Iowa DNR Confirms State’s First ‘Resident’ Bear Since the 1880s

Iowa DNR Confirms State’s First ‘Resident’ Bear Since the 1880s

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of a black bear in northeast Iowa after a hunter captured video of the animal, and the DNR says the sighting is “pretty significant.”

The bear was spotted Saturday by Zach Anderson, who posted a short video he took while turkey hunting near Decorah. Anderson said, “I had a full grown black bear cruise by me 10-15yrds this morning while turkey hunting NE iowa.”

Anderson admitted the sighting was a little scary but still, “One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!”

Vince Evelsizer, furbearer biologist with the Iowa DNR, says the video is significant because a black bear has been confirmed in the same area in Winneshiek County for the last three years. The DNR thinks it’s likely the same bear, who decided to stay and make Iowa home. That’s a huge development, because though bears are native to the state, the last wild bear that was considered a resident in Iowa was killed in the 1880s.

The DNR gets a handful of reports each year of bear sightings and says those bears probably wandered into Iowa from populations in southeast Minnesota or southwest Wisconsin and usually make their way back to where they came from.

The bear in Winneshiek County is likely the first wild bear to make its home in Iowa in more than 130 years. Evelsizer says the bear hasn’t been a nuisance and has kept out-of-the-way of humans.

There isn’t an established breeding population in Iowa and the DNR does not know whether the Winneshiek County bear is a male or female. Evelsizer says it’s been about 30 years since a confirmed sighting of bear cubs in the state was confirmed.

“It will be interesting to see what happens. If a breeding population becomes reestablished in our state,” says Evelsizer.

Two other confirmed sightings of bears have come in to the DNR this month, one in Delaware County and another in Fayette County. The DNR does not believe those sightings were of the same bear spotted in Winneshiek County.

Black bears are not a protected species in Iowa but the DNR encourages anyone who might come across one to leave it alone and give it space.


Texas Woman Killed by Feral Hogs in Front Yard of Home

Texas Woman Killed by Feral Hogs in Front Yard of Home

A woman found dead outside the home of an elderly couple she was caring for was killed by wild hogs, according to authorities.

Christine Rollins was found on Sunday morning outside a home in Anahuac, Texas, east of Houston, with “multiple injuries to her body.”

“It appears that she has an injury to her head that is consistent with a fall, but she also has numerous injuries that appear to be animal related,” the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Sunday.

On Monday, Sheriff Brian Hawthorne confirmed the woman died from “exsanguination (severe blood loss) due to feral hog assault.”

“My detectives and the criminal investigation team felt like that’s what it was, but it was not something that we could even come close to announcing until we had the cause of death from the medical examiner’s office,” Hawthorne said at a press conference Monday.

The 59-year-old woman was a home health care worker and was caring for the couple that lived at the home where she was found dead, police said. When Rollins did not show up to their home, the 84-year-old homeowner went outside and found the body.

Hawthorne had said on Sunday that foul play was not suspected in the woman’s death and they were investigating whether she was killed in an animal attack or if the attack had caused her to fall and hit her head.

He said there were signs of feral pigs on the property. The sheriff called the animals an increasing problem in the area.

A neighbor told Houston ABC station that the hogs were being hunted.

“We’ve got individuals that hunt hogs with dogs,” neighbor David Bennett told KTRK. “They put Kevlar on these dogs for a purpose because those hogs are vicious. And when they feel threatened, they’re coming after you.”

Rollins had worked at the home for about a year and a half, according to KTRK.

Feral pigs are common across most of Texas with a population of about 1.5 million, according to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. The animals can grow up to a few hundred pounds and while the Department of Parks and Wildlife said they are not usually dangerous, they do possess “razor sharp tusks” that “combined with their lightning speed can cause serious injury.”

Could Delisting of Wolves Really be in Sight?

Could Delisting of Wolves Really be in Sight?

At its low point in the 1950s, Minnesota’s gray wolf population was estimated to be just 400 animals. As of 2018, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources estimates there are over 2,600 gray wolves in the state.

That recovery is a success story for the Endangered Species Act, a law signed by President Richard Nixon in 1973 that implemented federal protections for a variety of species throughout the U.S.

But people living in areas where wolf populations have recovered aren’t necessarily celebrating that success. As wolf populations increase, so does wolf predation, a concern when the animals target livestock or pets.

Those concerns recently prompted DFL Rep. Collin Peterson and GOP Rep. Pete Stauber, whose respective Seventh and Eighth congressional districts cover most of the wolf range in northern Minnesota, to introduce the Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2019. The one-page bill would remove federal protection from gray wolves in the Great Lakes region of the U.S., allowing states there to set their own wolf policies, including allowing for hunts. That would restore policy from 2011 to 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted Great Lakes gray wolves, removing endangered species protections. During that time, Minnesota had three recreational hunting seasons.

But a federal court ruled Fish and Wildlife’s action violated the Endangered Species Act since in that law there was no provision for selectively delisting a species in a specific region. In the wake of that ruling, wolves were restored to federal protection and no hunts have been conducted.

Peterson’s bill would override that ruling, requiring the interior secretary to re-issue the rule allowing states to manage their wolf populations. “It’s ridiculous that a single judge sitting a thousand miles away from the nearest gray wolf can undermine an entire federal agency and science-driven population surveys,” he argues.

In 1974, one year after the Endangered Species Act was signed into law by President Nixon, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classified gray wolves as an endangered species throughout the country except in Minnesota, where populations were more stable and wolves were classified as threatened.

The intricacies of these designations, as they relate to different states, have been litigated for the last two decades. But the recent fight over gray wolves’ status began in 2011, when Fish and Wildlife delisted gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes from the Endangered Species Act.

“Gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes are recovered and no longer warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act,” acting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Rowan Gould said in a statement at the time.

From 2011 to 2014, the population was managed by the Minnesota DNR. During that time, Minnesota held three recreational hunts.

But in 2014, the Federal Court of Appeals reversed the administration’s rule change, removing local control and again classifying gray wolves in Minnesota as protected. “When a species is already listed, the service cannot review a single segment with blinders on, ignoring the continuing status of the species’ remnant,” the court’s ruling reads. In other words, gray wolves’ recovery must be looked at as a whole when delisting the species, not just in the Great Lakes region.

Peterson’s bill would buck that ruling and reinstate the 2011 rule change. The bill’s language would require the Secretary of the Interior to reissue the 2011 Fish and Wildlife rule change on gray wolves.

For Stauber, the move is driven by constituent concerns. “A cow is easily worth thousands of dollars, so it is incredibly problematic that our farmers have no legal avenue to protect their livestock should a gray wolf attack,” said Kelsey Mix, Stauber’s Communication’s Director. Under Federal law, wolves can only be killed in defense of a human life. Only government officials are authorized to kill wolves if pets or livestock are threatened, attacked, or killed.

“Our staff has been in contact with a number of concerned constituents, including a rancher living in Pine County who lost 5 calves to gray wolves in recent months.”

The International Wolf Center, which provides educational information about wolf populations, compiled USDA-Wildlife Services data from 1979 to 2017. From about 70 verified complaints annually over the last five years, predation of animals by gray wolves has remained steady. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture provides compensation for animals killed by wolves.

Peterson’s bill is not the only push to change the species listing. Like in years past, Fish and Wildlife under the Trump administration is again trying to delist gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act. But now, instead of arguing that they need to delist a specific segment, the agency is arguing that gray wolves have recovered entirely.

“We propose to list or delist, open a public comment period, gather all available information about the species, and then publish a final rule with our decision, based on the best available science,” Georgia Parham, a spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the newspaper.

“We have proposed to delist the gray wolf in the lower 48 states, and have held a public hearing and comment period, but we have not yet a made a final decision on delisting.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service received over 1.8 million comments opposing the proposal. And in May, more than 100 scientists sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, asking him to rescind the proposed rule change.

One group opposed to delisting the wolf is the Center for Biological Diversity. Collette Adkins, Carnivore Conservation Director and Senior Attorney for the group, has pledged to challenge delisting measures in court in order to maintain current wolf protections.

“The courts have repeatedly slammed the Fish and Wildlife Service for prematurely removing wolf protections, but the agency has now come back with its most egregious scheme yet,” said Adkins. “Once again, we’ll take it to the courts and do everything we can to stop this illegal effort to kill wolf protections.”

Adkins is similarly opposed to the Gray Wolf State Management Act. “Rep. Peterson’s bill is one of many Republican led attacks on the Endangered Species Act,” she said. “It is unlikely to be successful, as public support for the ESA and wolves remains strong.”

Rep. Betty McCollum, who represents Minnesota’s Fourth District covering St. Paul and the eastern metro, also opposes here colleague’s bill. “If and when the species is delisted, that decision needs to be driven by scientists and other key stakeholders and done in a way that will protect and enhance that balance nationally,” McCollum said.

“It is not Congress’ role to interfere in the process of delisting species – rather, scientific evidence should guide those decisions.”

The Minnesota DNR, which would manage the wolf’s population should that authority be placed again into state control, maintains that the gray wolf will thrive whether or not it is delisted as a threatened species in Minnesota.

“Changes in the legal status of wolves in Minnesota are not expected to have a significant influence on the wolf population in Minnesota. Wolves will remain protected under state law. There are not currently any threats that are reason for concern,” said Dan Stark, Large Carnivore Specialist at the Minnesota DNR.

As for whether or not recreational hunts would return, the answer is unclear. In April, the Minnesota state House voted to ban recreational hunts no matter the gray wolf’s listing, but that bill failed in the Senate.

“I think we need to recognize first that wolf recovery has been wildly successful and celebrate the fact that the future of the wolf in MN is secure,” said Stark. “Although a wolf season could be a possibility in the future it is separate from whether the wolf population in Minnesota has recovered.”

The DNR adopted a state plan in anticipation that the wolves would be delisted in the early 2000s, and Stark said they are currently in the process of updating that plan over the next 18 to 24 months.

“Minnesota’s wolf population has exceeded the thresholds considered recovered under the ESA for several decades and will continue to thrive even when ESA protections are removed.”

In 2018, Peterson echoed this sentiment and said that despite past disagreements, he believes that a return to state management by the DNR is the way to proceed.

“I have very seldom got along with the DNR in Minnesota. This is one time where they were doing the right thing,” Peterson said on the House floor in 2018. “They did a good job, and the court stopped them.

“We got a lot of extra wolves. And we will send them to your district and we’ll let them eat your fancy little dogs and we’ll see how long that goes before your constituents demand that you do something about it.”


Gun and Alcohol Case Could Put Citizens at Risk in Their Own Homes

Gun and Alcohol Case Could Put Citizens at Risk in Their Own Homes

“The Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments in February to decide whether a law prohibiting gun owners from carrying firearms while intoxicated should be applied inside a gun owner’s home,” the Associated Press reported Saturday. Seeing an opportunity for a new and intrusive way to catch more gun owners in the disarmament net, the gun-grabbers are arguing that upholding an arrest is necessary for “the safety of Ohio residents and responding police officers.”

That dovetails nicely (for them) with an overall strategy to disarm citizens convicted of driving under the influence. And it moves things from the public setting right into the home, which is where the long game goal has always been.

As a report, maddeningly few details are given for something with such potential for disenfranchising citizens from a fundamental right. That means it’s in our interest to learn more, even if the DSM is either clueless about the case’s significance and/or uninterested in people finding out.

Fortunately, the AP left enough clues so that the curious could do some investigative reporting of their own. In this case, it was a simple matter of going to the Ohio State Supreme Court website and doing a site search for the terms “drunk + firearms,” then sifting through those results to find one that matched those clues.

We’re talking State v. Weber, a case where despite the defendant’s wife telling police there was no longer a problem, they pressed their way in. There they found her admittedly inebriated but nonthreatening husband who, while he did have a shotgun, told police it was not loaded, which they proved for themselves. Had the man been intent on violence, they’d have known.
Nevertheless, the narrative from the appeals court opinion affirming the appellant’s conviction raises a major concern, aside from those of legality and probable cause:

“Furthermore, R.C.2923.15 does not, as suggested by appellant, criminalize the mere presence of a firearm in the home of an intoxicated person. Nor does the statute, as suggested by appellant, prohibit a person from carrying or using a firearm after consuming alcoholic beverages. Rather, the statute only prohibits the use or carrying of a firearm by a person who has imbibed to the point of intoxication.”

What’s unreasonable about that?

The “point of intoxication,” as defined by Ohio’s OVI laws is a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08, or 0.02 if under 21. Significantly, a citizen old enough to serve in the military can reach that level after only one drink. And it’s fair to ask how many of us, especially with the holidays approaching, will be inclined to consume several adult beverages over the course of a family gathering. What if you’re carrying, and not all blurry-eyed and speech-slurring like the hapless Mr. Weber was reported to be, but just right there at the legal limit for driving? Where is the “compelling state interest” to define that as the limit point?But no big deal, right? What are the chances you’ll be caught? Plus, most of us behave, even if we’ve had a few. But that’s hardly the point because we know from experience that what the gun-grabbers do is take their incremental gains and from there press on for more. Why not add court-sentenced “AA” meeting attendees to the other “watchlists” the prohibitionists are demanding?

And it’s curious that the gun-grabbers are, for the most part, silent on the population with a documented “increased risk for problem drinking,” the “Only Ones.”

Still, this isn’t a “popular” case for most “gun rights” lobbying groups to make a big noise defending—who wants to endure the optics of arguing “guns for drunks”? Regardless, the fact remains that there are already ways to deal with people who brandish, and who attack others with weapons.

This isn’t about public safety, it’s about another inroad to citizen disarmament. As for people who have proven they can’t or won’t control themselves, taking their tools but leaving them able to harm others is never the solution.

Author: David Codrea


Mom Hunts With Her Baby on Her Back

Mom Hunts With Her Baby on Her Back

Rebekah Stephens starting hunting with her father from the age of 10. Her daughter, not quite 10 months, has already begun.

This 30-year-old, stay-at-home mom is showing her daughter how mothers and babies have survived since the beginning of time. With her baby strapped on her back, Stephens has set out to feed her family with the bounties of her hunt.

As with a lot of things real and raw, she has attracted a lot of negativity, which she says she just ignores.

“I get quite a few anti-hunters saying things like, ‘How would you like it if someone hunted you and your baby?’ and other things along the lines of, ‘How can you teach an innocent baby such horrible things like hunting?’,” Stephens said.

“It can be tough at times, but strangers online don’t know me so really cannot judge me.”

Some people have “even wished ill on my life for taking my daughter hunting.”

“We didn’t buy beef, we always had deer meat,” she said. Hunting, for her, has only ever been a way to “put food on the table.”

“As I got older, I saw it as a way to escape the outside world and relax. And I’m providing food for myself and my family.”

Her daughter’s first hunt was for wild turkey.

Stephens recalls, “I took my friend and her daughter turkey hunting. We had to be there before daylight, so I got my daughter up early, fed her and drove to the spot we were hunting. We had to sit and wait. She did extremely well for an eight-months old baby and was very quiet the whole time, for five hours.”

In response to those who are critisizing her, Stephens has this to say: “There is always much respect in taking a life. If you haven’t been in my shoes and lived this lifestyle, you really can’t judge what is best.”