Environmental assessment not done in time-

After a big outcry against the Idaho Fish and Game plan to poison 4000 ravens in Idaho so to help the struggling sage grouse, the operation has been delayed for a year.  The actual poisoning would be done by the federal agency USDA’s Wildlife Services.  This federal agency needed to do a supplemental environment assessment (EA) for the two year project. They didn’t get the EA done in time for the spring poisoning season.

The result is the ravens get a year reprieve. The project  is planned for three places — near Arco on the Idaho National Laboratory, on the Curlew National Grasslands about 30 miles south of Pocatello, and in Washington County close to the Oregon border.  The idea is that ravens eat sage grouse eggs, so poisoning ravens will result in the survival of more grouse eggs. Critics opposed the plan in both principle and in fact. It was argued that this is a very minor source of sage grouse mortality. In addition, direct killing of ravens is a drop in the bucket because, like with coyotes, the habitat is great for ravens in Idaho due to human made changes that provide ravens food, nesting and perching space.  There are a dozen or so threats to the sage grouse judged more severe than ravens eating their eggs.

It is not known if the public opposition played any role in the slow production of the required EA.  A petition was circulated on-line and 65,000 people signed it. Even though a petition is easy comment, nowadays there are so many circulating that 65,000 on a state issue like this could be judged as “substantial.” In late April a number of conservation groups sent a protest to the U. S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. They were Advocates for the West, American Bird Conservancy, Idaho Conservation League, Prairie Falcon Audubon Society, Golden Eagle Audubon Society, the National Audubon Society, and the Western Watersheds Project.

The Idaho Fish and Game plan is supported by the Idaho legislature. It appropriated $100,000 to fund the poisoning.

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Updates

We have learned that this raven killing program did not really originate with Idaho Fish and Game. It was foisted upon them by the Idaho Legislature.  The department has been pressured by various legislators for a number of years.

Katie Fite of WWP has a detailed opinion on the background of the raven killing which was recently published in the Magic Valley Times News (southern Idaho). Reader Comment: Blame the Politicians, not the Ravens. She tells that the raven scheme is just another plan to make it so the livestock operators on public land don’t have do change anything they do.

 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

34 Responses to Idaho plan to poison ravens is put off a year (updates)

  1. avatar Jim Wiegand says:

    For many reasons this is an insane idea. With this line of thinking…….. Why not shoot eagles, falcons, hawks, and owls?

    Ravens also eat a lot of insects especially grasshoppers. They love them.

    The grouse would be much better served if livestock grazing were limited in sage grouse habitat and livestock grazing quotas actually enforced.

  2. avatar Floyd Garner says:

    When I was young, a neighboring farmer tried to poison gophers without any training. The poison cleared our valley of owls, crows, ravens, weasels, mice, most house cats and several of our working cattle dogs. With the predators gone, the mice, gophers and snakes recovered first and created a nightmare. As an Idaho native, I thought that we had gone beyond cyanide sets and poisoning as a wildlife control tool. I still remember when my Dad explained that one of my favorite dogs had become collateral damage.

  3. avatar Larry Zuckerman says:

    One of the best parts of the Wildlife Services’ inconceived plan to kill ravens in Idaho was the biologically unrealistic assumption of no ravens migrating into the five kill zones (there are 3 along Birch Creek) if they were able to kill their target number of ravens. Guess they are also assuming no compensatory mortality by the ravens.

    They also claimed no other non-target corvid species like magpies, American crows, species of jays in these target areas – obviously they have never driven along Hwy 28 along Birch Creek and looked at the bird life.

    Wilder yet – they planned on placing out 4x the number of poison chicken eggs as the number of ravens that they wanted to poison with some kind of conjured up formula based on the fact that ravens can fly with chicken eggs in their beaks and some ravens cache the bird eggs they grab. So ravens can fly up to 28 mph and with this avicide, DRC-1339, it can take up to 3 days for a raven, other corvid, owl, or feline to die of kidney failure. They really have no idea how many ravens will be actually poisoned since they are placing 1,000s of eggs out in sagebrush steppe in 5 geographical areas simultaneously in groups of 1-2 poisoned eggs.

    They are required by the EPA Restricted-Use Pesticide Label for DRC-1339 to put out pre-bait chicken eggs and monitor them for target ravens as well as non-target wildlife. So…if ravens don’t eat many eggs now, when the USDA subsidy of hard-boiled eggs are scattered about, I am sure some ravens as well as ground squirrels, bobcats, badgers, owls, even cows will learn about this abundant, free source of high quality protein. Developing a search image for eggs, I am sure there will be more egg predators before the “experiment” begins.

    They certainly won’t be able to recover cached or dropped chicken eggs or poisoned eggs that were broken and fed upon in wide areas in the 5 regions. And EPA requires WS to keep all people not specially trained and outfitted for applying the highly toxic pesticide away as well as livestock and are supposed to scatter threatened and endangered species like Northern Idaho ground squirrels or Federal Candidate Southern Idaho ground squirrels away from the poisoned baits at all times. Good luck – even with a small army, not likely to be successful and meet the letter of the law.

    We made the EPA aware of these problems and I am sure that they are glad WS put it off for at least one year.

  4. avatar Nancy says:

    A BIG thanks to everyone who took the time to expose this ridiculous plan. Power to the people 🙂

  5. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    The actual poisoning would be done by the federal agency USDA’s Wildlife Services.

    Of course!

  6. avatar Gary Humbard says:

    I don’t think the large amount of public protest and the supplemental EA not being done in time is a coincidence.

    Sure ravens eat sage grouse eggs, however, their predation is minimal compared to habitat destruction caused by energy developement, grazing, and suburbia sprawl. Fences and spread of non native species. Oh those are money makers and would impact humans so lets just go kill one of the smartest birds there is.

    Keep the letters and petitions coming as this federal agency is subject to public outcries.

  7. I am perplexed about the Idaho National Laboratory being picked as a spot to kill ravens. I thought the area was being managed as an environmental lab where nature was supposed to be left alone. I had a college summer job on the Lab way back in 1960. I traveled repeatedly all over the area taking water samples from wells for the Atomic Energy Commission.
    There is not much in the way of Raven nesting sites on the lab itself as Ravens nest on cliffs or in broken down lava tubes. Except for the Big Butte area, it is mostly just one large sagbrush flat. Any Ravens there would be migrating in from outside the Lab.
    Much or the western part of the Lab is grassland due to a Lost River Valley Resident who drove from Howe to Arco about 20 years ago with his trailer tire on fire, which caused a huge range fire and burned off most of the sagebrush.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Larry,

      It seems to me that the environmental mission at the INL has been quietly dropped. What do you think?

      • avatar Larry Zuckerman says:

        I think you have something that you should relay to Katie and Todd. Might be also of interest in Idaho Falls and Pocatello papers. They certainly should not be killing predators to try to satiate area ranchers.

  8. avatar Immer Treue says:

    Ironic how animals with brains get persecuted, in this case ravens. I’ve attracted an adult into my feeders, which is now bringing in its fledgling(s).

    I’m not much of a butter person, so I put a whole stick of old butter out on the bird feeding platform. I observed the raven fly away with the entire stick. Next time I cut the stick into pieces. The raven simply stacked pieces and flew away with them. I put a whole chicken egg on the feeder, and was surprised when the raven picked up the entire egg and flew away. Experiments are in the making, especially to test if the raven might use tools.

    • avatar Nancy says:

      Might you have seen this video Immer?

      • avatar Immer Treue says:

        Nancy,

        Cool. However, the raven(s) I have coming in are really spooky. They see the least bit of movement inside the cabin, and they are off. A friend gave me a beaver car as that I staked out, and ravens, turkey vultures(up to nine at one counting, and bald eagles (had three in trees). If I moved while observing, remember I was inside, the ravens always were the first to book.

        Great visual observers, got to try something like in the video. 🙂

      • avatar Ida Lupines says:

        Isn’t that amazing. 🙂

  9. avatar Gary Humbard says:

    Here is recent research done in Montana regarding grazing practices and predator control for greater sage grouse. They found that grazing (when done correctly) improved the survivability of chicks and that predator control is not recommended. There are always caveats (ie. weather, habitat) but in general after reading the executive summary and the management recommendations, I certainly learned something today!

    http://www.pinedaleonline.com/pdfs/sagegrousereport.pdf

  10. Our old friend Idaho sheep rancher/state rep Jeff Siddoway was the one who pushed for Raven killing. He had a rep from the Wildlife services give a presentation this winter on a Wyoming Sage Grouse study at the state capital building for other legistlative members to watch.
    He is the driving force behind the Idaho wolf elimination campaign as well.
    He also pushed through the bill requiring the IDF&G to kill Bighorns that get near domestic sheep.

  11. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    Katie Fite of WWP has a detailed opinion on this in the Magic Valley Times News (southern Idaho). Reader Comment: Blame the Politicians, not the Ravens. She tells that the raven scheme is just another plan to make it so the livestock operators on public land don’t have do change anything they do.

  12. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2014/05/idaho_wildlife_biologists_dela.html

    Had to smile at one of the comments:

    Just change the law and require all crows and ravens to fly through wind farms daily looking for food. That should reduce the population enough. Given that ravens and crows are most certainly smarter than Idaho politicians, I suspect this won’t work. Trust me, they don’t forget a face, just watch the PBS special.

    Well, that’s all folks! Talk to y’all later,

  13. avatar smalltownID says:

    I am happy to see that some people are finally making a distinction between the Idaho Legislature dictating this and the IDFG. I agree that killing ravens is not the solution to sage-grouse conservation but we have a raven problem people and we do need to try to reverse the subsidies we provide for ravens. I agree with the scientists that have highlighted the raven problem…that poisoning ravens is not the long-term solution. This effort to kill ravens did not involve any scientists that I am aware of and was not research-based.

    I’m not going to re-post the science regarding ravens but here is some research I do not believe I have posted yet that was conducted on the INL. The INL has had on-going research for decades regarding sage-grouse, pygmy rabbits, raptors, elk, etc. I have never thought of the INL being managed akin to wilderness.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-25656289

    • avatar smalltownID says:

      Same story, probably more accurate than the BBC report I referenced as this was edited by a scientist (if I’m not mistaken) prior to publication and put out by the Wildlife Conservation Society ….http://www.wcs.org/press/press-releases/ravens-aided-by-humans2.aspx….BBC is becoming quite notorious for ignoring the science to further an agenda similar to this cartoon….http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1174

    • avatar Ida Lupines says:

      I guess we can add the raven problem to the long list of animal ‘problems’: the bison problem, the wolf problem, the grizzly bear problem, the bald eagle problem, the wild horse problem, the coyote problem, the prairie dog problem, the mute swan problem, and now the raven problem, and on ad infinitum. What we really have is a people problem – too many.

      I guess it would be too simple and obvious a solution to consider birds’ nesting habits when designing power line routes, and wind and solar farm sites, and make adjustments to discourage nesting (non-lethal, of course!). But our needs are more important, I guess. Too expensive! We cry. We can always kill them off when they get in our way, on the cheap.

      I also think hunting ought to be stopped or at least reduced (temporarily of course, not as a long-term solution, but perish the thought!). If the adult birds are killed, then there are no eggs for the ravens or other predators to get? The chicken or the egg theory. Our President says we have to make sacrifices for our climate-challenged future, but it doesn’t look like we want to help at all.

      • avatar Nancy says:

        Someone else, in a different part of the world, also shares your concerns Ida.

        http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/02/22/the-reason-why-we-should-control-population-growth.html

        I’m convinced that until we get a handle on our own specie’s “out of control” populations, for a variety of reasons (religious beliefs being at the top of my list 🙂 other species and natural habitats, will continue to suffer, continue to require tons of attention $$ and still die off, when they don’t garnish ENOUGH attention.

        Spent some time with a friend last night who has a friend trying to curb the poaching of elephants in Africa. We got
        on the subject of the use of drones, a tool that might make a difference.

        But fact is, they matter little to the droves of humans, organized crime, who could care less who get’s thrown “under the bus” when it comes to making a buck.

        http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/05/080505-us-ivory.html

        “There have, however, also been more recent ivory seizures in the U.S. than in any other country, the report points out”

        Along the same line of those dipsh*ts out there who think every fur bearing animal ought to just give up the hide for the comfort of mankind?

    • avatar Larry Zuckerman says:

      One of the problems with food subsidies are livestock carcasses (cows and sheep) that ranchers live out in the sagebrush steppe. This practice needs to stop or else more ravens will arrive to be poisoned as will other potential predators of sage-grouse, but also of young livestock.

      Also dumps which include human food, left exposed for ravens to exploit. they love power poles and other vertical structures for nesting and perching.

      Things can definitely be improved to stop drawing ravens in large numbers due to human subsidies of food and nesting sites.

  14. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    http://billingsgazette.com/lifestyles/recreation/fish-and-wildlife-commission-seeks-grouse-wolf-comments/article_f491612e-4d04-54fb-a60e-00d7214089e4.html

    Excerpt:

    The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission is seeking comments though June 23 on some upcoming hunting seasons and additional proposals related to sage grouse and wolves.

    For sage grouse, the commission is seeking comments on a proposal that would either: maintain the same 60-day season and two-bird daily bag and four-bird possession limit as last season; adopt shorter seasons and reduce bag and possession limits; impose region-specific hunting opportunities or closures; or close the sage grouse hunting season statewide.

  15. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ajahshan/poisoning_ravens_wont_save_sag.html

    Now Utah wants to get into the act and has written our Interior Secretary about removing ravens from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Attached to the article is the letter and a study on sage grouse predation. All of the animals that prey on sage grouse and their eggs, will they be candidates for the ‘problem’ listing too?

    Someone complained that wolf advocates don’t care about sage grouse – I think all of the posts today rectify that assumption. Thank you! 🙂

  16. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    More on the intelligence of birds:

    http://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/clever-swallows-figure-out-how-to-open-steel-doors-video/

    Swallows of all kinds are all over – and watching them feed their little ones is too adorable. 🙂

  17. They used to treat eagles like wolves ( and all natural predators ) and kill them for predating on sheep.

    Trapping has been escalated to farm for ground nesting birds. Market trapping for the Chinese and Russian billions of people and hoodie trim will destroy our wildlife indiscriminately in obscene cruelty just as it did a hundred years ago. Our wildlife is being raped out by serial killers who control the state agencies and professional trappers and hunters who kill for money, for the thrill and trophy.

    Better yet stop hunting sage grouse for fun! What an idea. Stop killing and let nature work – well, naturally without our interference and violence.

    And reform state agencies to general public funding replacing killing license bias so that we can truly steward our wildlife kindly and learn about their lives rather than spread blood and mayhem and ugly pictures of insecure men with dead carcasses – a true measure of the moronic mindset that rules and dominates and destroys.

    Ravens are smart and resilient and we need them intact doing their clean-up of road kill and working with wolves to keep trophic cascades and healthy ecosystems.

  18. The smartest bird – Raven the shamanic messenger who created the world:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYwRMEomJMM

    Beautifully filmed.

  19. avatar Idahofarmerandrancher says:

    I believe this should happen because as an Idaho rancher we need the sage grouse so we can keep our cows on BLM. As I was reading you guys are saying that we also have grazing quotes. we only have like 30 days on the biggest alotments. I have been keeping track and I have seen 10 ravens eating a sage grouse nest. There for I have to say kill them.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

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