Monday, October 21, 2019

Reports about Yellowstone bears, wolves, and birds published online

Yellowstone National Park recently published online three reports from 2018 about bear management, wolves, and birds. Each annual report focuses largely on the health of these wildlife populations.

Topics from the Bear Management Program Annual Report include bear sightings, management of roadside bear viewing, bear mortalities, bear-human conflicts, bear-proof food storage locker installation and more.

Yellowstone’s Bear Biologist Kerry Gunther said, “There were few bear-human conflicts inside of the park in 2018; however, managing visitors that stopped to view and photograph bears foraging in roadside meadows and thus creating large bear jams was a considerable management challenge.”

Topics from the Bird Project Annual Report include monitoring of raptors, wetland birds, songbirds and near-passerine, fall migration, raven movements, and noteworthy and rare bird sightings.

Biologist Lauren Walker said, “We used five methods to monitor breeding songbirds in 2018: point counts in willow stands and mature forests, transects through plots in sagebrush steppe, a banding station, and the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). We recorded 35 songbird species within three willow growth types and captured at least 32 species at our banding station in a willow-lined riparian corridor. Observers recorded 24 species in mature forests and 29 species in sagebrush steppe. We also observed over 3,100 individuals belonging to 82 species along three BBS routes in the park.”

Topics from the Wolf Project Annual Report include pup survival, wolf pack summaries, and using radio collars to study wolves.

Doug Smith, Yellowstone Wolf Project leader says, “In 2018 we noted a drop in pup numbers, however there were no intra-species wolf killings, which is usually the reason for the most wolf mortality. This year marks a 10-year period of relatively stable wolf numbers. While the reasons for this are unknown, a relatively stable elk population is likely a large factor.”

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, October 18, 2019

Two Grizzly Bear Cubs Killed in Train Collision - breaks record for most in a single year

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks discovered two grizzly bear cubs that were killed on the railroad tracks southeast of Trego.

FWP staff was notified by the U.S. Forest Service on the evening of Oct. 15 of a possible bear carcass along the tracks. Upon investigation, FWP identified a dead female cub and another cub of unknown sex located on and near the tracks. It’s unclear when the cubs were killed. A BNSF Railway train was parked at the section of split tracks where the carcasses were located, and FWP notified BNSF Railway personnel at the scene. FWP staff did not locate the adult female that would have been accompanying the cubs.

This year to date, there have been 44 known or probable grizzly bear mortalities in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem across northwest Montana. Of those, eight have involved train collisions, the most in a single year on record.

The grizzly bear is listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 states under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Grand Teton National Park approves plan to remove non-native mountain goats

The National Park Service has signed a Finding of No Significant Impact for the Mountain Goat Management Plan/Environmental Assessment at Grand Teton National Park. The purpose of the plan is twofold: 1) aid in the conservation of a native population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Teton Range whose status is tenuous, and 2) protect other park resources and values from the rapidly growing non-native mountain goat population.

Based on analysis in the environmental assessment and public comments, the decision allows the National Park Service to rapidly remove non-native mountain goats from the park by lethal and non-lethal (live capture and translocation) methods. The decision also includes modifications from the preferred alternative to include the use of qualified volunteers to assist in ground-based lethal removal activities, and allow for the donation and distribution of mountain goat meat that results from lethal removal activities. The National Park Service will develop a program to integrate qualified volunteers with its management program. The program will follow requirements provided in the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act.

The Teton Range is home to a small herd currently estimated at approximately 100 native bighorn sheep. This herd is one of the smaller and most isolated in Wyoming, and has never been extirpated or augmented. The Teton Range herd of native bighorn sheep is of high conservation value to the park, adjacent land and wildlife managers, and visitors.

The National Park Service has a responsibility to maintain the ecological role of and reduce the potential for local extinction of native bighorn sheep. Mountain goats are not native to Grand Teton National Park. Mountain goats threaten the native Teton Range bighorn sheep herd through increased risk of pathogen transmission and potential for competition.

Currently the non-native mountain goat population within the park is estimated at approximately 100 animals. Resident mountain goats within the park are likely descended from a population that was introduced outside the park.

Without swift and active management, the mountain goat population is expected to continue to grow and expand its distribution within the park. The mountain goat population is currently at a size where complete removal is achievable in a short time, however, the growth rate of this population suggest that complete removal in the near future may become unattainable after a period of about three years.

Implementation of the plan to remove non-native mountain goats from the park by lethal and non-lethal methods will begin this winter.

The decision document is available at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Yellowstone to conduct prescribed fire to restore native vegetation

Yellowstone wildland fire staff will conduct a 16-acre prescribed fire on one day between October 16-24, weather dependent. The burn site is located in the northern section of the park, three miles northwest of Gardiner, Montana, and about a mile east of Stephens Creek.

The day of ignition, smoke may be visible in the afternoon for 3 to 6 hours.

The prescribed fire will consume 90% of the seeds of annual weeds (wheatgrass and desert alyssum) that impede native vegetation restoration. The results of using fire to restore native vegetation will inform current and future restoration efforts throughout degraded sagebrush and grassland systems in the West.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Outdoor Recreation Industry thriving in Wyoming and Nation according to study

A recent report from the federal government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) indicates Wyoming’s Outdoor Recreation Industry is among the best in the nation in contributing to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

For the first time, the BEA has added Outdoor Recreation to their annual Economic Analysis and what they found is that it is a major driver of the nation’s and Wyoming’s economy and employment. What the report found is Outdoor Recreation in Wyoming contributes $1.6 billion to Wyoming’s economy or 4.4 percent of the state’s overall economy. States ranking ahead of Wyoming are Hawaii at 5.4%, Montana at 5.1%, and Maine at 4.8%. Other states include Florida at 4.3%, and Colorado and Utah tied at 3.3%.

“To us in the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office and the Wyoming Division of State Parks and Historic Sites, this data doesn’t come as a surprise to us as we’re constantly meeting and working with those in the outdoor recreation industry,” Administrator Dave Glenn said. “What this data does tell us is that we have a vibrant and growing outdoor recreation economy and this is the tip of the iceberg.”

The news is even better in regards to employment, Outdoor Recreation which accounts for 23,036 jobs or 8 percent of total employment in Wyoming which is the highest in the nation. Those jobs also account for 4.7 percent of total compensation in the state, which is second in the nation behind Hawaii at 5.1 percent.

“Outdoor Recreation is pivotal to residents and visitors alike,” Gov. Mark Gordon said. “Many people visit, move and bring their businesses here to take advantage of the outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities available in Wyoming.”

The Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office is working to expand those employment numbers even more through its support of the Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management Program at the University of Wyoming and the Outdoor Education and Recreation Leadership degree at Northwest College in Powell.

Locally, the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office works to improve recreation economies by facilitating community stakeholder discussions. Make sure communities are aware of resources and opportunities to improve amenities and attract business based on local assets.

“Wyoming has done a phenomenal job leveraging our resources underground,” Glenn added. “Now we're going to build a thriving OR industry by leveraging our resources above the ground. We have more work to do"

The BEA study also indicates that the Outdoor Recreation Industry is growing rapidly nationwide, eclipsing the average increase in overall U.S. GDP. Overall, Outdoor Recreation grew by 3.9% in 2017 compared to the overall U.S. economy which grew by 2.4%.

“This study confirms what we’ve known for a long time,” State Parks and Cultural Resources Director Darin Westby said. “Wyoming is a great place to work and play and we’ve been expanding those opportunities throughout the state for quite some time.”

Nationally, according to the report, economic leaders in gross economic output are boating/fishing, RVing, motorcycling/ATVing, hunting/shooting/trapping and equestrian sports are the five largest conventional outdoor recreation activities. Snow sports rank as a close sixth on the list. These are all highly popular activities in the Cowboy State.

The full Bureau of Economic Analysis report on Outdoor Recreation can be found here

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Alpine Areas of the Going-to-the-Sun Road Closed for the Season

Due to continued winter weather, Glacier National Park has determined that the alpine section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road will not reopen to vehicles this season.

The road typically closes between Avalanche Creek and Jackson Glacier Overlook on or before the third Monday in October, weather and road condition dependent.

Visitors are reminded that hiker and biker access is permitted on most closed roads in Glacier National Park though risks include falling ice or rocks, and ice-covered or snowy road conditions.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road between Avalanche Creek and Logan Pass was closed on September 16 to allow for the completion of an ongoing pavement preservation project. The park intended to reopen the alpine section of the road after September 29, however the area was impacted by a significant snowstorm the day after the pavement preservation work was completed. Efforts to plow the alpine section of the road were hampered due to continued snowfall and avalanche activity.

Subsequent snowfall throughout the park on October 8 further delayed the opening of the alpine section of the road as crews focused on plowing needs throughout the park. The park’s road crew has successfully reopened Many Glacier Road, the Camas Road, and the portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road between the foot of St. Mary Lake and Rising Sun. The Two Medicine Road remains closed due to ice and snow.

Due to prolonged freezing temperatures forecasted for this week and the possibility of additional snow next weekend, the park will prioritize winter road preparations, including: removing guardrails in avalanche prone areas, winterizing the Logan Pass Visitor Center, and installing snow poles to aid plowing next spring.

Crews will begin removing 463 log railing pieces along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in advance of significant seasonal alpine avalanches. The steel-backed 8-foot log sections require 12 bolts each to attach to the roadway, and must be removed by hand. Failure to remove them could result in significant avalanche damage to the railings or roadway and potentially delay the opening of the road in the spring. The railing removal project typically takes two or three weeks, however unfavorable conditions including ice coating the bolts and railings can extend that timeframe or make removal impractical.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, October 11, 2019

Being Bear Aware - Hyperphagia by the Numbers

Twenty chicken sandwiches, 10 large orders of french fries, 10 soft drinks and 10 milkshakes. That’s the approximate fast food order needed to total 20,000 calories, the amount Colorado Parks and Wildlife says a hungry black bear needs to consume every single day as they pack on the pounds to build up their fat reserves to survive winter hibernation.

While Coloradans are enjoying the sights and sounds of autumn, bears are reaching the peak of hyperphagia, an instinctive metabolic response to the changing seasons. Hyperphagia triggers a “feeding frenzy” to gain much-needed fat storage to help ensure winter survival. Bears will continue their intense search for food for up to 20 hours per day through mid-December, or when natural food sources are no longer available. As colder autumn weather brings frost and freezing to the state and natural food sources begin declining, bears may look to humans for easily accessible meals.

“Since early April, our staff has received nearly 5,000 bear incident report calls, and over half of those have been about bears finding food sources,” said CPW Interpretation and Wildlife Viewing Coordinator Mary McCormac. “If given a choice between foraging for food for 20 hours or getting all the calories needed from a few dumpsters in one alley, which would you choose? Bears are extremely smart and will try to get as many calories as quickly and as easily as they can before denning for the winter. That really puts it on us as humans to be responsible with our property, especially our trash.”

With the need to quickly build fat reserves, bears will seek out food sources that provide a higher caloric intake such as fallen fruit, nuts and especially the types of meals found in your trash can or bird feeders. Giving bears easy access to food allows them to become overly comfortable in populated areas. This often leads to bears becoming more aggressive and increases the possibility of a dangerous human-bear conflict.

“This time of year, CPW fields dozens of calls each day regarding bears turning over trash cans, entering homes and showing little to no fear of people when looking for food,” said McCormac. “The only reason we get so many of these calls is that people are being careless; not locking their doors, not securing their trash, keeping bird feeders out and generally not being careful when they know bears are looking for an easy meal. Living responsibly with bears is everyone’s responsibility.”

Bearproofing homes, cars and other personal property not only helps keep people safe, but it can also prevent conflicts and even the needless death of a bear.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking