Saturday, March 30, 2013

Backpacking With Kids at Montana Wild April 4th

Leave no child inside this summer! Take your kids - even babies and toddlers - on your next backpacking trip.

With the right preparation, gear and attitude, backpack trips can open new horizons for the entire family, says Bill Cook, a Montana Wild volunteer and father who took his three children backpacking in the American West and Switzerland.

Cook's free one-hour class set for April 4th at Montana Wild and will cover all you need to know about camping with children. The presentation begins at 6:30 p.m.

Montana Wild is located at 2668 Broadwater Ave., next to Spring Meadow Lake State Park off Highway 12 West. For more information you call Montana Wild at 406-444-9944.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, March 29, 2013

Snow Removal on Teton Park Road to Begin April 1st

Grand Teton National Park road crews will begin their annual spring plowing of the Teton Park Road from Taggart Lake parking area to Signal Mountain Lodge on Monday, April 1, 2013. As plowing operations get underway, recreation on this winter trail will cease for the season. Visitors may continue to use other winter trails, or areas adjacent to the Teton Park Road, for skate-skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing until conditions are no longer favorable.

For safety reasons, park visitors may NOT access the Teton Park Road while rotary snow removal equipment and plows are working; the roadway is closed to ALL users during this time.

Skiers and snowshoers using areas adjacent to the Teton Park Road are cautioned to avoid the arc of snow being blown from the rotary equipment because pieces of ice and gravel can be mixed with the spray. Park rangers will enforce the temporary closure to ensure safe conditions for plow operators and visitors alike.

Depending on weather, snow conditions and plowing progress, the roadway should become accessible to traditional springtime activities by mid-April. Once the Teton Park Road opens to non-motorized use, people should be alert for park vehicles that occasionally travel for administrative purposes and for snow plowing operations that continue as a result of late-season snowstorms.

The Teton Park Road will open to vehicle traffic on Wednesday, May 1, 2013.

Due to budget reductions from sequestration, the Moose-Wilson Road, Antelope Flats, Death Canyon and Signal Mountain Summit roads will not be plowed this spring. Vehicles can access these roads once they have naturally melted out and road closed signs are removed. Grassy Lake Road in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway is close for the winter and will remain closed to all vehicles from April 1 to May 31, due to springtime grizzly bear activity. Although the Grassy Lake Road will be open to vehicles for the 2013 summer season, dispersed campsites and vault toilets along the road will not open due to budget reductions.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Bear Awareness at Montana Wild April 18

Now's your chance to learn how, where and why Montana's grizzly bear population is expanding. Join Laurie Evarts, Montana Wild's education program manager, to learn about the recovery of this federally threatened species next month.

Evarts' free one-hour class, set for April 18th at Montana Wild, will cover and how to: hike and hunt in bear country, create a safe campsite, recognize bear signs, understand bear behavior, avoid and handle bear encounters, and properly use bear spray. The presentation begins at 6:30 p.m.

Montana Wild is located at 2668 Broadwater Ave., next to Spring Meadow Lake State Park off Highway 12 West. For more information you call Montana Wild at 406-444-9944.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Newbold Dam Removed From Gros Ventre River

Grand Teton National Park joined with the sportsmen’s group Trout Unlimited (TU) to remove an obsolete water diversion structure located near Kelly, Wyoming. The Newbold Dam, a low-head, log/rock structure, posed a significant barrier to fish passage in the Gros Ventre River and was no longer needed for irrigation purposes.

The dam’s removal unlocked more than 100 miles of stream habitat for spawning and sustaining trout and eliminated a safety risk for local residents and visitors who access the river for recreation.

Trout Unlimited secured funding for the project and contracted for its removal, which took place on March 18 and 19, 2013. TU will also do site restoration and help Grand Teton with streamside re-vegetation as conditions allow. Other project partners included Orvis, Jackson Hole One-Fly Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and National Elk Refuge.

The NPS, TU, and WGFD all identified the dam as an impediment to natural movements of native Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout and non-game fish, particularly bluehead sucker—a state-listed sensitive species. Both fish species have declined in distribution and abundance across their range. The dam was the only barrier to fish migration between the Snake River, about 8 miles downstream, and numerous miles of high-quality riparian habitat on the upper Gros Ventre.

The Newbold Dam removal comes on the heels of a similar TU/Grand Teton National Park collaboration on Spread Creek, another principal tributary of the Snake River. In 2010, TU worked with Grand Teton to remove the crumbling, concrete Spread Creek Dam and unlock more than 50 miles of upstream trout habitat. In recent years, TU has spearheaded several other projects throughout Wyoming to improve fish passage and habitat by modernizing irrigation infrastructures for various landowners.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bears Active Again in Grand Teton & the Rockefeller Parkway

Bears are out of hibernation and active again in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Park staff received reports of the first set of bear tracks on March 15th. These reports were in keeping with long-term data that indicates 50% of adult males bears are out of their winter dens by mid-March each year. Local residents and park visitors should be alert for the presence of bears throughout all areas of the park and parkway.

When bears leave their winter dens, they search for any food source that will help restore fat reserves lost during hibernation. Winter-killed animals provide immediate sources of protein, and hungry bears will strongly defend this and other food sources against perceived threats. Carcasses and freshly killed animals should serve as a point of caution - a red flag to detour away from the area. As snow banks recede, bears also dig up wildflower bulbs and burrowing rodents.

Now that bears are awake, appropriate precautions must be taken. Park visitors need to exercise good judgment, stay alert, and follow these recommended safety precautions while hiking:

• Make noise

• Travel in a group of three or more

• Carry bear spray and know how to use it

• Maintain a 100-yard distance from bears at all times

Park visitors are reminded to never approach a bear under any circumstances.

People should report any bear sightings or sign to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible. Timely reporting will help park staff to provide important safety messages about bear activity to other visitors.

Access to human food and garbage is a death sentence to a bear. When bears lose their fear of humans, they often become a nuisance and a safety concern. Park visitors are reminded to keep food, garbage and other odorous items unavailable to bears at all times by storing attractants inside vehicles, by disposing of garbage in a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster, and by keeping personal items-such as backpacks or drink containers-with them at all times, especially when they contain food or food odors.

For further information on how to behave when hiking, camping or picnicking in bear country, read the park's newspaper, Grand Teton Guide, online at

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sequestration Won't Impact Snow Plowing on the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Effective March 1, 2013, Glacier National Park was required by "sequestration" (a series of automatic, across-the-board permanent spending cuts) to reduce its annual base budget by five percent. The park's base budget of approximately $13.5 million was reduced by $682,000. The park must absorb that cut in the remaining months of this fiscal year that ends September 30. The federal law imposing sequestration requires that each park take this cut.

Acting Glacier National Park Superintendent Kym Hall said, "We took a thoughtful and analytical approach to implementing program reductions as outlined by Congress, while taking into account the number of visitors served, number of visitors impacted, revenue loss versus savings gained, economic impacts to the surrounding communities and businesses, resource stewardship, and critical life, health and safety concerns for employees and visitors. Hall continued, "It is challenging, and the reality is that we all will see and feel the effects of sequestration." She said that these are the impacts for this season, and it is unknown what the impacts will be next year, but she anticipates that 2014 will be filled with many more challenges and changes."

A delay in the spring opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was considered in response to sequestration. A generous offer from the Glacier National Park Conservancy and salary savings from unanticipated personnel changes will be used to maintain the seasonal positions and the overtime needed to facilitate snow plowing efforts with the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Hall said, "We greatly appreciate the financial offer from the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Their timely support will allow for the continuity and emphasis we place on snow plowing activities, especially as crews approach the "big drift" near Logan Pass and the culmination of the tremendous road opening effort."

Snow plowing efforts throughout the park are being initiated, with weather and road rehabilitation being key factors in visitor access to Logan Pass and the entire 50 miles of the road. Hall said, "We understand the value of access to the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road and we will be able to maintain the general snow plowing schedule. She said some other road maintenance activities, such as grading, striping and patching, will be reduced in the fall.

In response to sequestration, the park reduced travel, training, overtime, vehicle leases, and supply and equipment purchases for the remainder of the fiscal year. Travel and training restrictions are currently imposed, only allowing employees to travel and attend meetings or training sessions that are in the local area, or that fulfill a certification required for the position held.

Other actions in response to sequestration include a delay in hiring of vacant permanent positions and the elimination and reduction in length of season for some seasonal positions. The park employs approximately 135 permanent employees, and approximately 350 summer seasonal employees, with a core season of Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The impacts from reduced seasonal staff will affect several areas of park management, including:

* Delayed trail access and decreased trail maintenance,

* Reduction in native plant restoration,

* Reduced shoulder-season access to campgrounds and visitor centers,

* Decrease in entrance station hours,

* Less maintenance work on park facilities, roads and utility systems,

* Limited and delayed emergency response outside the core season,

* Decreased educational programming and ranger-led activities,

* Less back-country volunteer coordination,

* Reduction of revenue from impacted campgrounds, and

* Reduced partner financial aid assisting interpretive programs resulting from loss of revenue of partner bookstores in park.

For information on all campground and visitor center opening and closing dates, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Prescribed Burns Scheduled for Waterton Lakes National Park this spring

Parks Canada fire management staff are preparing to implement three prescribed fires in Waterton Lakes National Park this spring.

The purpose of the fires is to restore native prairie by reducing aspen and evergreen tree expansion onto grasslands.

Historic photographs show that fire suppression has allowed trees to encroach on park grasslands, with as much as 30% of grasslands lost over the last 100 years. Parts of these areas were burned previously in 2006 and 2008.

The goal of fire management in National Parks is to restore and maintain historical fire frequency, while at the same time protecting the public and facilities from wildfires. Restoring fire is important to the health of the ecosystem, including the wildlife it supports.

The three prescribed fires are:

1) Eskerine Complex (area between the Bison Paddock, Lower Waterton Lakes and Red Rock Parkway).

2) Red Rock Complex (area between Blakiston Creek and the height of land to the north in the Blakiston Valley, from Bellevue Hill to Red Rock Canyon).

3) Y-Camp Unit (area between Chief Mountain Highway and Lower Waterton Lake / Dardanelles, from the park gate to Marquis Hole).

In preparation for this, fire guards are being created with small-scale burning of grass along snowdrifts.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, March 25, 2013

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Releases Minimum Wolf Count For 2012

At least 625 wolves inhabited Montana at the end of 2012 according to state wildlife managers preparing the federally required annual wolf conservation and management report.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' complete report, which is expected to be available online at by April 12, will show that Montana's verified minimum wolf count decreased more than 4% in 2012, compared to a 15% increase in 2011 and an 8% increase in 2010. The minimum wolf count is the number of wolves actually verified by FWP wolf specialists.

The minimum numbers verified by FWP at the end of 2012 include 625 wolves, in 147 packs, and 37 breeding pairs. While it's the first time since 2004 that the minimum count has decreased, Montana’s minimum wolf pack and breeding pairs estimates increased slightly from 2011. The 2012 calculation, however, doesn't include the 95 wolves taken by hunters and trappers between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 of this year.

"We're making some progress," said FWP Director Jeff Hagener. "Confirmed livestock loss has been on a general downward trend since 2009, and we have more tools now for affecting wolf populations. In some areas, where hunting, trapping and livestock-depredation removals have been effective, it looks like the wolf population's growth has been curbed this year. In other areas the population may be leveling off, but we have more work to do. There are still places where we need to manage for a better balance among other Montana wildlife and with Montana's livestock producers and their families."

For the purpose of reporting minimum counts to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana is divided into three areas that reflect the former gray wolf federal recovery zones. The zones overlap and include more than one FWP region. Here's a summary of the 2012 minimum counts verified for those areas:

• The "Northwest Montana" area is located north of U.S. Highway 12 and Interstate-90 from the Idaho border east to I-15 along the Rocky Mountain Front. In this part of the state, where packs tend to be more remote and hunter and trapper access is generally more limited, counts showed 400 wolves in 100 verified packs and 25 breeding pairs, compared to 372, 85, and 23 respectively in 2011. An exception to this general upward trend was in the middle Clark Fork and Blackfoot areas where wolf numbers are similar to last year.

• The Montana portion of the "Central Idaho" area includes the portion of western Montana that lies south of U.S. Highway 12 and I-90, and west of I-15. In these broad valleys and ranchlands, FWP verified 93 wolves in 23 packs, with four breeding pairs, down from 147, 23, and seven respectively in 2011. This overall decrease in minimum counts reflects harvest and wolf removals in response to confirmed livestock losses in the Big Hole in recent years. In contrast, the Upper Bitterroot portion of this recovery area continues to support a stable count and number of packs.

• The Montana portion of the "Greater Yellowstone" area includes southern Montana, east of I-15 and south of the Missouri River. Verified wolf counts here have been stable over the past five years, with 132 wolves in 24 packs, and eight breeding pairs counted in 2012, compared to 134, 22, and nine respectively in 2011.

Hagener said 175 wolves were taken by hunters and trappers in the 2012 calendar year, compared to 121 taken by hunters in 2011. The 95 wolves harvested in 2013 as a result of the hunting and trapping seasons that concluded Feb. 28, will be considered in the 2013 minimum wolf counts.

A total of 108 wolves were removed through agency control efforts in 2012 to prevent further livestock loss and by private citizens who caught wolves chasing or attacking livestock, up from 64 in 2011.

Confirmed livestock depredations due to wolves included 67 cattle, 37 sheep, one dog, two horses and one llama in 2012. Cattle losses in 2012 were the lowest recorded in the past six years.

"We've taken a more aggressive approach to wolf-related livestock loss in recent years and this combined with regulated hunting and trapping is lowering livestock conflicts in some areas," Hagener said. "We'll continue to work to minimize loss for our livestock producers."

The minimum federal recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains was set at a minimum of 30 breeding pairs—successfully reproducing wolf packs—and a minimum of 300 individual wolves for at least three consecutive years and well distributed throughout the recovery area of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The goal was achieved in 2002.

The recovery of the wolf in the northern Rockies remains one of the fastest endangered species comebacks on record. In the mid 1990s, to hasten the overall pace of wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies, USFWS released 66 wolves into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. FWP began monitoring the wolf population, and managing livestock conflicts in 2004. After several court challenges wolves were successfully delisted in May 2011.

FWP’s report is part of the annual federal recovery update required by USFWS. The end of 2012 wolf population estimates for the northern Rocky Mountains—which will include wolves that inhabit Wyoming, Idaho and information about wolves in Yellowstone National Park—is expected to be available second week of April from the USFWS online at

The delisting of wolves in 2011 allows Montana to manage wolves in a manner similar to how bears, mountain lions and other wildlife species are managed, which is guided by state management plans, administrative rules, and laws.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Grizzly Bear, her two cubs, and a Wolf

This video of a grizzly bear with her two cubs, and a wolf, was taken by a remote camera in August of 2007 as part of a project led by the USGS Northern Divide Bear Project and Glacier National Park. It almost appears as if the wolf is trying to play, but the bears don't seem to be up for any games:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, March 22, 2013

Snow Geese are flocking to Freezout WMA

Tens of thousands of snow geese are flocking to Freezout Wildlife Management Area in north central Montana.

In just the last week, between 50,000 to 100,000 of the white birds have appeared at the WMA. The birds are flying north to breeding grounds.

Freezout is located between the towns of Fairfield and Choteau, along U.S. 89.

Typically snow geese migration peaks at the end of March. Some years, winter weather farther north can bottle up the birds temporarily at Freezout, leading to numbers greater than 100,000.

Birdwatchers also head to Freezout this time of year to view migrating raptors and shorebirds. Visitors should be careful of muddy roads on the WMA.

For more information on what birds are stopping at Freezout, call the WMA hotline at (406) 467-2646.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Did You Know…National Park Week is April 20-28

The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation invite everyone to get to know their national parks during National Park Week. This year’s dates are April 20 – 28, with free admission to all national parks April 22 – 26.

“This year’s theme, ‘Did you know…’ provides a fun way to discover the wonders of America’s national parks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “For example, did you know that there are national parks in 49 of 50 states? Did you know that national parks include seashores, battlefields, and historic homes? Did you know that the country’s highest peak, lowest point, tallest tree, deepest lake and longest cave are in national parks? Did you know that you probably live within an hour or two of a national park? National Park Week is a great time for all Americans to visit a nearby national park to camp and hike, watch wildlife, stroll a Civil War battlefield, and connect with our heritage and each other.”

National Park Week is also a good time to explore local parks, trails, and architectural gems sustained through National Park Service programs such as the Rivers Trails Conservation Assistance program and the National Register of Historic Places.

The annual celebration includes special events such as Junior Ranger Day on April 20 and Earth Day on April 22. Find a list of ranger-led programs and plan your adventures at You can also use the website to share your park experiences and photos and help support parks.

“National Park Week is a perfect time to celebrate America’s best idea – our national parks,” said Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “We are proud to stand with our partners at the National Park Service in presenting this annual event and hope everyone takes advantage of this opportunity to enjoy and support these outstanding places.”

We think some of the best parks to visit - anytime of year - are Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But hey, that's just our opinion!

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Deadline looms for advanced backcountry campground reservations in Glacier

Are you planning a backpacking trip in Glacier National Park this summer? If so, and you wish to secure the campsites on your preferred route, you should be aware that in order to be eligible for the advanced reservation request lottery, the deadline is April 15th.

Advance reservation applications for backcountry campsites are currently being accepted for trips that begin June 15th through October 31st.

All advanced reservation requests received from January 1 through April 15, 2013 will be eligible for the advanced reservation request lottery. The lottery processing begins on April 16th. Each reservation application will be designated a randomly generated number and will be processed in that order. The park warns that it can take up to a month to process all the advance reservation requests received in the lottery. Requests received after April 15th will be processed in the order of receipt, and after the initial advanced reservation requests are processed.

You should note that applications will be accepted on the official form only. There's also a nonrefundable processing fee of $30 that must be submitted with each application. For more information you can visit Glacier's Backcountry Camping Guide.

Glacier National Park Hiking

Monday, March 18, 2013

Annual Park Pass Artwork Contest

Glacier National Park and the Glacier National Park Conservancy are accepting art submissions from high school students for the annual park pass artwork contest. The winning art will be displayed on the 2014 Glacier National Park annual park pass.

Students are encouraged to submit art that focuses on the 100th anniversary, in 2014, of three iconic cultural resources in the park; Lake McDonald Lodge, Sperry Chalet and Granite Park Chalet. Each entry must include original artwork and will be judged on design and accuracy of a scene that celebrates an experience involving the lodge or the chalets. The deadline to submit artwork is April 12. Visit the park's webpage for more information and an application.

The purpose of the annual pass artwork contest is to improve stewardship and understanding of cultural and natural resources in Glacier National Park.

The pass featuring the winning artwork will be available in January 2014, and more than 14,000 passes will be issued during the year. The top three winners will receive a gift certificate from the Conservancy.

Last year Glacier High School Senior Brian Smith submitted the winning entry. Smith's image of Grinnel Point towering over Swiftcurrent Lake and the historic Many Glacier Hotel is highlighted on this year's annual park pass.

Annual Glacier National Park passes are available for $35. It allows unlimited access to the park for one year from time of purchase. Passes are available at park headquarters, staffed entrance stations or by calling the park at 406-888-7800.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Body of Woman Found and Recovered at Lake McDonald

The body of a 28-year old Kalispell woman, Amy Marie Reddig, was located and recovered today near the head of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Park dispatch received a missing person report on Reddig from Flathead County Sheriff's Office at approximately 10:15 a.m. Thursday. Park rangers found Reddig's vehicle in the parking lot of Lake McDonald Lodge at approximately 11:45 a.m. A search was initiated in the surrounding area.

Personnel from Flathead National Forest, Flathead County Sheriff's Office, Flathead Search and Rescue, North Valley Search and Rescue, and Flathead Emergency Aviation Resources (FEAR) assisted Glacier National Park Rangers and employees in the search.

At approximately 3 p.m. personnel in the FEAR helicopter found a body near the head of Lake McDonald. The Flathead County Coroner was transported to the scene and identified the body as that of Reddig. The body was transported to a local funeral home, and will be transported to the state crime lab for an autopsy. The cause of death is unknown and under investigation.

Reddig is the daughter of Billy and Lynne Reddig, and sister of Heather Reddig, all of Kalispell.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, March 15, 2013

Yellowstone Grizzly Bears Emerging From Dens

Grizzly bears are emerging from hibernation in the Greater Yellowstone Area, so hikers, skiers and snowshoers are advised to stay in groups of three of more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray.

Bears begin looking for food soon after they emerge from their dens. They are attracted to elk and bison that have died during the winter. Carcasses are an important enough food source that bears will sometimes react aggressively when surprised while feeding on them.

Updated bear safety information is available on the Yellowstone bear safety web page and in the park newspaper, which is distributed at all park entrances. The park also implements seasonal bear management areas closures to reduce encounters between bears and humans in areas where elk and bison carcasses are in high density. A listing of these closures can be found here.

Yellowstone regulations require visitors to stay 100 yards from black and grizzly bears at all times. The best defense is to stay a safe distance from bears and use binoculars, a telescope or telephoto lens to get a closer look. All visitors traveling in the park away from developed areas should stay in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, keep an eye out for bears and carry bear spray. Bear spray has proven to be a good last line of defense, if kept handy and used according to directions when a bear is approaching within 30 to 60 feet.

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm is a violation of park regulations. Even the park's law enforcement rangers who carry firearms on duty rely on bear spray, rather than their weapons, as the most effective means to deal with a bear encounter.

Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods, and helps keep park visitors and their property safe.

Bear sightings should be reported to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mountains in Motion: The Canadian Rockies

"For explorers of the past, present and future"

What can I say? This is probably the best mountain film I've ever seen. Mountains in Motion: The Canadian Rockies is an award-winning short film documenting the life of the alpine landscape through some of the best time-lapse photography I've ever seen. It was shot in Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks in Canada. Enjoy:

Mountains in Motion: The Canadian Rockies from The Upthink Lab on Vimeo.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Snowpack Level in Glacier Still At Long Term Average

According to the latest data published by the Flattop Mountain SNOTEL (SNOw TELemetry) station, the amount of snow in Glacier National Park continues to track with the 40-year average for early March. As of March 6th, the SNOTEL is measuring a total of 41.6 inches of Snow Water Equivalent (SWE), which is the weight of snow water equivalent to inches of water.

The Flattop Mountain SNOTEL station is located at an elevation of approximately 6300 feet on Flattop Mountain, which is a high plateau between the Lewis and Livingston Ranges in Glacier National Park. According to the website, "Flattop Mountain is a useful indicator of snowfall throughout Glacier National Park because it is subject to the factors that influence conditions elsewhere in the park".

Data from the Flattop Mountain SNOTEL is compiled by water year, which runs from October 1st through September 30th.

The following is a graph that compares SWE for 2013 versus the average and other significant water years (you can click here for a larger version):

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, March 8, 2013

Investigation Results Made Public in 2012 Grizzly Bear Shooting in Grand Tetons

In consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Grand Teton National Park law enforcement rangers completed their comprehensive investigation into the fatal shooting of a grizzly bear on Thanksgiving morning, 2012 by three hunters participating in the park's elk reduction program. As the final step in the process, the United States Attorney's Office has determined that no criminal charges will be filed against the hunters involved in this incident.

Although Grand Teton National Park managers regret the loss of an adult male grizzly bear due to human activities, it is important to note that the hunters involved in the incident made sound decisions after their bear encounter ended. They immediately reported the situation to park authorities and fully cooperated with the ensuing investigation, which concluded that the overall encounter lasted less than 10 seconds. During that brief time, the hunters deployed bear spray and discharged firearms against the charging grizzly. Park rangers and science and resource management personnel believe that both the bear spray and bullets contacted the grizzly bear at nearly the same instant. The totality of circumstances indicated that the hunters were forced to make rapid decisions in close proximity to the bear, and they acted in self-defense. Based on the facts of the case and this determination, no criminal charges will be filed for using a firearm [36 CFR 2.4 (a)(1)(iii)], or taking of wildlife [36 CFR 2.2 (a)(1)].

At 7:25 a.m. on November 22, 2012, two Grand Teton National Park rangers on routine patrol, and making hunter contacts at Teton Point Overlook, reported hearing five gun shots in less than 5 seconds; the first two shots were followed in rapid succession by three more. At 7:32 a.m., a woman called the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center to report that her husband and sons had been charged by a grizzly bear and they shot at the animal. She also reported that they were in the process of hiking out from the location where the shooting occurred, and she informed the dispatcher that no people were injured.

Park law enforcement rangers and wildlife biologists responded and began a systematic investigation into the incident. Rangers met with the hunting party and all three men fully cooperated with the investigation. The three hunters (ages 48, 20 and 17), all from Wyoming, had permits to participate in the elk reduction program at Grand Teton National Park. All three carried bear spray as required for this wildlife management program.

According to interviews, the hunting party left the parking area at Schwabacher Landing at first light and had just entered into a timbered area in the Snake River bottom, slightly north of Schwabacher Landing and west of Teton Point Overlook, when the oldest of the group first noticed the bear. Although he tried to scare the bear off, it began to charge the group from 42 yards away. One member of the group described the grizzly bear as moving "like a cat," incredibly fast, snapping tree branches, and moving very low to the ground.

All three hunters had bear spray readily accessible. The oldest member of the group immediately began deploying his bear spray while the two younger hunters raised their rifles. When the grizzly bear came within 10 feet of the young men, they both fired shots. Three bullets impacted the grizzly-one on the back and two in the head-and immediately dropped the animal to the ground. During the investigation, a partially consumed and cached elk carcass was discovered 50 yards away, leading park biologists to conclude that the bear was defending its food source. The fatally injured male bear weighed 534 pounds and was estimated to be 18 to 20 years old.

Since the elk reduction program began in 1950, this is the first grizzly bear killed by hunters in Grand Teton National Park. The largest source of known grizzly bear mortalities in Grand Teton have actually resulted from vehicle collisions, with a total of five grizzlies killed on park roads during 2005-2012 alone. To date, encounters between humans and grizzly bears that resulted in injuries to people are relatively uncommon. However, during the last 20 years as the Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly bear population has recovered and regained formerly occupied habitat (including in Grand Teton National Park) bear maulings have increased. Grand Teton has documented six attacks since 1994 when a jogger was mauled on the Emma Matilda Lake trail. Other maulings occurred in 2001, 2007 and 2011. A mauling also occurred in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway in 1997. None of these bear attacks resulted in fatal injuries to humans.

All hunters participating in the elk reduction program in Grand Teton National Park are provided a safety packet with bear information. The following guidelines are suggested for participating hunters:

• Hunt with a partner.
• Carry bear spray (required).
• Avoid "dark" timber during mid-day when bears may be using a day-bed.
• Have a predetermined plan of action for retrieving harvested game from the field.
• Be extra cautious after making a kill and when hunting in areas where animals have recently been harvested.
• Avoid hunting in areas where fresh bear sign is repeatedly observed.
• Avoid gut piles.

Although possessing and carrying firearms in national parks is legal, the "use" of firearms is still prohibited under 36 CFR 2.4 (a)(1)(iii), unless permitted for specific purposes such as the elk reduction program. As a condition of their participation in the elk reduction program, hunters are only permitted to shoot an elk.

In light of this incident involving the fatal shooting of a grizzly bear - the first ever recorded in Grand Teton National Park - managers are reviewing steps that might be taken to reduce such incidents in the future.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Winter Count of Northern Yellowstone Elk Shows Continuation of Decline in Numbers

The Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group conducted its annual winter survey of the northern Yellowstone elk population on February 18th.

The survey, using three airplanes, was conducted by staff from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the National Park Service. Staff counted 3,915 elk, including 915 elk (23%) inside Yellowstone National Park and 3,000 elk (77%) elsewhere north of the park. Survey conditions were favorable across the region.

The count of 3,915 elk during the 2013 winter season was six percent lower than the 2012 winter count of 4,174. Looking back further, between the winters of 2007 and the end of winter 2011, elk numbers ranged from 4,635 to 7,109.

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.

It is comprised of resource managers and biologists from the Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks, National Park Service (Yellowstone National Park), U.S. Forest Service (Gallatin National Forest), and U.S. Geological Survey-Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center in Bozeman.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

IMR Director Signs FONSI on Colter Bay Visitor Services Plan

The National Park Service (NPS) has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Colter Bay Visitor Services Plan/Environmental Assessment (Colter Bay Visitor Services Plan/EA). Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels approved and signed the FONSI based on the environmental assessment. Implementation of the plan will begin when funding is secured.

The purpose of the Colter Bay Visitor Services Plan/EA is to guide decision making for redevelopment and restoration of park facilities in the vicinity of the Colter Bay Visitor Center, a primary destination on the east shore of Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park. Of the four alternatives considered in the environmental assessment, the approved action includes replacing the existing Colter Bay Visitor Center with a smaller visitor contact station at a nearby location, changing vehicular and pedestrian circulation near the existing visitor center, reducing the number of passenger vehicle parking spaces, and increasing the number of oversized parking spaces near the Colter Bay marina. None of the proposed actions in the approved alternative will have a significant impact on scenic resources, natural and cultural resources, visitor use and experience, or park operations. However, these changes will mitigate safety concerns, protect natural and cultural resources, and improve visitors' experience of this area. The NPS and the Wyoming Historic Preservation officer signed a memorandum of agreement outlining stipulations that Grand Teton National Park will apply to mitigate any adverse effects to historic structures and cultural landscapes as proposed in the selected alternative.

Until recently, the David T. Vernon Collection of American Indian Art was stored and exhibited at the current Colter Bay Visitor Center. Laurance S. Rockefeller gifted this collection to the NPS in 1976, with the condition that it remain in Grand Teton National Park. Because the existing visitor center does not meet NPS museum standards - and therefore the collection was at risk - remaining pieces still on display at Colter Bay were transferred in the fall of 2011 to the NPS Western Archeological and Conservation Center (WACC) in Tucson, Arizona for treatment and temporary storage. The entire collection will remain at WACC until a permanent storage and exhibit facility that meets NPS museum standards is available at Grand Teton. The Colter Bay Visitor Services Plan/EA is a prerequisite to a subsequent planning effort that Grand Teton will undertake in the next three to five years to address a new facility that can suitably house the Vernon Collection and accommodate museum storage and curatorial functions within the park.

Copies of the FONSI are online at

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Yellowstone National Park and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Complete Brucellosis Workshop

Yellowstone National Park and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) concluded a workshop earlier this week that examined the science behind brucellosis and the feasibility or need for suppression of this non-native disease in the Yellowstone bison population.

The workshop featured a panel of scientists with backgrounds in wildlife management and disease ecology who discussed current bison conservation and brucellosis management within the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). The goals of this plan are to conserve a free-ranging bison population of about 3,000 animals, while minimizing the risk of brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle.

The panel examined public attitudes toward the disease and specific scientific factors of Brucella abortus, the bacterium behind the non-native disease brucellosis, including immunology, disease ecology, bison behavior and demographics, conservation biology, and transmission risk to other wildlife and cattle.

At the close of the workshop, the panel provided several key conclusions:

• To date, management to maintain separation between cattle and bison appears to be effective at preventing transmission of brucellosis between these species because no documented transmission has occurred under the IBMP.

• The best available data do not support that vaccination of wild bison with currently available vaccines will be effective at suppressing brucellosis to a level that changes bison management strategies under the IBMP.

• Control of bison population size will likely include culling or removal as tools in the future, along with hunting. Past and current culling practices have not had an apparent effect on reducing the overall prevalence of brucellosis in the bison population.

• Intervention through contraception is not needed to achieve the current goals of the IBMP. Contraception could potentially be a valuable tool for brucellosis suppression, but the available data are insufficient to make a judgment at this time. Further research is needed in this area.

The agencies will consider the panel's findings in the ongoing development of short- and long-term strategies to conserve bison and minimize the risk of brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle. A final report from the panel is expected in about three months.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, March 4, 2013

Skier Dies In Avalanche In Teton Range

NPS Digest is reporting that a local backcountry skier died in an avalanche in the Teton Range last week.

On Friday morning of last week, 40-year-old Jarad Spackman of Jackson, Wyoming was ascending Apocalypse Couloir with a companion in order to access a narrow and steep chute on the flank of Prospectors Mountain, which they intended to ski. At roughly 200 feet below the fork of the couloir they were hit by an avalanche that originated further up the slope. Spackman was caught in the slide and was carried approximately 1000 feet down the slope. His partner immediately began a search that ultimately led him to Spackman, who was lying face down in the snow and partially buried. He began CPR to revive his friend and about 15 minutes later used a cell phone to make an emergency call to alert rangers of the situation. They immediately organized a rescue mission with the assistance of the Teton County Search and Rescue contract helicopter and members of the county rescue team. A landing zone was established near Sawmill Ponds on the Moose-Wilson Road and four rangers were flown to the backcountry location where they landed near the base of Apocalypse Couloir. In advance of their arrival, Spackman’s partner was able to move his friend to that same location and await the helicopter and rescuers. Spackman’s body was flown out and turned over to the Teton County coroner’s office. His partner and the rescuers then skied out of the backcountry together.

This was the second avalanche fatality in Grand Teton National Park this year. An avalanche on Survey Peak in the northern Teton Range took the life of a skier on January 27th.

Glacier National Park Hiking

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Which park units generate the most spending and jobs?

Earlier this week I mentioned that the National Park Service had published a report that measures the economic impact that national parks have on local communities. Today I wanted to dig a little deeper into the data to see which parks generate the most spending and the most jobs for their respective communities.

Which parks generate the most spending by visitors?

The chart below shows the top 10 park units in terms of overall spending generated by visitors in 2011. I was a little surprised by these results. Generally speaking, I figured that the park units with the most visitors would also have the highest amount of total spending by its visitors. Not so. For example: although the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area ranks 32nd in the total number of visitors for 2011, it ranked 9th in the total amount of spending generated by visitors. Moreover, only five parks that ranked in the top 10 for visitors in 2011, also ranked in the top 10 for visitor spending:

Which park units supported the most jobs?

This analysis was more in line with what I expected. Generally speaking, the park units with the most visitors tended to support the most jobs for the surrounding local communities:

Great Smoky Mountains NP  11,418
Grand Canyon NP  7,361
Grand Teton NP  6,352
Yellowstone NP  5,041
Yosemite NP  5,003
Blue Ridge PKWY  4,379
Acadia NP  2,970
Glen Canyon NRA  2,755
Rocky Mountain NP  2,742
Denali NP & Preserve  2,669

Which park units generated the most spending on a per visitor basis?

Finally, I wanted to see which park units generated the most spending on a per visitor basis. These results were quite interesting. Each of the park units making the top 10 in this category were in Alaska. At first glance you might think that this must seem like some statistical anomaly. However, given how remote each of these parks are from civilization, the cost of services is likely far greater than in the lower 48. I would also guess that transportation costs are likely the biggest drivers in spending. My guess is that many of these parks have local airports and local air services that benefit from park visitors.

Yukon-Charley Rivers NPRES  $1,144
Denali NP & PRES  $394
Aniakchak NM & PRES  $368
Bering Land Bridge NPRES  $345
Gates of the Arctic NP & PRES  $345
Cape Krusenstern NM  $345
Kobuk Valley NP  $344
Noatak NPRES  $344
Lake Clark NP & PRES  $344
Katmai NP & PRES  $257

Not on the list above, but ranked 11th, is Grand Teton National Park, which makes it the highest ranked park outside of Alaska in terms of spending on a per visitor basis ($169).

The George Washington Memorial Parkway in Washington DC has the distinction of having the lowest amount of spending on a per visitor basis - only $4.63.

The lowest ranked national park is Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska. On average, visitors only spend $10.63. Well, you might be asking yourself why this park isn't ranked much higher - given that it's in Alaska. According to the park website; "Most visitors to Glacier Bay see the park from large cruise ships with thousands of passengers. These visitors do not go ashore in the park; instead National Park Service naturalists board the ship to share their knowledge about the park and its wildlife during a day-long cruise in the bay."

I would interpret this to mean that the NPS doesn't count these dollars as being spent in a local community.

To view the entire NPS report, please click here.

Glacier National Park Hiking

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tales from the Belly River: Dawn Mist Falls

This short film explores the journey water takes to form Dawn Mist Falls. Starting from Ahern Pass, water cascades down to the head of Helen Lake, out the foot of the lake, and into the Belly River. The river then flows into Elizabeth Lake, and back into the river again, finally pouring over a cliff. Dawn Mist Falls is in the Belly River Valley, a beautiful and wild location in the northeast corner of Glacier National Park:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, March 1, 2013

Presenters Sought for Fifth Annual Winter Photo Festival in West Yellowstone

Photographers are invited to share their favorite winter images of the region with the public during the Fifth Annual Winter Photo Festival to be held next month in West Yellowstone.

The festival will be held at the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center on Monday, March 12th at 7:00 p.m. The event is sponsored by the National Park Service and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.

Photographers are asked to bring digital photos taken in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem on a thumb drive or photo CD so they can display and narrate their photos. Presenters will be limited to twenty-five images or five minutes.

Interested photographers should contact Rich Jehle at 307-344-2840 or 307-344-2754, or by email, for more information. Participants must register by 5:00 p.m. Monday, March 11th.

Glacier National Park Hiking