Friday, August 30, 2019

55 male bison transferred from Yellowstone to Fort Peck Tribes

Last week Yellowstone National Park completed the first transfer of bison to the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Poplar, Montana under the new operational quarantine program. Fifty-five male bison completed Phases I & II of the brucellosis quarantine protocol at Yellowstone and will finish assurance testing (Phase III) at Fort Peck (see information below for details about the protocol).

“The transfer of these bison is the culmination of years of work by the NPS, the Tribes, the State of Montana, and APHIS,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “Quarantine is a critical component in bison management and the NPS is committed to expand and sustain this program.”

“Yellowstone buffalo are important to Tribes because they are the genetically-pure descendants of the buffalo our ancestors lived with,” said Tribal Chairman Floyd Azure. “The return of the buffalo is a return of our culture. Fort Peck is committed to expanding quarantine and sharing these animals with other Tribes across the country.”

The purpose of the quarantine program is to augment or establish new conservation and cultural herds of plains bison, enhance cultural and nutritional opportunities for Native Americans, and reduce shipments of Yellowstone bison to slaughter facilities. Since it is against Montana state law to move wild bison exposed to brucellosis anywhere except to meat processing and research facilities within state, the quarantine program is critical to getting brucellosis-free animals out of Yellowstone and onto a larger landscape.

The bison that moved this week were captured at Stephens Creek in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park in March 2018. There are currently 3 males and 21 females still in the quarantine program at Stephens Creek, which were captured at the same time. Since the testing protocol is longer for females, the earliest that this group will complete Phase II is during 2021. The park intends to capture a new cohort of bison this winter to continue the quarantine program.

While last week’s transfer is an excellent start, substantial work remains to continue building a sustainable quarantine program.

Background information about quarantine:

Quarantine was identified as a possible tactic for bison management back in 2001 when the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) was signed by the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture and the Governor of Montana. The National Park Service formally pursued a quarantine program in 2014 by initiating a public planning process. The operational quarantine program was approved in May 2018.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) established the final structural specifications and biosecurity requirements for quarantine facilities in June 2017. The only facilities that currently meet those specifications are located at Stephens Creek in Yellowstone National Park, Corwin Springs in Montana, and the Fort Peck Reservation.

APHIS developed the quarantine protocols in October 2003 and validated them during 2005-2010. Quarantine has three phases:

• Phase I - Managers capture bison in or near the park during winter. Bison considered suitable for quarantine based on initial negative tests for brucellosis are isolated in double-fenced quarantine pastures and tested every 30-45 days until all bison test negative for two consecutive testing periods.

• Phase II - Bison in these individual test groups undergo brucellosis testing by age and sex requirements described in the 2003 Brucellosis Eradication: Uniform Methods and Rules (APHIS 91–45–013) and are certified as brucellosis-free.

• Phase III - Managers can transfer bison to other fenced pastures. In the new location, brucellosis tests are conducted at six and 12 months to provide additional assurance. Managers keep these bison separate from other animals at least until the 6-month test is completed. Thereafter, managers can release these bison on public or tribal lands for conservation and cultural purposes.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

St. Mary Campground restricts camping to hard-sided only due to berries and bear activity

The St. Mary Campground, located on the east side of the park, is temporarily available to hard-sided camping only due to bear activity. The hiker/biker sites will also be temporarily unavailable at this campground due to the change.

In late summer and fall, bears enter hyperphagia, which is a period of excessive eating and drinking to prepare for winter. This results in more active feeding and searching for food.

The campground typically sees an abundance of berries in late summer. The last time the campground was moved to hard-sided only status due to bear activity was in late August, 2017, and before then, late August 2015.

No significant incidents between humans and bears have been reported in the campground year to date.

RVs, motorhomes, trailers, and hard-sided pop-ups are currently allowed in St. Mary Campground. Camper vehicles such as VW buses and pickup trucks with small canvas pop-ups are allowed as long as the canvas is not exposed.

Campground managers will contact campers with upcoming reservations to reassign them to another campground in the park, space permitting, if they do not have a hard-sided shelter.

Glacier National Park is home to black and grizzly bears. Campers are reminded to keep campground and developed areas clean and free of food and trash. Regulations require that all edibles, food containers, and cookware be stored in a hard-sided vehicle or food locker when not in use, day or night. Place all trash in bear-proof containers. All bear sightings should be reported to a park ranger as soon as possible.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, August 26, 2019

Temporary Closure for Moose-Wilson Road in Grand Teton National Park

The unpaved section of the Moose-Wilson Road in Grand Teton National Park will be temporarily closed for road grading beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday, August 27 and will reopen by 6 a.m. Wednesday, August 28. If the road maintenance work is not completed during this one night, the road will also be closed the following night during the same timeframe.

During the overnight closure, park visitors should plan to use an alternate route as this temporary closure will prevent making a ‘through trip’ on the Moose-Wilson Road. The closure will extend from the Granite Canyon Entrance Station to a gate south of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center. Electronic signs will be placed on Wyoming Highway 390 and near Moose to alert park visitors and local residents of the scheduled road closure.

In addition, the final phase of emergency repairs related to the June 2017 washout of the Gros Ventre Road will begin today, August 26. Traffic will be reduced to one lane of travel and traffic delays associated with the Gros Ventre Road repair project will be limited to 15 minutes between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. No weekend work is scheduled at this time.

Roadwork schedules may change, or be delayed, due to weather conditions, equipment malfunction, or other extenuating circumstances.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Bat tests positive for rabies in Glacier National Park

Last Thursday, Glacier County Health Department confirmed that a bat that scratched a park resident in the St. Mary area was rabid. The person is currently undergoing a series of rabies vaccinations. This was the first known case of a rabid bat in Glacier National Park this year.

Typically, rabies does not cause large outbreaks in bat colonies and tends to be limited to a small number of individuals. Less than one percent of bats have rabies.

Glacier National Park joins partner county health agencies and National Park Service wildlife veterinarians in urging people to become aware of rabies risks in bats and skunks.

If a bat or skunk has had human contact, it’s vital to safely capture the animal and submit it for rabies testing. Without testing, it is impossible to tell if the animal is carrying rabies, and the exposed person should undergo a preventative series of rabies vaccinations for humans. There is no cure for rabies once a human contracts it.

People can take additional precautions by properly screening homes and seasonal cabins. Historic buildings with gaps, outbuildings, and other structures that are routinely left open are particularly susceptible to bats.

“Rabies is not something that most people think about on a regular basis,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “However, if you come into physical contact with a bat, it’s important to know that there are resources available to you and testing procedures you must follow to protect your health and that of your family.”

While bats do pose a small rabies risk in humans, they also play an important role in area ecosystems, eating a number of nighttime insects, including agricultural pests.

Living sustainably alongside bats can often be accomplished with the right tools and timing of mitigation measures. Most of the bat roosts in the St. Mary park area are maternity roosts and due to time of year, pups still cannot fly. Therefore, the park will seal any indoor roost spaces it discovers after bats have left in September.

This is a vulnerable population at a sensitive time of year. Little brown bats have been significantly impacted by white-nose syndrome in other parts of the country. Since bats typically only have one pup per year, survival of that pup is important for sustaining the population. White-nose syndrome is not yet in Montana, but it continues to spread across the country.

Public health and human safety is always the priority. The park also strives to protect the health of bats.

Taking responsible measures to exclude bats from buildings whenever possible, and seeking testing and/or treatment following an exposure are important steps to take when living alongside this species. Bat exclusion is an ongoing task in park buildings, many of which are older and are vacant for a significant portion of the year.

People exposed to a bat or skunk should be aware of testing protocols and call their county health department immediately for specific instructions. Glacier County Health Department can be reached at 406-873-2924. Flathead City-County Health Department can be reached at 406-751-8101.

In order to test a bat or a skunk for rabies the brain/head must be intact and must be refrigerated until sent for testing (do not freeze).

The public should always follow common rabies prevention tips: •Do not feed or handle wild animals, especially bats. Teach children never to touch wild animals or handle bats, even dead ones. Ask children to tell an adult if they see or find a bat.

•Vaccinate your dogs and cats against rabies. Cats are particularly susceptible to rabies exposure due to a higher risk of interaction with wild animals.

•Bat-proof your house. Place screens on all windows, doors and chimneys to prevent bats from entering.

•Prevent bats from roosting in attics or buildings by covering outside entry points. However, to avoid trapping any young bats who will die or try to make their way into your rooms, seal the openings permanently after August or in the fall after the bats have left for the season.

•Watch for abnormal wild animal behavior. Most wild animals avoid humans and seeing skunks and bats during the daytime is rare. If you see an animal acting strangely, leave it alone and contact law enforcement or animal control if you think it may pose a danger.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Grand Teton Region Moved to Very High Fire Danger

Teton Interagency fire managers and staff are busy responding to fire incidents locally, regionally and nationally. The Teton Interagency area, including Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest and National Elk Refuge, has had warm temperatures, low humidity and some winds the past few days. These conditions can rapidly dry vegetation and create ideal conditions for wildland fire combustion and rapid spread. Similar weather conditions are predicted throughout the next week.

The Greys River, Big Piney, and Kemmerer ranger districts, including the Wyoming and Salt River Ranges, of the Bridger-Teton National Forest have moved to “very high” fire danger. The remainder of the Teton Interagency area remains “high” fire danger.

Fire danger ratings are determined by considering a number of factors. To decide a fire danger rating, fire managers consider the moisture content of grasses, shrubs, and trees. They also look at predicted weather conditions including temperatures and possibility of rain, lightening, or wind. Fire managers consider the ability of fire to spread after ignition, and availability of firefighting resources across the country. The Wyoming Range is drier than surrounding areas and areas to the north because it did not get recent precipitation.

Everyone, including visitors to public lands, should always use extra caution with fire. It is critical to put out all campfires and warming fires. As of today, 105 campfires have been abandoned in the Teton Interagency Dispatch area. Anyone choosing to have a fire should be in attendance of their fire at all times. Before leaving, drown any fire with plenty of water, stir all ashes and coals until they are soaked, and cold to the touch. Explosives, including fireworks and exploding targets, are illegal on national park and national forest lands. Do not park or drive on dry grass, ensure chain saws have working spark arrestors, and when smoking outside ensure cigarettes are crushed and do not flick ashes on dry vegetation.

There are currently no fire restrictions in place. Conditions and contributing factors are being evaluated daily by fire managers with coordinated conversations among counties and land management agencies on this topic. Last year, during late August and September, there was an increase in fire incidents due to dry conditions and human actions.

Please visit the Teton Interagency Fire website to learn more about current fires, fire safety, and any fire regulations that may be in place. To report a fire or smoke, call the Teton Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 307-739-3630.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Public invited to dedication of astronomical observatory at St. Mary

Glacier National Park will celebrate the opening of its new astronomical observatory with special events on Thursday, August 22, at the St. Mary Visitor Center.

The observatory makes it possible for visitors to see high-resolution views of distant objects like planets, galaxies, and nebulae.

Morning events 
 • 9:00 am -11:00 am: Observatory tours

Evening events 
• 6:15 pm - 7:30 pm: Dedication & Speakers (St. Mary Visitor Center Auditorium)
• 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm: Dinner Break, optional observatory tours
• 9:30 pm - midnight: Astronomy Program (See observatory in action – weather dependent)

The Glacier National Park Conservancy funded the new observatory, which houses a PlaneWave 20-inch CDK (Corrected Dall-Kirkham) telescope. It’s among the largest telescopes in the National Park Service devoted to free public education and interpretation programs. The telescope also is the biggest in the State of Montana providing free public programs. The telescope sits on a robotic mount, and an operator uses a computer mouse to aim the scope.

The observatory features two 55-inch monitors mounted externally to allow viewing from outside the 12-foot dome that shelters the telescope and supporting equipment. Visitors will see bright, high-resolution images on the monitors rather than having to squint into a telescope eyepiece. The observatory also can send observations to distant classrooms and can provide data or observing time to scientists.

To share astronomy and the night sky with visitors, Glacier National Park has collaborated with several partners – the Glacier National Park Conservancy, Waterton Lakes National Park, the International Dark Sky Association, the NPS Night Sky Program, and the Big Sky Astronomy Club.

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is the world’s first transboundary International Dark Sky Park, which makes it a wonderful place to view the night sky – with or without a telescope. The designation includes a commitment by the park and concessioners in both Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park to retrofit lighting fixtures and reduce light pollution within the parks’ boundaries. Glacier’s retrofitting is underway, also funded by donations to the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

While Glacier National Park’s dark sky program began with a focus on telescopic observations, the park now promotes a bigger picture view of the night sky, the emotional connections it provides, and the need to protect the dark sky experience as a cultural activity enjoyed by humans over the centuries.

Throughout the year, Glacier hosts regular astronomy programs that draw up to 20,000 visitors annually. Guided solar and night sky viewing occurs at St. Mary and Apgar during the summer and into September, while monthly summer star parties at Logan Pass can bring in as many as 600 visitors.

Waterton Lakes National Park, the other half of Waterton-Glacier International Dark Sky Park, also offers a regular interpretive program called Bring Back the Night, Fridays at 8 pm in the Falls Interpretive Theatre in Waterton, Canada.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Highline and Loop Trails and Swiftcurrent Pass area have reopened

Glacier National Park announced this morning that the Highline Trail, The Loop Trail, and Swiftcurrent Trail (from Swiftcurrent Pass to Granite Park Chalet) have reopened.

The area was closed Sunday evening due to unusual bear behavior. Here's the Tweet posted on the park Twitter account this morning:
The Highline, Loop, and closed portion of Swiftcurrent Pass Trail have reopened. They are still posted for "bear frequenting" so use heightened situational awareness and carry bear spray (as always).

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, August 19, 2019

Highline and Loop Trails and Swiftcurrent Pass area temporarily closed

The Highline Trail, The Loop Trail, and Swiftcurrent Trail (from Swiftcurrent Pass to Granite Park Chalet) are all closed as of Sunday evening, meaning that access to the Granite Park area is not possible.

On Monday morning, park staff will hike to the area to observe bear behavior and conduct hazing activities as appropriate.

The Granite Park backcountry campsite will be closed to campers arriving Monday, August 19.

The park expects that the trails will be closed at minimum until park staff can evaluate the area on Monday, and may be closed an indeterminate period of time afterwards, depending on their findings.

Park staff who live in the Granite Park area have been monitoring grizzly bears frequenting the area and on Sunday received several first hand visitor reports of encounters with a bear or bears along the trail within the general area of the campground and the chalet. The bear or bears exhibited behavior consistent with being disturbed and frustrated by human presence. Bears can respond aggressively in defense of themselves, a food source, or cubs.

“We appreciate the public’s patience while we evaluate this situation,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “The park has a proactive bear management program, and we take reports of aggressive bear behavior very seriously.”

People can monitor trail status by visiting the park’s Trail Status webpage.

Guests planning to hike to Granite Park Chalet with reservations for tomorrow night should call the Granite Park Chalet Office at 888-345-2649 for more information and updates. The park does not expect that any trail status updates will be available before Monday afternoon.

People currently in the Granite Park region departing Monday morning will be permitted to hike out the Loop or Swiftcurrent Pass Trails, but not the Highline Trail.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Hailstorm pummels Big Lake WMA waterfowl

A hailstorm that flattened crops, broke windows and wrecked roofs and vehicles throughout the region Sunday also killed and maimed more than 11,000 waterfowl and wetland birds at the Big Lake Wildlife Management Area west of Molt.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists who visited the lake this week picked up dead ducks and shorebirds with broken wings, smashed skulls, internal damage and other injuries consistent with massive blunt-force trauma. They reported thousands of additional dead or badly injured waterfowl and wetland birds in and around the lake.

A neighboring landowner reported baseball-sized hail that broke windows in the area Sunday evening. Local weather reports said Molt and Rapelje suffered two-inch hail propelled by a 70-mile-per-hour wind.

FWP wildlife biologist Justin Paugh estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the birds at the lake were killed or injured. Of the birds that still are alive, Paugh estimated that five percent of ducks on the lake and 30 percent to 40 percent of living pelicans and cormorants show some sign of injury or impaired movement – mostly broken wings and broken wing feathers.

FWP’s Big Lake Wildlife Management Area features a shallow, often-seasonal lake and wetland that are nesting areas for dozens of species of ducks, Canada geese, double-crested cormorants, shorebirds, gulls, pelicans and other waterfowl. Because of wet weather this past spring, the lake filled and currently covers around 4,000 acres.

Paugh and wildlife research specialist Jay Watson were back at the lake later this week to continue their survey of the damage to birds and try to assess the potential for additional problems to crop up.

Paugh said his scientific estimates show that the hailstorm killed or badly injured between 11,000 and 13,000 waterfowl and shorebirds, some of which still are alive but will not survive their injuries from the storm. Most of the dead birds have blown ashore.

Among future concerns is the possibility that disease – including botulism – caused by rotting carcasses could further devastate the bird populations. FWP will continue to monitor that situation.

“On a positive note,” Paugh said, “the lake is still covered with waterfowl that are alive and healthy. Life will go on.”

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Visitors feeding bears forces closure of Signal Mountain Summit Road area

The Signal Mountain Summit Road and area in Grand Teton National Park have been temporarily closed due to reports of visitors feeding bears, and bears bluff charging park visitors and staff.

Park rangers received reports that multiple visitors were feeding bears on Signal Mountain Summit Road on Tuesday evening, August 13. It is unknown what type of bear was being fed.

Grand Teton National Park Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said, “Feeding wildlife is irresponsible, dangerous and illegal, and we take these incidents very seriously. Please share any information about the feeding of wildlife immediately to a nearby park ranger, visitor center, or by calling Park Watch at 307-739-3677.”

On the same night, park visitors and staff were bluff charged by a female grizzly with two cubs along the Signal Mountain Summit Road.

Bears are protective of their feeding areas, which include ripening berry patches. All visitors are required to maintain a distance of at least 100 yards from bears and always carry bear spray, as well as make noise and travel in groups.

Never feed bears. Bears that obtain human food may lose their natural fear of humans and become dependent on human food. As a result, they may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed. The maximum penalty for feeding park wildlife is a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

Every visitor who comes to Grand Teton has the unique opportunity to view bears in their natural habitat. With that opportunity comes the responsibility to protect themselves and the bears. It is up to everyone to keep bears wild and alive. Please report any bear activity or human-bear interactions to a nearby park ranger or visitor center.

The proper storage of food items and responsible picnicking are vitally important in bear country. Picnickers should only have immediate use items out so that if a bear approaches, food items can be quickly gathered and the opportunity for the bear to receive a food reward is removed. Visitors should store food and scented items in bear-resistant food lockers that are located throughout the park or in a hard-sided vehicle. Do not burn waste in fire rings or leave litter in campsites.

Grizzly and black bears thrive in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr., Memorial Parkway. Visitors may encounter a bear anywhere and at any time. Some of the most popular areas and trails pass through excellent bear habitat.

Park visitors should follow regulations related to human and wildlife safety. For more information, visit

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, August 16, 2019

Girl dies from rockfall on Going-to-the-Sun Road

A 14-year-old girl died Monday from injuries she suffered when falling rocks struck a vehicle on Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Around 7 p.m. Monday, rockfall near the East Tunnel on Going-to-the-Sun Road struck the vehicle in which the girl and four other people were traveling westbound. The rocks hit the top of the vehicle and shattered the rear windshield, fatally injuring the girl and also injuring her parents and two other children in the vehicle.

A.L.E.R.T. air ambulance responded, but was unable to airlift the girl because of her unstable condition. Flight paramedics traveled with her via ground ambulance to Kalispell, MT. The girl died while being transported to a local hospital. The two adults suffered significant bruises and were transported to area hospitals by Babb and Browning ground ambulance. The two other children in the vehicle had minor injuries and also went by ambulance to the hospital.

The family was visiting the park from Utah.

The rocks that hit the vehicle were between fist-sized and 12 inches in diameter. The park estimates that the amount of debris could have filled the bed of a pickup truck. The rocks fell from an unknown height from the mountains above the road.

The last fatal injury from rockfall on the Going-to-the-Sun Road was in 1996 when a vehicle was struck by a falling rock in the Rimrocks section of the road, just west of Logan Pass.

Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed at the East Tunnel for approximately three hours on Monday night while the park road crew cleared the rocks and a tow truck removed the vehicle.

The park extends its deepest condolences to the girl’s family, and thanks its partner emergency care providers for the significant response.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Multiple Search and Rescue Incidents in Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park rangers responded to multiple search and rescue calls in the backcountry this past weekend. Hikers and climbers attempting larger ascents are reminded to research their route and be knowledgeable of the skills required for their trip. It is imperative that hikers understand their own skills in order to prevent emergency situations for themselves and responders.

At approximately 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 9, Teton County Interagency Dispatch Center received notification of an emergency 9-1-1 text of an injured hiker in the South Fork of Garnet Canyon. Nergui Enkhchineg, 28 year-old female from Mongolia working in the area, was hiking when she slipped on snow and fell approximately 50-100 feet on snow and rocks and sustained significant injuries. Another hiking party in the area assisted by using an emergency backcountry application on their cell phone to request assistance.

The search and rescue incident was initiated with waning daylight hours left. Using the coordinates generated by the emergency backcountry application, responders were able to immediately locate the injured party via the Teton Interagency Helicopter, allowing for quick medical assessment and treatment. The injured hiker was short hauled to Lupine Meadows and transported via park ambulance to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming. The other hiker walked out with a park ranger.

Other incidents that took place in the park this weekend involved a stranded individual on the Middle Teton on Sunday, August 11. The interagency helicopter conducted a reconnaissance flight as rangers initiated a rescue. Teton Interagency Dispatch Center was then notified that a private climbing party assisted the stranded hiker to safety. Park rescue personnel were not involved.

Additionally, late Sunday evening, park rangers responded to a visitor with a medical emergency at a backcountry campsite on Leigh Lake. Rangers transported the individual to the trailhead via a wheeled litter. A park ambulance transported the individual to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming.

As good weather and conditions draw hikers and climbers into the backcountry, it is important to be prepared. Hikers and climbers should set a reasonable objective within the skills and experiences of the group. Consulting topographic maps, guidebooks, and park rangers will help parties gauge difficulty and skill level of the route before ascending. Desire to reach the summit during dangerous conditions is a hazard. Hikers should be prepared to alter their route if they do not feel confident about their skill level or if conditions worsen.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

UPDATE: Human-caused fire at Yellowstone’s North Entrance; Suspect pleaded guilty to starting fire, sentenced to three months in jail

An investigation of the human-caused fire at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park resulted in a suspect who was charged for discarding a lighted material in a hazardous manner. At approximately 6:00 p.m. on Friday, July 26, a human-caused fire spread through the grass and sage between the North Entrance Station and the Gardner River. It was contained at approximately 4 acres.

Curtis J Faustich, a seasonal concessionaire employee in Yellowstone, admitted to dropping a lit cigarette on the ground while sitting at a picnic table and igniting the fire.

Faustich appeared Tuesday, August 6, 2019, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming. While in court, Faustich pleaded guilty to the charge. Sentencing included:

•Three months of incarceration

•$5,000 in restitution

•Two years of unsupervised probation

•Prohibited from entering Yellowstone National Park for two years

Park law enforcement officers sincerely thank the individuals who called the park’s 24-hour Tip Line at 307-344-2132 and provided timely incident details.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, August 12, 2019

National Park Service approves plan for Lake McDonald properties

The National Park Service Intermountain Region has approved Glacier National Park’s proposal for managing NPS-owned properties at Lake McDonald.

On July 23, 2019, the NPS Intermountain Regional Director signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the park’s Lake McDonald Properties Management Plan Environmental Assessment (EA). The FONSI is the final decision document for the plan.

Under the selected action, Glacier National Park will use an adaptive decision framework to manage cabins and outbuildings around Lake McDonald that were once privately-owned but have come into NPS possession over the last decade. Most of the structures are listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), and many are in need of repair. A strategy is needed to guide the management of the properties and acquire funds for their preservation before the buildings deteriorate to the point where demolition and removal are the only available options.

The adaptive decision framework includes five different management options: historic leasing, assigning to an interested concessioner, NPS administrative use (such as park housing or offices), stabilization, or removal. The park will use one of these five options to manage each property based on historic preservation and administrative needs and objectives, the condition of the structures, and feasibility. If the preferred management option for a given property is not underway or cannot be implemented by timeframes specified in the EA (generally ranging from one to two years), then other management options identified for each property will be triggered.

In all cases but one, the decision to remove a structure will be made only after other management options have been exhausted. As historic leasing is the preferred management option for most of the properties, the FONSI now enables the park to develop a historic leasing program.

The EA evaluated impacts to historic structures and districts; vegetation, soils, and wetlands; wildlife; and grizzly bears. No potential for significant adverse impacts was identified. The EA was available for a 30-day public comment period ending March 1, 2018, and public comments were considered.

The EA and FONSI are available on the National Park Service Planning, Environment & Public Comment (PEPC) website.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Man pets bison in Yellowstone

In case you missed this, below is the video that has surfaced of a man petting a bison in Yellowstone National Park last month:

Park officials are apparently investigating the incident. They also warn visitors to stay 25 yards away from all large animals - bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes, and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves.

This is yet another example of people who really don't belong visiting our already over-crowded national parks, in my opinion. On July 22 a nine-year-old girl was injured by a bison when she and roughly 50 other people stood within 5-10 feet of the bison for at least 20 minutes. There are many other examples.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, August 9, 2019

Smokey Bear turns 75 today!

Happy Birthday to Smokey Bear, the mascot of the U. S. Forest Service created to educate the public on the dangers of forest fires.

Smokey Bear's famous message "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" was created in 1944 by the Ad Council, making it the longest running Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign in U.S. history.

Smokey's correct full name is Smokey Bear. In 1952, the songwriters Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins had a hit with "Smokey the Bear". The pair said that "the" was added to Smokey's name to keep the song's rhythm. This small change has caused confusion among Smokey fans ever since.

The U.S. Forest Service authorized the creation of Smokey Bear on August 9, 1944. Smokey's debut poster (see picture above - on right) was delivered on October 10 of that year by artist Albert Staehle.

Be sure to check out the Smokey Bear website to see the history of the AD campaign. The site includes an interactive trail by decade with an extensive collection of old posters, TV/radio spots (including the famous Bambi TV spot), and other memorabilia.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, August 8, 2019


Cooperating Interagency Fire Officials across northwest Montana have raised the Fire Danger Level from “High” to “Very High”. When fire danger is "Very High,” fires can start easily from most causes. They can spread rapidly, grow quickly, and increase in intensity immediately after ignition. The increase in fire behavior can produce long-distance spotting, fire-whirls, often making fires difficult to control.

Since July 1 there have been a total of 33 reported wildfires in the area, with over half being human-caused. A few fire prevention tips include:

* When recreating, please stay on designated roads and never park on dry brush or grass, as exhaust pipes and vehicle undercarriages can be very hot and easily start a wildfire.

* Check spark arrestors on off-road vehicles, chain saws, and other equipment with internal-combustion engines to ensure they are in working order.

* Never leaving a campfire unattended. Use water and a tool to mix and stir until your fire is out and cold to the touch.

* Adjust trailer chains so that they are not dragging. Dragging chains throw sparks into roadside vegetation and ignite quickly moving grass fires. Int

Interagency Fire Officials will continue to monitor conditions and look closely at the number of human-caused fire starts to determine if fire restrictions should be implemented in the northwest Montana area. For more information, contact your fire protection agency.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Man believed drowned in Pray Lake in Glacier National Park

On Tuesday at approximately 4:30 pm, rangers responded to a bystander report of a man drowning in Pray Lake in Glacier National Park.

Rangers immediately responded. Witnesses reported that they had seen the man struggling in the lake, and then go underneath the water.

Rangers dove into the lake to locate the victim, but were unable to find him. National Park Service and visitor boats searched the lake until dark, but have not located the man. Local dive team resources were unable to respond on Tuesday because they were already assigned to another drowning outside the park.

Searching began again today at first light, with National Park Service searchers, the Flathead County Dive Team and Blackfeet Tribal Police.

Witnesses reported that it appeared the man may have gone into the lake to retrieve a dog. The dog has died.

The victim is a 64-year-old man who is a resident of Edmonton, Canada. The National Park Service will release his name once family notifications have been completed.

The area immediately around Pray Lake will be closed to visitors while the search continues.

Pray Lake is located in the Two Medicine area of the park, next to the Two Medicine Campground. It’s relatively small in size, 700 feet long and approximately 400 feet wide. The area near the inlet where the man was last seen is approximately 20 feet deep.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Bear dies in hazing incident at Many Glacier Campground

On Monday, August 5, rangers euthanized a black bear after the animal suffered an injury from a rubber projectile hazing round.

Rangers initially responded around 4:45 pm to a report of a black bear in the Many Glacier Campground.

The campground was full and many hikers were returning to their vehicles in the nearby parking lot. An interpretive spotting scope program also was ongoing nearby.

To encourage the bear to leave the area, rangers attempted to haze the bear by voice, but it stayed in the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and campground area. After voice hazing was ineffective, a ranger fired one rubber projectile hazing round, which inadvertently pierced the bear’s abdomen. Rangers and wildlife biologists determined that the bear suffered a mortal injury. After removing people from nearby campsites, rangers fired a second shot from a shotgun to euthanize the bear.

The Many Glacier and Swiftcurrent region has seen a number of bears routinely frequenting the area throughout the summer, and it is believed this bear was one of them. Many Glacier Campground prohibited soft-sided tent camping for a period of time in June because of bear activity.

Hazing – which may include yelling, clapping, horns, bean bag rounds, and rubber projectile rounds – is a technique used to push bears out of developed places and into areas where natural behavior and foraging can occur. The park uses hazing as part of its proactive Bear Management Plan to encourage bears to stay away from developed areas where human food rewards are likely to occur.

Once bears begin to frequent campgrounds, parking lots, and other visitor areas, the likelihood of habituation and food conditioning rises dramatically. Habituated or conditioned bears may seek and obtain non-natural foods, destroy property or display aggressive, non-defensive behavior towards humans.

To discourage conditioning and habituation, the park hazes dozens of bears each year near or within developed areas. On Monday, for example, park rangers responded to seven separate bear incidents in Many Glacier alone. Hazing mortalities remain uncommon, but do occur occasionally. In the last 15 years, the park estimates four bears have died as a result of hazing activities.

The park will review the incident and seek to identify any training or other changes needed to improve the program.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Investigation Underway into Grizzly Bear Shot by Two Backpackers

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating the death of a grizzly bear from a reported self-defense shooting in the Cabinet Mountains south of Troy.

Two backpackers from Sanders County reported shooting an adult female grizzly bear in self-defense on a forested trail near Dad Peak in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. The reported surprise encounter occurred along a section of trail with huckleberry bushes. The incident occurred on August 2 and the individuals notified authorities on August 4 after exiting the backcountry.

The incident remains under investigation.

FWP reminds recreationists to “Be Bear Aware” and follow precautionary steps to prevent conflicts, including making noise, especially around berry patches, densely forested areas and near streams. Bear spray is an effective deterrent and everyone is encouraged to carry it in the outdoors.

More safety information is available on the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website, Residents can call FWP regional offices to learn more about bears or to report bear activity. In northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, August 5, 2019

New Mexico man charged after his dog kills fawn

A New Mexico man who allowed his dog to kill a fawn in southern Colorado has been charged with several wildlife crimes.

Michael Garcia, 36, of Las Cruces, N.M., has been charged with illegal possession of wildlife, allowing his dog to harass wildlife and unlawful manner of take of wildlife. He was issued a citation by a Colorado Parks & Wildlife wildlife officer on July 23. The fines for the offenses are $1,372.50 and an assessment of 20 license-suspension points.

Garcia may elect to pay the fines or appear in court, explained Rick Basagoitia, area wildlife manager for CPW in the San Luis Valley. If he does not pay the fine, he will be required to appear in court on Sept. 16.

“This is a disturbing case; we’ve heard from many members of the public wanting CPW to investigate,” Basagoitia said. “Information that they’ve provided has been greatly helpful to CPW efforts.”

According to the officer’s report, the man was in an area near the Conejos River when his dog chased the fawn and killed it. Garcia posted photos of the dog and the dead fawn on social media. Someone saw the post, reported it to Operation Game Thief and CPW began to investigate.

Garcia was working as a fishing guide on the Conejos River. District Wildlife Officer Rod Ruybalid located him, conducted an interview and issued the citation.

In addition to the fines, Garcia will also be issued 20 license-suspension points, which means he must appear before a CPW suspension-hearing officer. This is a separate process that could result in the suspension of license privileges from one to five years. Only the Parks and Wildlife Commission has the authority to impose suspensions.

Wildlife crimes can be reported anonymously to Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Those who report are eligible for a cash reward if the tip results in the issuance of a ticket or a conviction.

Chasing and killing wildlife is one of the reasons cited on most national park websites as to why they don't allow dogs on backcountry trails.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, August 2, 2019

Senate Committee Introduces Bill to Increase Funding for National Park Roadways

Earlier this week the United States Senate introduced a bill that includes a 21 percent increase in funding for national parks. America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act, a surface transportation bill, would be used to repair and update roads, bridges, and transportation systems in national parks across the country. National park provisions are an important, but small portion of this nearly 500-page surface transportation bill.

“This legislation comes at a critical time for the country and our national parks,” said Emily Douce Director of Operations and Park Funding for the National Parks Conservation Association. “There are crumbling roads along the Blue Ridge Parkway, aging bridges in Great Smoky Mountains and outdated shuttle buses in Zion. Our national parks are scraping by on shoestring budgets, while facing billions of dollars in needed repairs and updates to their aging infrastructure and transportation systems. In fact, more than half of the Park Service’s $11.9 billion maintenance backlog is comprised of transportation needs. This bill is a big step in the right direction. If enacted, this would provide critical funding to repair important roads, bridges and park transit systems to ensure millions of visitors can continue to experience and enjoy national parks now and for years to come.”

The National Park System is second only to the Department of Defense in the amount of federal infrastructure it manages, including 10,000 miles of publicly accessible roads and 1,440 bridges. The America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act would authorize federal highway programs that provide $287 billion over five years.

Key park provisions included in the bill:

• Guarantees an increase in annual funding to the Park Service – an additional $310 million over the span of the five-year bill – through the Federal Lands Transportation Program, which provides funds to improve roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure in parks.

• Dedicates $50 million a year and authorizes $100 million a year for the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program designed to address exceptionally large repair projects in our parks, such as the reconstruction of the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades and a portion of the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone.

• Provides measures to improve the resiliency of roads and bridges to natural disasters and extreme weather events.

• Encourages innovative solutions to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, establishing a program that would support projects that protect motorist and wildlife through improved transportation infrastructure.

“Our park infrastructure is in bad shape, and the problem will only get worse if the chronic underfunding continues. We commend Chairman Barrasso (R-WY), Ranking Member Carper (D-DE) and the rest of the Environment and Public Works Committee for leading the effort to address the costly backlog of transportation projects throughout our country. Now, the other Senate committees and the House of Representatives must finish the work and pass final legislation to fix our country’s infrastructure, including our parks, and doing so without compromising public input and protections for our nation’s air, water and wildlife,” said Douce.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Weekend Road Work Scheduled for Saturday, August 3rd in Grand Teton

Pavement preservation continues in Grand Teton National Park throughout the weekend. On Friday, August 2, road work will take place on U.S. Highway 89 between Pacific Creek Road and the Moran Junction Entrance Station. There will be flaggers stationed throughout the work zone to direct traffic through the entrance station. Travelers should expect up to 30-minute delays as chip seal activities are underway and the highway is reduced to one lane of travel. Road work will take place between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. The Pacific Creek boat launch will remain open for use during road work, but users should expect delays getting to and from the boat launch.

Road work is also scheduled for this coming Saturday, August 3. Work will take place on U.S. Highway 89 south of Moran Junction between Triangle X Ranch and Elk Ranch Flats, as well as a small work zone at a pullout just south of the Jackson Hole Airport. Travelers should expect up to 30-minute delays. Road work will begin at approximately 8 a.m. and last until 2 p.m.

A traditional cattle drive is also taking place early Saturday morning between Elk Ranch Flats and east of Moran Junction on U.S. Highway 26/89/191. The road will be temporarily closed to vehicle traffic between approximately 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. for the cattle drive.

To avoid travel delays, motorists may choose to use an alternate route and drive the Teton Park Road between Jackson Lake Junction and Moose Junction. Road work is weather and temperature dependent.

Travelers are advised to drive slowly and maintain the recommended speed limit on chip seal pavement to reduce the risk of debris damaging cars or windshields. Visitors can expect temporary delays and reduced speed limits in these mobile construction zones.

In addition to the pavement preservation work, the final phase of emergency repairs related to the June 2017 washout of the Gros Ventre Road will occur late this summer. Work is expected to begin in mid-August and continue into November. Traffic delays associated with the Gros Ventre Road repair project will be limited to 15 minutes between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The work will focus on realigning the road to restore the original 45 m.p.h. speed limit and replacing the concrete barriers with a guardrail. Additional stream bank armoring will occur upstream and downstream from the work that was completed in the fall of 2017.

Travelers can call the park road information line at 307-739-3682 or visit the park’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to get information about road work locations in the park.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Remains of 2015 Yellowstone River drowning victim found and identified

The remains of Feiyang “Isaac” Xiang, a 21-year-old male from China who likely drowned in 2015, have been found and positively identified. Xiang, a seasonal concessionaire employee in Yellowstone, was last seen being swept down the Yellowstone River in the northern section of the park on Thursday, July 23, 2015. A large and extensive search for Xiang ensued aided by several dog teams, dozens of ground searchers, and helicopter teams. Search efforts did not turn up any sign of Xiang.

In February 2018, staff discovered human bones in the vicinity of the 2015 drowning site. Law enforcement officers collected the remains and sent them to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification for DNA testing. In June 2019, the park received confirmation that the remains were of Xiang.

Yellowstone National Park law enforcement officers have stayed in touch with Xiang’s family since the incident. When the remains were positively identified, staff notified the family. In July 2019, Xiang’s family returned to the park and collected his remains. They have since returned to China.

Yellowstone National Park worked with many agencies and individuals during the search and investigation and would like to thank all of them.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Two Trail Projects Announced for Grand Teton National Park

The Grand Teton National Park Foundation just announced two trail projects that will definitely be of interest to hikers and backpackers. In their July Newsletter, published yesterday, the Grand Teton friends group announced that the Tribal Youth Corps and Youth Conservation Program are currently working together to build a new section of trail near Grand View Point. The announcement states that the "new route will connect the existing one to a new parking lot at Bug Canyon, just down the road from Jackson Lake Lodge". This new trail appears to significantly shorten the existing route to Grand View Point, a little known and underrated destination within the park that offers outstanding views of the entire Teton Range (see photo below). For more information on this project, please click here.

The Foundation also announced that they will be spurring a major restoration effort along the Teton Crest Trail next summer. The announcement states that the "Foundation is currently seeking support to fund improvements along this iconic footpath in two particular places — Hurricane Pass and Paintbrush Divide". It continues by stating that "Decades of use along the trail, coupled with natural erosion processes at high elevation, have led to deteriorating trail conditions that necessitate repair and improvement." For more information on this project, and to help support it, please click here.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking