Park Service, who said the big cat's body was on the roadway pavement.

The remains were turned over to the state Department of Fish and Game for a necropsy.

Besides the official cause of death, park officials want to determine whether the animal had consumed traces of chemical anti-coagulants.

The substances, often used in many types of rodent poisons, are now thought to have found their way up the predator food chain to the top level and may be killing off animals. "We can't check that in a mountain lion until a necropsy is performed, " Taylor said.

P-9 was collared on May 15 with a tracking device and had recently been observed traveling through Malibu Creek State Park and Santa Ynez Canyon located near Topanga Canyon State Park.

Taylor said they do not believe it is the same cougar that was spotted on the Pepperdine University campus several weeks ago.

The dead cat is believed to have been two or three years old and was not one of the kittens born to a female that was killed during a fight with a larger male lion over a year ago.

With the demise of P-9, it is estimated that the current population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains is four.

There are two females, one male and another so-called mystery cat. There have been six recorded deaths of the cougars, according to Taylor, over the past four years.

Repeated sightings of smaller, uncollared mountain lions has led some observers to think that new animals are managing to traverse populated areas, and even freeways, to join the gene pool in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Without this potential for diversity, the big cats will continue to face difficult odds of healthy survival in an increasingly in­hospitable environment.

http://malibusurfsidenews.com/stories/200708/20070802004.html

Young cougar killed after attacking boy in Alberta

By BILL KAUFMANN, SUN MEDIA

CALGARY — Five soccer kicks to the head of a cougar weren't enough to wrench a 12-year-old boy's head from the mouth of the big cat, says the man credited with saving the lad's life.

So Mark Patterson put a chokehold on the cougar that had ambushed his young neighbour Colton Reeb, who was on his way to an outhouse near a cabin about 100 km northwest of Kamloops late Wednesday afternoon.

"The cat had Colton's head in its mouth ...blood was squirting out everywhere," said Kamloops resident Patterson, 45.

"I'm a soccer player and I kicked the cougar in the head five times and it didn't flinch so I grabbed him by the throat and squeezed as hard as I could and he finally let go."

Patterson then wrestled with the 70-pound male cougar, which broke free, fixing him with an evil glare and growl, he said.

"I growled back at him and said, ‘I'm ready to go,'" said the five-foot-six, 210-pound Patterson, adding the entire melee lasted up to a minute.

As his wife stood nearby armed with a meat cleaver, the cougar then slinked away.

"I was scared but I don't remember ... I love this little boy and I didn't want him to die," said Patterson.

Patterson drove a bleeding Colton by pickup truck to the RCMP station in Clinton, 15 km to the east, then he was taken to a hospital in Ashcroft about 50 km away.

He was then flown by helicopter to B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver with non-life-threatening bite and claw wounds to his face, neck, head and upper chest.

An emotional Robin Reeb, Colton's father, said Patterson deserves a medal for heroism.

"If it weren't for him, my son would be dead," said a tearful Reeb, who was in Kamloops at the time of the attack .

"He attacked this thing with his bare hands and kicked the s--t out of it – it's amazing."

Said Patterson: "I guess they're calling me a hero now – I thought soldiers were heroes."

The grateful father, who was in Vancouver to be near his son, said Colton will require "probably hundreds of stitches," and plastic surgery, but added the boy is eager to resume camping.

"He said, ‘I want to go back to Clinton' ... he just got a new motorcycle the day before and wants to get back there."

Rod Olsen of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said Patterson acted heroically and smartly in taking on the young male cat.

"He's truly selfless and his actions saved the kid," he said.

Officials also said Colton acted properly by curling up in a ball when attacked.

Conservation officers found the cougar near the scene of the attack and shot it dead, and also scoured the area for others.

The area of the attack is described by Olsen as arid and rocky, studded with Douglas firs and populated by mountain sheep and mule deer that normally serve as the cougars' prey.

"They mistake humans for these animals," he said, adding the younger cats "can cause issues" with humans.

Thursday, Patterson retraced the incident at the attack site with conservation officers.

Hearing Colton wants to pick up where he left off at the Patterson property is reward enough, said the boy's rescuer.

"He said he wants to go back to Mark's cabin, which is all that matters," said Patterson.

bill.kaufmann@calgarysun.com

http://www.edmontonsun.com/News/Alberta/2007/08/02/4389439.html

S. African farmers opt for more humane capture of leopards

By Athane Scholtz Garden Route Reporter

IN a major breakthrough for leopard conservation programmes in the Baviaanskloof area, the Baviaanskloof Valley Farmers‘ Association said all its members would in future refrain from using gin traps on their farms.

The news was welcomed by environmentalists and, in particular, the Landmark Foundation, which has been working with some farmers in a dedicated predator rescue programme in the valley since 2004.

Foundation director Bool Smuts said the announcement was made by Dawid Smith during the catch, collar and release of a leopard on his farm on Tuesday.

"We have been working with Dawid for a few months now because the area in which his farm is situated is regarded as one of the hotspots, where major losses of leopards and livestock have been reported," he said. "In partnership with him, the foundation has developed a comprehensive holistic predator management strategy on his farm as a pilot project."

Smith‘s entire flock of 1 100 sheep were kitted out with protective wire-mesh collars, and an Anatolian guard dog – a breed that lives outdoors with the sheep – was introduced. Smith also agreed to the use of live traps (cages with trap doors) instead of gin traps that seriously maim animals.

The animal is caught and collared with a GPS system that can trace its whereabouts. If stock losses occur and the GPS data implicates the collared leopard, a farmer would be compensated – initially financially but later through a "green" labelling system that would identify products as "leopard-friendly" to consumers.

"We firmly believe that these interventions will be cost-effective, humane and ecologically acceptable. We hope that Dawid‘s farm, which really is one of the most affected by predator activity, will become an example to other farmers in the area as to the effectiveness of these measures," Smuts said.

He said the banning of gin traps in the valley was significant and the foundation would support the farmers in effecting the change to holistic predator management strategies.

"It is a major change of mindset by the farmers, which is commendable and encouraging. The co-operation of all the farmers in the valley can make a major difference to the overall well-being of the local leopard population." The leopard caught, collared and released on Tuesday was a young female, weighing 22kg. She was in perfect health.

Before her release, she was fully examined, and a genetic sample and morphological measurements taken. The information obtained from her will be part of the research, sponsored by the Landmark Foundation, into population sizes, dynamics and, ultimately, economic mechanisms to ensure the conservation of the animals.

The foundation has assisted with the relocation and successful release of three leopards into the Addo Elephant National Park in recent years, as well as the capture, collaring and release of two leopards into the Baviaanskloof area.

The two leopards are of particular significance as, previously, the animals had to be removed from the areas of capture as farmers were reluctant to have them released on their land where they could cause stock losses.

http://www.theherald.co.za/herald/news/n14_02082007.htm

Rabid bobcat busts into Sedona, Ariz., home

Wed, 01 August 2007
By Greg Ruland
Larson Newspapers

A rabid bobcat apparently forced its way into a West Sedona home July 25, before police officers and a state ranger were able to capture the diseased animal, the Sedona Police Department reported.

The bobcat was humanely destroyed and its head was sent to a Phoenix laboratory for testing. Within 24 hours, the test came back positive for rabies, SPD Animal Control Officer Rob Allen said.

"We really dodged a bullet," he said. No animals or people were scratched or bitten during several brazen, daylight encounters that surprised and intimidated several residents, Allen said.

The bobcat, apparently in a lethargic state, aggressively approached several people in the Kachina area,

but did not attack, before barging into the

terrified homeowner's residence, Allen said.

"The animal showed absolutely no fear," he said. "Rabid animals may show no fear of people and may even seem friendly or become aggressive."

Animal control officers from the Sedona Police Department and the Arizona Game and Fish Department used a screen door as a barricade to push and eventually trap the animal in a corner of the den, then reached over the door to secure a catch pole around the cat's neck, Allen said.

The bobcat was the seventh in a string of wild animals that tested positive for rabies in and around Sedona since January, Allen said.

In addition to the bobcat, three hydrophobic bats and three rabid foxes were discovered in several areas during the past seven months, including Soldier Pass Trail, Dry Creek Road, Oak Creek Canyon and Sycamore Canyon Wilderness.

The latest encounter prompted an urgent warning from SPD.

"Keep pets on a leash at all times and stay away from wild or unfamiliar animals," Allen said.

Allen said it was the first time in his six years with SPD he issued a warning about rabies.

The disease is 100 percent fatal if left untreated, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

"The survival rate is pretty good," if the bite is treated immediately, Allen said.

Thorough cleaning of the bite or scratch and immediate vaccination dramatically increases the chances of surviving the disease, which can take three weeks to three months to incubate, ADHS reported.

In the past, rabies vaccination was almost as scary as getting the disease itself because it required a series of very painful injections in the stomach. All that's changed now, said Allen, who underwent the treatment three times in recent years as added precaution.

As an animal control officer, Allen said he obviously has a much greater likelihood of being exposed to rabies than the average person.

"These days, it's just like getting a flu shot," he said.

According to ADHS, rabies can be acquired in only a few ways: exposure to the brain matter or spinal fluid of an infected animal, or from a bite or scratch that causes exposure to the infected animal's saliva.

Bites and scratches are the most common method of contracting the disease, ADHS reported.

According to the prevailing medical literature, 32 human rabies cases were reported between 1990 and 2000. Of those, 24 were caused by contact with bats.

Bats are a major concern when it comes to rabies and humans because bat teeth are small and bat bites have been known to go undetected, Allen said.

http://www.redrocknews.com/news/rabid-bobcat-busts -into-sedona-home.html

Oregon's cougar slaughter: A return to the Dark Ages

By George Wuerthner, 7-24-07

The Oregon legislature recently passed a controversial bill that will facilitate the killing of several thousand cougars in the state. In what seems like a throw back to the last century, the state is set to kill more than a third of its cougars.

The new law would permit the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to "deputize" hunters so they can use hounds in order to ramp up the killing of cougars (euphemistically called "harvest"). This new law was crafted to circumvent a twice-passed citizen imitative that bans use of hounds for "sport" hunting of cougars. Oregon never outlawed cougar hunting—just the killing of cougars with the aid of hounds. In 2006 the state's total hunter and "management" kill was 442 animals. However, in the eyes of the ODFW not enough cougars were being killed. Hunting with hounds is more effective, and since ODFW newly adopted cougar plan calls for slaughtering up to 2000 of the secretive animals, the agency wanted a more efficient means of killing the big cats, hence its strong support for the new legislation.

Most people are outraged by the thought of some cretin, whom I will not glorify with the term hunter, following a pack of radio collared hounds to a treed cat, and then blasting the cougar from its perch. The killing of animals like cougars, wolves, prairie dogs, and other animals that are not providing meat on the table is seen as bloodthirty and unnecessary by a growing majority of Americans—including Oregon residents—which is why they have twice banned the practice. Finding little public support for such practices, ODFW tries to hide its real predator persecution motives behind a veneer of public safety concerns by suggesting it has to kill more than a third of the state's cougar population to reduce public anxiety over potential cougar attacks. Never mind that ODFW has been beating the drums about a "growing" threat from cougars in order to create a public mandate for predator control.

If the department were genuinely interested in reducing human-cougar conflicts it would be arguing against any cougar hunting at all. Most top predators, including cougars, are territorial social animals. Research has demonstrated that it is primarily young, inexperienced animals that are responsible for the majority of human-cougar conflicts and incidences. There is good reason for this, since young animals tend to be inexperienced hunters, they are more likely to attack domestic livestock or even humans. Plus younger animals are more mobile, thus likely to set up a territory in or near human settlements—the kind of marginal habitat that older, more experienced cougars avoid. Thus indiscriminate hunting of cougars (as well as other predators like wolves) will invariably skew the population towards younger age classes. This creates more human/predator conflicts and by happy coincidence sets up a self reinforcing feedback for ever more "control." Any competent biologist knows about these social interactions, yet we never hear the ODFW explaining to the public how cougar persecution might exacerbate, rather than decrease, risk for human/cougar conflicts.

Furthermore, the threat to human life from cougars is greatly exaggerated. There has never been a single human death as a result of cougar attack in Oregon, and the likelihood of any lethal attacks is extremely small. In the past hundred years in North America there has been about 100 documented attacks on humans, with only 18 fatal. By contrast in 2006 there were 26 fatal attacks on people by dogs alone. And 219 people died as a result of horse-related accidents. A department that was genuinely interested in addressing public concerns would be launching a massive educational campaign to reduce public anxiety. But instead the ODFW has reinforced public apprehension by suggesting that "yes, we had better reduce cougar populations before someone dies."

California makes a good contrast to Oregon's approach to cougar management. In California all sport hunting for cougars has been banned since 1972. Though the state has 34 million people and five times the livestock as Oregon, only 120 California cougars are killed each year to deal with public concerns about livestock or human threats.

ODFW suggests that some elk and deer herds are not growing, and may even be declining—and conveniently placing the blame upon the "growing" cougar population. However, they fail to acknowledge that in nearly all circumstances that such ungulate declines are due to degraded habitat quality and/or loss—for instance increased road densities from logging that facilities higher hunter success, changes in vegetation due to fire suppression, competition with domestic livestock for forage, new subdivisions (increasingly built in cougar habitat), and so on. Instead of addressing these issues, the department hides behind the predator scapegoat.

Where predators are reducing ungulate populations, something that they can do on occasion, an intelligent response would be to ask, "what ecological benefit might be the consequence?" In the case of predator induced declines in ungulate numbers, an intelligent department that was professional would point out how vegetative communities benefit from a reduction in heavy exploitation by herbivores, which in turn benefits both plant communities and ungulates in the long term. But ODFW is silent when it comes to good ecological science. Nor does the department talk about other positive ecological effects of predators including the tendency of deer and elk to spread themselves out on the landscape or how they kill different age classes of prey animals from hunters—both of which have significant ecological consequences.

I want to acknowledge that there are many very fine biologists who do work for ODFW as well as other state Fish and Wildlife agencies. I know many of them first hand, and they work hard to promote good ecological care of the land and its wildlife. Many of them are uncomfortable with the increasingly hostile attitudes that their own agencies are displaying towards predators. There are also hunters, such as myself, who are opposed to predator control for a host of ethical and biological reasons. Unfortunately you would never know any countervailing perspective exists amongst the hunting community.

Whether it is Wyoming's plan to kill wolves as "predators" , a designation that offers no limits on numbers killed or closed season, or Idaho's goal to reduce wolves by up to 2/3, or Oregon's proposed cougar slaughter, what we are seeing is a throwback back to the good old days when predators were seen as nothing more than an obstacle to "better" hunting. I predict if hunters are not careful, and don't start speaking out against predator persecution and the 19th century practices of state wildlife agencies, they will find that a growing number of Americans will just vote to ban all hunting, not just that directed at killing predators.

George Wuerthner is a former Montana hunting guide, a wildlife biologist, and author of 34 books on natural history and environmental issues who still kills (as opposed to harvest), on occasion, elk and deer. He finds the best hunting is where there are dense populations of wolves and cougars since other hunters avoid these areas, convinced predators have discriminated elk and deer herds.

http://www.newwest.net/index.php/topic/article/ oregons_cougar_slaughter_a_return_to_the_dark_ages/C38/L38/

Conservation groups want lynx protected in N.M.

posted by: Jeffrey Wolf , Web Producer
created: 8/1/2007 7:14:38 PM
Last updated: 8/1/2007 7:15:05 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Conservation groups from three states are asking federal wildlife officials to provide endangered species protections for the Canada lynx throughout its range in northern New Mexico.

The elusive, long-haired cats are federally threatened in several states in the West, but not in New Mexico. They are even considered endangered by state officials in neighboring Colorado, where more than 200 lynx have been reintroduced since 1999.

Some of the cats have drifted south into New Mexico, and conservationists argue they should be protected here as well.

The groups sent a petition seeking protections Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Matthew Bishop, a New Mexico attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, which is representing the conservationists.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service has never once used an artificial state boundary or county boundary or any boundary below the international level ... to divide one biological grouping or population of a species," Bishop said in an interview. "This would be the first time."

Bishop said the petition seeks to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to make a decision on the lynx's status in New Mexico since the cats have been spotted in the state.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Elizabeth Slown said Wednesday the agency had not seen the petition. She said the agency will likely have 60 days to review the document and decide if federal biologists need to do more research on whether the lynx should be listed in New Mexico.

If the agency were to deny the petition, Bishop said his clients would immediately challenge the ruling in court.

"Any decision not to protect the lynx in New Mexico would be seen as arbitrary and capricious," he said. "The lynx needs more habitat, not less."

While the Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't consider New Mexico as part of the lynx's historic range, conservationists contend in the petition that the finding is irrelevant because research shows some 80 lynx have been located in northern New Mexico and several have been found dead in the state since the reintroduction program began in southern Colorado.

Bishop also noted that lynx habitat and the snowshoe hares the cats feed on don't stop at Colorado's southern border, but continue into New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountain ranges.

"I've seen conservation maps and it just drives you crazy. There's a straight line (at the Colorado border)," he said. "It drives you crazy because you just know that suitable habitat stretches down into New Mexico."

The groups that signed the petition include Santa Fe-based Forest Guardians; the Center for Native Ecosystems in Paonia, Colo.; Animal Protection of New Mexico; Carson Forest Watch of Llano, N.M.; Sinapu of Boulder, Colo.; and the Animal Protection Institute of Sacramento, Calif.

http://www.9news.com/news/local/article.aspx?storyid=74690

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Young female cougar killed in Wash. town

By CHANCE EDMAN
staff writer

ELLENSBURG — Department of Fish and Wildlife officials killed a 2-year-old female cougar Sunday night that was chased up a tree by two hound dogs at 1602 Bonnie Lane, inside a residential neighborhood in Ellensburg city limits.

The 90-pound cat was discovered Sunday at 8:13 p.m. when resident Kathy Makus heard her hound dog, Hobbes, barking furiously up a tree.

"I looked out there and saw this dark shape and said, 'My that's awfully big for a raccoon,'" Makus said.

She called the police and officers soon arrived, followed by two fish and wildlife officers.

Sightings of the cougar had been reported for three of the last four days, according to Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Mike Sprecher, who made the shot. Sprecher said the multiple sightings were a cause for concern among wildlife officials that if tranquilized, the cougar would eventually return to the area.

Sprecher said euthanasia is usually the last option for similar situations, but given the time of day and public safety, Sprecher felt it was the best option.

"Often times we will try to dart and relocate," he said. "But this situation didn't lend itself to those circumstances."

Sprecher said he arrived shortly after the call and was finished by 8:45 p.m.

"We want people to report these things because we're trying to keep track of where cats show up," Sprecher said. "People can call and let us know what they're seeing."

http://www.kvnews.com/articles/2007/07/30/ news/doc46ae5cd0a71e0671994357.txt

Workers rescue wildcat from water treatment pond in Maine

By Rachel Rice
Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - Bangor Daily News

FORT KENT - A wildcat escaped a murky death Monday morning when it was rescued by employees at the Fort Kent Water and Wastewater Department.

The animal, which was likely a lynx, probably would have drowned if not for the quick thinking of town workers, District Game Warden Adrian Marquis said Monday.

The Maine Warden Service received a report between 10 and 10:30 a.m. that a lynx or a bobcat was trapped in a water treatment lagoon near West Main Street.

Marquis said that by the time he arrived, the animal had been rescued — with a life preserver.

As a precaution, flotation rings are set up every 50 feet on the perimeters of the three lagoons at the water treatment facility, Mark Soucy, superintendent of the Fort Kent Water and Wastewater Department, said Monday.

That morning, Soucy said, one of his men went to the lagoon to test the oxygen level in the water. When Ricky Berube got there, he noticed something swimming around the lagoon — "and it didn’t look like a duck," Soucy recounted Berube as saying.

Berube called Soucy, Greg Bernier and Scott Boucher, also with the department, for help.

The men realized the cat had been in the lagoon for quite some time and that it was tiring. Seeing that the cat couldn’t get any traction because of the lagoon lining and the slimy film on top of it, they formulated a rescue plan.

Grabbing one of the life rings, they floated it out to the animal. At first, the cat kept swimming away from the foreign object, but once they left the ring in one spot, the cat hauled itself onto the device and didn’t move as the workers pulled it to the lagoon’s edge.

Soucy said the cat sat on the gravel and didn’t move for about an hour, gathering its strength. It then got up, walked out a nearby open gate at the fenced-in facility, and disappeared into the woods.

Marquis said that because of the condition of the cat — it was dirty from being in the lagoon — officials were not sure whether it was a bobcat or a lynx. He said photos of the animal would be shown to a regional wildlife biologist for identification.

This is the first time workers have pulled a big cat out of the lagoon. Their only other rescue since the facility opened in 1997 involved a rabbit.

"They were quite ingenious, really," Marquis said. "I never thought a cat would have gone on top of a ring buoy like that and let itself get dragged out to safety. It’s against their nature to be that close to humans, but it worked."

Soucy said it was the common sense thing to do.

"We just reacted like anybody else would, I guess," he said. "We just didn’t want to see it drown."

http://bangordailynews.com/news/t/news.aspx? articleid=152607&zoneid=500