Category Archives: Legal cases

Former wildlife manager’s book claims ELK feeding program in WYOMING risks exposing herd to CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE ~ OREGON’s Imnaha WOLF pack has 19 confirmed LIVESTOCK kills in less than two years ~ NEW MEXICO RABIES ALERT ~ NORTH CAROLINA COYOTE ALERT.

Bugling Elk. Photo by New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation.

Wyoming 12/12/11 by Nick Gevock – The decades-old practice of feeding elk throughout western Wyoming has created a grossly overpopulated herd that is rife to catch disease that could cause large die-offs and spread throughout the Yellowstone region. That’s among the findings of a new book written by Sheridan resident Bruce Smith, a retired wildlife manager who ran the feeding program on the U.S. National Elk Refuge near Jackson.

Smith, in his new book titled “Where Elk Roam: Conservation and Biopolitics of Our National Elk Herd,” argues that Wyoming has grown accustomed to holding far more elk than the ecosystem can support in many areas. And that heavy concentration is setting the herd up to potentially catch chronic wasting disease, which is always fatal in wildlife. “It’s foolish to try to lead people to believe that a place as snowbound as Jackson Hole can support 12,000 elk, because it never did before,” Smith said in a telephone interview. “Those feed grounds in western Wyoming potentially are going to become biological hotspots for spreading chronic wasting disease throughout the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.”

Dr. Bruce Smith

Smith, who holds a doctorate in zoology from the University of Wyoming, worked as a wildlife manager on the elk refuge for 22 years before retiring in 2004. He ran the feeding program on the range but said his long history of publications pointed out the problems with the policy. – For complete article go to

Imnaha pack alpha male.

Oregon 12/13/11 ODFW confirmed that another cow was killed by wolves from the Imnaha pack over the weekend. The yearling heifer was found dead on private land in Wallowa   County. This brings the total number of confirmed livestock losses by Imnaha pack wolves to 19 since spring 2010. It is the fifth confirmed livestock loss to wolves since an Oct. 5, 2011 court-ordered stay ended ODFW plans to kill two wolves from the Imnaha pack in an attempt to stop further livestock losses. While the pack is continuing a pattern of chronic livestock depredation begun in spring 2010, ODFW wolf coordinator Russ Morgan characterizes the recent kills as a “significant” change in the pack’s behavior. Previously the pack killed mostly smaller calves, but now it has shifted to larger-sized yearling and adult cows. The timing is also new, as depredation by this pack has not been previously confirmed during the period October through December.

“The latest incident reaffirms that the pack is in a pattern of chronic depredation, which we expect to continue,” said Morgan. “While we believe the appropriate response is lethal removal of these problem wolves under the chronic depredation rule that option is off the table due to litigation.” The wolves targeted the ranch twice over two days. The cattle involved had recently been gathered and placed into a holding pasture near the main ranch house, as they were scheduled to be hauled on Monday. On Sunday morning, the landowner discovered that the cattle had been run through the fence and the yearling heifer was found dead a half mile away. The cattle were returned to the pasture, only to be scattered again by Monday morning. GPS radio-collar data shows that the alpha male of the Imnaha wolf pack was present at the site of the depredation and was also in the area when the cows were scattered the next day. Other wolves from the pack were likely with the alpha male, but their VHF radio-collars don’t allow such close location tracking. The alpha male wolf was in remote country about five miles  from the pasture the evening before the Sunday morning attack, yet by 2 a.m. he  was only about 300 yards from the main ranch house, on the way to the pasture  with cattle.

This rancher had taken a variety of non-lethal measures on different areas of his large ranch over the past two years. He had installed barrier fences with fladry (flagged fencing that can deter wolves) on parts of his ranch and has used a radio-activated guard device that makes noise when a radio-collared wolf approaches. The rancher had also increased monitoring of his livestock and has used a radio receiver to detect when a collared wolf was nearby. “This is a good example of a situation where the landowner had done everything right,” said Morgan. “I don’t think there are other measures that could have been reasonably taken in this case, so it is a very frustrating situation for livestock producers and wildlife managers.”

ODFW continues to work with area landowners on non-lethal ways to avoid wolf-livestock problems. For example, ODFW sends twice-daily text messages about wolves’ locations to area livestock producers. A range rider funded by ODFW and Defenders of Wildlife has monitored the wolves’ location in relation to livestock. Besides non-lethal measures, ODFW has also provided some ranchers with permits to kill a wolf they catch “in the act of biting, wounding or killing” livestock or with permits that allow them to haze wolves. The chance to use these permits is rare because wolves typically avoid people and usually attack livestock at night. None of these permits issued by ODFW has ever been used, again because it is very rare for a person to actually be present when a wolf is “in the act” of attacking livestock.

This landowner and others that have lost livestock animals to wolves are likely to be compensated for their losses. Earlier this year, the Oregon State Legislature and Governor Kitzhaber directed the Oregon Department of Agriculture to create a wolf compensation program. The program is expected to be in effect in early 2012. Ranchers that lost livestock since early September 2011 (when a compensation program funded by Defenders of Wildlife ended) will be eligible for retroactive compensation. Summaries of the wolf investigations and confirmations can be found on ODFW’s livestock loss investigations page.

New Mexico 12/12/11: Carlsbad, Eddy County – State health officials urge pet and livestock owners to get animals vaccinated after three skunks test positive for rabies. See

North Carolina 12/12/11: Charlotte, Mecklenburg County – Pet dog attacked, nearly killed by coyote outside pet owner’s garage in residential neighborhood. See

Ringling Brothers Circus agrees to pay $270,000 for violations of Animal Welfare Act alleged by USDA

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2011— USDA News Release – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Feld Entertainment, Inc., doing business as Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Feld), have reached a settlement agreement in which Feld has paid a civil penalty of $270,000 for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) dating from June 2007 to August 2011.

“This settlement sends a direct message to the public and to those who exhibit animals that USDA will take all necessary steps to protect animals regulated under the Animal Welfare Act,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The civil penalty and other stipulations in the settlement agreement will promote a better understanding of the rights and responsibilities of all exhibitors in maintaining and caring for animals under their care.”

USDA is authorized to assess a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each AWA violation occurring after June 2008. In addition to paying the $270,000 civil penalty, the largest assessed against an exhibitor under the AWA, Feld waived the opportunity for a hearing and agreed to develop and implement annual AWA compliance training for all employees who work with and handle animals, including trainers, handlers, attendants and veterinarians starting March 31, 2012, and to establish an AWA compliance position on its staff by February 28, 2012. All Feld employees who will work with and handle animals must complete the training within 30 days of when they are hired.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is a multi-faceted Agency with a broad mission area that includes protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the AWA, and carrying out wildlife damage management activities. These efforts support the overall mission of USDA.

One of APHIS’ core missions is to ensure the welfare of the animals it regulates under the AWA. The AWA sets forth humane standards for care and treatment of animals that are exhibited to the public. APHIS veterinarians, animal care inspectors and investigators are deeply committed to making sure that all USDA licensed exhibitors provide their animals with proper veterinary care, water, a balanced diet of wholesome food, clean and structurally sound housing that affords enough space for the animals to move comfortably, and protection from extremes in temperature and weather.

To ensure that its licensees are meeting federal standards, APHIS inspectors conduct routine, unannounced inspections of all licensed facilities. The non-compliances resolved through this settlement agreement were discovered through APHIS inspections and investigations, as well as public complaints that were submitted to the agency.

Alaska duck hunter narrowly escapes death-by-GRIZZLY ~ Connecticut committee releases TICK-BORNE (incl LYME) DISEASE report ~ Idaho family’s CAT tested positive for TULAREMIA ~ RABIES reports from North Carolina, & Ohio (2) ~ and WEST NILE VIRUS reports from California, & New Jersey ~ Follow-Up Reports: Wisconsin BLACK BEAR attack victim arrested for poaching last year ~ Travel Warnings: Zambia reports RABIES outbreak.

National Park Service photo.

Alaska 10/18/11 For Craig Medred’s lengthy and fascinating account of a duck hunter’s narrow escape from death-by-GRIZZLY just ten days ago in Alaska’s Portage Valley, go to

Connecticut 10/18/11 Newtown, Fairfield County: TICK-BORNE DISEASE Action Committee, with focus on LYME DISEASE, releases report after exhaustive study lasting three years. A majority recommend culling DEER herd, but some disagree. See

Idaho 10/14/11 Island Park: Family pet CAT tested positive for TULAREMIA.


North Carolina 10/16/11 Reed, Davidson County: FOX carcass tested positive for RABIES. Two DOGS destroyed.   See

Ohio 10/16/11 Willoughby, Lake County: Three SKUNKS tested positive for RABIES. See

Ohio 10/17/11 Twinsburg, Summit County: Family DOG dies of RABIES (RACCOON strain of virus) see

California 10/13/11 Dixon, Solano County: American CROW tested positive for WEST NILE VIRUS. See

New Jersey 10/18/11 Monmouth County: HORSE tested positive for WEST NILE VIRUS. See

Texas 10/18/11 Southeast Dallas and Denton: MOSQUITOES infected with WEST NILE VIRUS have been found in both areas. See

Follow-Up Reports:

(See October 11, 2011: Wisconsin officers kill wounded BLACK BEAR that attacked deer hunter; and October 12, 2011: Wisconsin authorities question report of BLACK BEAR attack.)

Wisconsin 10/17/11 by Zach Vavricka – According to a Superior Police report from 2010, Charlie Lehman was stopped by DNR officials with an untagged doe in the bed of his work truck. This happened after an anonymous caller tipped off authorities that Lehman was poaching deer at Connors Point in Wisconsin with a bow and arrow. After police stopped and searched Lehman’s truck they found a bow and quiver with one arrow missing; Lehman denied all claims saying he was target practicing, even though the arrows had broad tips that are meant for hunting. DNR officials followed him after the stop and observed going back to Conner’s Point to pick up the deer. He was then arrested and charged with having on untagged deer in his vehicle. Superior police say that if the case of the bear mauling turns out to be poaching, he could be charged with more than a basic hunting infraction. “This is a statute in the state of Wisconsin for obstructing an officer. That includes lying to a police officer who is doing their official work. So questioning someone about an incident and the lying to an officer is obstructing an officer.” said Superior Police Officer Matt Markon. Now according to DNR officials, Lehman has admitted to previous poaching offenses. His hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges were revoked for three years after being caught poaching last year. DNR officials say the investigation should be wrapped up at the end of this week. DNR officials say Charlie Lehman and his girlfriend, Tiffany Mallow, who claims to have shot the bear, haven’t been cooperating with authorities which has slowed the investigation.

Travel Warnings:

Zambia 10/15/11 RABIES has broken out in Mansa District which has recorded 14 cases and one death in the recent past. District livestock officer Beatwell Mbewe said yesterday in Mansa that the 14 cases were recorded in Chembe area while one person died in Mwang’uni after being bitten by an infected dog. Mr Mbewe said rabies vaccine centres had been opened in Senama, Kapesha, Namandwe and Suburbs areas.

BEAR ATTACK in Wisconsin last month leads to federal charges against HUNTING GUIDE ~ Florida’s Palm Beach County confirms second case of locally acquired DENGUE FEVER.

Black bear. Courtesy National Park Service.

Wisconsin 10/17/11 A bear attack in Lincoln County on September 9 has lead to Federal poaching charges for Gillette man. John Kellogg, 46, is accused of illegally taking groups on bear hunting trips and poaching. The charges come after years of undercover investigations by federal and state agents. An arrest warrant shows Kellogg has a long history of illegal wildlife activity. The Department of Natural Resources has charged Kellogg numerous times for illegally killing animals. Still investigators say Kellogg continued to run a hunting guide business. Investigators say Kellogg headed up a group hunt last month in the Lincoln County Town of Harding, northwest of Merrill. According to a report, a hunter in Kellogg’s group, Christopher Halfmann shot a bear, but did not kill it. The bear attacked Halfmann before running off. Halfmann was taken to the hospital for injuries. If convicted Kellogg could face up to 10 years in prison and up to $40,000 in fines.

Florida 10/17/11 by Stacey Singer – Palm Beach County health officials have raised the dengue-fever threat level from an advisory to an alert, meaning people should take precautions against mosquito bites, after a second person has been confirmed ill by state labs. Dengue is widespread in the Caribbean, but until recently it didn’t have a foothold in the United States. The Bahamas is in the midst of a severe outbreak, and Martin and Miami-Dade counties, as well as the Keys, have seen locally acquired cases too. Palm Beach County has now had two locally acquired dengue cases confirmed within a few weeks, and the cases came from people living in different parts of the county, one central and one west, health department spokesman Tim O’Connor said. The second case was an especially mean one, he said. “It was a 911 incident. This person was tested and hospitalized, very sick,” he said. – For complete article go to

Federal judge rules in favor of Sage Grouse advocacy group in Montana; CDC zoonotic disease summary for week ending June 25, 2011; and a Rabies report from Texas. Travel Warnings: Is Chikungunya the next West Nile Virus?

Sage grouse. Courtesy National Park Service.

Montana 07/03/11 A federal judge has rejected the government’s attempt to delay a lawsuit seeking protections for imperiled sage grouse across the West in a case with sweeping implications for grazing, oil and gas drilling, and residential construction. With the order from Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Idaho, the 11-state sage grouse case is shaping up as an early test of an Obama administration proposal to settle endangered species claims on hundreds of plants and animals. Among the most pivotal of those species is the greater sage grouse, a ground-dwelling game bird that has lost half of its once-vast range and also suffered from the deadly West Nile virus. The Interior Department wants to prolong until 2015 its decision on whether the birds should receive Endangered Species Act protections. That’s under a pending settlement with two wildlife advocacy groups in a separate federal court case in Washington, D.C. However, Winmill said in his late Thursday ruling that a third group, Western Watersheds Project, can proceed with its lawsuit calling for more immediate measures to stop the bird’s decline. Winmill turned down the government’s request to suspend the case. Federal officials decided in 2010 that sage grouse deserved protections. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said other species took priority, relegating the birds to a long list of “candidates” for protection. “We think we can do better than 2015,” said Tom Woodbury, Western Watersheds’ Montana director. “The scientists all agree that it’s in danger of extinction and that things are only getting worse.” (For complete article go to )

CDC MMWR Week ending June 25, 2011 /60(25);854-867

Anaplasmosis . . . 20 . . . Maryland, New York (18), Virginia,

Babesiosis . . . 7 . . . New York (6), Pennsylvania,

Ehrlichiosis . . . 6 . . . Maryland, New York (2), Tennessee (2),Virginia,

Giardiasis . . . 144 . . . Arkansas (5), Arizona, California (14), Colorado (22), Connecticut (2),  Florida (22), Georgia (6), Iowa (5), Idaho, Maryland (8), Maine (3), Michigan (2), Montana, Nebraska (3), New York (29), North Dakota (5), Pennsylvania (4), Vermont, Virginia (5), Washington (4),

Lyme Disease . . .  361 . . . California (2), Connecticut (34), Delaware (10), District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maryland (17), Maine (9), Massachusetts (12), Michigan, Minnesota (3), New Hampshire (12), New Jersey (38), New York (42), Pennsylvania (60), Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia (19), Vermont (5), Wisconsin (20),

Rabies (Animal) . . . 26 . . . Arkansas, Illinois, Maine (2), Nebraska (2), New York (10), Virginia (9), West Virginia,

Spotted Fever . . . 2 . . . Georgia (2),

Probable Spotted Fever . . . 12 . . . Florida, New York, Pennsylvania (2), Tennessee (6), Virginia, West Virginia,

Texas 07/04/11 Area residents should be aware that a case of rabies has been confirmed in Falls County, according to local veterinarian Dr. Gerald Killgore.  He reported that a local resident brought a sick raccoon to his office Friday, June 17. Although the raccoon was not aggressive, Dr. Killgore said that he was immediately suspicious and quarantined it.  The animal died late the next day, and Killgore then contacted the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) in Temple and arranged to have the animal tested for rabies.  He was notified last Thursday that the animal had tested positive for the disease.

Travel Warnings:

Global 06/29/11 by Carrie Arnold – In Kenya in 2004, spring became the rainy season that wasn’t. March turned into April, and then May, and still the rains didn’t come. The once lush countryside began to parch and drinking water slowly evaporated. Women used to fetch small buckets of water from nearby streams and ponds, but the drought forced them to travel farther. To save themselves from trudging for hours each day in the blazing equatorial heat, women began to gather several days’ worth of water in multi-gallon containers, which they stored outside their homes. What the women didn’t know was that these vessels would spark a worldwide outbreak of a viral disease unfamiliar to most Westerners—for now.

In the Makonde language of eastern Africa, “chikungunya” means “that which bends over.” The chikungunya virus causes joint pain so excruciating victims can’t stand or even sit upright for weeks or months at a time. It has existed in southeastern Africa for centuries, passed from person to person by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The mosquito has adapted to living alongside humans, happily breeding in human houses and water containers. The drought increased the number of drinking water containers, the population of Aedes aegypti and the incidence of chikungunya cases. After infecting most of the susceptible people in the drought-afflicted area, the outbreak flickered out.

Chikungunya has usually been confined to Africa, but in early 2005, embers of the Kenyan outbreak spread to the Seychelles and Comoros islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. By June of that year, cases of chikungunya had been reported on the island of Réunion, a French protectorate 550 miles east of Madagascar and a popular European tourist destination.

Asian Tiger Mosquito

A few cases of chikungunya didn’t overly worry public health officials on Réunion. The spraying of DDT decades earlier had all but eliminated Aedes aegypti on the island. The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), a close relative of Aedes aegypti, lived on Réunion and could potentially carry chikungunya, but it didn’t transmit the virus well enough to cause a major outbreak. During the second half of 2005, reports of chikungunya continued to trickle in. Then, in the beginning of 2006, case reports spiked. Public health officials noted 13,000 cases in the first week of March alone. By the end of the year, around 266,000 people on Réunion had been infected with chikungunya, more than one-third of the island’s residents. Epidemiologists were at a loss to explain the epidemic.

A group of French scientists sequenced the genetic material of the chikungunya virus from Réunion and compared it with chikungunya viruses from Africa. The researchers found that a single mutation had occurred on Réunion, a mutation that slightly changed the shape of one of the proteins that studded chikungunya’s surface. Previous studies showed that this protein helped similar viruses enter host cells and cause infections, which led the scientists to hypothesize that this small shape change was enough to let the virus infect the Asian tiger mosquito and use it as a ready vector.

Aedes Aegypti Mosquito

A follow-up study showed that the mutation on Réunion let chikungunya infect the Asian tiger mosquito extremely efficiently—100 times more efficiently than the non-mutated strain infected Aedes aegypti. Chikungunya enters a mosquito’s body when it bites someone with large amounts of virus in the bloodstream. The blood enters the mosquito’s gut, where the virus pries open the gut cells and makes copies of itself. The shape of proteins on the outside of the virus determines whether it can get inside. For the older strains of chikungunya, trying to enter the gut cells of the Asian tiger mosquito was like trying to shove a square peg in a round hole. The mutation from Réunion changed the virus from a square peg to a round one.

Chikungunya virus

After the virus multiplies in the mosquito’s gut cells, it travels to the salivary glands. When the mosquito bites its next victim, it squirts saliva into the bite to prevent clotting, saliva laden with the chikungunya virus. After three to seven days, the next human victim would have large amounts of virus in his or her own blood, causing fever and the agonizing joint pain for which the disease is so famous. The victim could then pass the virus to the next biting mosquito. The best way to prevent chikungunya infection, says Erin Staples, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Fort Collins, Colorado, “would be to avoid contact with mosquitoes.” But that’s easier said than done.

Over the past 30 years, the Asian tiger mosquito, a native of Southeast Asia and India, has spread to every continent. It travels in used tires, which are usually stored outdoors before being shipped around the world. The tires collect rainwater, the perfect location for a female mosquito to lay her eggs. Even if rainwater evaporates during the voyage, that’s no problem for the desiccation-resistant eggs of Asian tiger mosquitoes.

“When the tires get dumped in their new location and it rains on them, it’s like growing sea monkeys,” says Dina Fonseca, an entomologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

The Asian tiger mosquito first arrived in the United States by way of a used tire shipment to Houston in 1985. From there, it spread across the country by way of shipping routes and interstates. Although Aedes aegypti also lives in the United States, it can’t survive cold northern winters, and its presence is limited to the Southeast. The Asian tiger mosquito, however, has adapted to cooler temperatures and can live as far north as Wisconsin and New Hampshire. A widespread population of Asian tiger mosquitoes combined with globe-trotting humans means that chikungunya can arrive in the United States at any time.

“An increasingly important factor is the mobility of people,” says Paul Reiter, a medical entomologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. “The biggest vector of chikungunya is the Boeing and the Airbus.”

“We have seen numerous individuals who have traveled to places where chikungunya transmission is going on who have been unfortunate enough to pick up the virus and then travel back to the United States,” says Staples. The CDC has already noted more than 100 cases of chikungunya since 2006, all brought back from overseas travel.

The virus hasn’t gotten into the local mosquito populations so far, but recent outbreaks around the world show how easily the virus, with its new mosquito host, can infiltrate a new country.

In August 2007, a man returned from India to the small Italian town of Castiglione di Cervia, 115 miles south of Venice along the Adriatic Sea. Shortly after his arrival, he visited the doctor with a high fever, headache, rash, and joint pain. By the time public health authorities realized that the man was ill with chikungunya, more than 100 other people in Castiglione had developed the virus. Part of what drove this outbreak, Fonseca says, was the Italian habit of long, leisurely outdoor meals. This tradition gave the Asian tiger mosquito, which had arrived in 1990, ample opportunity to bite people.

Ongoing outbreaks of chikungunya are occurring in India, Southeast Asia, New Caledonia and Brazzaville, the capital of the Congo Republic, where more than 1,000 cases had been reported in early June.

The best, and most disturbing, lesson for how a possible chikungunya outbreak could strike the United States is the West Nile virus, Staples says. Both viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes. Both were relatively obscure viruses from Africa that caused massive outbreaks when they reached other locations. And both cause serious and potentially deadly symptoms. West Nile virus first arrived in New York in 1999, and that one introduction was enough to permanently change the disease landscape of North America. West Nile virus has spread across the continental United States and is now endemic, meaning that the virus is transmitted within the population year after year.

African Green Monkey

The viruses have some important differences, however. West Nile infects birds as well as humans, and once the virus entered the bird population, halting its spread became impossible. Chikungunya would be confined to humans (it infects other primates in Africa but is not known to infect any North American animals) which gives epidemiologists an advantage in fighting the disease.

Researchers have begun to develop vaccines and treatments for chikungunya. One vaccine candidate is currently being tested, and researchers in France and Singapore have identified potential immunological treatments to help reduce the severity of infections. Epidemiologists at the CDC and the World Health Organization are working hard to make sure that chikungunya doesn’t spread any farther, but with no treatments yet and no ability to stop the Asian tiger mosquito, their goals might be nearly impossible to achieve. All we can do, public health officials and travelers alike, is watch and wait.

Carrie Arnold has been following the chikungunya outbreak since 2008, when she wrote about it as her thesis topic at Johns Hopkins University. She lives outside Norfolk, Virginia, and is working on her third book.