Some good news, for a change

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1999:

While the Makah tribe of western
Washington killed a whale on May 17, as
described on page one of the June edition of
ANIMAL PEOPLE, the Blackfeet tribe of
Montana dedicated a corner of their reservation
to a private effort to reintroduce the swift
fox, described by predator expert Todd
Wilkinson in the May 22 edition of The
Christian Science Monitor. Sacred to at least
six Great Plains tribes, swift foxes were
trapped to declared extinction in Montana by
1970, but isolated subpopulations survived in
Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming. Winning
tribal approval of the reintroduction in August
1998, Blackfeet wildlife manager Ira
Newbreast obtained 30 captive-bred swift
foxes from the Cochrane Ecological Institute,
which is supervising swift fox recovery
in Canada, and released them last fall.

Twenty-eight survived the winter. Thirty
more captive-bred swift foxes are to be
released this year and next. U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service species reintroductions often
involve killing potential predators and habitat
rivals of the newcomers, but the Blackfeet are
not doing that, Wilkinson told A N I M A L
P E O P L E. Neither, Wilkinson added, are
the swift foxes ever again to be trapped or
hunted on Blackfeet land. The major human
threat to the swift foxes may come from oil
and gas development on the reservation by K2
Energy Corporation, of Calgary, Alberta,
and Miller Petroleum, of Houston. They
leased exploratory drilling rights from the
Blackfeet in 1997, for $3 million plus royalties,
if oil and/or gas are found. The deal is
still hotly debated among the Blackfeet.
Ironically, the swift foxes could also benefit
from oil and gas development, since protecting
them could become part of an environmental
mitigation strategy, and since prairie
dogs, their major prey, thrive in oil and gas
fields, where shooting is forbidden due to the
risk of shots rupturing pipelines.
Biologist Margaret Ponifex, 58,
of Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales,
was at last report in late May still holding off
health officials who wanted to kill her pet
chickens, geese, cockatoos, and parrots––
many of them directly descended from those
her forebears brought as some of the first
British settlers in Australia. The authorities
argue that the birds may have been exposed to
Newcastle disease. An estimated 800,000
chickens who were killed to stop a Newcastle
outbreak were recently buried about 300 feet
from Ponifex’s home. Ironically, Ponifex
had warned the NSW and Australian governments
countless times since 1990 that imports
of poultry products could cause just such an
outbreak. The anti-Newcastle squad reportedly
did spare Cutiu, a sulphur-crested cockatoo
belonging to Mrs. Georgia Sidriopoulos.
The cockatoo, placed under quarantine, sang
“Yes, Jesus loves me,” in English and Greek,
to his would-be executioners. Sidriopoulos’
husband George is among the chicken growers
whose birds caught Newcastle.
As the Atlantic Canada seal hunt
p e a k e d in mid-April, high schoolers L y n n
Ann Boudreau and Rachel Fletcher o f
Montague, Prince Edward Island, petitioned
against the presence of a 50-year-old deer’s
head in a school library exhibit of paintings
and trapping gear left by the late Nova Scotia
hunting artist Gerald Horne. “It’s like having
Bambi’s mother looking over your shoulder,”
Boudreau told Steve Sharratt of the
Charlottetown Guardian. Boudreau and
Fletcher reportedly got the signatures of
almost every female student.
The city council in Carrollton,
T e x a s, cancelled a July 4 fireworks display
held annually since 1991 because if held at
the scheduled location––used only once
before––it might have disturbed egrets nesting
nearby. Carrollton was fined $70,000 in early
June, and was earlier assessed for $126,000
in mitigation costs, after officials ordered that
an egret rookery be bulldozed in July 1998,
violating the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

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