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UT Press: Group sues to protect Gilas

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Fri Nov 5 05:55:55 2010  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  
   

DESERET NEWS (Salt Lake City, Utah) 27 October 10 Group sues to protect Utah Gila monster (Amy Joi O'Donoghue)
Denver: An environmental advocacy group on Monday sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming the federal agency has failed to act quickly enough to protect Utah's population of Gila monsters.
The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado says stresses on the Utah population, which occur only in Washington County, include declines in habitat because of increasing urbanization, illicit trade and poaching, as well persecution by humans.
A group is suing a federal agency, claiming it has failed to act quickly enough to protect Utah's Gila monsters.
WildEarth Guardians filed a petition with the agency, seeking protections for Utah Gila monsters in January, with a 90-day finding that was due in April.
With no such finding, the group argued that the agency acted contrary to law and "unreasonably" delayed compliance with sections of the Endangered Species Act.
State wildlife biologists have for years been attempting to document numbers of Utah's Gila monsters, which are venomous, burrow-dwelling lizards that spend as much as 95 percent of their time underground.
The reptile's presence in Utah represents the northern periphery of its range, with scientists believing that these "fringe" populations are critical to the overall survival of the entire population, according to the suit.
In the past year, state biologists received a $20,000 funding boost from the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund to help with long-term monitoring efforts.
Krissy Wilson, who heads up the state's aquatic animal program that also includes reptiles, said a conservation plan specific to the Gila monster has been developed, with much of the work being coordinated out of the agency's Washington County Field Office.
Ann McLuckie, a wildlife biologist with the state, said the elusive nature of the Gila monsters makes them extremely difficult to track.
Every other year, a crew of seven or eight people set out to "document" the animal, but it is a time consuming endeavor, she added.
In addition to conservation efforts undertaken by the state, the agency has asked the public, should they encounter one of the reptiles, to document the observation and share that with wildlife biologists.
Gila monsters are not aggressive by nature, but should not be provoked.
Their venom, as dangerous as a rattlesnake, includes an element first discovered in the Utah population that has provided the blueprint for a synthetic version to treat people with Type II diabetes. Gilatide, another component of the venom, is being explored as a treatment option for people with memory, attention or hyperactivity disorders.
Group sues to protect Utah Gila monster


   

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