Researcher says escaped Idaho domestic elk may quickly die in the wild

According to an Alberta researcher who studied “naive” elk (translocated elk) in Alberta, hunters and wolves could quickly solve the problem of the escaped elk because the elk don’t know how to live on their own in the area.
On the other hand, a few of the Alberta naive translocated elk did learn to adapt.

Read article.

Posted in Elk, Wolves. 4 Comments »

Aggressive wolves, or wolf hybrids said to have been shot near Fairfield, ID

The news on this is sketchy, but I’ve heard rumors are building about two wolves or hybrids that had been circling parked vehicles on the highway at Fairfield, ID. That is a small town on the Camas Prairie about 30 miles SW of Hailey, ID.

The canids were said to be skinny and acting aggressive, but disoriented. Eventually one was hit on the highway and when the driver tried to check out the injured animal the other one advanced on the driver. The sheriff was called and the uninjured canid advanced on him too, and he shot both.

I was told that Idaho Fish and Game checked them and determined they were starving hybrids with no hunting skills.

No doubt anti-wolf folks will make this into a big bad wolf story if possible, so I thought I’d put it up despite the sketchy nature of the story. Of course, I can’t say with complete assurance that they weren’t wolves. There are wolves in the adjacent mountains.

Grizzly bears reportedly spotted near Independence Pass, Colorado ! ?

It has just been reported that 2 hunters who are experienced with the visual differences between black and grizzly bears say have seen three grizzly bears near Independence Pass, Colorado.

Grizzlies are thought to be extinct in Colorado, with the last killed in 1979 (even though it was thought to be extinct in the state then).

There has been speculation about grizzlies in state ever since the appearance of the 1979 grizzly in the south San Juan Mountains. I read Ghost Grizzlies by David Petersen, and hoped. Other books about possible Colorado grizzlies have been published.

Colorado Division of Wildlife News Release.

– – – –

As comments and the news have developed, I would hope, but I am pretty skeptical if these were grizzly bears.

Here is the latest, this time the Denver Post. “Officials comb hills for grizzly.

Added Oct. 3. Hibernation will soon end search for possible Colorado grizzlies. Now a dead link.

Yellowstone wolf population rebounds; still below pop. of 2003 and 2004.

Last year the Yellowstone wolf population suffered a big decline due to very high pup mortality in addition to the normal annual attrition of yearling and adult wolves.

Last year they counted 118 wolves in 12 groups in Yellowstone at mid-year.
At year’s end, it was 116 ±2 in 11-13 packs. This was later revised 118 wolves in 16 packs in Yellowstone. Only 19 pups had survived to Dec. 31, 2005.
Back at the end of 2004, it was 171 wolves in 16 groups in Yellowstone.

This year the mid-year Yellowstone count is 143 wolves in 14 groups. This includes 76 pups!

The Yellowstone wolf population is still below that of 2004 and even 2003 (157 wolves at year’s end).

I think these data show how fast a wolf population can grow or sink, with the major factor being pup survival rate more than control killing or death of adult wolves.

Wolf population growing in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

On Sept. 22, Ed Bangs sent out email giving the mid-year population esimates for wolves in the 3 state experimental wolf recovery area. The news media are now picking up the story.

Most of the media are taking an unreflective straight approach, saying the wolf population is up by 20%. Yesterday, however, the Idaho State Journal called me, and I give some perspective. Read Idaho State Journal article.

Two wolf population estimates are made each year. One is at mid-year (now). The most important one is at year end (and usually released about March). Mid-year estimates are very preliminary. Year end estimates should be compared to year-end estimates. What most of the media is doing is comparing this year’s mid-year estimate to the end of 2005 estimate. This is wrong because a number of wolves will die between now and the end of the year. It might be just a couple per cent. It might be ten per cent or more. On the other hand, they will discover more wolves between now and the end of the year.

The mid-year count is really an underestimate. Last year they counted 912 wolves at mid-year and 1020 wolves at the end of the year! Because all wolves are born in April and May, the additional 108 wolves were all new discoveries.

It should be noted that Bangs hardly helped clarify the data. He simply wrote:

These estimates indicate the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population continues to grow in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and all known wolf packs reside in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Preliminary mid-year estimates indicate a total of about 1,229 wolves, in 158 packs, with at least 87 potential breeding pairs. This represents an overall wolf population growth rate of over 20% since last year’s interagency official December 31, 2005 mid-winter wolf population estimate of 1,020 wolves in 132 packs and 71 breeding pairs qualifying as breeding pairs.

He did give detailed pack data, however, and I will try to present that in readable form.

– – – –

Sept. 29. Mike Stark of the Billings Gazette has been covering issues like this for quite a while, and has the knowledge to do a good job. Article.

Larry Craig throws cold water all over CIEDRA, Owyhee Initiative.

Senator Craig would not sandbag his fellow Republicans just before the elections, especially in view of the fact that a large majority of Idahoans indicate they support the efforts of Republican congressman Mike Simpson (ID, 2nd district) to create a large Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness (with side payments to anti-wilderness interests).

Idaho’s other US Senator, Republican Mike Crapo, has always supported consensus building efforts to defuse conservation controversies. His Owyhee Initiative, however, is his first success.

Senator Craig was polite about it, but he proved to be the same man he has always been. He dislikes Wilderness just as he always has. He doesn’t want cooperation on these issues, and he is going to either kill these bills after the election or turn them into flat-out anti-conservation vehicles. He has built his career on polarization on public land issues. He favors extractive interests, period. I don’t think he is cynical. He is a true believer. All he needed to change was his public tone slightly for the course of one hearing in his committee.

Read the article in the Idaho Statesman today, “Craig still has doubts about wilderness bills. Senator plans to work for compromises on Boulder-White Clouds, Owyhee bills.” In fact, the proposals represent years of negotiations and compromises. To say there needs to be compromise on bills that are entirely the product of compromise, is an oxymoron.

So these conservation bills are dead in fact if not in name. The question is will the media and the groups that entered into the compromise realize that before the elections?

Sept. 28 late. The Friday edition of the Idaho Mountain Express  just went on-line and Greg Stahl has a story on the hearing. 

Stahl thinks Craig didn’t “tip his hand,” although my impression was that his comments said a lot about his position and likely future action. Here is the article. “Idaho wilderness bills begin Senate voyage. Craig speaks cautious words about CIEDRA.

Colorado rural area solves its chronic bear problem simply.

All they had to do was stop feeding them! It would seem obvious, but it seems to have taken 40 years to figure it out.

Read about it in the Summit Daily News.

Posted in Bears. 2 Comments »

Governor Risch wants ban on shooter elk operations

Governor Risch will only be governor until the end of December. Then the governor will be either Democrat Jerry Brady or Republican Butch Otter. Risch might be the Lt. Governor.

All three, however, seem to have now come out one way or the other against shooter operations, and I think Risch and Brady against new elk farms. I guess that is actually good news for Erin, who posts here (no new competitors). Otter is not so clear.

Here is the story in the Post Register (Idaho Falls).

Sept. 28. The Idaho Stateman has picked up on the lack of clarity on the part of gubernatorial candidate Butch Otter. Read the editorial today, “Our view: Otter still not clear on canned hunts.

Key US Senate subcommitee holds hearings on CIEDRA and Owyhee Initiative today

Idaho’s Senior US Senator Larry Craig chairs the Senate subcommitte that has hearings on CIEDRA and the Owyhee Initiative today.

CIEDRA has already passed the House of Representatives where notorious Richard Pombo chairs the committee. His pound of flesh was insistence that the very beneficial buyout of East Fork of the Salmon River ranchers be taken out. The ranchers had wanted to be bought out. There was a hope that it would end a hundred years of overgrazing. An end to grazing could have made it a wildlife paradise.

Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman has a article today where he gives some history of the political battles of the past in central Idaho (which is affected by CIEDRA)

The article says ” ‘No matter what the outcome is on the bills, the process has changed the face of public lands management in the West,’ said John Freemuth, a Boise State University political science professor.’ ” ‘I think it’s a sea change that they have decided to participate in seeking solutions,’ he said.”

I am not so sure. If the bills become worse from the standpoint of conservation interests, there will be no more of this kind of solution seeking. Conservation interests won’t participate. While a number of major conservation groups are standing behind CIEDRA, many other groups are greatly opposed, and some of these folks will probably post to this forum. The off-road vehicle lobby is also strongly opposed because the bill isn’t weak enough even though they got numerous special favors.

If this “new process” offends the membership of the groups that are now participating by having the proposals backfire, almost all groups will just strop participating. If their members are pleased with what they see on the ground, compared to the long stalmate, participation will continue.
At the top of Warm Springs Canyon the the White Clouds Mountains.
Home of the Galena wolf pack. This is in part of the Wilderness designated
by CIEDRA. Copyright Ralph Maughan

I am judging that the Owyhee Initiative has less support than CIEDRA.

Your chance to comment on Bridger-Teton forest plan “desired conditions” ends Sept. 30

Here is a detailed alert from the Wyoming Wilderness Association on your comments on the Bridger-Teton Forest Plan’s desired future conditions. Public comment is being accepted until September 30. Ralph Maughan

Read the rest of this entry »

Western Watersheds Project wins 2nd injunction against new BLM grazing regulations affecting 160-million acres of public land

About a month ago, the Western Watersheds Project and other groups won an injunction from Idaho federal district court judge Lynn Winmill on the BLM’s new grazing regulations. The victory enjoined the public participation party of the new regulations (new regs greatly restricted meaningful public input on grazing).

Now the second shoe has dropped, with an injunction on (all?), or at least most of the rest of the new regs. Here is a news release from WWP. Read the rest of this entry »

The most anti-conservation member of Congress could lose his seat.

Well I don’t really know if Richard Pombo of Tracy, CA and chair of the House Resources Committee is the very most anti-conservation member of Congress. He is, however, in a very powerful position to push his public land privatization, full speed development of the outdoors, kill off the endangered species act, and land rights-for-the-few agenda.

Recent polls show him vulnerable. Political analysts have a rule of thumb that any incumbent with under 50% several months before election day and facing a relatively unknown challenger is vulnerable. Pombo was at 43% in July.

Further analysis from an admittedly anti-Pombo blog

Posted in politics. Comments Off on The most anti-conservation member of Congress could lose his seat.

Idaho Statesman says: Thrill of hunt absent from private reserves

Shooting of penned elk by rich people, and calling it a “hunt” continues to take a hit in the Idaho media.

Here is today’s Idaho Statesman editorial against shooter operations.

Posted in Elk. 7 Comments »

More domestic cervids loose in Idaho

This was in the Idaho Statesman. “Domesticated deer captured in eastern Idaho. Officials seek owners of animals found in Chubbuck; elk and calves from separate escape still on the loose.’ ”

Chubbuck is a suburb of Pocatello.

Posted in Deer, Elk. Comments Off on More domestic cervids loose in Idaho

Wildlife Services kills 2 Idaho wolves, maims 3 others, or did they get away?

I’ve gotten phone calls and emails about Wildlife Services’s first day of “control” of wolves in West Central Idaho.

This is second hand — Wildlife Services [WS] didn’t contact me.

I heard they killed two of the Lava Ridge pack and might have hit two in the Lick Creek Pack and one in the Gold Fork pack. I also heard they were “sloppy,” but no details why except that they often wound animals and leave them to die rather than land and finish the job. If WS wants to email me or issue a news release, that would be good.

At their request, I took down their phone numbers today that were contained in the earlier post.

Note: comments on this post are now closed

Two Idaho “wilderness” bills before the U.S. Senate this week.

I have written a lot about CIEDRA (Wilderness, with side payments in the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains). I have written less about the Owyhee Initiative (Wilderness, with side payments in a huge region of arid, unpopulated steppe and canyon country in SW Idaho).

CIEDRA has already passed the House. This is the first legislative test of the Owyhee Initiative.

These bills are the product of years of negotiations. There is plenty for conservationists to dislike (and like) in both.

Rocky Barker has a feature in the Idaho Statesman today about several female activistis who both hate the legislation, but are on opposite sides of the fence. Article.

Of course, many other women, women in favor of the legislation could have been featured too.

I know a lot of the conservationists who are currently taking different sides on the bills.

Posted in politics, privatization, public lands, public lands management, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on Two Idaho “wilderness” bills before the U.S. Senate this week.

Helena climate conference says warming changes in Pacific Northwest are already huge

There was a gathering of climate experts this week in Helena, MT. The effects of global warming in Montana were described with more and greater wildfires being just one of the most obvious.

There has been a furious debate in recent years whether the increase in forest fires is due to bad forest practices, not enough logging, too much logging, the wrong kind of logging, etc. No doubt these questions are relevant, but trees in the Rocky Mountains are having to endure longer summers almost everywhere. Regardless of the size of the winter snowpack, the period of summer drying is longer and the warmer winters allow endemic tree killing insects to build to greater levels.

Seminar: Effects of warming are huge. AP. Billings Gazette article.

Related to this is an article on forest thinning in the Taylor Fork of the Gallatin River. This is immediately adjacent to the NW corner of Yellowstone NP. Article.

Added on Sept. 25. Public Doesn’t Understand Global Warming — By Dr. David Suzuki, David Suzuki Foundation. This is part of the problem in addition to deliberate efforts to confuse the public. I know that among my students it takes about a half hour lecture to explain the difference between the ozone hole and the the greenhouse effect. The average person doesn’t get a note-taking required explanation.

New Grand Teton plans to build miles of paved path in heavy grizzly turf

There is a danger in Grand Teton for bicyclists from vehicles, especially the big RVs that they let in for some reason and for the same fare as a small automobile.

The Park Service wants bike paths separate from the roads. This may be a very good idea. However, many of them will be in the northern part of the national park where grizzly bears are plentiful.

Grizzlies have already demonstrated that they will attack a bicyclist that surprises them, and this plan makes such surprises likely, maybe even commonplace.

Black bears have become very common along the backwoods Moose-to-Wilson, WY Park road. Some are now calling it the “moose to bear” road. Questions are raised about the wisdom of bike paths through this stretch of bears and often cranky moose.

Here is a link to the plan

Read article in the Jackson Hole News and Guide

New. As if to underscore the growing presence of bears in the Wilson, WY area, this story appeared the day after I first posted this article — “Bear and cubs roam area trails.” AP. A warning has issued after three women were charged by a bear with cubs on the trail system near Wilson. Earlier two women with dogs were charged.

Idaho activist [Rex Rammell] uses elk fight to rally anti-government forces

This article was written by Jesse Harlan Alderman. Associated Press Writer. It gives some political background on Rex Rammell, whose shooter elk escaped and are being hunting down to prevent spread of disease and genetic pollution. Turns out he is an anti-government kinda guy. His political views seem to account for his lack of compliance with the laws (or is it the other way round?).

Of most interest to me in the article was the identity of one of his chief legislative supporters. Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot.

Another of his supporters, to no one’s suprise, is Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis. Statement by Barrett.

Rammell recently held a news conference. Others supporting him spoke out. Story from KPVI, Channel Six (Pocatello, Blackfoot, Idaho Falls).

Barrett, a long time anti-conservation, anti-government legislator is opposed by Democrat, Jon Winegarner

Lake, is opposed by Democrat Beverly Beach.

Feds hold up oil, gas leases in the Wyoming Range

The Wyoming Range may be the prettiest mountains in Wyoming you never heard of. The begin about 20 miles south of Jackson Hole. They continue southward for many miles, paralleling the Salt River Range.

They are full of elk, and massive fields of wildlife flowers. They have been little developed because the soils are very unstable, prone to natural landslides, even without roadbuilding.

Folks in Wyoming have been very generous to the energy industry, but as they move off the high desert up into the big mountains, the attitude of the citizens and many politicians is changing — both Republicans and Democrats.
On this issue citizens, conservationists, ranchers and outfitters are united. They don’t want rigs up there.

Here is a bit of good news, a least in the short run from the Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Down Cliff Creek. Wyoming Range. Copyright Ralph Maughan

A related article from Sunday Sept. 24. Wyoming’s Gov. Dave Freudenthal wants an oil and gas lease buyback bill. Freudenthal is seeking that some of the oil and gas leases in Wyoming’s Red Desert be bought back.

I spent a week in this area in the summer of 2004. It’s amazing — huge elk right out on the desert in the middle of the summer, pronghorn everywhere, and lots of wild horses, and then, not a gas rig in sight.

Posted in Elk, oil and gas, politics, public lands, public lands management, wilderness roadless, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Feds hold up oil, gas leases in the Wyoming Range

75,000 comments on predator control rule in wilderness areas

Here’s one I missed even though I worked very hard trying to stir up comments on the plan to use all sorts of motorized vehicles to go after predators in designated Wilderness areas. The Wilderness Act and the orginal rules issued to implement it did not view predators as a Wilderness problem, but to be one of values of Wilderness.

Here is the story in Demarcated Landscapes.

Posted in public lands, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on 75,000 comments on predator control rule in wilderness areas

Both candidates for ID governor support ban on “shooter bulls”

Both Democrat Jerry Brady and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Butch Otter are saying they support a ban on the “shooter bull” operations that are cropping up in Idaho. A recent television report said there were 14 canned hunt farms and 78 elk farms.

A distinction should be made between the two, but both are controversial, with “shooter bulls” seeming to be very unpopular among Idaho hunters as well as the general public. My observation is based on letters to the Idaho media, editorials, and the large turnout against new canned hunt east of Blackfoot, Idaho.

Clearwater River area wolf killing plan withdrawn by State of Idaho

Although it hasn’t been officially announced, I understand the recent plan to reduce the wolf population by 80% for five years over a large portion of north central Idaho has been withdrawn. I regard this as one of the biggest victories in a long time.

Idaho Fish and Game Commission proposed it as a way of regenerating the large elk herds that have declined in the last 15 years in much of the upper Clearwater River drainages.

The plan was immediately met by massive negative public comments, both within and outside of Idaho.

It was probably obvious too, to the Fish and Game Commission, that the plan could not pass scientific muster. That is required until the wolf is completely delisted, although I think that science should play a much more important role in all aspects of wildlife management.

The sample size of wolf-killed elk was far too small to draw conclusions about the impact of wolf predation. There was no plan in place to monitor the elk population each year in project area as the plan was carried out. The rival hypothesis that the population decline of elk was due to habitat succession is well documented. It requires much evidence to shoot that hypothesis down. Idaho Fish and Game didn’t have it.

This will come up again when the wolf is delisted because the Commissioners are politicians of sorts, and they know that the appearance of doing something matters.

– – – –

Update Sept. 23. I was wrong believing that the Idaho Fish and Game Commission came to their senses and withdrew their scheme. Instead, the federal government rejected it, as this story from the AP by John Miller indicates.

County commission approves new canned hunting operation in Eastern Idaho

200 people showed up at the meeting in Blackfoot, Idaho. That is really a lot for Bingham County, Idaho. The county commission required double-fencing of the elk shooting gallery for rich “hunters.” There are lots of wild deer and elk outside the operation. Nevertheless, they approved it.

Read story in the Idaho State Journal.

Posted in Elk, politics, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on County commission approves new canned hunting operation in Eastern Idaho

More on the killing of first bison of the season by Montana DOL

There is a story about it by Mike Stark in today’s Billings Gazette about it. Read Article.

He does recite the standard list of official lies for the action, but futher down comes the welcome news that the presence of Montana Dept. of Livestock in the area is increasingly resented by local residents.

The day is coming when they will wrench the DOL’s heel off of the back of their necks.

Plan to control lots of Western Idaho wolf packs is greatly scaled back

Several days ago I posted “Wildlife Services plans major Western Idaho wolf removals.” A lot of people read it and 20 comments were posted. I have now closed that discussion thread.

Meanwhile, there has been plenty of talking behind the scenes about this wolf control plan. Now the plan has been greatly scaled back.

I understand only the Danskin Pack, near Boise, will be wiped out. A few wolves will be removed from the other western Idaho wolf packs.

So good news!

Montana DOL is back at it.

Montana Shows Intolerance for Bison in First Capture Operation of the Season

For Immediate Release: September 20, 2006

Press Contact: Darrell Geist, 406-646-0070

West Yellowstone, MT: Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) agents captured two bull bison this afternoon in the Duck Creek buffalo trap located on private land less than 200 yards from the western border of Yellowstone National Park. The buffalo were chased more than 8 miles from the Horse Butte Peninsula by agents shooting explosive cracker rounds from trucks, ATVs, and horses.

The bulls had been grazing peacefully in the Yellowstone Village subdivision, which the agents entered against the wishes of local residents who recently passed protective covenants against such bison hazing and capture operations. During the operation the bulls were chased into barbed-wire fences.

“Today’s capture demonstrates the DOL’s stubborn refusal to accept sound science and sharply contradicts recent statements made by Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer about the need to increase tolerance for bison in the state,” said Dan Brister of the Buffalo Field Campaign.

When he ran for office, Schweitzer said that management of buffalo and the protection of Montana’s brucellosis-free status should be determined by “science, not hyperbole,” and that the MDOL is “ill equipped” to manage wild buffalo in the State of Montana.

“If the Department of Livestock is concerned about disease, then Governor Schweitzer should send them out to watch cattle fences,” said Darrell Geist, a member of the Buffalo Field Campaign. “When local ranchers import cattle to graze on the bison’s native habitat, it should be the ranchers job to mind their cattle. If they want help from the state to protect their cattle, it shouldn’t be at the expense of native bison or their habitat.”

“We are asking Governor Schweitzer to set these buffalo free,” said Dan Brister. “We hold him personally responsible for their welfare.”

Last winter the DOL and National Park Service killed 1,010 Yellowstone bison. The Yellowstone herd is both behaviorally and genetically unique and is America’s only herd to continuously occupy its native habitat.

The Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field, every day, to stop the slaughter of the wild Yellowstone buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo and their native habitat and advocate for their lasting protection. For more information visit:

Video footage of today’s capute is available on requestLink to Buffalo Field Campaign

Judge reinstates ‘Roadless Rule’

This is from USA Today, but I have been getting email too about this great, if tentative, victory over Bush and his band of wild country pillagers.

Reinstatement of Clinton’s rule protecting the remaining unroaded areas (5000 acres or larger) on Forest Service managed public lands will protect the environment, protect wildlife habitat, scenery, and the taxpaying citizens of America.

Idaho’s Governor Jim Risch plans to go ahead anyway despite court ruling on roadless. This is a late Sept. 20 story from the AP in the Idaho Statesman.

In the short run this makes little difference because areas are roadless because they are steep, rocky, high, cold, and maybe arid. Cutting trees and building roads are uneconomic unless an enormous subsidy is given by the federal government. Of course there are interests in Idaho who would love the handout to log areas miles from towns in the name of forest fire prevention.

It is true that the issue might end up before the Supreme Court.

Sept. 21. Risch’s proposal was announced today. Article by Rocky Barker in the Idaho Statesman.

The governor’s argument used to justify possible logging in about 7 million acres out of the 9 million roadless acres on Idaho’s national forests is fire prevention. Idaho politicians used say “timber jobs,” but in recent years fire prevention has become a politically more popular justification for not conserving roadless areas.

Fire prevention is a bad argument because roadless areas are not where fires disproportionately start, nor do the most damage. The places where the trees need to be thinned is around the mountain sub-divisions.

It is true that conifer killing insects are heavy in many places in Idaho, but they are in the increase all over the West, including especially Canada. Why is this? Much of it is caused by recent warm winters. Cold winters used to bring the insect populations down. No amount of feasible forest thinning is going to alter this scary fact. Winters now are warmer. Insects will kill more trees.
Fires kills the insects better than logging does, not to mention uneconomic logging. I think we are witnessing what one would expect in a warming climate, gradually the forests are replaced by grasslands. Insects and fires (or logging) is the first step.

Sinapu has a much more detailed story on the reaction to the new roadless decision.

Sept. 29. “Wild Bill” (Bill Schneider) has a good analysis in New West.

Exasperation builds over escaped elk

Exasperation builds over escaped elk. Owner clashes with hunter, landowner as neighbors criticize condition of herd and delays in rounding up escapees. By Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman.

Wildlife on highway warning system finally gets going in Yellowstone Park

U.S. 191 that cuts through a piece of Yellowstone near its NW boundary has long been a wildlife slaughter alley (elk, moose, deer, bears, wolves, and human slaughter too). A high tech warning system was installed in 2002, but glitches kept it inoperative, and there was consideration of dismantling it. Now it has got the go ahead.

Of course it is still inoperative.

Story in the Billings Gazette by Mike Stark.

Posted in Deer, Elk, Moose, Wolves. Comments Off on Wildlife on highway warning system finally gets going in Yellowstone Park

Stanley withdraws support for CIEDRA. City takes neutral position, but still wants land transfers

This is the followup to an earlier story below.

Steven Benson of the Idaho Mountain Express has written a long story about the emergency Sunday meeting in Stanley last Sunday that lasted for hours. Read article.

Sept. 21. Now the Challis Messinger has its article on the meeting. It’s by Anna Means. Read article.

The town withdrew its support for the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (a wilderness bill, with side-payments to non and anti-wilderness interests). The town council was narrowly not swayed by a Boise motorized enthusiast who tried to dictate a resolution to the council that would put Stanley against the bill.

Posted in politics, privatization, public lands, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on Stanley withdraws support for CIEDRA. City takes neutral position, but still wants land transfers

Shooter – bull [elk] public hearing set for Sept. 20. Blackfoot, ID

Penned elk shooting is now really a hot topic in Eastern Idaho. They expect a big turnout.

Idaho State Journal article (Pocatello).

Posted in Elk, politics. Comments Off on Shooter – bull [elk] public hearing set for Sept. 20. Blackfoot, ID

Yellowstone wolf watching update

I get a lot of email about wolves in Yellowstone. Is this a good time to see them? NO

Dr. Doug Smith told me that the only viewing action is off and on in the Lamar and lower Slough Creek Pack and in Antelope Creek (that’s on the road between Tower Falls and Mt. Washburn).

The Slough Creek Pack is visible off an on in the Lamar Valley and the mouth of Slough Creek. The Agate Pack is moving around a lot, but they still pass through Antelope Creek.

All of the packs except one have left their rendezvous sites (Swan Lake has not yet). The pups are travelling with the full packs as they hunt.

Some have asked me about grizzly bears, wolves and the elk rut (which is in full swing). Both grizzlies and wolves know about the rut and to look for wounded bull elk. Unfortunately for wolf watchers much of the rut is up high away from roads, and packs like the Druids are still up high.

Outside Yellowstone Park, the elk hunting season (for humans) is on, and that means full bellies for wolves (and grizzlies) who know plenty about gut piles (their favorite) and about wounded deer and elk.

There seems to have been an escalation of small scale attacks on livestock by wolves lately (see the controversy on the planned Idaho Wolf Control). The elk hunting season helps stave this off by leaving plenty of food for hard pressed packs (this is the hardest time of the year for wolves to get food in settings where they have to chase down their prey).

Escaped farm-raised elk may never be found, Idaho officials say.

What Idaho officials say and what Rex Rammell says seem to differ greatly. Article in the Times-News

Beaver return to Yellowstone Park. Wolf restoration may be key factor

After years of decline, beaver are returning to Yellowstone Park. Before and after wolves were reintroduced, it was predicted that by clearing elk of the the dying willow patches, the willows would grow and beavers come back. While the cause of beaver coming back is not certain, it is in line with predictions made over ten years ago.

Article in Billings Gazette by Mike Stark.

Posted in Elk, Wolves. Comments Off on Beaver return to Yellowstone Park. Wolf restoration may be key factor

Wildlife Services plans major Western Idaho wolf removals

You can decide whether this control is warranted based on Bang’s report. The Lick Creek Pack has probably killed a lot of sheep. The others are less clear. They kill a wolf for killing a ewe?

Interestingly, some anonymous person emailed me all the Wildlife Service’s data for the operation. In the interest of letting them know the public is watching, here it is. I like this kind of email. It is what blogs are set up to report.

If you are tired of having our native wildlife killed on our public lands where they run livestock at your taxpayer expense, you would do well to join or donate to the Western Watersheds Project.This is true even if you don’t like wolves. What about the elk that have sheep and cattle chowing down the grass that remains? What about the disease passed from domestic sheep to the much more valuable bighorn sheep?
I would strongly urge folks not to try and interfere with this operation, although I don’t see how anyone could. I deleted the radio codes and the frequencies.
– – – –

Helicopter Wolf Hunt Plan for September 2006 on Payette and Boise National Forests
Day 1 (9/21/06 tentative)

-Begin from New Meadows FS Helipad.
-Notify Payette FS Dispatch (Gary Murphy) where hunt will take place.
-Fly Lick Creek Pack North of New Meadows.
-Notify Payette FS Dispatch (121.725) when WS aircraft exit the area.
-If time permits, fly to Jughandle (East of Donnelly) and work on Gold Fork Pack.
-Notify Payette Dispatch (121.725) when WS aircraft exit the area.
-Land in Cascade

Day 2 (9/22/06 tentative)

-If necessary, return to finish work on Gold Fork Pack.
-If not, proceed to Mt. Home area and notify Boise FS Dispatch that WS aircraft are in the area.
-Work on Danskin Mountain Pack.
-If possible, fly to Trinity Lakes area and notify Boise FS Dispatch
-Work on Steel Mountain Pack.
-Notify Boise FS Dispatch when WS aircraft exit the area.
-Land in Pine.

Day 3 & 4 (9/23 & 25/06 tentative)
-If possible/necessary finish work on Steel Mountain Pack.
-Make sure Boise FS dispatch is notified if operations are going to take place.


WS ASD George Graves (378-5077w/362-5676h)
WS Media Relations Teresa Howes (970-494-7410)
WS Crewmember Kelly Parker
WS Fixed-winged pilot Joe Dory , Radio code [deleted]
WS ground crew for New Meadows area Doug Hansen, Radio code [deleted]
WS ground crew for Jughandle area Justin Mann, Radio code [deleted]
WS ground crew for Danskin and Trinity Lakes areas Jared Hedelius , Radio code [deleted]
Helicopter Pilot Dave Savage
Payette FS Dispatch Gary Murphy
Boise FS Dispatch Chris Miller
IDFG Steve Nadeau
USFWS Law Enforcement Scott Kabasa
WS F/W “Husky” white with red marks. N96186
Bell 47G-3B-1. white and yellow with green marks . N6252N

Radio information:
WS will be operating [I deleted this]
Payette FS dispatch will be operating on [I deleted this]
Boise FS dispatch will be operating on [I deleted this]”

– – – –

I am not totally opposed to Widlife Services. A lot of people would like to see this agency abolished. I think they sometimes are helpful and there a few good people in their numbers, but they need to have the aerial gunning money cut dramatically. How much money does it cost to gun down a couple wolves that killed 5 sheep? Ralph

Battle to control lake trout in Yellowstone lake being slowly won?

It looks like progress is being made reducing the numbers of lake trout in Yellowstone Lake. The method is gill neting, however. This takes constant effort and money. The article mentions $400,000 a year, not much comparied to the benefits for human anglers and the many birds and mammals that feed on the Yellowstone cutthroat trout that the non-native late trout eat.

For those in not familiar with the matter. Yellowstone Lake and its upstream tributaries were home only to Yellowstone cutthroat trout until the late 1980s when lake trout got into the lake. Lake trout are usless to wildlife because they live deep and spawn deep. Worse, they eat cutthroat trout.

Lake trout are, therefore, an ecological disaster and financial loss to anlers who can only catch lake trout by using a boat and fishing deep. Those who prefer flycasting the lake and streams find success much reduced from the 1980s.

Here is a long article today in the Billings Gazette. “Gillnetting effort ‘making a dent’ in lake trout in Yellowstone Lake.” By Mike Stark.

Rain, cold weather suddenly quells many Idaho-Montana wildfires.

Today it is 30 degrees colder than a couple days ago. It has rained widely in Idaho and western Montana. One to 2 inches fell on the massive Derby and Jungle fires south of Big Timber, MT.

It is not supposed to warm up again except just a little and more showers are predicted. The summer fire season is probably over. 8,779,061 acres have burned in the United States so far this year, compared to the 10-year average of 4,963,059 acres.

Nevada, which got little publicity, had the most acreage burned. Folks may say “well they are only range fires,” but range fires are devasting the West. Range fires used to be every 30 to 80 years, but the invasion of cheatgrass over a hundred million acres has altered the fire ecology, greatly favoring fire, and gradually burning out everything but more cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum).

Sept. 17 from Montana. Bozeman Chonicle. “Area closures lifted after fires peter out.”
– – – – –

Here in SE Idaho today I drove 40 miles over to the Deep Creek Range to see the aftermath of the Rockland Fire. It was completely out and all the fire fighters gone, even though it was burning a week ago.

This is near the north end of the burn. They pretty well painted the mountain
with fire retardant. I don’t think this will be a damaging burn unless a lot of cheat-
grass invades. The mountains are very steep and rocky. Firelines like the one
cut up the slope in the photo can become a magnet for thoughtless off-road
vehicle riders. There are one of worst offenders in spreading weeds.
Photo Copyright © Ralph Maughan

Posted in Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Rain, cold weather suddenly quells many Idaho-Montana wildfires.

The terrible ethics in the Bush Department of Interior

I first posted about Bush’s Dept. of Interior being ethically challenged on Sept. 13, but now an editorial from the New York Times makes me think I need to post an update. Read editorial “Interior’s Internal Messes.”

And Time Magazine just weighed in too. Read “Department of Billion-dollar Bungling. How the Interior Department managed to lose about $2 billion of the public’s money. Can this mess be cleaned up?” By Douglas Waller.
– – – –

Post from Sept. 13.
In the 19th Century, the Department of Interior (DOI) was often regarded as the “Department of Corruption,” with the General Land Office being the worst division.

It was the location of one of America’s biggest government scandals in Warren Harding Administration — the Teapot Dome Scandal. People went to prison.

Over the years the Department, which houses the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and more, has gained some luster.

Unfortunately, more recently the tarnish has come back, thicker than ever. Now as then, the major location of corruption is oil and gas leasing, now done by the Bureau of Land Management, the successor agency to the old site of scandal, the General Land Office.

And now, the Inspector general of the Department of the Interior, is going to tell a congressional committee about it.

ABC News. The Mess at the Depatment of Interior.

Still more on the escaped domestic elk in Idaho

This is really a big issue. It keeps evolving and more editorials are being written.

“State OKs special hunt for escaped farm elk. Concern over disease prompts decision; hunters and property owners from [Hunting] Unit 64 will do most of the culling.” By Roger Phillips. Read Idaho Statesman article.

Wild Bill:” “Game Farms: Will We Learn Our Lesson Before It Is Too Late? Or Is It Already Too Late?” By Bill Schneider. New West. Bill Schneider, publisher and columnist lives in Montana where the citizens eliminated canned hunts and clamped down on game farms by means of a ballot initiave.

“Game-farm breakout highlights risks.” Missoulian editorial. ‘Summary: Montana clamped down on game farms, but risks persist right across the Idaho line.’ ” Read the full editorial.

Posted in wildlife disease. Comments Off on Still more on the escaped domestic elk in Idaho

There is at least one wolf in NE Oregon

Earlier I posted about one or more wolf sightings in the Wallowa Mtns. of NE Oregon. Now the presence of one black male wolf has been verified. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife say they are sure it is a wild wolf.

Reporter Michael Milstein of the Oregonian has an article about it today. He used to write for the Billings Gazette in Montana, and he produced numerous wolf stories back in those days. Read Oregonian article.

Posted in Wolf dispersal, Wolves. Comments Off on There is at least one wolf in NE Oregon

CIEDRA drama escalating in Stanley. Emergency meeting set for Sunday

For those who haven’t followed it CIEDRA is “Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act,” which some call the “Wilderness Bill” for the White Cloud Mountains, but it involves a lot more. It is sponsored by Idaho Republican US Representative Mike Simpson who crafted a bill that barely convinced diverse interests to support what might be the first Wilderness Bill in Idaho in 26 years!

However, the bill has many detractors, both on the Wilderness side and anti-Wilderness side. One of the keys for getting support from the anti-Wilderness Custer County Commissions was privatization of public land, and one of places where it would be privatized is on the hill behind Stanley, Idaho.

I have supported CIEDRA, though with little enthusiasm. I have warned Idaho conservationists that the Senate could be real danger (the bill passed the House this summer). The bill is now in the hands of Idaho US Senator Larry Craig, who has always been a die-hard supporter of the traditional extractive uses of the public lands, and not a supporter of “consensus processes” like Rep. Simpson used.

It looks like Craig is up to his old tricks, and the folks in Stanley who don’t share the views of their Custer County Commissioners are worried about what he is up-to.

That is what the story in the Idaho Mountain Express is about, “CIEDRA drama escalating in Stanley. Emergency meeting set for Sunday.”

On top of the hill behind Stanley, ID with the Sawtooth Range
in the background. The land on top of the hill would be privatized
by CIEDRA. Copyright Ralph Maughan

There are a lot of earlier stories about CIEDRA and other wilderness/roadless news on my old web page.

– – – –

Update on Sept. 18. I heard they had quite a meeting in Stanley on Sunday. I hope the Idaho Mountain Express and the Challis Messenger got the good parts, and the gist of what was going on. The Express publishes on Wednesday and the Messenger on Thursday.

Jungle fire roars out of the Wilderness

Jungle fire roars out of Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Gov’t photo.

I’m taking down the earlier story on the Jungle Fire because since then it has since roared out the West Boulder River and the Wildeness area, and burned all the way to the main Boulder River road. Several structures have been lost. Two days ago it was 5000 acres, at the beginning of Sept. 14, it was 20,000 acres. Now it is 32,000 acres. Fortunately, a summer-ending cold front has come into Montana (and Idaho), and the fire season may be over soon.
Here is the latest fire map, late on Sept. 14. It’s a good one on top of the topographic map.

Here is the latest news from the National Fire News (gov’t) web site.

According to the Billings Gazette, the flames were up to 400 feet high late Thursday. Read Article.

Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on Jungle fire roars out of the Wilderness

Likely wolf found dead in northern Utah coyote trap

An adult male canid, probably a wolf, was found dead in a coyote trap in Box Elder County in northern Utah. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it today. They are doing a DNA test. Wolf biologists have hundreds of blood samples of Yellowstone and Yellowstone area wolves, so they can tell if it is a wolf and if it came down from Wyoming. They might even be able to trace it to a certain wolf pack.

While a dead wolf may seem like bad news, the good news is they continue to make it to Utah. Eventually packs will form. In fact, I think there was a pack in the Bear River Range several years back, but I haven’t heard anything lately.


An article giving more information has appeared.

“Rare wolf pays visit to Utah, dies in trap. Discovery, second in Utah since ’02, revives talk of recolonization.” By Joe Baird. Salt Lake Tribune.

So, it was in the hills north of Tremonton, Utah. That’s not far from where a wolf was shot by a man from Pocatello — shot almost on the Utah/Idaho border several years back. In both cases the route down from Yellowstone is not so clear as it is for a wolf that shows up in the Bear River Range, which is more to the east.
Could be a wolf migrating down from Central Idaho.

More on the controversy over the escaped domestic elk in Idaho

The Missoulian has an editorial. “Game-farm breakout highlights risks.” “SUMMARY: Montana clamped down on game farms, but risks persist right across the Idaho line.”

So does the Idaho Statesman. “Our View: Elk escape shouldn’t tarnish industry.” The Stateman says most elk farms follow the rules and boost the economy, but the editorial says “canned hunts” on some elk farms do not reflect Idaho values.”

Residents of Rock Creek, MT fight back against Oregon developer

This is a microcosm of what is going on all over the West — out-of-state developer comes in; local residents are no longer passive, and they fight back.

Read about the Rock Creek struggle (Rock Creek is one of the most famous fishing streams in the West).

Unfortunately, and there has been little publicity so far, a New York developer and libertarian organizations have used paid signature gatherers to get a ballot initiative this fall in almost every Western state. This initiative basically says abolish all your laws regulating land use, or pay (usually a developer) for the diminishment of his or her land value (as when they can’t legally sub-divide agricultural land).

In Montana it is Initiative 154.

It is being advertised as a way to protect your property rights, but in fact the ones “protected” are those who are economically and politically powerful. For accuracy’s sake, these initiatives should be named “the bad neighbor empowerment act.”

Update, Great News on the Montana ballot initiatives!

Judge throws out ballot initiatives
Great Falls Tribune Staff Writer

Judge says a “pervasive and general pattern of fraud” in signature gathering! Nevertheless, Idaho, Washington, California, and other Western states still have to face this sleazy attack on their land by these out-of-state forces. It could shake down the taxpayers for billions of dollars even as it abolishes all land use laws.

Update on Sept. 19. Courts strike down “property rights” initiative in three more states.”

Read about it in New West.

Warming Climate May Put Chill On Arctic Polar Bear Population

Polar bears are getting skinnier and pushing inland as the polar ice continues to melt. Because they are inland longer and deeper, more people see them, giving the impression that the population is actually growing when the opposite is true.

Read the article in Science Daily

Posted in Bears, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Warming Climate May Put Chill On Arctic Polar Bear Population

Idaho F&G may open hunt for escaped [domestic] elk, but owner says animals pose no threat

Rocky Barker has an article on the controversial elk escape in today’s Idaho Statesman. In Idaho when Barker writes a story, that means its big news. Story.

The Jungle fire burns rapidly north toward homes. Fire season to end soon?

This Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness wildfire, not far from the Derby Fire, could burn out of the Wilderness into the summer homes and residences that line the West Boulder River north of the Wilderness. Watching the satellite map yesterday, I could see it was putting up a huge plume, one as visible as the Derby Fire. Article on Montana fires north of Yellowstone Park.

The Bozeman Chronicle reports the flames were 200 feet high!

Detailed map of the Jungle Fire.

There is a cold front advancing into the Rockies. Today may be warm and windy, a very bad fire day, but by this weekend the fire season could be just about over.

Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on The Jungle fire burns rapidly north toward homes. Fire season to end soon?

Welcome to the conflicted West

The “new west” is the most densely populated part of the United States, and yet there are still vast wide open spaces. It’s a place where imagination of the concept of the West is more important than the reality we live in.

So says Hal Rothman in this essay for Writers on the Range.

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Welcome to the conflicted West

Idaho wolves kill 34 sheep, ID bear kills 130 sheep. Which event gets covered by media?

The story how the new Lick Creek wolf pack killed 34 sheep (25 lambs, 9 ewes) is a bit old now. The media have covered it (many newspapers and some TV), but now Idaho Fish and Game has a news release on the event, and second event that didn’t seem to be worthy of news — a black bear in Eastern Idaho killed 130 sheep. This is more sheep than all the wolves in Idaho have killed this year (94 sheep).

However, more than 34 sheep are missing, so there is another opportunity for a wolf-bashing story.

Does anyone wonder why animosity to wolves lingers, given the coverage? It is fortunate that ID Fish and Game issues these full updates.

Here is the ID Fish and Game news release which is full of interesting news, such as their estimate that 170 wolf pups were born in Idaho this year. Of course, from 10 to 50% won’t survive to next year, and a number of adult Idaho wolves have died or been killed, so it is not appropriate to take last year’s numbers and add 170.

8 domesticated elk killed by Idaho Fish and Game officers

Here is more on the on-going story of the elk that escaped from the Chief Joseph hunting reserve, and the State of Idaho’s effort to kill them. Article

Posted in Elk, wildlife disease. Comments Off on 8 domesticated elk killed by Idaho Fish and Game officers

Derby wildfire’s long-term effect on fish unknown

Gains were made on the Derby fire yesterday.

While the fire may still explode again, people are beginning to think about the aftermath effects on wildlife. My impression is that this fire has been hotter than the great Yellowstone fires of 1988, and the effects on fish and wildlife may be more severe. An article in the Billings Gazette speaks to the fish. Read article.

Of course, in 5 to 10 years things ought to be back to normal. The habitat might even be improved (especially for ungulates) as it has been the case with the many fires in central Idaho over the years. Of course, the landscape is dissimilar to central Idaho.

Posted in Fish, Wildfires. Comments Off on Derby wildfire’s long-term effect on fish unknown

Destructive insects multiply in forests due to warm winters

Warm winters harm conifers in many ways leaving them open to insect attack. Presently insects are killing millions of acres of trees in Alaska. See article by Dan Joling, Associated Press.

What the article doesn’t say it, this is not just happening in Alaska. It is happening throughout the West. British Columbia has an even bigger infestation, and the Western states are all fighting insects. The tress are dying, and they are burning to the double whammy of insects and drought.

The result will be just what you would expect on a warming planet — the forests will be replaced by grasslands.

Sept. 13. There is another article just out on this in the Idaho Mountain Express by Steve Benson. “Why is 2006 fire season so severe?”

Posted in Trees Forests, wildfire, Wildfires. Comments Off on Destructive insects multiply in forests due to warm winters

Hearings on Montana’s grizzly plan start soon (actually Sept. 11)

Here is the information from Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks on the public meetings

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will hold several public meetings around west-central Montana this month to discuss a draft management plan and programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) for grizzly bears in 17 counties located in western Montana.

A meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13 in Lincoln at Lambkins Restaurant, and a Sept. 25 meeting is planned for Hamilton at the Daly-Lead Memorial Chapel, 1010 W. Main. The Missoula meeting will be held Sept. 26 at the Missoula FWP office, 3201 Spurgin Road, and the Seeley Lake meeting is planned for Sept. 27 at the Senior Citizens’ Center. All meetings will be held from 7:00-9 p.m.

The draft Grizzly Bear Management Plan for Western Montana was developed to address the future of grizzly bear management in western Montana outside of the Greater Yellowstone Area. The plan focuses on grizzly bear populations or potential populations in the Northern Continental Divide, Cabinet-Yaak, and Bitterroot Ecosystems, as well as surrounding areas.

In response to an increase in the number and distribution of bears in western Montana, FWP developed the programmatic EIS to evaluate current management programs and ensure the future success of grizzly bear conservation.

“Our goal is to find ways to fit grizzly bears in across a broader landscape as a part of Montana’s wildlife heritage and respond to the increasing number and distribution of bears,” said A. Dood, FWP Endangered Species Coordinator. “After completing the grizzly bear plan for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, we began the process of reviewing our programs for the rest of western Montana.”

The draft EIS is available for review in Bozeman at FWP’s Region 3 Headquarters (1400 South 19 th Avenue), and in Helena at the FWP Headquarters, the Montana State Library, and the Environmental Quality Council. It is also available on FWP’s website at: or by calling the FWP regional headquarters in Bozeman at 406-994-4042. Please email comments by Oct. 3, 2006 to, or mail to A. Dood, FWP, 1400 South 19 th Avenue, Bozeman 59718.

– – –

Sonja Lee at the Great Falls Tribune has a Sept. 11 story on the upcoming hearings and the issue. Read her story.
– – – –
Sept 13. Not many people showed up at the meeting in Choteau (show toe) or Great Falls. Local response underwhelming on grizzly management plan. By Eric Newhouse. Great Falls Tribune.

Posted in Bears, public lands. Comments Off on Hearings on Montana’s grizzly plan start soon (actually Sept. 11)

WWP wins appeal of FS grazing decision on 191,000 acres in Martin Basin, Nevada

The Western Watersheds Project continues its amazing run of appeals against Forest Service and BLM condoned livestock grazing abuses. Here they planned to open up part of the Santa Rosa Wilderness in Northern Nevada to livestock grazing, but the regional office of the Forest Service (region 4–Intermountain Region) struck down the new grazing “plan” by the FS’s Santa Rosa District.

The Western Watersheds Project issued a news release today on the victory. It follows →

Western Watersheds Project
News Release
September 11, 2006

Jon Marvel: 208-788-2290
Katie Fite: 208-429-1679

Jon Marvel: 208-788-2290
Katie Fite: 208-429-1679
News Release: Western Watersheds Project

The Martin Basin Grazing Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision for 8 grazing allotments totaling 191,000 acres of mountainous high desert country near McDermitt, Nevada has been overturned by the Forest Service’s Intermountain Region in Ogden, Utah.

The regional office’s decision affirmed Western Watersheds Project’s Appeal of the Forest Service Record of Decision.

The Santa Rosa Ranger District had prepared a Draft Grazing EIS that proposed modest positive changes to address ongoing cattle damage to public lands – including streams, fragile springs and seeps and sagebrush, aspen and mountain mahogany uplands. These changes included requiring modern-day and uniform standards of cattle use for all permittees. The result would have been more protective grass cover remaining on streambanks and slopes of cattle-damaged watersheds, and better aspen regeneration. Right now, aspen clones in the Santa Rosa Range are becoming extinct due to cattle browse.

Unhappy with controls on cattle abuses, politically connected public lands ranchers unwilling to heal the damaged public lands hijacked the EIS process, and pressured the Forest to insert a livestock industry “Collaboration” Alternative in the Final EIS.

Portions of that Cattleman’s Alternative were chosen by departing Forest Supervisor Robert Vaught in the project’s Record of Decision. The so-called collaboration process consisted of closed-door meetings between the Forest and the permittee – where the Forest Service would be required to consider any proposals by the livestock industry for grazing on particular allotments. This contrasts sharply with the fair and uniform standards of use originally proposed by the Forest. The Forest Decision also included opening to livestock grazing two large allotments that had been closed, including one within the Santa Rosa Wilderness.

The Martin Basin area includes large portions of the Santa Rosa Wilderness, and several occupied Lahontan cutthroat trout streams, as well as important mountain quail, sage grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat.

“The Forest’s Decision was a travesty”, said Katie Fite WWP’s biodiversity director. This so-called “collaboration” left the door wide open for political arm-twisting by permittees unwilling to change harmful grazing practices. The end result would have been even more cattle-caused noxious weeds, more loss of surface water in springs and seeps, more manure in streams, and increased loss of LCT, demise of aspen clones, and loss of sage grouse habitats in this beautiful area”.

Jon Marvel, executive director of WWP said: “This Martin Basin EIS was the result of previous litigation by WWP to protect high desert springs and seeps, and the remand of the Martin Basin EIS affirms WWP’s conclusion that this was a truly bad decision.”

Posted in Grazing and livestock, public lands, public lands management, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on WWP wins appeal of FS grazing decision on 191,000 acres in Martin Basin, Nevada

Officials hope to keep Derby Fire away from Big Timber

Some residents of this town fear the fire will take their town. Personally, I doubt it because it is out on the plains. No forest connects the fire to the town. Map

The fire is now 207,000 acres. Official hope to check Derby Fire. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette.

Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on Officials hope to keep Derby Fire away from Big Timber

Idaho law and regulations governing domestic cervidae farms

While this is potentially a lot of reading, there is a good link to the Idaho law governing deer family (Cervidae) farms and  rules issued under the law. The link also goes to rules on importing animals. Laws and rules.

Posted in Deer, Elk. 4 Comments »

Idaho let elk breeder off the hook in 2002

“[Idaho State Senator Laird] Noh wasn’t surprised. Rammell is a familiar name, a man Noh described in 2002 as a ‘bad actor’ who shouldn’t have been ‘legislated off the books’ when state lawmakers forgave some $750,000 in fines that the elk breeder owed to the state for numerous violations.”
–  –  –  –
The newspapers are still writing about the escaped domestic “elk” which are being described as “elk/red deer hybirds.” Oh great!

The Casper Star Tribune tells more about how the Idaho Legislature let Rex Rammell off the hook back in 2002. Read Article.

18 fires, 320,000 acres burn in Idaho. Remote Yellow Pine on alert for evacuation

Although Idaho doesn’t have a giant fire like the Derby fire in Montana, there more large fires are burning in Idaho than any state. Substantial new fires emerge every day

The Green Canyon fire near the Utah, Idaho, Nevada border has finally been contained.

Yellow Pine is a very remote mountain town, and could be evacuated. This government map shows that road access could be cut off by fires.

Read about it in the Idaho Statesman today. Article

Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on 18 fires, 320,000 acres burn in Idaho. Remote Yellow Pine on alert for evacuation

Owyhee Initiative–vast area in SW Idaho–sparks controversy

Groups like the Sierra Club, Idaho Conservation League, Nature Conservancy and Wilderness Society support the legislation recently introduced by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, though they have plenty of reservations.

Other groups like the Western Watersheds Project, Committee for Idaho’s High Desert, and the Idaho Wildlife Federation oppose it as a give-away to ranchers that locks in years of grazing abuse in exchange for poorly protected designated Wilderness.

Due to the importance of this issue for conservation, wildlife, and scenery, below are some links expressing various points of view on the Owyhee Initiative.

Folks have been working for 20 or more years to protect this huge hinterland.

Owyhee This is a joint web site put up by conservation groups that support it.
Owyhee This web site by Committee for the High Desert, and Payette Forest Watch against the Initiative.

Senator Crapo on the Owyhee Initiative. Crapo took the “consensus language” and put it in the bill he introduced.

Recent news story on the bill. “Owyhee Initiative begins its trek through Congress.” Read the article in the [Twin Falls] Times-News. Article.

Jon Marvel: Owyhee bill is a theft of public lands.” Sept. 9, 2006 guest opinion in the Idaho Statesman. Marvel is the E.D. of the Western Watersheds Project which opposes the bill.

In one of the many Owyhee Canyons. Photo Copyright © Lee Mercer
Owyhee Mountains at sunset. Copyright © Ralph Maughan

Dr. Paul Beier’s List of Mountain Lion attacks

I found a better list of mountain lion attacks than the one I posted the other day. It is maintained by a wildlife ecology professor. Cougar Attacks on Humans in the United States and Canada

Posted in wildcats. Comments Off on Dr. Paul Beier’s List of Mountain Lion attacks

Greater Yellowstone grizzlies said to be doing well this year.

Mark Haroldson, Wildlife Biologist for the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team at the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center was quoted by Idaho Fish and Game reporting the following reproduction and motatility statistics:

As of September 1, 2006, 8 human-caused grizzly bear mortalities have been documented in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. These losses resulted from 2 road kills, 1 mistaken identity kill, 1 management removal, and 4 that are under investigation. Six of the documented mortalities to date were male bears; 2 were females. In addition, a skull was found from a bear that likely died during the fall of 2003. Cause of death could not be determined.

Preliminary numbers this year indicate at least 46 unique females with cubs of the year. Haroldson stated “this year’s high count of females was expected after last years lower than normal count of 31. This was likely due to more females available for breeding during 2005 and a relatively good pine nut crop that fall.” Haroldson went on to say that “overall, in addition to whitebark pine, we have had a good food year with abundant biscuit root, yampa, clover, and berries, plus very few bear-human conflicts.”

Posted in Bears. 2 Comments »

More on the escaped elk

Idaho Fish and Game has a news release today on the elk.

– – –

Date: September 8, 2006
Contact: Ed Mitchell
(208) 334-3700

Governor Risch authorizes immediate harvesting of escaped elk



September 7, 2006

(208) 334-2100
BOISE – Governor Jim Risch signed an emergency Executive Order today authorizing the immediate destruction of all domestic elk that recently escaped from an elk farm in eastern Idaho.

“There is a crisis facing our elk herds in eastern Idaho. Because of the escape of domestic elk that was not reported as required by law, we now have these farm-raised elk mingling with our wild elk herds,” said Risch. The Executive Order I have signed authorizes the employees of Fish and Game and the Department of Agriculture to immediately harvest these domestic elk. The order will also allow the Fish and Game Commission to put into place emergency rules to authorize licensed hunters and private property owners to take these elk without a tag. This emergency action is being taken to protect our wild elk herds in Idaho. There is a serious risk of disease and an altered gene pool from these domestic elk and I am authorizing these activities to begin at the earliest time possible.”

Governor Risch held an emergency meeting Thursday with employees of the Fish and Game and Agriculture to develop an action plan to eradicate the escaped domestic elk.

On August 14 a complaint was filed with state agencies about some domestic elk had escaped from a private elk ranch in Fremont County. It is estimated that 160 elk had escaped through a hole in the fence. Attempts to recapture the animals have had only limited success.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has given 24 hours notice that they will adopt emergency rules that will allow licensed elk hunters and private property owners to harvest the domestic elk. The Commissioners will meet by conference call at 3 p.m. Friday.

Domestic elk are required to have two identify marks and ear tagging is the common method for marking. The identification tags from the harvested elk must be reported to the local Fish and Game office. While not required, tissue samples from the domestic elk is being requested to allow further testing of the animal.

The Department of Agriculture has oversight of elk farms in the state, but state law does not require the licensure of the facilities.

Wild wolves again might be at home in Oregon

I got some email and there was a post further down in the blog that there is fairly good evidence that a group or a pack of wolves has formed in Eastern Oregon near or in the Wallowa Mountains. The Wallowas are close to Hells Canyon which is the Oregon-Idaho border. There are wolf packs near Hells Canyon on the Idaho side. While it’s doubtful wolves would cross Hells Canyon in the summer (it may be the hottest place in Idaho at the bottom), they could easily swim the Snake River, at its bottom, in the winter.

The story in in todays Oregonian. Read article.

I have received emails and oral reports of wolves in the Wallowas, mostly near Halfway, OR for several years now.

Elk in the lupine at Little Eagle Meadows in the Wallowa
Mountains, NW of Halfway, OR. Copyright © Ralph Maughan
This is on the south side of the Wallowas

Wyoming adopts its first cougar plan

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has adopted the first mountain lion management plan the state has ever had.

The Wyoming Wildlife Federation welcomed the plan.

The Casper Star Tribune has the article. Read it.

Added on Sept. 20. Here is a link (pdf file) to the Wyoming Mountain Lion Plan.

Derby fire burns on. Nearby fires grow too


The Derby Fire

Credit: Mike Granger, Division Supervisor

Winds continued to drive the Derby Fire yesterday, now at 195,000 acres. Three other fires burned in the Absaroka mountains portion of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness north of Yellowstone Park: Pine Creek, Jungle Creek and Passage Falls. The Big Creek Fire in the Gallatin Range, west of Paradise Valley, is threatening to burn into the Bozeman City watershed.

Information and stories:

  • Rancher laments backfire that likely killed cattle. Billings Gazette article.
  • Map of all these fires.
  • Story in the Billings Gazette. Read article.

September 9. Firefighters have a good day. Billings Gazette article.

Posted in Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat. Tags: . Comments Off on Derby fire burns on. Nearby fires grow too

Regional Web Cams

I have made links to web cams in Idaho, Western Montana and Western Wyoming (wolf country)-

Alpine, ID/WY web cam. Located on the Idaho-Wyoming border looking east to the mouth of the Snake River Canyon.

Apgar Mountain web cam. This is a backcountry web cam in Glacier National Park

Bitteroot. View of the Bitterroot Mtns from Bitterroot Valley, MT.

Boise, ID. Several web cams. Very wide angle.

Bondurant, WY. South of Jackson between the Gros Ventre Range and the Wyoming Range.

Bozeman Pass. The summit on Interstate 90 between Bozeman and Livingston, MT.

Bozeman. Montana State University.

Brundage Mountain. A ski area north of McCall, Idaho.

Cooke City, MT
more Cooke City

Daniel (WY). South of Daniel on the west side of Hwy 189 and pointed to the east.

Electric Peak and Yellowstone River web cam. Electric Peak is the highest peak entirely inside Yellowstone Park. This cam also has the Yellowstone River in the foreground.

New! Elk City. A very remote north central Idaho town.

Fort Peck Lake (reservoir), MT. In northeast central Montana.

New! Gates of the Mountains. Near Helena, MT

New! Gilmore Summit. A pass between the Lemhi and Birch Creek Valleys.

Grand Teton National Park. A very good view from Lost Creek Ranch on the east side of the Park looking west.

Johnson Creek airport cam. Deep in the central Idaho mountains-

Kalispell, MT. NW Montana small city.

New! Henry’s Lake Flat. Beautiful large meadow. Notable for severe blizzards in the winter.

New High Uintas, Utah

Lander, WY. Main street of Lander, Wyoming on the east slope of the Wind River Range.

Lake Pend Oreille, ID. This is on Idaho’s largest lake. It’s in extreme northern Idaho — “The Panhandle.”

Lone Pine web cam. In the Birch Creek Valley between the Lemhi and Beaverhead Mountains.

Lolo Pass, ID/MT. On the stateline and Bitterroot Divide, U.S. Highway 12.

Lost Trail Pass. Idaho-Montana border highway.

Louis Lake Road. Near southern end of Wind River Range, west of Lander, WY.

Mammoth Hot Springs. Yellowstone National Park. (Mammoth is at a low elevation in the Park).Monida Pass. Just north of the Idaho/Montana order near the Continental Divide. Four views of I-15.

Missoula, MT. A downtown web cam.

Monida Pass, ID-MT. On the Continental Divide Interstate Highway crossing.

Old Faithful webcam.  A large view from inside the window of the new visitor center

Pinedale, WY. View from town to the NE looking at the Wind River Range.

Raynolds Pass, ID-MT. In Montana near the pass, looking across the highway. Raynolds Pass is the Continental Divide and also the Idaho/Montana border.

Salmon, ID. Syringa Lodge. View to the east of the Bitterroot Range of the Beaverheads (Continental Divide)

Sawtooth Camera. Located at Stanley, Idaho (view of the Stanley Basin and the Sawtooth Mountains)

Schell Creek Range. Eastern Nevada

Saint Mary, MT. In Glacier National Park.

South Pass, WY. South pass is at the south end of the Wind River Range.

Star Valley, WY. View of the Salt River Range from Star Valley, a long valley on the Wyoming/Idaho border, SW of Jackson, WY

Teton cam. This is at Driggs, ID. A telephoto cam of the West Slope of the Tetons. A panoramic view was recentlyake River Range, looking down the Idaho side. It’s not a great view. added. Teton Pass. On top of the Sn

The Tetons. From Spring Creek Ranch on a butte above Jackson, WY.

Teton Pass. A greatly improved web cam on Teton Pass. It gives 4 views.

Teton Valley web cam– Good of the West side of the Tetons — “Idaho side”

Two Medicine web cam– Glacier National Park.

West Yellowstone, Montana web cam

Whitefish Lake and Big Mountain– In NW Montana.

New. Willow Creek Summit. Central Idaho near Mount Borah.

Wind River Range view. From the top of the White Pine Ski Area, east of Pinedale, WY

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Grizzly captured, released in the Salish Mountains of Montana

Unless folks know the country, it might not seem unusual to learn a grizzly was captured and released in Northwest Montana. However, the Salish Range lies between the “Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem” and the “Cabinet-Yaak” grizzly recovery area.

Twenty years ago bear researchers hoped to find interchange of bears between the Cabinet-Yaak, and its small grizzly population and the much larger population in the Northern Continental Divide (Glacier NP, Bob Marshall, Great Bear, Scapegoat Wilderness, and surrounding country).

They found none, neither in NW Montana nor northward in B.C. This is the first officially located bear between the two areas.

A regenerating clearcut in the thickly forested Salish Range, Montana.
Copyright Ralph Maughan

Read the about it in the Daily InterLake (Kalispell, MT). Article.

Posted in Bears. Comments Off on Grizzly captured, released in the Salish Mountains of Montana

Six injured in rare wolf attack (Ontario)

An injured lone wolf attacked a number of people at Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Read about it in the Hamilton, Ontario newspaper. Article.

Posted in Wolves. 8 Comments »

[Derby] Blaze Devastates Wilderness Area Prized for Beauty

Being the largest forest fire in the country, the Derby fire is getting plenty of national attention. While they say it is “devastating a Wilderness Area,” the fire is actually burning on the edge of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Much of the country burned is scenie farm and pasture. The Times is using “wilderness” in a generic fashion.

As with the 1988 fires in Yellowstone, the beauty of the country will return. The devastation is temporary.

Read the New York Times article (free registration is required)

Posted in wildfire, Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on [Derby] Blaze Devastates Wilderness Area Prized for Beauty

Idaho game farm elk escape worries Wyoming.

It’s usually the other way arong, with Wyoming game management worrying Idaho. Wyoming elk even passed on brucellosis to Idaho cattle, causing Idaho to lose its “brucellosis free” status.

The escape of these farm elk into the greater Yellowstone elk population now worries Wyoming, a state with sloopy elk management, but also a state that does not permit elk farms or “hunts” of domesticated elk.

Worse still this article indicates the escaped elk are not really elk, but red deer, a related species from Europe. Red deer and elk do mate, and so pollution of the Yellowstone elk gene pool is likely.

Read about it in the Casper Star Tribune.

Late on Sept. 7. Now there’s more. Idaho’s Governor Jim Risch has signed an emergency order to carry out the “immediate destruction” of more than 100 domesticated elk that escaped from “the Chief Joseph private hunting reserve.” One article said the elk were bred to have especially large antlers. Is that so, or is it because they are really red deer? This needs to be cleared up.

The Idaho Statesman/AP has a longer article this morning, Sept. 8, on Governor’s Risch’s order. Read Article.

Job opening for working on wolf issues in Idaho

Qualifications: Degree in biology, natural resources, wildlife management, public policy, environmental studies, education or related field and at least two years experience working on wildlife conservation issues; excellent conflict management skills; strong writing, editing and communication skills, including familiarity working with media; capable of extended hiking and camping, and maintaining personal safety while in the field; general knowledge of federal and state agencies, laws and policies concerning wildlife management and predator control programs; comfortable with public
speaking; experience with cattle and sheep operations and grazing management desired; independent regional travel required during field season and as needed.

This position will be based in the Boise, Idaho field office, reporting to the Northern Rockies Representative in Boise. For omplete position description, go to:

Please reference Northern Rockies Associate and send resume, cover letter and salary history to Fax: 541-552-9652
Or mail to:
Defenders of Wildlife
258 A Street, Suite 16,
Ashland, OR 97520

Amaroq Weiss & Laura Jones
Co-moderators, PW-WIN
Defenders of Wildlife

Posted in Wolves. Comments Off on Job opening for working on wolf issues in Idaho

More than 100 domestic elk escape in Idaho near Yellowstone

People have been fearing this for a long time. Hopefully the domestic elk have no disease.

The politics of the whole is really disgusting, but perhaps the outcome will be to put strong controls on these private elk “hunting” reserves, and maybe like the good folks in Montana did, shut them down. They are an affront to real hunters, and they are proliferating in Idaho, giving us a bad name.

So this guy who owned the elk farm, Rex Rummell, continually defied Idaho’s Dept of Agriculture who wanted to inspect his elk for disease, including the dread chronic wasting disease. He defied them and ran to his buddies in the state legislature to get his past fines rescinded. After he got what he wanted, it looks like he continued to defy the law, and he didn’t even report the escape of the elk.

These domestic elk are supposed to have tags to readily identify them, but, of course, they don’t. Perhaps hunters will kill all of them in the upcoming season because they are likely to be unwary elk.

Read the AP article.

WY brucellosis elk test and slaughter failure, may lead to more not less brucellosis

A high proportion of Wyoming elk that reside on state run elk feedlots in the winter (or the National Elk Refuge near Jackson) are infected with or exposed to brucellosis. Elk that “winter out” have far lower infection rates, but WY Game and Fish, under pressure from ag interests, wants to keep those feedlots. So last winter they began a “test-and-slaughter” experiment near Pinedale to try to reduce the disease on the feedlots.

It failed, as many had predicted. The elk were killed for nothing.
Wyoming feedlot elk are center of brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone. It’s not YNP bison. Both Montana and Wyoming have there own separate mythologies (stories or narratives) about elk, bison, and brucellosis.

While Montana’s bison slaughter is irritating, the head-in-the-sand stance of Wyoming ag and Game and Fish is frightening because they leave an open door to chronic wasting disease (“mad elk” disease) with their feedlots.

Read about test-and-slaughter in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Article

Unhealthy smoke from fires covers much of Montana.

Read about it in the Billings Gazette. It’s especially bad near Yellowstone. Article

Foul air due to forest and range fire smoke has also canceled athletic events many miles to the southwest in Boise, Idaho. Article.

Posted in Wildfires. Comments Off on Unhealthy smoke from fires covers much of Montana.

Yellowstone bison herd down 1000 from last year.

Montana Department of Livestock and Yellowstone Park, who has been dragged into bison killing by the Bush Administration, sent more than a thousand to slaughter last winter. The controversial Montana bison hunt killed 45. There was winter mortality and minor predation by Yellowstone wolves.

This year the hunt will have 140 tags. A lot of people, including some hunters, are disappointed because Montana will continue to rely on Park bison. It won’t allow the bison outside the Park to establish a free roaming herd near West Yellowstone or in the upper Gallatin River which could support the hunt.

I expect we will soon be hearing the same tired rhetoric from Montana DOL about brucellosis and bison.

The Bozeman Chronicle has an article on the matter. Article

Update on the Cougar Creek wolf packs

The original Cougar Creek Pack is, as usual, in the Cougar Creek, Duck Creek, Gneiss Creek areas of Yellowstone Park. They may range west outside the Park. One of our Board members saw numerous wolf tracks on Horse Butte near Hebgen Lake.

Much of the range of this pack is in very thick lodgepole pine regeneration, and it is hard to get a sighting of them. As a result there is no pup count this year so far, although Doug Smith of Yellowstone Park told me they are assumed to have pups.

Last year half of the pack or more split and moved about 10 miles north to the NW corner of the Park, where the Chief Joseph Pack used to live. They were given the informal name of Cougar Creek II Pack.

Note that Chief Joe was one of the original reintroduced wolf packs (dating from 1996). However, Chief Joe had moved out of the Park, becoming a totally Montana wolf pack.

Today Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks gave me the update on the Cougar Creek II Pack.

They had lost contact with Cougar Creek II from April-July, probably due to radio collar antenna problems. However, they were relocated in July and seen regularly since. They range from Porcupine Creek on the north to Daly Creek on the south. Daly Creek is in Yellowstone Park. Chief Joe used to den there. All of this is in the Gallatin Range. Six adults have been seen, and 3 pups were seen in Daly Creek, and were thought to be some or all of the pups-of-the year.

The Chief Joseph Pack seemed to be in decline, were infected with mange, and I suspected that had dissipated. However, MT FWP told me there is a pack of wolves in Tom Miner Drainage that is a remnant of Chief Joe. I guess that means it is Chief Joe. Chief Joe had, over the years more and more favored Tom Miner. I saw a lot of wolf tracks there and friends saw the wolves, but that was about 3 years ago. Four or five wolves were seen this summer in Tom Miner, and there were signs of pups. Montana FWP is trying to place a radio collar.

Posted in Montana wolves, Wolves, Yellowstone wolves. Comments Off on Update on the Cougar Creek wolf packs

North American Wolf Conference moving to the Southwest — Flagstaff, Arizona

Every year the Wolf Recovery Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, and several other groups host the North American Wolf Conference. It is no longer held in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2006, like most years in the past, the conference was held at Chico Hot Springs, Montana. However, in 2007 we are moving it to Flagstaff, Arizona. The conference will be held April 24th – 26th at the Little America Hotel, with a Friday field trip to the Grand Canyon.

We hope this change will allow for a new array of participants to attend, as well as give focus to the limping Mexican Wolf project. More information will be coming regarding room reservations, the call for papers and online registration.

I will post it when it is available.

Ralph Maughan
Wolf Recovery Foundation

Posted in Wolves. 3 Comments »

Story of wolves at Green River Lakes (Wind Rivers)

Tom wrote:

“We had had an interesting wolf experience this past weekend.

We canoed across lower Green River Lake with my 7 year old daughter and her friend, camped on the nice beach on the southern shore. Saw a few moose that evening: a large male and then a mother and calf.

Between 4 and 5 am, we heard frantic episodes of moose running along the beach, in the water, and through our camp (I purposely placed the tent among the tight trees so we wouldn’t be trampled.)

I got out of the tent a couple of times to see what I could see, but couldn’t see anything. Several times, I sat up in the tent after hearing some very strange noises. I was wondering what was making the moose run.

In the morning, we went out and the beach was riddled with wolf tracks. Moose tracks in the mud in the water told us that the moose found safety in the water…20-40 feet out from shore. There, the wolves (between 1 and 3 individuals) could not catch them. So as the moose ran along the shore in the water, the wolves would run along the shore on the beach. Back and forth along the beach they danced for an hour. Every so often, a wolf would dart into the water in an attempt to spook the moose back onto the beach where they could be attacked. There would be a flurry of activity with the sounds of running hooves through water becoming more quiet or louder depending on which way the moose were running. No blood or carcasses visible, and we saw the mother and calf nearby the next morning.

It was very exciting. My daughter really enjoyed it. Her friend was terrified.”

The Upper Green River area has probably seen the death of more wolves (government control to benefit the livestock industry) than any other place in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. It’s very good hear that, nevertheless, there are wolves that people can see at the north end of the Wind Rivers.

Note that Turiano is the author of what I think is the most comprehensive book ever written on the mountains of the Greater Yellowstone. It is “Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone: A Mountaineering History and Guide.”

Here is a link to his website and “Select Peaks” and two other impressive books he has authored.

Lower Green River Lake
Lower Green River Lake and the Wind River Mountains.
Copyright Ralph Maughan

Big whitebark pine crop great for grizzlies east of YNP

One of the major factors every year whether there will be grizzly conflicts in the fall is the status of fat-rich whitebark pine crop.

If there is a good crop, the bears will stay at high elevations where the whitebark pine grows — just below timberline.

In recent years, there has been some pessimism about the future of the grizzlies because whitebark pine are dying out in much of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem (GYE) due to whitebark pine blister rust (a non-native pathogen). The GYE fires of 1988 also burned high elevation stands east of the Park. However, the whitebark remain strong in some parts of the GYE, especially to the south and southeast. When Lee Mercer and I were working on “Hiking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness” the number of bears to the Park’s south and southeast was very impressive, especially compared to my experiences 10 to 20 years earlier.

The article today in the Billings Gazette has a headline that suggests the big crop is maybe a bad thing — “Big pine cone crop could bring in bears.” This is misleading. Yes, hunters should be careful in the high elevations, but that is a lot better than having hunger bears down among the houses and pastures in the stream valleys.

Read the Billings Gazette article.

Two fast burning fires near Rockland, ID (SW of Pocatello)

Several days ago a suspicious fire began in the Deep Creek Mountains near Rockland, Idaho, and burned fast — the Rockland Fire. It is now 4000 acres.

Yesterday another suspicious fire broke out about 10 miles SW of Rockland at the base of the Sublette Range. It is burning hard. It is 3000 acres and no containment. It’s the Green Canyon Fire. These are two nice Great Basin mountain ranges near the Idaho, Utah, Nevada border that have seen little fire activity in recent years.

Cloud from Rockland Fire from 60 miles away. Sunday

Location of the Green Canyon Fire.

Sept. 6. Rockland fire map.

One of Idaho’s first wolf packs is rediscovered

The Chamberlain Basin Pack, deep in the Frank Church Wilderness, was relocated and a radio collar put on a pup last week.

In 1996, the first three Idaho wolf packs formed — Chamberlain Basin, Selway, and Landmark. All contact with the Chamberlain Basin pack was lost in 2001, but this year there they were at their traditional rendezvous site. I should add that last fall, there might have been a sighting of the original alpha male, still alive.

How long the collar will last I don’t know. It could be chewed off quickly or broadcast for years. Hopefully it was not fitted so tight that the pup will choke when it reaches full size this winter.

As the Idaho Fish and Game Commission gets closer and and closer to full management authority of Idaho wolves, I expect they will order a big wolf reduction, and radio collars on wolves will lead Wildlife Services, (a federal agency) that is in bed with all the local anti-predatory elements, will shoot them from their helicopter gunships.In my view, a wolf hunt is much better than a Wildlife Services wolf reduction.

Idaho’s gubernatorial election is critical this year. One candidate is in bed with all the reactionary forces in Idaho. The other is a moderate, and a man with a long historical view of Idaho outdoor issues. He remembers the days of Cecil Andrus, and Frank Church, men with a broad understanding of Idaho’s lands and waters.

Wolf scat is potentially dangerous.

Ed Bangs wrote “MFWP [Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks] veterinarian Mark Atkinson examined and keyed out some ‘unidentified eggs’ submitted by Kent Laudon (MFWP Kalispell, MT), from wolf NW112M. They were in fact, proglottids of Echinococcus granulosus, the tapeworm that is responsible for Hydatid disease. The tapeworm has a two stage life cycle. The adult tapeworm is attached in the canid gut and sheds eggs that are ingested by ungulates. The eggs develop into embryos that migrate out of the gut to form cysts in the ungulate’s lungs, liver, and other tissues. When the tissue with cysts is ingested by canids, the larval tapeworm develops into an adult tapeworm in the canid digestive tract- starting the life cycle again. Human infection from wild canid scat is almost nonexistent in North America, but anyone routinely handling wolf scat should be careful not to inhale eggs from dried wolf scat and to careful wash after handing wolf scat to avoid ingestion of eggs.”

People who hate wolves have tried to scare people with facts like these, but the truth is the scat of every predatory mammal and omnivores (like bears) is likely to carry parasites. This includes free running dogs and cats.

People do not normally smell or eat dog, coyote, cougar or bear scat. The scat of the domestic cat has infected millions of folks with toxoplasmosis, which is primarily dangerous to pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems

So if you are dumb enough to eat wolf shit, you certainly do have something to worry about, but that disgusting thought should put this “threat” into perspective.

For information about a much more likely threat, read “Intestinal Parasites of Dogs and Cats.

Gains made on Montana’ s Derby Fire. It’s the biggest forest fire of the year.

So it turns out that the Derby Fire is the largest by far of the many forest fires in the Northern Rockies this year, although I should add there have been some larger range fires in Idaho and Nevada. The fire is still raging, and some wildlife has been caught in the fast moving fire. It is the first fire to destroy a lot of homes.

Most of this country is incredible wildlife habitat, and it won’t be harmed in the middle or long run. It may be improved. However, I suspect a lot of winter range burned and that might effect elk and deer this winter. This is transition from farm, foothills, low mountains and many coulées just in front of the Beartooth Range. Wolves and grizzly bears frequent the edges.

“Firefighters make Gains.” The Billings Gazette. There are good photos. Read the article.

On the early efforts to control the fire from the Billings Gazette. Read the article

September 4, “Fire officials order more evacuations.” The Derby Fire has grown to 180,000 acres and the weather is becoming more favorable for fire spread with rising termperature and winds. Mike Stark describes the Derby situation and other Montana fires in the Billings Gazette. Read the article.

September 5, “Derby Fire 20% contained.” Read Billings Gazette article.
September 5, “Crews labor to stop Derby fire’s march.” Read Bozeman Chronicle article.
September 6, “Latest Derby Fire fact sheet.

Posted in Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Gains made on Montana’ s Derby Fire. It’s the biggest forest fire of the year.

Utah legislation endangers lands we hold dear.

The Washington County [Utah] Growth and Conservation Act would designate over 200,000 acres of very scenic public lands as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, but the guts of the act is the part that sells 25,000 acres of US public land near booming St. George, Utah to developers. The money would finance a 120-mile long pipeline to Lake Powell (reservoir) to fuel the endless desert sprawl that is covering “Utah’s Dixie.”
A lot of people are very unhappy about this bill, including Peter Metcalf, who wrote this article for Writers on the Range.

Metcalf’s article has appeared in a number of places, here it is in the Casper Star Tribune. Article.

Posted in privatization, public lands, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on Utah legislation endangers lands we hold dear.