Monday, April 29, 2019

Grand Teton Hosts Junior Ranger Day Event on Saturday, May 4

Families and children of all ages are invited to participate in Grand Teton National Park’s Junior Ranger Day on Saturday, May 4. This year’s event, titled “The Bear Necessities,” is themed around bear ecology and safety. Junior Ranger Day will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming. The event is free and open to the public. All children who participate in activities can earn a Junior Ranger badge.

The event will include indoor and outdoor fun for the whole family. Families can participate in activities to learn about bear identification, food storage, and how to use bear spray. Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, The Cougar Fund, The Raptor Center, and others will be on hand to teach about bears and other predators that call this area home. Fire engines, patrol cars, and snowplows will be available for exploration.

The National Park Service is pleased to work with Systems of Education's Roll into Readiness campaign for this event. Roll into Readiness is a partnership of local education organizations to promote informal learning opportunities among families. Bilingual staff and Teton Literacy Center partners will assist with activities at the event.

Junior Ranger Day is made possible in part with support from the Grand Teton Association. The non-profit park partner will offer a discount (15% for non-members and 20% for GTA members) on merchandise in the visitor center bookstore on Saturday, May 4.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Plowing Going to the Sun Road

Right now crews are busily plowing the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. But what does this actually mean, and what does it really entail? Last year Montana Living published this short video which highlights the truly epic feat of removing the massive amount of snow that piles up along the upper reaches of the road:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, April 22, 2019

Montana Memory Project Publishes Historic Photos and Annual Reports

Glacier National Park recently announced that the Montana Memory Project has published the Park Superintendent’s Annual Reports for 1911-1982 on its website. The annual reports provide fascinating glimpses into Glacier National Park's history through detailed descriptions of the management and state of affairs in the park for a given year. They include information on road and building construction, wildlife management, interpretive services, visitation statistics, trails, fire activity, and more. They are now available here:

Also available on the Montana Memory Project is our growing collection of historical photographs from the Glacier National Park archives. They are available here:

The park's efforts to increase online access to historical photographs and documents has been made possible thanks to funding from the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, April 19, 2019

2018 Highlights of NPS Investigative Services Branch

A few weeks ago the Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service published its annual report, which recaps significant cases, operations, awards and recognitions, and other noteworthy events that happened in the program throughout the year.

ISB Special Agents investigate complex, sensitive, and/or long-term cases of all types of crimes that occur across the National Park System, and work closely with US Park Rangers in the field every day. Investigations include crimes of violence, major property crimes, fraud, embezzlement, major resource violations, drug cultivation, and other incidents. Agents investigate new cases to multi-year investigations, and from isolated incidents to crimes spanning multiple agencies and nations.

The report shows that there is much more going on within our national parks than most citizens probably realize. For example, the report notes this investigation in Yellowstone National Park:
On the morning of January 16, 2018, park staff discovered 52 bison, held at the Stephens Creek facility for possible quarantine, had been released from the pens. US Park Rangers and ISB Special Agents opened a criminal investigation of the incident and park staff worked to locate and recapture the bison. The bison were being held and tested for brucellosis at Stephens Creek as part of a plan being considered to establish a quarantine program in support of augmenting or establishing new conservation and cultural herds of disease-free plains bison. The program would also enhance cultural and nutritional opportunities for Native Americans, reduce the shipment of Yellowstone bison to meat processing facilities, and conserve a viable, wild population. The Stephens Creek facility is closed permanently to the public.
The report also provides follow-ups to a few news items we've reported on in the past few years. To read the full report, please click here.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, April 15, 2019

Golden eagle dies from lead poisoning - was Yellowstone’s first golden eagle marked with a transmitter

A golden eagle was found dead on December 6, 2018, near Phantom Lake in the northern section of Yellowstone National Park. A recent lab necropsy indicated the cause of death was lead poisoning. Levels found in the golden eagle were extremely high and well over lethal toxicity.

The adult female was the first golden eagle in Yellowstone’s history to be marked with a radio transmitter. The marked raptor was part of a study to understand productivity, movements, survival, and cause of death in Yellowstone. The study is being conducted and funded by Yellowstone National Park, University of Montana, Yellowstone Forever, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Transmitter data revealed that the eagle ranged extensively during the 2018 autumn hunting season north of the park before it died. Hunter-provided carrion, especially gut piles, is an important food resource for golden eagles and other avian scavengers. The lead levels in the marked eagle indicated it likely ate carrion that contained lead fragments.

If carrion contain lead fragments, they can be deadly to scavengers. Lead is an environmental toxin well known for its capability to directly impact wildlife. Studies by Craighead Beringia South, a non-profit research institute based in Kelly, Wyoming, have shown that fragmented bullets often stay in the discarded remains of wild game and subsequently enter the food chain as they are consumed by other animals. Lead poisoning can result when wildlife species ingest the toxic materials.

In November of 2011 and March 2015, Craighead Beringia South researchers from Livingston, Montana, also documented mortalities from elevated lead levels of two golden eagles that ranged north of the park.

Non-lead ammunition is safer for birds.

Golden eagles are large, long-lived raptors that feed on many medium-sized mammals, birds, and carrion. Yellowstone considers golden eagles a species of concern.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, April 12, 2019

2019 late winter survey of northern Yellowstone elk

Elk numbers in Yellowstone National Park’s northern herd are fewer compared to last year, however the population remains above the 10-year average and other recent counts. Low calf survival will likely impact the population over the next two years, according to a population survey conducted last month.

The Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group conducted its annual late winter classification of the northern Yellowstone elk population on March 17-19, 2019. The survey was conducted from a helicopter by staff from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, which is part of the Working Group. Typically, an annual trend count is conducted by fixed-wing aircraft to count the total number of elk, and a separate helicopter survey is conducted to classify elk by age and sex in order to estimate calf and yearling bull survival and ratios of mature bulls in the population. This year the surveys were combined, and elk were counted and classified by helicopter.

All observed elk were counted across the survey area, and when possible staff also classified elk by age and sex. This survey was conducted consistently with the 2016 classification survey in order to assess population changes over the past three years. Survey conditions were favorable across the region, however winter conditions were severe, and many elk were observed to be in poor condition.

Staff counted 5,800 elk, including 1,361 elk (23.5 percent) inside Yellowstone National Park and 4,149 elk (71.5 percent) north of the park. The total count of 5,800 elk was 23 percent lower than the 7,579 elk observed during the 2018 trend count, and 23 percent lower than the 7,510 total elk counted during the 2016 classification survey, but higher than the 10-year average count of 5,399 elk. The long-term average of observed elk numbers since surveys began in 1976 is 10,634 elk, with a peak high count of 19,045 elk in 1994 and a low count of 3,915 elk observed in 2013.

Of the 5,800 elk counted, staff classified 5,510 elk by age and sex, resulting in ratios of 15.2 calves, 5.2 yearling bulls and 12.6 brow-tined bulls per 100 cows. Calf and yearling bull ratios were lower than recent surveys and long-term averages. Brow-tined bull ratios were higher than recent surveys, but below long-term average. Staff observed 16 percent fewer cows, 46 percent fewer calves and 42 percent fewer yearling bulls as compared to the 2016 classification survey. Brow-tined bull numbers increased by 21.3 percent from 432 observed in 2016 to 524 observed in 2019.

This is the second consecutive year with calf ratios below the threshold of 20 calves per 100 cows considered necessary to maintain a stable population. It is likely that additional winter mortalities will occur into spring, further reducing overall numbers and recruitment. Below-average yearling bull and calf recruitment is likely to result in lower numbers of brow-tined bulls being recruited into the population over the next two years.

Though overall elk numbers are down this year as compared to 2018, it is not unusual to observe fluctuations in numbers of elk counted due to survey quality, elk movements and sight ability of elk, which vary with conditions. Trends in elk populations are best assessed by considering multiple years of survey data together. The trend for this population has been increasing since 2013; this is the first year since 2013 that elk numbers have fallen from the previous year. The Working Group will continue to monitor trends of the northern Yellowstone elk population and evaluate the relative contribution of various components of mortality, including predation, environmental factors and hunting.

The Working Group was formed in 1974 to cooperatively preserve and protect the long-term integrity of the northern Yellowstone winter range for wildlife species by increasing our scientific knowledge of the species and their habitats, promoting prudent land management activities, and encouraging an interagency approach to answering questions and solving problems. The Working Group is comprised of resource managers and biologists from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks; National Park Service (Yellowstone National Park); U.S. Forest Service (Custer Gallatin National Forest); and U.S. Geological Survey-Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center in Bozeman.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Teen survives grizzly attack - deploys bear spray to repel bear

A 17-year-old male was attacked by a bear south of Ennis on Sunday. He fortunately survived the attack with relatively minor injuries.

The teen and his family were visiting their cabin in Wolf Creek, about 30 miles south of Ennis, on the east side of the Madison Valley. He was out looking for shed antlers in the area.

According to the teen, he was walking down a hill around 2 p.m. when he heard a “thump” behind him. He turned around to see a bear charging at him. The teen was carrying bear spray, but he was unable to deploy it immediately because of the bear’s rapid approach. The bear pushed him up against a tree and held him there momentarily. When the bear let go, the teen fell over and attempted to crawl between two trees and protect his head and vitals. The bear then pinned him face-down on the ground. The teen, who was wearing a hoodie and a backpack, said he was able to reach over his shoulder and spray the bear with bear spray, and the bear left.

The young man began walking out and made radio contact with his family. He was treated for his injuries at Madison Valley Medical Center and later released.

FWP was notified of the attack at 3:45 p.m. Based on the teen’s description of the bear’s behavior, the bear was mostly likely a grizzly bear. FWP has notified people who live in the area of the attack. The area has very limited public access and does not get many visitors.

The bear’s behavior in this incident appears to be typical of surprise close encounters. FWP will continue to monitor the area, which is well within occupied bear habitat. The investigation is ongoing, but no further management action is being taken at this time.

FWP reminds everyone to be cautious when in the field as bears are active during the spring, summer and fall months. Some recommended tips for avoiding negative encounters with bears include:

• Be prepared and aware of your surroundings.
• Carry and know how to use bear spray.
• Travel in groups whenever possible.
• Stay away from animal carcasses.
• Follow U.S. Forest Service food storage regulations.
• If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Back away slowly and leave the area.

For more information on bear safety, visit

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Sure Sign of Spring: Grizzlies Out on Rocky Mountain Front

It’s a sure sign of spring when grizzly bears emerge from their dens on the Rocky Mountain Front.

Mike Madel, bear management specialist with Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Choteau, flew over the Front April 2 and located eight grizzlies with radio collars and saw five other non-collared bears.

“The collars turn on April 1,” Madel said. “So, it’s a good time to fly on the Front and try to locate them.”

Most bears have emerged from their winter dens in the mountains, Madel said, though some are still near their dens. “This time of year, they are generally lethargic but looking for food,” he said.

Landowners and residents along the Rocky Mountain Front are urged to remove attractants that could cause conflicts with bears. Attractants would include livestock feed, bird feeders, pet food, garbage, spilled grain and livestock carcasses.

In addition, recreationists, like shed antler hunters, should carry bear spray and know how to use it if a grizzly charges: Point the spray slightly down and start spraying right before the bear gets 30 feet away from you.

Wesley Sarmento, FWP bear management specialist in Conrad, said he had not observed any grizzlies but had a couple of reliable reports of bears north of Valier along the Marias River and Birch Creek.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Glacier National Park Announces New Recreation Access Display on Website

Glacier National Park announced yesterday that it has introduced a new feature to its website. The Recreation Access Display (RAD) provides information on campgrounds, weather, parking lot status, and area closures throughout the park, updated every minute. In the summer fill times for campgrounds and parking lots, and times of area closures from the previous day will be highlighted, so visitors can plan for the best times to visit and to understand visitation levels and crowd sizes.

As you may have noticed in recent years, the park is a busy place in the summer, so utilizing this new source of info is highly recommended to minimize frustration and ensure you make RAD memories that last you a lifetime. You can find the Recreation Access Display on the current conditions page:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Flathead Forest Flyover

This short film is from the creators of More Than Just Parks, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. It highlights all of the outdoor adventures you can participate in during a visit to the Flathead National Forest:

MTJF | Flathead from Your Forests Your Future on Vimeo.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking