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Recent wolf numbers

Categories: Park environs, Wildlife
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I learned today from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition newsletter that 75 to 80 wolves now live in Yellowstone Park. This is less than half the number of wolves that lived in the park at the peak a few years ago. The current lower number explains why wolf sightings are down, especially in the Lamar Valley, which used to be the place to see wolves. However, fans of Yellowstone’s wolves are hoping to learn that a good number of pups were born this April. It’s still too early to know that for sure.

The GYC reports: “Wyoming’s season closed Dec. 31, 2012, with 73 wolves taken. Montana’s season ended in late February and Idaho’s in late March, except in two areas of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that were closed early. As of Feb. 4, 203 wolves had been killed by hunters/trappers in Idaho and 179 in Montana.”

The full article is at:http://www.greateryellowstone.org/issues/wildlife/Feature.php?id=38.

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Wolves in winter

Categories: Wildlife, Winter
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Working most of my waking hours to prepare the next edition of Yellowstone Treasures for the printer, I have neglected my blog [February 2013]. But I never neglect looking at interesting tidbits written by other Yellowstone enthusiasts. Here’s a quote I particularly love from an article by Josh Eells about the wolves. It is just appearing in Mens’ Journal—which I don’t read routinely! I highlighted my favorite sentence:

With the Lamars out of sight, finding wolves was tougher than expected. On the other hand: If you’re not going to see wolves, there’s no better place to not see them than Yellowstone in winter. The park is majestically empty, devoid of the theme-park masses who crowd it in the warmer seasons. The bears had already gone into hibernation, but we saw loads of other wildlife: bison, elk, pronghorn, coyotes, ravens, and eagles. One day, a friend and I hiked up a trail called Specimen Ridge, where a snow-peaked Mount Washburn towered in the distance and the ice-cold Yellowstone River wound its way through steaming geothermal vents in the canyon below. We saw a set of fresh mountain lion prints in the snow, atop some also-fresh deer tracks – a real-time picture of nature at work.

Takes me back to last winter, when I got to visit the park for a week. See my trip report, Winter in Yellowstone, Part I and Part II.

Read more: http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/yellowstones-wild-gray-wolves-20130214#ixzz2KzJrWh5h

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Elk and wolves

Categories: Flora and Fauna, On the Web, Wildlife
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I really must pass this on and keep quoting it in the future, because it’s an article by a highly respected Bozeman writer, who has done a convincing study about the effect of gray wolves on the elk population around Yellowstone and beyond. There has been a lot of waffling about whether or not to blame the last few years’ shrinkage of the Greater Yellowstone elk herd on preying wolves. This looks at the issue from the point of view of hunting outfitters.
Here is food for thought:
http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/opinions/article_dc2057ce-a135-11e1-9499-001a4bcf887a.html

2012

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Spring comes to Greater Yellowstone

Categories: Flora and Fauna, Park environs, Wildlife
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I recently found something that’s fun to watch, if you enjoy observing the unusual spring rituals of birds and animals. I’ve never seen this in person and probably never will, since it occurs in April, which is too early in the spring for most roads and facilities in the Greater Yellowstone area to be open. But still . . . Watch—and listen to—the greater sage grouse’s mating ritual at: http://www.yellowstonegate.com/2012/04/grand-teton-rangers-lead-morning-tours-watch-sage-grouse-strut.

The Yellowstone Gate website is a good place to learn about current events in and around Yellowstone and the Tetons. I was reminded that later this month is National Park Week (April 21-29, 2012), when park entrance fees are waived. However, only people who live close by can really benefit from this, since no hotels are open until early May, and the only campground open all year is at Mammoth.

2012

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Yellowstone grizzlies know it’s spring

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If you know and love the Yellowstone area and the wild mountain country around it, you may have your own bear stories. But you’ve survived to tell them, and two of last year’s hikers did not. Now it’s the season when bears emerge from their dens, and the memory of last summer’s two fatal attacks by grizzlies in central Yellowstone is still fresh.

This month the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and Yellowstone National Park have released their detailed reports, and the park is initiating major efforts to increase bear awareness and encourage the use of bear spray by backcountry hikers.

An excellent report on last summer’s grizzly-caused deaths and the recommendations of the study group appeared on March 20th [2012] in the High Country News Range Blog:
http://www.hcn.org/hcn/blogs/range/rethinking-recreation-in-grizzly-country. If you’re planning to take hikes away from the most popular sights and routes in or around Yellowstone, you need to prepare by reading such reports and follow the associated advice.

As for me—I admit that I stay within a few miles of the roads and always hike with small groups of friends or family. I’ve had a healthy fear of bears since early childhood. Of course, my bear stories are pretty tame as a result.

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Absaroka-Beartooth Front

Absaroka-Beartooth Front. Photo ©2011 Dave Showalter/ iLCP.

When my husband Bruno and I accepted an invitation to a downtown San Francisco reception given by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, we thought it would be fun to meet some people involved with this organization and learn more about what they do. Walking into The Matrix one evening last week—the only rainy week we’ve had this winter in the Bay Area—we were greeted by friendly people, not just by barkeeps but by GYC board member Charlotte Vaughan Winton and very tall, bearded Executive Director Mike Clark.

The Matrix is a Marina District jazz club owned by Judge William Newsom, father of the former mayor of San Francisco and present Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom. We were in good hands, and Judge Newsom was most generous with free drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

The serious part of this gathering was to explain to us what and where the Absaroka-Beartooth Front is and why it needs protection. The slide show given by Northwest Wyoming Director Barbara Cozzens did not provide a map but did include interesting pictures of the rare high-elevation meadows, mountain views, bighorn sheep, and unspoiled terrain. The area is roughly defined as the area of public lands just east of Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, a good deal of which is on the Shoshone National Forest.

Shoshone National Forest is in the process of updating its management plan this year. They need to find a balance between the pressures of interests advocating industrial and motorized use of the area and people and organizations who believe in trying to manage the land and wildlife with the long view toward conservation for future generations.

Threatened by rural land development and oil and gas drilling projects, the Shoshone and nearby lands are “one of the wildest places remaining in the lower 48 states,” according to the GYC website,

The Front hosts the full complement of native Yellowstone wildlife, including large herds of all of North America’s big-game species—pronghorn, elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat—as well some of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears and wolves outside of a national park. Genetically pure populations of Yellowstone cutthroat trout inhabit the region’s pristine, free-flowing rivers and streams.
This area also supports a number of significant big game migration routes, including one of the longest-known elk migration routes in North America, with animals migrating over 60 miles from the southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park to the region’s public and private lands.

A map and much more information is at: http://greateryellowstone.org/issues/lands/Feature.php?id=300.

2012

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Late Winter State of the Wolves, 2012

Categories: News, Park environs, Wildlife
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This is the time when wolves are awaiting the birth of pups, which occurs in Yellowstone during April. Right now the park seems to be catching up on a low total snowfall so far this winter, which may make for a late (and very short) spring.

The one hundred or so wolves now living in the park are, of course, still protected, as is all national park wildlife, but since last April wolves in the neighboring states of Idaho and Montana have been delisted from Endangered Species Act protections, while Wyoming management plans proposed so far have not been accepted, and the wolf population there is still under federal control. The Wyoming state senate has recently approved a wolf management plan that would allow wolves to be shot on sight across a majority of the state,
Idaho rivals Alaska for the most aggressive policies for hunting wolves. It allows trapping and aerial gunning, and its ten-month wolf season runs until June, claiming 353 wolves so far.

Montana hunters have killed 166 this season, with an overall quota set at 220. However, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission decided not to extend the 2011-2012 wolf hunt in one Montana area, the Bitterroot Valley.

Radio station KSRO of Sonoma County, California, reported today:

A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit from conservation groups that want to block wolf hunts that have killed more than 500 of the predators across the Northern Rockies in recent months.
The ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Congress had the right to intervene when it stripped protections from wolves last spring.

As stated by Local News 8 in Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is praising Idaho and Montana for successful management of gray wolves. In its 2011 Annual Report for the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Population, the Service now estimates the region’s wolf population at 1774 animals and 109 breeding pairs.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Steve Guertin said, ‘these population estimates indicate the credible and professional job Montana and Idaho have done in the first year after they have assumed full management responsibilities.’ He said the states’ management plans will maintain a healthy wolf population at or above the agency’s recovery goals.

Researching online further today, I came across a long but thoroughly researched article on the present state of wolf protection and wolf removal, with much information to offer. The American Prospect magazine is new to me. I learned today that it is a liberal publication founded in 1990 by three men, including Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and currently Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at U. C. Berkeley. From http://prospect.org/article/wolves-slaughter (article by Christopher Ketcham, April 2012 print edition), I read that “elk numbers in some areas have declined, due in part to wolf predation. Yet in other areas where wolves and elk interact, elk numbers are stable or increasing. According to the Endangered Species Coalition, total elk population in the Northern Rockies has in fact risen since wolves were restored—from 312,000 to 371,000, a 19 percent increase since 1994.”

It is certainly not news to me that the great decline in elk numbers in Yellowstone in the twenty-first century is at least partly due to the reintroduction of wolves, but the next sentence was very interesting to me, proving that there must be other factors contributing to the decline in Yellowstone’s elk population.

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If you’re interested in wilderness conservation

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Before last month’s trip I had vaguely heard of the Murie Center and knew it had been set up in the Moose, Wyoming home of Olaus and Mardi Murie near the end of Mardi’s long life. Meeting two of the five staff members sparked my interest, though, and I learned a little about what they do to further their goals of protecting wildlife and wilderness. A visit to the center is on my wish-list for this coming August.
Here’s their URL for more information: http://www.muriecenter.org.

[2012]

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Grizzly bears on a teeter-totter

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Back in 2009, when Yellowstone grizzly population had reached about 550, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the grizz. But Chris Servheen, acting for the USFWS, appealed that decision.

Now, just in time for my editor Beth and me to finalize the changes we want to make to Yellowstone Treasures for this coming spring’s reprint [for 2012], the judges reviewing the case decided that the bears must to returned to threatened status. This is a little surprising to me, since it comes at a time when many people are concerned about living with so many grizzlies in the area. Four people have been killed by grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone in the past two years.

A strong factor cited by the court in their decision is the collapse of whitebark pine seed production, which is due to warmer winter temperatures in the last decade. This affects the reproductive rate of grizzlies and contributes to greater human-caused mortality.

Just for the record—the word “teeter-totter” in my title this week reflects my Montana background; I guess most people call that playground object a seesaw.

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Wolf count up this year

Categories: News, Wildlife, Winter
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I’ve just learned [12/14/2011] that a study being completed this week by wolf experts and volunteers has found that the number of wolves living in Yellowstone is up this year to about 120 as opposed to 97 counted last year. This is good news for the many eager wolf-watchers, who have always found it easier to see them in winter.

And tomorrow is the day the park opens again after the annual early-winter hiatus, when snow accumulates, roads are not plowed for cars or groomed for over-snow vehicles, and the park is left very nearly in its natural state for about six weeks.

Coincidentally, I haven’t posted anything in that time, but it’s not because I have forgotten about Yellowstone. I’m turning over a new leaf as the park reopens and have resolved to write at least once a week. And I’m delighted to say—I get to visit again this January! Soon I’ll write more about that and what’s occupied me so fully in recent weeks.

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