Target: Virgil Moore, Director of Idaho Fish and Game
Goal: Stop Idaho’s planned cull of thousands of ravens in a misguided attempt to save sage-grouse populations
Ravens are among the most intelligent species on this planet. They are also among the only creatures who engage in play for the sheer joy of it. Juvenile ravens have been known to steal and cache shiny objects and slide down snowbanks on their backs. They have even been observed to make their own toys and to engage in games with other species. Ravens are also a federally protected species, yet the state of Idaho is planning on killing at least 4,000 of them over the next two years.
The ravens are being culled in the name of conserving another species, the greater sage-grouse. Ravens are an opportunistic species and are known to occasionally prey on grouse eggs and chicks, yet predation ranks low on the list of threats to their survival. The greatest threat to the birds by far is loss of habitat, mostly due to residential building and energy development. Increased predation is the direct result of loss of ground cover and suitable habitat for sage-grouse nesting, yet while the ravens are sentenced to death for engaging in their natural behavior little is being done to restrict development and save grouses’ native brushlands.
The sage-grouse is currently on a conservation wait list. Federal officials will decide next year whether or not to officially list the bird as threatened. As a threatened species the grouse would be subject to federal protection, including limiting development on critical habitat. Because of this states like Idaho that have large historic populations of sage-grouse are rushing to increase their numbers in an attempt to limit federal regulation on their public lands. This is an irresponsible and misguided fix to a complex, fundamentally human problem.
Don’t let Idaho get away with choosing cruelty over responsible development and habitat conservation. Call on wildlife officials to seek greater protections for grouse habitat and to abandon all plans to cull local raven populations.
Dear Director Moore,
Ravens are extremely intelligent and charismatic creatures, and are a federally protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. They do not deserve to be used as a scapegoat for unchecked land and energy development. The best available science does not support the poisoning of ravens as an effective sage-grouse conservation measure, nor has the environmental impact of leaving bird poison around the landscape been sufficiently studied.
Science, not convenience or superstition, should be driving conservation efforts. Destruction of brushland habitat is the true cause of declines in grouse populations and is in fact also responsible for increased predation by ravens. Please work with scientists to develop a conservation plan that addresses the real threats to the sage-grouse without threatening other vulnerable wildlife or engaging in unwarranted cruelty.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Atli Harðarson via Flickr