Thursday, 23 August 2012 07:19

Commentary: Ravens, road kill and reality.

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press

By:  Pat Laughlin - 

I recently attended the Elko County Commission meeting and sat in on the discussion concerning predator control to protect sage grouse. I was also interviewed by the Elko Free Press concerning raven control for sage grouse. I need to set the record straight on a couple of issues.

First, it’s important to understand the players in this game being acted out here in Nevada. The raven is a migratory bird protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Second, the same FWS is also responsible for enforcing the Endangered Species Act. The very same people protecting the raven are going to decide our fate here in Elko County on whether the sage grouse is listed as an endangered species. The same people …

So, you’re not convinced the FWS is protecting ravens? Putting ravens above the well-being of our economy, your family and mine? Just read the “6 point raven plan” put forth by the FWS. Number 2 states, and I quote, “control access by ravens to road kill and ranch carcasses.” Number 5 states, “ensure adequate herbaceous ground cover in nesting habitat.” I will spare you all six points of the raven plan but all six will need to be implemented before the FWS will support killing more ravens to protect our way of life here in Elko County. When I read this at the Commission meeting I nearly fell out of my chair.

My first thought was how will we ever accomplish this? Drive every road in Nevada … every morning picking up every dead rabbit.

Here’s an example of how NDOW showed me last weekend that they support this road kill program. I noticed a dead doe at the corner of Silver Street and Errecart Boulevard last Friday. Saturday when it was still there, I called the sheriff’s office as well as NDOW’s hotline number to report it. NDOW put the blame on NDOT and said that they would contact them to have it removed. Two days later, I witnessed a City of Elko crew picking up the doe, not NDOW or NDOT. You can’t tell me that numerous NDOW and NDOT employees didn’t drive by that doe in a three-day period of time on one of the busiest streets in Elko.

Then it hit me. This 6 point raven plan is nonsense … complete and utter nonsense written in a way to make sure it can never be accomplished and to make sure the FWS will never need to support killing more ravens in Nevada. The FWS does not want to kill predators … for any reason … no matter what … period.

And I have to add, where is NDOW Director Ken Mayer in all of this? I’ve heard the listing of the sage grouse would be like the spotted owl times 100. The listing could devastate mining, ranching and everything we like to do outdoors. Director Mayer represents Nevada. He should be looking out for us. Our economy, our families, our wildlife. Instead our California transplant director supports the FWS, the BLM and the FS at every turn and serves up the “6 point raven plan” as gospel to the Elko County Commission.

When was the last time you ever heard Ken Mayer take a stand for Nevada? For Elko County? He scheduled a meeting with the Elko County Commissioners several weeks in advance and cancelled the night before without offering to reschedule. Do you think he cares about Elko County?

Governor Sandoval should be embarrassed that he re-appointed Ken Mayer after Governor Gibbons fired the man over these same issues. Maybe Governor Sandoval doesn’t care about our economy, our families or our wildlife either. He had better rethink his position and his appointees if he expects Elko County to help re-elect him.

Published in Online Articles
Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:44

Elko County Wildlife Board Got it Right

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press

By Charlie Myers - 

I attended several hours of the Nevada Commission on Wildlife’s board meeting held in Elko recently. Two items of concern to me were the sage grouse hunting season and predator control.

The hunting season for sage grouse came up on the agenda; each County Advisory Board (CAB) made their recommendation to the Wildlife Commission. The Elko CAB recommended a one-week reduction in sage grouse hunting. Several other rural CABs made the same recommendation.

There was a brief discussion by the board and an NDOW biologist, Mr. Espinoza. His comments to the board did not agree with the CABs as he felt the “wing” program had too many advantages to reduce the week the CABs were requesting.

The board vote 6 to 3 to not reduce the sage grouse hunting season. So, I want to get this all straight. Not all hunters put their “wings” in the barrels, which makes the data skewed to start with, interesting. Then take into account that our Wildlife Commission wouldn’t reduce by one week the hunting season on a bird that very well could get listed under the Endangered Species Act. The bird that is being managed under the BLM Interim Management Policy — a policy which is probably stricter than being listed as an Endangered Species. The bird that has already caused the loss of the China Wind Project and several million dollars in tax revenue to Elko County.

But we are going to continue to hunt this bird. The bird that caused the loss of 60,000 acres in oil and gas leases and the loss of that revenue to Elko County. A bird because of its habitat caused another 100,000 acres in possible leases to not even be considered, worth another $2.7 million. Yet we continue to hunt a bird that could negatively impact 11 states, Elko County and every resident and rancher in our area.

Our CAB got it right, reduce the hunting season. The sage grouse is already negatively impacting our county; where’s the logic in not supporting our CABs recommendation?

It was mentioned that less than 10 percent get taken during hunting season. To me, if we took our CAB’s recommendation that could be up to 10 percent more sage grouse we wouldn’t have to worry about impacting the numbers for listing. The numbers may be small but we need to do everything possible to keep this bird from listing.

Predator control of ravens needs to be a priority as we deal with sage grouse. I came to the realization during the Wildlife Commission meeting that NDOW would get exactly what they wanted, as there were several 6 to 3 votes that day, regardless of the negative impacts to our state and county. In my opinion many on that board that day did not support their counties or hunters.

If the sage grouse gets listed the impact to Elko County will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. Many outdoor activities that many people enjoy will be limited or gone, family ranches will be impacted and economic development will most certainly take a huge hit as well. But, let’s keep hunting them just because ...


Charlie Myers is an Elko County Commissioner.

Published in Online Articles
Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:38

Songbirds, Sage Hen and Shame

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press
In times past I awoke to songbirds and doves. Now it is to the cawing of ravens.

At their June 22 and 23 meeting, Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners voted to eliminate funding predator control programs intended to protect sage grouse. They did fund research into Pine Nut Mountains vegetation and sage grouse. Apparently helpful, and conveniently near agency central offices.

Over the last four decades, the Nevada Department of Wildlife has de-emphasized predator control. Raven takings have ranged between zero and 1,500 while the population has increased 600 percent.

The statewide raven population may exceed 952,000 at an average density of 8.7 per square mile. Thus, at its most intense effort, the agency takes less than two tenths of a percent of the predators which may outnumber the sage grouse nearly eleven to one. Meanwhile, agency personnel threaten county officials that they would list sage grouse as endangered because it needs agency protection.

Studies of sage grouse nest failure indicate that in areas of greater than 2.4 ravens per square mile only 50 percent of nests will survive. At 5.8, virtually all nests fail.

The agencies insist that removing territorial ravens simply provides the opportunity for transitory ravens to move in at twice the density. But territorials hunt at triple the efficiency of transitories, so the net depredation efficiency becomes two thirds. A 50 percent depredation may drop to 33, meaning the survival rate rises from 50 to 67 percent.

The scientific method, common sense, and common decency all cry for aggressive predator control on behalf of sage grouse. But these three concepts apparently are not in the lexicon of the Board, NDOW, nor other agencies and groups presuming to act on behalf of the bird. This despite historical records indicating the highest confirmed sage grouse populations were during the decades of extensive sheep and cattle grazing and aggressive predator control. Also, much lower wildfire incidence and intensity occurred during those years. Tellingly, agencies are reticent to discuss wildlife loss from firestorms on undergrazed range.

The bureau-scientific complex has substituted political science for the natural sciences. That does provide a certain efficiency in that all conclusions become uniform and rote. It has instituted a troika system whereby stakeholders outside the complex have no recourse beyond the agency troika which juries, judges, and executes all verdicts.

Agency officials declare sage grouse population counts don’t matter, only habitat control matters. What they really are saying is they do not care that private sector grazing practices and private sector predator control may increase the bird’s population by one-third or more. The agencies want the budgets which will come with increased control; they do not want ranchers and farmers doing well without bureaucrats.

Ravens prey on much more than sage grouse. Among the songbirds formerly serenading the neighborhood were Mountain Bluebirds. Since they sanction the raven’s status by accepting its predation, will the Wildlife Board now move to adopt the raven as the state bird?

Practicing political science does not require shame … .


Ralph R. Sacrison is a senior mining engineer based in Elko.

Published in Online Articles

Reprinted from the Las Vegas Review Journal - 

To the editor:

Your April 13 editorial, "A 'stupid bird'?," did not state directly who or what was responsible for the decline of the sage grouse. I will do that.

From July 1989 to June 1991, the Nevada Department of Wildlife conducted a survey of sage grouse production and mortality. Fourteen hundred eggs were placed in 200 simulated sage grouse nests, with seven eggs per nest. This was during the 15-day period when sage hens lay their eggs.

At the completion of the 15 days, all 1,400 eggs were destroyed at both study areas. Ravens were believed to be the chief nest predator.

During the 1991 legislative session, a bill was introduced to do raven control with aircraft. State wildlife officials did not show up to testify about their own survey.

Department of Wildlife officials knew this was a problem more than two decades ago and have done nothing on their own to correct this situation. Quite the contrary, they have fought against raven control. A sportsmen's group, Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife, asked for and received $100,000 of Heritage Fund money for raven control. Department of Wildlife Director Ken Mayer fought against this proposal all the way. Does this sound like a director who wants to do something abut this serious problem?

Mr. Mayer was fired by then-Gov. Jim Gibbons for not doing anything about the declining deer numbers. By fighting the sage grouse proposals, Mr. Mayer and his predecessors have shown a lack of interest in solving the sage grouse problem, leaving the state facing serious repercussions if this bird is listed as threatened or endangered.

Cecil Fredi

Las Vegas

From the editor:  The writer is president of Hunter's Alert!


Published in Online Articles
Saturday, 18 August 2012 17:10

Killing Ravens to Save Sage Grouse

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press -

ELKO — To save one bird, we might have to weed out another, according to many in Elko County.

Pat Laughlin, president of Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife, a nonprofit group whose main focus is predator control, said the greatest threat to sage grouse is the raven.

He’s read studies, he said, that cite raven predation as high as 90 percent for why sage grouse nests fail. The sage grouse is under threat of being added to the endangered species list.

Around 2009, Laughlin’s group began applying for heritage fund grants through the Nevada Wildlife Commission to be spent on programs weeding out ravens and coyotes. Though it took some give-and-take negotiations, eventually funds were secured.

“I finally had to make a deal with (the Nevada Department of Wildlife) ... that they were going to have total control of the projects. Where the money was spent, where the work was done,” Laughlin said.

In addition to ceding control, Laughlin said, NDOW also pulled $5,000 per year for raven control and $10,000 per year for coyote control from the funds for the purpose of studying the animals.

“They were supposed to be monitoring and keeping track. To this day I haven’t heard anything,” Laughlin said.

Despite that, Laughlin’s group continued the projects until last month when suddenly the money was pulled.

“Their biggest reason was we weren’t getting the money on the ground fast enough and we weren’t getting the work done,” Laughlin said. “They thought we were doing an injustice to the sportsmen of Nevada.”

Laughlin had no reservation saying he believed NDOW’s reasons to be lies. But, according to NDOW Director Ken Mayer, the money was better spent elsewhere.

The U.S. has a treaty with Canada and Mexico which puts restrictions on the number of migratory birds killed — ravens included. NDOW requested an increase in raven permits, and in 2011, Fish and Wildlife authorized 4,265 ravens to be killed for the year. Only 3,062 ravens were killed, though, according to a June NDOW common raven kill project summary report.

“Therefore, Permit Authorization by USFWS does not appear to be a limiting factor for killing ravens in Nevada. Rather, unused permit authorization seems to be the result of limitations on permitees’ capacity to carry out the work,” the report states.

Even so, Mayer said he still hears requests for killing more ravens, some even asking to double the number.

“We are never going to get 10,000 birds,” Mayer said. “How do you kill that many?”

Laughlin said it could be done.

“You could take out as many birds out as you want,” he said. “He just has to request the work and it will get done.”

NDOW has a $400,000 pot of money allocated exclusively for predator control, generated from $3 of every hunting tag sold. To kill 2,000 ravens, Mayer said, it costs between $32,000 and $40,000.

NDOW has managed to spend the predator control money, but in Mayer’s estimation, more funds reserved to kill ravens isn’t necessary because of the cap.

“We’ve been spending that,” Mayer said. “I don’t know how much more I can spend.”

Over a three-year period, the Nevada Wildlife Commission authorized $382,000 of heritage program funds to be used for predator control, on top of what was available, Mayer said. The commission’s authorization was unnecessary, he said.

There is a chance the number of raven permits will increase, though.

At a recent Elko County Commission meeting, Jeff Williams summarized a letter submitted by Mayer which stated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would write a letter of support to increase the number of ravens allowed to be killed if a six-point raven control plan was implemented.

The plan calls for increased measures to control ravens’ access to garbage dumps, ranch carcasses, road kill and ground squirrel carcasses. The plan also addresses the need for better ground cover for grouse nests, and killing specific ravens, Williams said. Except, the plan doesn’t seem feasible to the commission.

“We have no control over a lot of that,” Williams said.

Regardless, the county commission has long said predator control is one of the most necessary steps to saving sage grouse. Mayer doesn’t entirely agree.

“They are the only ones I know of in the nation that are convinced of that,” he said.

When the Fish and Wildlife service prioritized threats to sage grouse, it listed predator control as number 12, Mayer said.

As Laughlin sees it, listing predation as the 12th priority is an oversight at best, and deliberate negligence at worst on the part of Fish and Wildlife.

Mayer was scheduled to attend last Thursday’s county commission meeting, but canceled the night before. When asked why, he said he was too busy.


Published in Online Articles
Wednesday, 01 March 2006 00:00

Editorial 2006 Spring

If there is any hope at all for Nevada sportsmen, it is the November election and the 2007 legislative session. The mess sportsmen have been handed by the last two governors and their appointments to the Wildlife Commission can be overcome. To achieve this, it will take sportsmen to get involved. This will not require any of your money, only a few minutes of your time.


In order to make the necessary changes, we need to elect a governor who is a hunter. The last year sportsmen in Nevada had a governor who hunted was in 1979. In reality, hunters have been neglected for over 25 years! Unlike our current governor, Jim Gibbons will not lie to the sportsmen. He wants our deer brought back, again unlike our current governor, Kenny Guinn who has done nothing about this for eight years.

Published in HA Newsletter 30
Tuesday, 01 July 2008 00:00

Sage Grouse Myths

Excerpts from Range Magazine

Summer, 2008


Environmental activists and many agency biologists are working relentlessly to make the sage grouse the spotted owl of the Intermountain West. If they succeed in getting sage grouse listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), they will likely effect sweeping change over traditional land use in the West. That is their goal. Ironically, this “sage grouse conservation effort” is based on the fraudulent claim that many millions of these birds inhabited the sagebrush country of the West prior to European contact but this claim is without factual basis.


Published in HA Newsletter 33

Reprinted from the Sparks Tribune

For 15 years in a row, here in the Tribune, I have written an annual column on the status of Nevada’s deer herd and, remarkably, the numbers have barely moved, with the herd remaining at rock-bottom levels: a little more than 100,000 animals. By comparison, we reached a peak in 1988, when 250,000 deer roamed the state.


That’s the bad news. But hope is on the horizon – at least the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) is making major strides to, within its rather limited constraints, do something about it.

Published in HA Newsletter 33
Friday, 03 February 2006 05:17

Comment - Readers Respond

My personal congratulations to HUNTER’S ALERT for such a totally complete, powerful, accurate, informing issue! If only every sportsman could come by a copy of this issue! For sixty years, I myself have been doing battle with this wildlife bureaucracy to no avail. When I learned about HUNTER’S ALERT, I immediately joined to become a part of it. HUNTER’S ALERT quotes my own sentiments verbatim.

I have received the last two copies of the U.S. Observer with the revealing and expose articles pertaining to Nevada’s disappearing wildlife and reckless bird and game mismanagement that has been taking place, that you and HUNTER’S ALERT have been pursuing and bringing to the sportsmen’s and our elected officials’ attention for so many years, not only in the sportsmen’s interest, but the benefit and welfare of our past once plentiful wildlife. All of Nevada’s sportsmen have poured millions of dollars into the Fish and Game Department salaries to manage as educated wildlife management experts only to end up with a critical--admitted wildlife, mule deer and popular sage grouse shortages, insured by the obvious overpopulations of protected predators, mainly the coyotes, bobcats and lions.

I cannot believe what you and Bud Sonnentag are accomplishing for the state and its paying sportsmen. As always, keep up the good work you represent and are doing for the rest of us in Nevada.

Nevada Jim Ornellas

Published in HA Newsletter 30
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