Tuesday

The critically endangered American red wolf might have been saved from extinction.

In a scathing court decision Monday, a federal judge in North Carolina ripped the Interior Department’s management of the last red wolf population in the wild, saying that an agency sworn to uphold a congressional mandate to preserve the animals violated it over and over, and even gave private landowners the right to shoot them.

Chief Judge Terrence W. Boyle reminded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which gave the authorization, of its own statement in 1999. “Wildlife are not the property of landowners but belong to the public and are managed by state and federal governments for the public good,” he wrote.

Boyle ruled that a temporary injunction issued against Fish and Wildlife’s shoot-to-kill authorization in 2016 during the Obama administration is permanent. The agency must prove that a wolf is a threat to humans or livestock before it can make a decision to take its life.

Deciding in favor of the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Welfare Institute — conservation groups that sued Fish and Wildlife — Boyle said the agency violated a rule passed by Congress to resurrect them, protect them, conserve the species and determine the impact of allowing people to slaughter the few that remain in and around the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.

Red wolves once roamed the entire southeastern United States before government-sanctioned hunting programs all but eliminated them. The animals were so desperate to survive that they started breeding with smaller coyotes that they once chased away or killed.


In the late 1970s, a few wolves were captured and bred in zoos. About 10 years later, an experimental population was released into the North Carolina refuge in a bid to repopulate the animals in the wild. In what was hailed as a biological success, two breeding pairs expanded to nearly 140 in the early 2000s.

But in 2012, as a few private landowners and state wildlife officials put pressure on the service to end the program in North Carolina, the population went into a startling decline. Boyle drew a connection between state agitation against the wolves and a change in federal management.

“Notably … the red wolf population saw a drastic decrease from 2013 to 2015,” with only 50 wolves remaining, Boyle wrote. “The population decrease coincides with … making internal revisions to its guidelines and management policies in response at least in part to mounting public pressure against red wolf recovery efforts.”


In addition to allowing red wolves to be killed, managers stopped releasing wolves into the wild or assuring the survival of pups. Meanwhile, a state program that allowed coyote hunting resulted in numerous red wolf deaths. Hunters who killed wolves said they mistook them for coyotes. The court’s decision stands to significantly alter the Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent plan to manage the wolves, announced in June. That plan, if approved, would allow North Carolina landowners to kill any wolf that stepped onto their property.

Only 35 wolves remain in the five-county area where they are managed. At the time of the June announcement, Leopoldo Miranda, assistant director for ecological services in the agency’s southeast region, said that the goal would be to intensively manage a small population of 10 to 15 red wolves at the refuge.

The hope, Miranda said, would be to preserve their genetic value and wild behaviors so that red wolves could be released into an environment more friendly than eastern North Carolina. Miranda would not say whether such a place had been found or considered. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Phil Kloer said the agency does not comment on matters in litigation. Conservation groups praised the court’s decision while denouncing the federal government.

“For four years now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been dismantling one of the most successful predator reintroductions in U.S. history,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The service knows how to protect and recover the red wolf in the wild, but it stopped listening to its scientists and started listening to bureaucrats instead. The law doesn’t allow the agency to just walk away from species conservation, like it did here.”

“The district court’s ruling today makes it clear that [Fish and Wildlife’s] recent management decisions have failed to protect the red wolf population,” said Johanna Hamburger, a wildlife attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute. If Fish and Wildlife “continues to ignore the recovery needs of the red wolf, these animals may once again be extinct in the wild by 2024. The court has ruled that this is unacceptable.”
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Monday

Ola Mildred Rexroat (August 28, 1917 – June 28, 2017) was the only Native American woman to serve in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

She joined after high school and had the dangerous job of towing targets for aerial gunnery students. After that she joined the Air Force, where she served for ten years as an air traffic controller. In 2007 she was inducted into the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame.

She was an Oglala Sioux from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She earned a bachelor's degree in art from the University of New Mexico in 1939. Rexroat died in June 2017 at the age of 99.

Ola Mildred Rexroat was looking for a way to do her part in the war effort in the 1940s. Being a riveter seemed too dangerous, she said, so she opted for a different path: being a military pilot.

"I just did what I was expected to do and tried to do it the best way I could," Rexroat said. "If I did accomplish anything or add anything to the war effort, I am happy now, and I was happy at the time."

For years, the WASPs were not recognized as veterans. Not until 1977, when President Jimmy Carter signed a bill making them a part of the Air Force, did they receive right to be buried with a flag, buried in a military cemetery and gain access to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.


Women make up about 11 percent of the force in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Deb Eiring, spokeswoman for the VA Black Hills Health Care System.

Inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2007, her plaque honors her nearly ten year career as an Air Force Reserve Captain at Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

“I’m glad I did it, glad I had the chance to do it. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do the same thing."


Recently Rexroat was honored by a National Native Women's Group. Traditional Lakota singers and guests gathered to acknowledge her service. Georgia Pedro, President of the North American Indian Women's Association (NAIWA) described Rexorat as a "loving, caring person with a wonderful sense of humor" and that as a member of the WASP, she carried on the Native American tradition of women warriors.

Animal lovers across California have banded together in frantic efforts to save thousands of their four-legged loved ones threatened by wildfires raging across the state, officials said Monday.

Allison Cardona, a deputy director of operations for Los Angeles County Animal Care & Control, said about 700 animals — including 550 horses, nine cows and at least one tortoise — are now in her agency’s care.

But she estimated that at least 10,000 more pets have been displaced from the Woolsey and Hill Fires, both near the Ventura-Los Angeles County line, and the Camp Fire in rural Butte County, about 500 miles to the north.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around what a disaster this is — for people and animals,” Cardona told NBC News on Monday. “Anything that impacts people, impacts their animals.”

In neighboring Ventura County, public shelters there had taken in 56 horses, 30 dogs, 25 cats, seven chickens, six rabbits, four goats and a bird by late Monday morning, according to Sheila Murphy, spokeswoman for the county's health agency which oversees animal control.

One of Murphy's own sons had to flee the Hill Fire in Thousand Oaks this past weekend, with two panicked dogs in tow.


"The dogs were very confused and jumping around and looking at them like, `Are we OK dad?' " Murphy said.

Dr. Bill Matzner, who owns eight horses and regularly boards nine, has taken in 13 more since the Woolsey Fire broke out not too far from his Simi Valley, California, ranch.

“It’s been a scary time,” Matzner said. “To us, these animals are our children, our family.”


With the Woolsey fire headed south and then west toward Malibu, the retired physician said he and the horses are safe for now.

But if winds change directions, he and ranch hands will have to find ways to shuttle their 30 horses to safety in shifts — with just three trailers that hold a combined total of eight animals.

“You never know when the winds shift,” he said. “The winds are blowing away from us now but if they shifted, we could be vulnerable again.”


Dan Sauvageau, a developer from Roseville, California, on Sunday raced 90 minutes north to Magalia in Butte County to help a friend evacuate his family of animals — a donkey, a cat, a dog and three goats, one them pregnant.


All the animals were safely evacuated to a farm in Chico. But when locals saw Sauvageau driving a heavy-duty GMC truck and a 16-foot-long livestock trailer, they drafted him into pet-saving services.






On August 21, 1918, British forces began attacking German positions along a 10-mile stretch of the Western Front in northwest France. The assault was part of the World War I action now known as the Somme Offensive.

Attached to the British troops fighting in the region were the 119th and 120th U.S. Infantry Regiments, which both contained a number of Cherokee soldiers from western North Carolina.

In last September and early October as the offensive continued and preparations were underway to break through the German defensive positions known as the Hindenburg Line, the commanders in the area discovered that German troops were intercepting their telephone communications. The Germans then used those messages to discover the position of Allied forces and attack them.

That’s where the Cherokee came in. The signal officers at the time guessed that the Germans wouldn’t be able to understand the Cherokee language, and instructed Cherokee troops to deliver messages by telephone in their native tongue. The tactic proved to be a success.

The Cherokee “code talkers” were the first known use of Native Americans in the American military to transmit messages under fire, and they continued to serve in this unique capacity for rest of World War I. Their success was part of the inspiration for the better-known use of Navajo code talkers during World War II.

It is reported that Cherokees were used in the message relaying capacity until the end of WWI. The Cherokee men who served in this heroic role did so even before they held American citizenship and, consequently, the right to vote, which was not granted to most Native Americans until 1924.


This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI in 1918. Recently, the Intertribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes passed a resolution honoring the warriors and code talkers of WWI with a “Day of Remembrance” for their service and valor. Veterans from the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole tribes have served in every military branch and in every U.S. war.

Today there are thousands of Cherokee veterans around the world. Native Americans, Cherokees in particular, have a longstanding history of serving the military at a higher rate per capita than any other ethnic group, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. We salute and celebrate these individuals who have given so much.
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The US government has decided to press ahead with controversial experiments on dogs, despite critics in congress and elsewhere attacking them as cruel and unnecessary.

The department for veterans affairs (VA) has approved the continuation of the testing, which it says will help doctors find new ways to treat wounded soldiers, according to USA Today.

Researchers running the experiments will remove sections of the dogs’ brains that control breathing, sever spinal cords to test cough reflexes and implant pacemakers before triggering abnormal heart rhythms. All the dogs involved will ultimately be euthanised.

But a row is brewing over how exactly the vivisections were approved. When the testing was first exposed by an anti-animal testing group last year – White Coat Waste Project – congress passed a law prohibiting the VA department from conducting them without its secretary’s direct approval.

A spokesman for the department told USA Today that the former VA secretary David Shulkin signed off on continuing the experiments on the day he was fired by Donald Trump in March.

But Mr Shulkin, who lost his job amid allegations he had misspent taxpayer funds on a trip to Europe his wife took in 2017, told the newspaper he had never been asked to restart the dog tests.


Documents seen by the paper show the VA is currently carrying out nine experiments on dogs, at four different facilities.

One of the lawmakers who is trying to pass a bill which would ban the testing, Democrat Dina Titus, said: “It’s not economically sound, they could be looking at new technologies, and morally people just don’t support testing on puppies.”

But a review launched by Mr Shulkin before he was fired - on the medical necessity for using canines - has found that dogs are “the only viable model” for the specific experiments, the VA spokesman said.


Nevertheless, the department has also commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to spend $1.3m to run another study investigating if dogs are really needed for this research.

Justin Goodman, the vice president of advocacy and public policy for the White Coat Waste Project, said: “I think it calls into question the integrity of the VA’s intentions if it is going to continue funding and conducting dog experiments that it has just paid an organisation over a million dollars to scrutinise.”

Veterans’ groups are divided on whether the experiments should continue. The founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organisation said that as long as the research was done “ethically” it could lead to medical breakthroughs.


But Paralysed Veterans of America, which was initially in favour of the VA dog testing, has now changed its mind and told USA Today it did not oppose efforts to stop the dogs being experimented on and killed.

The VA, which said that more than 99 per cent of its animal testing involved rats or mice, insisted that dogs remained a necessary part of its research.


But when asked what medical progress had come about because of dog testing, the agency’s spokesman could only point to breakthroughs which date back to the 1960s.
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