Wednesday, April 30, 2014

REI is Offering an Extra 35% off on Closeouts

With spring hiking season already in full gear, and summer just around the corner, you may be finding yourself in need of some new gear. If money's a little tight, you may want to check-out REI's current sale.

Starting today REI will be offering an extra 35% off The North Face, ALPS, and Mountain Hardwear closeouts on REI-OUTLET. The outdoor gear retailer has over 300 styles from these top brands, including jackets, packs, hoodies, sleeping bags, tents, sleeping pads and more. This sale only lasts 3 days (from 4/30 thru 5/2/14).

For more information simply click on this graphic Ad:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park Announces Prescribed Burn on North Fork

A prescribed fire project is planned in the North Fork area of Glacier National Park, approximately four miles northwest of Polebridge in the next month.

Approximately 260 acres are planned to be burned in the Big Prairie area, depending on weather and fuel conditions. This is in addition to the 141 acres of prairie that were successfully burned last spring.

The primary objective of the burn is to reduce the numbers of lodgepole pine seedlings and saplings, which are encroaching on the native prairie grassland. Managers hope to reduce the number of these young lodgepole pine with fire and improve the vigor of the native grasses and shrubs, while maintaining some lodgepole pine.

This prescribed burn will only take place if optimum weather and smoke dispersal parameters are met. For additional information, please contact the park at 406-888-7800.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Road Construction Projects Scheduled for Grand Tetons

During the 2014 travel season, several road repair and rehabilitation projects will be underway that will result in varying traffic delays within Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Motorists should expect these projects to begin in early May and last through October or November in some cases.

Highway 26/89/191 (Hwy 89): An overlay project will be underway on 10.5 miles of Hwy 89between Craighead Hill, approximately one mile north of Moose Junction, and Cunningham Cabin that lies north of Triangle X Ranch. Expect 30-minute delays, 7 days per week from June - September.

Because regular delays are expected, motorists should plan for extra time to reach their destination, or choose to travel the Teton Park Road to avoid the construction area altogether. Blacktail Ponds Overlook and the Teton Point Turnout will be closed May - September, 2014 to accommodate this project. Periodic closures of other parking areas within the project area will occur during specific construction activities.

Schwabacher Landing Road: This auxiliary road will be closed from May - June while a paving project is underway from Hwy 89 to the bottom of the hill (.3 mile). For public safety during the construction period, neither vehicle travel nor pedestrian/bike access will be allowed on the Schwabacher Road or the parking area near Schwabacher landing due to the presence of heavy construction equipment.

Gros Ventre Road: An overlay project will take place from Kelly Warm Springs to the east park boundary in July with 15-minute delays possible.

Phase 3 Pathway: Construction of the third segment of pathways in Grand Teton National Park will occur adjacent to Hwy 89 from Moose Junction to Antelope Flats Junction (1.2 miles) from August 2014 through October 2015. Further information will be provided as the construction time nears; however, motorists can expect some delays during the fall 2014 construction phase.

Pacific Creek Road: A culvert will be replaced on this road causing 20-minute delays during mid-June.

Hwy 89, North Park Road, Teton Park Road, Jenny Lake scenic loop, and associated parking areas: Annual striping projects will be underway during May, with minimal delays possible.

Construction schedules may change or be delayed due to weather conditions or unforeseen circumstances. Visitors are encouraged to call the road conditions line at 1-307-739-3614 or stop at park visitor centers for current and specific information. The park's newspaper, Grand Teton Guide, includes a road construction map and can be found online at or picked up at any park visitor center or entry station.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Frazil Ice in Yosemite National Park

The last gasps of winter in the Yosemite Valley....

Check out this amazing video showing the "giant slurpee" that forms when "frazil ice" collects on Yosemite Falls, and flows down Yosemite Creek each spring like a lava flow.

As you might expect, the scenery in this film is quite awesome:

My wife and I visited Yosemite National Park for the first time this past fall. We did quite a bit of hiking while we were out there, and have posted several hike reports and photos on our new Discover the West website.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Short Walk to the Edge of Life

Over the weekend I finished reading another compelling story of survival, this one fraught with hard lessons every adventurer should learn. Called A Short Walk to the Edge of Life: How My Simple Adventure Became a Dance with Death and Taught Me What Really Matters, it's the first full length book written by Scott Hubbartt, a retired combat veteran and Air Force Chief Master Sergeant. Hubbartt is also an historian, having earned an M.A. in History, with a post-graduate certificate in Latin American Studies. While in the Air Force he meet his wife, Carolina, who happens to be a native of Peru. This background would eventually lead to Scott's five-day "dance with death".

After retiring from the Air Force in 2004, Mr. Hubbartt was now free to spend more time traveling around the world, especially to Peru where he paid visits to his wife's family. As an historian he became quite interested in learning the fate of an old gold mine that was owned by Carolina's grandfather in the 1930s. The mine was located on the isolated Puna, the high plateau grassland region of the central Andes Mountains of Peru. So, with a bit of wanderlust and adventure, Hubbartt set-off on what he thought would be an 8-hour trek from the small mountain town of Chepen de Salpo. From there he intended to descend through steep canyons to a village called Poroto, where he hoped to find some clues as to the whereabouts of the old gold mine.

However, as you might guess from the title of the book, things didn't go quite as planned. As he laid there on the desert floor - exhausted, hungry and completely dehydrated, on perhaps the final night of life - Hubbartt summed it up fairly succinctly when he stated:
"I knew I had miserably messed up and was a victim of my own undoing. Pride, arrogance, and overconfidence were leading to my demise"
The story, and the trajectory of his life, however, took a sharp turn when the author received a strange vision from his deceased brother. Did this, and another unexplainable physical miracle, actually save his life?

I thought A Short Walk to the Edge of Life was a great read. Hubbartt does a great job of moving the story forward, while keeping you eager to turn the next page. My only complaint with the book was with the maps he published. Just as the author was confused with his compass readings, I was confused with the maps that showed his location each day. I think some basic contour lines with elevation readings, as well as distance figures, would've been very helpful to the reader. But this is just nitpicking, and shouldn't prevent you from reading an otherwise great story.

The book is scheduled to be released next week, but you can pre-order it on Amazon right now. You can click here for more information.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Canoeist Breaks 20-Year-Old Record for Highest Waterfall Drop

Last fall, Jim Coffey from Canada paddled over the 60-foot La Cascada de Truchas on the Alseseca River in Mexico. In doing so, he broke a record for the highest waterfall drop in a canoe that had stood for almost 20 years.

The previous record was held by Steve Frazier when he went over the 55-foot Compression Falls on the Elk River in Tennessee in 1994.

Although Coffey broke the record last fall, this video showing his amazing feat was only published two weeks ago:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, April 21, 2014

Summit Mountain Lodge: Our Story

"Born from our desire to share the spirit of the Montana lifestyle and wilderness experience with others, Summit Mountain Lodge is a family owned lodge in the heart of world class fly-fishing, hiking, skiing, rafting and hunting."

Below is a short video from the folks at Summit Mountain Lodge, which is located on the southern border of Glacier National Park, near Marias Pass. The video tells the story of the owners and their long relationship to this beautiful land:

As one of our advertisers, you can find a link to the Summit Mountain Lodge website on our East Glacier Accommodations Page.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, April 18, 2014

Elevated Levels of Mercury Found in Fish in Western U.S. National Parks

Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans.

The information about mercury, and its appearance in protected areas considered to be relatively pristine and removed from environmental contaminants, is in a recently published scientific report from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

This study of mercury in fish is the first of its kind to incorporate information from remote places at 21 national parks in 10 western states, including Alaska. Western parks were selected for this study because of the significant role that atmospheric mercury deposition plays in remote places, and the lack of broad-scale assessments on mercury in fish in remote areas of the west.

Mercury concentrations in fish sampled from these parks were generally low, but were elevated in some instances. The study examines total mercury in fish, of which 95 percent is in the form of methylmercury, the most dangerous form to human and wildlife health.

Mercury is harmful to human and wildlife health, and is among the most widespread contaminants in the world. It is distributed at a global scale from natural sources, such as volcanic eruptions (responsible for approximately half of atmospheric mercury emissions), emissions from the ocean, and forest fires, and from human sources such as burning fossil fuels in power plants, gold mining, and incineration of municipal and medical waste. Mercury is also distributed at local or regional scales as a result of current and historic mining activities. These human activities have increased levels of atmospheric mercury at least three fold during the past 150 years.

Between 2008 and 2012, NPS resource managers collected more than 1,400 fish from 86 lakes and rivers, and USGS scientists measured mercury concentrations in fish muscle tissue. The authors found that mercury levels varied greatly, both between parks and among sites within each park. In most parks, mercury concentrations in fish were moderate to low. In fact, mercury concentrations were below EPA’s fish tissue criterion for safe human consumption in 96 percent of the sport fish sampled.

However, the average concentration of mercury in sport fish from two sites in Wrangell-St. Elias and Lake Clark (Alaska) national parks exceeded EPA’s human health criterion. Additionally, mercury levels in individual sport fish at some sites from Lassen Volcanic (California), Mount Rainer (Washington), Rocky Mountain (Colorado), Yellowstone (Wyoming), and Yosemite (California) national parks also exceeded the human health criterion.

The National Park Service is currently coordinating with state officials regarding potential fish consumption advisories. Exposure to high levels of mercury in humans may cause damage to the brain, kidneys, and the developing fetus. Pregnant women and young children are particularly sensitive to the effects of mercury.

Mercury at elevated levels can also impact wildlife resulting in reduced foraging efficiency, survival, and reproductive success. Mercury concentrations exceeded the most conservative fish toxicity benchmark at 15 percent of all sites, and the most sensitive health benchmark for fish-eating birds at 52 percent of all sites.

For more information and to view the report, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Video: Hike to Iceberg Lake

Below is another excellent "hikelogue" from The West is Big! Travel Guides. This film highlights another one of the classic hikes in Glacier National Park. Roundtrip, the hike to Iceberg Lake covers roughly 9.7 miles, and traverses through some of the most spectacular scenery in the park. On this particular video, the filmmakers encountered a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs. For more detailed information on the hike to Iceberg Lake, please click here

If you do plan to visit Glacier this year, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your vacation planning.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Public Invited to Participate in MT State Parks Strategic Planning Process

Montana State Parks ( announced yesterday that the public is invited to participate in focus groups as part of its strategic planning process. There will be eight focus groups around the state starting Monday, April 21 through Thursday, May 1.

Working with the public, stakeholders and the Montana State Parks & Recreation Board, the Parks' Division aims to address challenges related to resources, system capacity and gain insight on the public's interests in services and recreation needs.

The strategic planning process will take a year to complete and will result in an updated vision for the Montana State Parks' system and recreation programs for the next decade. There will be a public comment process on the draft strategic plan, later this year.

The most recent strategic plan was created in 1998.

As part of the strategic planning process, Montana State Parks is hosting focus group sessions in communities around Montana. These sessions will provide an opportunity for participants to learn about the current status of the Montana State Parks' system and provide feedback on challenges and opportunities, including: what makes a state park significant?, what services are needed for the future?, how does the state parks' system sustain adequate resources to handle demands?

Individuals are welcome to attend one of the focus group sessions listed below. Each focus group will last about three hours and refreshments will be provided. The public is encouraged to RSVP by calling the Montana State Parks Helena office at (406) 444-3750.

Focus Group Sessions:

• Glasgow - Monday, April 21, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm Cottonwood Inn, 45 1st Ave NE, Glasgow

• Glendive - Tuesday, April 22, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Dawson Community College, Ullman Center (UC 102), 300 College Drive, Glendive

• Billings - Wednesday, April 23, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Pictograph Cave State Park, 3401 Coburn Road, Billings

• Kalispell - Monday, April 28, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Lone Pine State Park, 300 Lone Pine Rd, Kalispell

• Missoula - Tuesday, April 29, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Travelers' Rest State Park, 6717 Highway 12 W, Lolo

• Whitehall - Wednesday, April 30, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, 25 Lewis and Clark Caverns Rd., Whitehall

• Helena – Thursday, May 1, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm, Carroll College, Campus Center (Rice Avila DeSmet Room), 1601 North Benton, Helena

• Great Falls - Thursday, May 1, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park. 342 Ulm-Vaughn Rd., Ulm For more information about the focus group sessions, call the Montana State Parks’ Helena office at (406) 444-3750.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Snowpack Level in Glacier Well Above Long-term Average

According to the latest data published by the Flattop Mountain SNOTEL (SNOw TELemetry) station, the amount of snow accumulated in Glacier National Park this year is already well above the 40-year average. As of April 13th, the SNOTEL is reporting that Snow Water Equivalent (SWE), which is the weight of snow water equivalent to inches of water, has currently peaked at 53.9 inches. The peak for the 40-year SWE average is 45.9 inches.

Last year, total SWE peaked on May 2nd with a reading of 52.5 inches. In 2012, SWE peaked on May 7th, with a reading of 56 inches, and on May 10, 2011, the SWE reading reached 66.1 inches.

With the heavy snowpack Glacier National Park has experienced over the last several years, I would be real curious to see what the updated measurements are for the major glaciers in the park. Most of the data I've seen hasn't been updated in recent years. In fact, much of the data from the Glacier Monitoring Studies from the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center appears to have been updated prior to 2010. However, I noticed on my most recent hike to Iceberg Lake two years ago that the amount of ice in and around the lake was much greater than what I witnessed in 1999 or 2004. I confirmed this by reviewing my photographs of the lake. All three of those hikes occurred around late August.

All in all, this year's snowpack potentially bodes well for a limited forest fire season later this summer and fall.

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 2014 (black line) versus the average (green line) and the maximum and minimum water years (you can click here for a larger version):

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, April 14, 2014

Captured Grizzly Bear Released in Glacier National Park

According to FWP Bear and Lion Specialist Erik Wenum, a 6 year old 340-pound male grizzly bear was captured on April 6 south of Eureka. FWP was assisted by USDA Wildlife Services personnel in capturing the grizzly.

The grizzly was implicated in a calf depredation that occurred on April 2. The bear had been previously captured in British Columbia during research trapping efforts in the fall of 2011. At that time the bear was fitted with ear-tags and released.

On April 7, the bear was examined and radio-collared. The grizzly was released on April 8 in Glacier National Park, assisted by GNP personnel, in an area seasonally closed due to snow and road conditions. There are no known previous management situations involving this bear.

Black Bear Activity:

Additional bear activity reported by Wenum includes four black bears that were captured over the last three days in the Columbia Falls and Whitefish areas. This level of activity indicates that while many bears may still be denned or close to their dens some have dropped to lower elevations in search of foods. As temperatures rise and snow melt begins more bears are emerging and dropping to the valley floor. Residents are encouraged to secure any attractants that may have been out during the winter, especially trash, birdfeeders, pet and livestock feeds.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

News Round-up for the Grand Tetons

While snowfall totals in some areas of the west have been exceptionally low this winter (less than a third of normal in the Sierra Nevadas in California), the Teton Range in Grand Teton National Park has had one of the deepest snowpacks recorded in the last 18 years.

The Jackson Hole Avalanche Center has reported 500 inches at that location, up from a total of 383 inches last winter, and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort still has 140 inches of snow on the ground, the fourth deepest snowpack in the resort’s 48-year history.

Park road crews are now in the process of opening roads. Last week, they cut through the deep snowpack on the Teton Park Road between the Taggart Lake parking area and Signal Mountain Lodge—a distance of 15 miles— and completed this portion of the annual spring plowing on Friday, April 4th. They are still in the process of clearing the Jenny Lake scenic loop road, as well as other auxiliary roads and wayside areas.

The annual plowing of the Teton Park Road is a process that can take several weeks to complete, depending on the depth and consistency of the snowpack. Due to the exceptionally deep and dense snowpack this year, snow removal on just the principal Teton Park Road has taken the better part of two weeks.

Spring Migration Is Underway:

With the arrival of spring-like weather and recent snow melt across the sagebrush flats north of Jackson, animals are now migrating from their winter ranges toward their summering sites within Grand Teton National Park. Because spring migration is now fully underway, motorists must drive with extra caution during the coming weeks and be alert for wildlife near and along park roadways, such as Highway 26/89/191(Hwy 89).

Bears Are Out:

Bears are now out of hibernation and active again in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Consequently, park visitors need to be alert for bears and take appropriate precautions when using the Teton Park Road and other park areas. Visitors should exercise common sense and good judgment, stay alert, and follow these recommended safety tips while biking, hiking or spring skiing:

* 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
* Never approach a bear under any circumstances

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

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Celebrate National Park Week 2014 With FREE Admission and Special Events

The National Park Service, in partnership with the National Park Foundation, recently announced that the nation’s 401 national parks will celebrate National Park Week April 19-27 with a free admission weekend and special events nationwide.

The theme for this year’s National Park Week invites visitors to “Go Wild” for history, nature, culture, wildlife, and fun in America’s national parks. Additional information, including a list of National Park Week events nationwide can be found online at

“National Park Week is a great time to discover the diverse wildlife, iconic landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history found in our national parks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Every park offers a different experience so I invite everyone to join the celebration and get to know a park. And, to get the party started, all national parks will have free admission on April 19 and 20.”

Using the resources on the National Park Week website, visitors can plan park experiences based on their specific interests. A calendar of events includes many special National Park Week programs, including National Junior Ranger Day activities on April 26. Young visitors can take part in family-friendly activities and be sworn in as junior rangers at many parks. Visitors using the website can also share national park photos, videos, and tips, and learn about all the ways to help support national parks all year.

National Park Week also offers many opportunities for the public to explore local parks, trails, and architectural gems sustained by National Park Service programs such as the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program and theNational Register of Historic Places.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hiking a Classic: Mt. LeConte

The hike to Mt. LeConte via the Alum Cave Trail is one of the classic hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are several trails in the park that are far longer, gain more elevation, and have steeper climbs, but the Alum Cave Trail is unmatched in its combination of interesting geological features, history, high adventure and stunning views. Below is a video highlighting many of the sights hikers will enjoy along the way. For more detailed information on this classic Smokies hike, please click here.

If you do plan to visit the Smokies this year, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your vacation planning.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sperry and Granite Park Chalets Celebrate 100 Years

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Sperry and Granite Park Chalets. Both backcountry chalets were built in 1914 during a period when the Great Northern Railway was promoting Glacier National Park under the "See America First" campaign.

During the early 1900s some Americans were becoming alarmed over the increased spending of American dollars on European travel. While discussing Glacier one day, Senator "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman of South Carolina stated: "It is very ridiculous to me to see the amount of money spent by Americans to see the scenery of Europe without having first seen what we have at home." This concern provided one of the motivations for creating a national park at Glacier. Having an "American Alps," or a "Switzerland of the United States," such as Glacier, allowed America to compete against Canadian and European resorts and tourist attractions.

The Great Northern Railway played an extremely important role in the establishment of the national park during this time period as well. The Great Northern had a rail line running along the southern edge of Glacier, and saw the establishment of a national park as a way of increasing passengers on their trains, while also increasing their revenues.

So it was against this backdrop that the president of the Great Northern Railway, Louis W. Hill, began building a number of hotels and chalets throughout the park in the 1910s as a way of promoting tourism. These buildings were modeled on Swiss architecture as part of Hill's plan to portray Glacier as the "American Alps" or "America's Switzerland". Included in this project was a network of 9 European-style chalet complexes. Thus, leaving from one of Hill's luxury lodges, guests could hike or ride to one his rustic chalets in less than a day.

The chalets, built between 1910 and 1915, included Sperry, Granite Park, Cut Bank, Goat Haunt, Going-to-the-Sun (Sun Point), St. Mary, Gunsight Lake, Many Glacier, and one of the Two-Medicine Chalets (the other was converted into a store, which is still in use today). In their prime, several of the Chalets would host 100 to 150 guests a night.

Today, only Sperry and Granite Park remain. Both owe their survival to the use of native stone as their primary construction material. The masonry of these chalets made it possible to withstand Montana’s brutal winters. In contrast, the wooden structures of the other chalets deteriorated so badly that many had to be razed during the late 1940s.

Sperry Chalet:

Perched at an elevation of more than 6500 feet, Sperry Chalet sits high on a rock ledge that offers visitors commanding views of majestic mountain peaks, waterfalls, as well as Lake McDonald in the valley far below. The two main buildings at Sperry consist of a two story hotel and a kitchen/dining room. There’s also a modern composting restroom facility located between the two buildings.

The hotel, more commonly referred to as a "dormitory", was designed by Kirtland K. Cutter and Karl G. Malmgren, and contains 23 guest rooms. In 1992 the chalet was forced to close due to safety and environmental concerns. Fortunately it was restored and reopened again in 1999.

The only way to reach this backcountry chalet is by trail. Most people will hike the 6.1-mile Sperry Trail to the chalet. Reservations are required for overnight stays, but lunch and great views are offered to day hikers.

Granite Park Chalet:

Designed by architect Samuel L. Bartlett, the Granite Park Chalet consists of a dormitory and a "chalet" used as a dining hall, resident living quarters, and guest rooms. Compared to its sister to the south, the Granite Park Chalet is much more basic, and is essentially a simple hiker's hostel with virtually no amenities. It has 12 guest rooms, each with 2 to 6 bunks. There’s no electricity, but the common-area kitchen has a propane stove. The chalet rests just below Swiftcurrent Pass along the edge of a sub-alpine meadow that offers commanding views of Heavens Peak and the McDonald Valley.

As a result of the difficulty in maintaining the chalet, the Great Northern Railway sold the chalet to the National Park Service in 1954 for the princely sum of just $1.00. As with Sperry, Granite Park was forced to close as a result of safety and environmental concerns, but was reopened in 1996.

There are four trails that lead to the Granite Park Chalet. The Highline Trail, at 7.6 miles, is by far the most popular option. At just 4.2 miles, the Granite Park Trail from “The Loop” on the Going-to-the-Sun Road is the shortest route, but climbs 2300 feet. The Swiftcurrent Pass Trail out of Many Glacier is 7.6 miles in length and climbs 2400 feet. The fourth option is a very long trek from Goat Haunt near the Canadian border.

Additional Information on the History of Glacier's Chalets:

For more historical perspective on this subject, please check out Glacier's Historic Hotels And Chalets, which traces the creation and use of the Great Northern Railway’s hotels and chalet colonies in Glacier National Park, and includes many historic photographs.

Hiking in

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Montana FWP Releases Wolf Counts For 2013

Montana's verified wolf population remained stable last year while livestock depredations by wolves continued to decline, dropping about 27 percent from 2012.

A total of 627 wolves were counted in Montana at the end of 2013, compared to 625 in the prior year, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' federally required annual wolf conservation and management report released yesterday. Montana's minimum wolf packs were counted at 152, compared to 147 in the prior year, but breeding pairs dropped to 28, compared to 37 counted last year.

"Among the best news is that confirmed wolf depredations on livestock took a significant drop in 2013," said FWP Director Jeff Hagener. "And that comes on top of fewer overall agency control actions than the previous year."

Overall, Hagener said Montana's wolf population continues a stabilizing trend that's likely a combination of suitable habitats being filled, smaller pack sizes, routine livestock-related removals and hunter and trapper harvests.

Confirmed livestock depredations due to wolves included 50 cattle, 24 sheep, three horses and one goat in 2013, down 27 percent from 2012 loses of 67 cattle, 37 sheep, one dog, two horses and one llama. Cattle losses were the lowest recorded in the past seven years.

The decline in wolf depredations continues a general downward trend that began in 2009. "For FWP, and we hope for others, it reinforces the fact that we not only have more tools for managing wolf populations, but that we're applying them effectively," Hagener said. "One of our top priorities is to minimize livestock losses and we think we're continuing to make a positive impact there."

A total of 75 wolves were removed via lethal control, down from 108 that occurred in 2012. Of the 75 wolves removed last year for livestock depredations, eight were killed by private citizens with permits to take offending wolves or under Montana's defense of property laws.

The continuing decrease in livestock depredations over the past four years may be a result of several factors including targeted wolf depredation responses — and the effects of wolf harvest by hunters and trappers, which may also account for the drop in breeding pairs in the 2013 count.

The report also shows that 231 wolves were taken by hunters and trappers in the 2013 calendar year - or between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2013 — compared to 175 taken in 2012.

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 2011.

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.

To learn more about Montana’s wolf population, and to view FWP's complete report, visit

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Are Animals Fleeing Yellowstone as ‘An Alert’ to a Volcanic Eruption?

Are animals fleeing Yellowstone as ‘An Alert’ to a volcanic eruption? That is a question being asked in an Epoch Times article that was published in light of the 4.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the park on Saturday. The article, published on Sunday and currently linked to the Drudge Report, states that:
A number of bloggers are posting videos that show bison and other animals allegedly leaving Yellowstone National Park, prompting theories that as earthquakes ramp up the seismic activity will set off the Yellowstone supervolcano.
The article quotes one of the bloggers as saying, “But I’ll tell you this, whatever the case may be, that their running away from Yellowstone is an alert of some sort”, and uses this video as proof of their assertion:

The only problem with this theory is that it appears to be a normal annual event. In fact, just yesterday the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks published this news release on their website:
This is the time of year bison migrate out of Yellowstone National Park in greater numbers leaving the snow and higher elevation behind them to roam adjacent lands in Montana. Right now, bison are distributed throughout the Gardiner basin, and many are foraging within the Highway 89 corridor. For this reason, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is urging caution when traveling the southern portion of Highway 89. Drivers should pay particular attention south of Yankee Jim Canyon and reduce speed during nighttime hours.

In addition to bison, elk and deer are abundant within the Highway 89 corridor and frequently cross the highway. It’s important that drivers take this risk seriously, slow down, and obey posted signs.
For perhaps some more clarity on the matter, Yellowstone Public Affairs Chief, Al Nash, recently published this video in hopes of setting the record straight on a few rumors and stories circulating with regards to earthquakes and volcanoes in the park:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, April 1, 2014