GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

All posts tagged hunting

Science Times tackles the complex Yellowstone wolf scene

Categories: On the Web, Science, Wildlife
Comments Off on Science Times tackles the complex Yellowstone wolf scene

Brad Bulin wolf pelt 2006 In this Tuesday’s “Science Times” section of the New York Times, freelance science writer Jim Robbins explains the push-pull between the lives of Yellowstone’s wolf packs (and the scientists who study them) and the needs and requirements of hunters and ranchers in the three surrounding states.

Since 2011 Montana and Idaho have been conducting managed wolf hunts, but in Wyoming a U.S. Court of Appeals has only this March approved a wolf-hunting plan that is deemed not to endanger the survival of the species in that state.

All the controversy about wolves stems from the 1995 and ’96 introduction of gray wolves (Canis lupus irremotus) into the park (and also into Idaho) from Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Their population soared within a few years to around 150 wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and scientists like Dr. Douglas Smith found, as quoted by Robbins, that “Yellowstone is the best place in the world to view wolves”—and to study them. This is especially true because the Yellowstone wolves do not fear the thousands of eager visitors who flock there—and incidentally add money to the regional economy. The wolves are thus quite readily visible.

In the years after the introduction of wolves, neighboring ranchers were understandably distressed. Some of their cattle, sheep, and even dogs were killed; before wolf hunting was authorized some ranchers were reimbursed by nonprofit organizations for their losses. It is hoped that protection within the park, combined with limited hunting outside its borders, will provide the needed balance and keep the population of Yellowstone’s wolves to approximately one hundred, as has happened in the last few years.

Robbins tells us much more about the results of research done by Smith and his colleagues. Longevity and social hierarchy within the packs are now better understood, and observation has revealed that wise older wolves serve an important role. Dr. Smith believes that packs are matrilineal. “Males come and go . . . but Gramma, Mom, and the daughter are the ones that stick around.” Here is a link to the whole article, “The New Threat to Wolves in and around Yellowstone.”

For some earlier blog posts about wolves here at YellowstoneTreasures.com, just enter “wolves” in the search bar.

Photo is of Yellowstone Forever Institute instructor Brad Bulin showing a wolf pelt, winter 2006. Photo by Janet Chapple.

Share Button

Plans for the Yellowstone grizzly

Categories: News, On the Web, Wildlife
Comments Off on Plans for the Yellowstone grizzly
Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats, Yellowstone

Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats, Yellowstone

Grizzly bears have been in the news in recent years. First, because human-bear conflicts have been more numerous, including a total of six deaths of people since 2010. Managing these conflicts and the bear predation on cattle means about twenty grizzlies are intentionally killed or removed to zoos per year (see this database if you are interested). In 2016 the news is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to take them off the Endangered Species list by the end of the year. The National Park Service put together an informative page about the history of efforts to help the Yellowstone-area grizzly recover, including listing it and delisting it, plus explaining how to minimize encounters with bears and ensure your safety if you do accidentally come close to one. You can find the article here: “Grizzly Bears and the Endangered Species Act.” The most recent delisting was in 2007, but a court ruling overturned that and put them back on the threatened species list in 2009.

Here’s a quick list of safety points, courtesy of the NPS. When backcountry hiking, you can reduce the odds of being injured by a bear by following these five rules:

  1. Hike in groups of three or more people.
  2. Stay alert.
  3. Make noise in areas with poor visibility.
  4. Carry bear spray.
  5. Don’t run during encounters with bears.

The grizzly bear population has made a remarkable recovery, to about 700 individuals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. So why is delisting controversial? Some are worried about plans for hunting in the surrounding states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. For a March 20, 2016, article that quotes the state governors on the subject, see “US seeks end to Yellowstone grizzly protections” on the Explore Big Sky website.

Do you have an opinion on this subject? Isn’t this photo beautiful? Write your informed comment below.
—Editor Beth

Photo by Jim Peaco for the National Park Service, June 2005.

Share Button

Head count for lovers of Yellowstone’s charismatic megafauna

Categories: Wildlife
Comments Off on Head count for lovers of Yellowstone’s charismatic megafauna

In case the expression “charismatic megafauna” is not in your everyday vocabulary—it refers to the big wild animals that attract many people to Yellowstone.

Late summer is a good time to take stock of what lives in the park, so I’ve dug around a bit and found some recent head counts for the biggest and most interesting wild animals.

Curiously, the bison—that iconic beast that was nearly wiped out by hide-hunters by the beginning of the 1900s and again slaughtered by the hundreds in recent years for different reasons—in late 2013 probably has more hooves-on-the-ground than the elk. This in spite of elk numbers being up around the high 30,000s when I began paying attention (in 1995). This year’s count of bison is around 4,600, while elk are estimated at about 4,000.

Grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone area are estimated at 718 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, while in the same area wolves may number about 500, but with only about 80 in the park proper. A large factor in the present small number of wolves has been their delisting and subsequent hunting in 2012-13: 203 killed in Idaho, 179 in Montana, and 73 in Wyoming (which had a shorter hunting season).

You’ll find related posts about elk and wolves in my June 7 and June 13 posts this past summer.

Share Button

Decrease in elk numbers

Categories: Wildlife
Comments Off on Decrease in elk numbers

Heading to Yellowstone myself in a few days [June 2013], I was very interested to learn that blaming the wolves for the huge decrease in elk numbers in Yellowstone is a big over-simplification. The numbers are unquestionably way down since I began taking notice in the mid 1990s.

When I was researching for Yellowstone Treasures’ first edition (2002), I found that about 35,000 elk were summering in the park. The new fourth edition (August, 2013) will say that on the order of 4,000 elk can be found on the northern Yellowstone range, and there are a few more in the rest of the park. This is a reduction of more than 80 percent.

A majority of the park’s wolf packs since reintroduction in 1995 have primarily preyed on elk. Thus, it has been easy to assume that wolves are to blame for this huge reduction in numbers. But a recent article in the latest issue of the journal Ecology reveals that the situation is much more complicated.

Migratory elk are struggling, while their resident counterparts thrive in the foothills, recent studies have found. The 4,500-member Clarks Fork elk herd, which migrates between the Absaroka Mountains and the upper Lamar River area, finds less forage because of extended drought.

In contrast, another researcher found that those elk living northwest of Cody, WY who do not migrate produce more calves, and more of them survive. They stay in the area because they find irrigated croplands. In addition, in settled areas many preying wolves and bears are removed by hunters and ranchers.

Grizzly bears and poor summer forage conditions caused by several years of drought have a bigger effect on elk health than do wolves, the researchers concluded.

Share Button

Recent wolf numbers

Categories: Park environs, Wildlife
Comments Off on Recent wolf numbers

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.

Share Button

Elk and wolves

Categories: Flora and Fauna, On the Web, Wildlife
Comments Off on Elk and wolves

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

Share Button

Late Winter State of the Wolves, 2012

Categories: News, Park environs, Wildlife
Comments Off on Late Winter State of the Wolves, 2012

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.

Share Button