Wild horses drag photographer into rangelands

Exhibition featuring Challis herd will open in Hailey [Idaho]. Idaho Mountain Express.

There is a wild horse herd in Idaho. It’s near Challis. You can often see them in the East Fork of the Salmon on the Greenfire Preserve and the BLM land to the east.

I have a feeling that wild horses are becoming more popular. I long regarded them as feral stock, but they are beautiful and very capable of taking care of themselves.

Last winter a wolf tested them on the Greenfire. He barely escaped the wrath of the lead stallion.

The only thing that frightens them are the BLM’s helicopters.

There are also wild horse herds in Montana, Wyoming, and Nevada. Maybe more in other states. Folks who know please post. This is not something I know a lot about.

Wild horses from the Challis herd on the Greenfire Preserve. East Fork of the Salmon River. June 2006.

Famous Idaho wolf who went Oregon found long dead

Back 1998 a young female wolf swam the Snake River and crossed into Oregon from Idaho eventually settling in the Blue Mountains in what would be a fruitless search for a mate. However, wolf B45F wore a radio collar broadcasting her location, and after much controversy, she was captured and returned to central Idaho.

Back in Idaho, she always hung out about 2030 miles north of McCall in Western Idaho in the Secesh River, Squaw Meadows, Clochman Saddle, Burgdorf, Carey Dome Country. She was seen from time-to-time in the company of uncollared wolves, but it is not known if she was basically a loner, a pack member, or even the alpha of one of the many packs that have come and gone, and keep coming in the generalsquaw-meadows.jpg area — perhaps the Carey Dome Pack or the Partridge Creek Pack?

Her skeleton was found by a Wildlife Services agent in Squaw Meadows Oct. 16. Grass was growing through it, but her radio collar’s numbers could be deciphered.

Here are some past stories

Idaho Wolf shows up in northeast Oregon. Feb 1999 (with many updates)

Blue Mountain Wolf Captured and Returned to Idaho. Late March 1999

There is at least one wolf currently wandering in NE Oregon, probably more, but recovery has been slow and B45 was an early pioneer.

I took the photo above of Squaw Meadows on June 30 this year. Her skeleton was out there somewhere. Instead I spent my time wandering around Clochman Saddle.

Defenders announces success in non-lethal wolf management


Collaborative Conflict Management Unites an Alliance of Ranchers,
Wildlife Conservationists and Natural Resource Managers

Boise, ID — Local ranches partnering with Defenders of Wildlife and wildlife agencies to expand their use of non-lethal wolf control measures experienced no wolf-related livestock losses this grazing season. Lava Lake Land and Livestock, which grazes sheep on the Sawtooth and Salmon-Challis National Forests, made use of a new type of electrified fladry called “turbofladry” to create highly portable night corrals, while The Lazy EL Ranch in the Absaroka-Beartooth foothills in southern Montana began a successful range rider program to protect grazing cattle herds. Both ranches experienced zero known livestock predations to wolves and credit this success to a collaborative and non-lethal conflict management approach.

Mike Stevens, who runs Lava Lake Land and Livestock, heralded the summer’s proactive control efforts, including the turbofladry project, as a highly successful example of creative, non-lethal conflict management. “Practical, inexpensive and non-lethal methods help reduce losses and conflicts while promoting better cooperation between ranchers, state and federal land managers and wildlife conservationists.”

Defenders of Wildlife’s program, The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund, helps local ranchers and wildlife managers fund non-lethal methods to protect livestock through both traditional means, like range riders and livestock guarding dogs, and new technology including electric barriers and alarms triggered by radio telemetry. Defenders contributed more than $40,000 this season to support non-lethal projects with expert assistance from state and federal wildlife managers who also helped identify and implement proactive methods for these collaborative projects. Defenders also administers The Bailey Wildlife Wolf Compensation Trust which compensates ranchers for verified losses to wolves.

“Ranchers who are committed to being good stewards of the land and its wildlife are the most important partners we have in wolf conservation,” said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies Representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “While no methods are 100 percent effective 100 percent of the time, reducing conflicts through non-lethal methods allows both wolves and livestock to better co-exist in many areas. We are proud to work with our partner ranchers and look forward to working with others as the program expands.”

Click on the images below to view larger versions:

Click to see larger image Click to see larger image

Sheep depredation losses on large public land grazing operations are the main cause of wolf deaths in the northern Rockies — and one of the hardest conflicts to prevent.

This summer, Defenders partnered on an experimental non-lethal project with Lava Lake Land and Livestock, whose sheep grazing operations range over large federal allotments in central Idaho’s Sawtooth and Salmon-Challis National Forests. With more than 6,000 sheep, Lava Lake runs one of the largest sheep outfits in the region on over 800,000 acres of private and public land, and has received recent U.S. Forest Service awards for their environmental stewardship practices. Last summer wolves killed 25 sheep on one of their grazing allotments. This summer, with the help of USDA Wildlife Services in Idaho and Defenders, Lava Lake utilized the newly designed turbofladry (solar powered electric flagging barrier) and created highly portable night corrals to protect a sheep band. Lava Lake used turbofladry in conjunction with guard dogs, night watches by herders and use of shotguns and cracker shells to deter wolves from approaching the sheep band.

While these bands consisted of over 1,200 sheep and were in close proximity to wolves during late summer, they did not experience a single wolf depredation despite being within a quarter mile of the location where wolves had killed sheep and a guard dog in 2005.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists confirmed the presence of wolves within one to two miles of the sheep band. Stevens also notes that regular communication amongst Wildlife Services, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Lava Lake was a crucial element in reducing livestock losses.

Defenders co-sponsored several range rider projects on ranches including The Lazy EL, a 12,000 acre ranch located in the foothills of the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness, 35 miles northwest of Yellowstone National Park.

In 2003, wolves began establishing pack territories north of Yellowstone near Red Lodge and some began killing livestock. As a result of the conflicts, two entire packs of wolves were killed. The ranch family at the Lazy EL, which has owned their ranch for more than 100 years, is actively using non-lethal methods to promote co-existence with wolves. Their range riders are caring for cow and calf pairs from August to late October. The ranch’s grasslands are excellent habitat for elk, deer and moose and consequently, wolves are attracted to the area.

“Ranchers are not the enemies of wildlife supporters,” said Jael Kampfe, ranch manager of The Lazy EL. “We are simply seeking to protect our family’s traditions and western heritage. By working with Defenders, we are building more common ground to collaboratively resolve conflicts. We share a love for this land and its wild beauty. We just need better ways to co-exist.”

Defenders seeks to work with ranchers to expand the use of these and other non-lethal control methods. Since its inception, The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund has contributed more than $275,000 to local ranchers and communities to help them use non-lethal measures to protect livestock from wolves before conflicts happen. The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Wolf Compensation Trust has paid more than $715,000 to local ranchers to compensate them for verified livestock losses.

Diseases affecting Yellowstone wildlife. Park, universities conduct research projects

See article in the Billings Gazette by Mike Stark.

Yellowstone Park has signed up Montana State University and the University of California at Davis to study and monitor wildlife diseases that beset the Park or threaten to. It is called the Yellowstone Wildlife Health Program.

Wildlife diseases have long been an interest to me as a political scientist.

Just like human diseases always have their politics (think Parkinson’s and stem cell research) so to, do wildlife diseases which are often passed to wildlife by domesticated animals, as well as passed the other way. Influenza, especially a pandemic, is generated in a genetic mixing bowl of humans, birds, and pigs, quite often in Southeast Asia, although the evidence is the “Spanish Flu” of 1918 originated in the United States and was aggravated by the domestic politics of World War I (“don’t talk about it or it will hurt the war effort”). The 1918 flu ended up killing more people, including ten times more Americans, than World War I.

There’s a blog devoted to wildlife disease. Wildlife Disease Information Node

In Idaho wilderness, researchers say wolves aren’t decimating elk

University of Idaho researchers Jim and Holly Akenson have been living at Taylor Ranch Field Station, deep in the Frank Church Wilderness, since at least 2000. It was in 2001 that I heard them present their first research results at our annual North American wolf conference.

While this article does not cover all of their research, it tells how they found wolves have changed elk behavior in the vast central Idaho Wilderness. Wolves have not decimated the elk. The elk are more wary now, and they don’t come out on the meadows as much.

With all of the recent burns in central Idaho, I would expect that the place to find elk is in the partial burns where, as in Yellowstone, the elk can see out but the progress of wolves is noisier and impeded by all the burned, deadfallen logs.

Hunters need to use new tactics and maybe move to another place in the wilderness. For example, a drainage that has a near total burn (no hiding cover for elk) may seem too dangerous for the elk to hang out in unless there is really a lot of new forage.

Here is the AP article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Can B.C. help save endangered [mountain] caribou?

Not to be confused with the numerous barren ground caribou or the woodland caribou, the mountain caribou is faltering all over B.C. In the United States it would be, and in fact it is, an endangered species. A tiny herd hangs on in northern Idaho. It wanders back and forth over the border.

This sad situation has been brought on by too much logging old growth forests. Now the B.C. government has a plan, and it’s controversial.

Read in the Globe and Mail, “Can B.C. help save endangered caribou?

Related. Backcountry traveller to present on caribou. Robson Valley Times (B.C.)

More. British Columbia May Kill Cougars, Wolves for Caribou Recovery. By Neville Judd.

On the hunt for the elusive Adirondack wolf

Biologist John Way suggested this article–“On the hunt for the elusive Adirondack wolf.
It seems that the belief that wolves have, or are about to reinhabit the Adirondacks is not new, nor is debate over what the eastern coyote really is.

Weekend photo. Pass Creek Gorge. October 2006

Pass Creek gorge is one of the two routes dirt roads take to cross over the Lost River Range in east central Idaho

Pass Creek Gorge. Lost River Mountains, Idaho. Copyright Ralph Maughan

Posted in mountain ranges. Comments Off on Weekend photo. Pass Creek Gorge. October 2006

Buffalo Field Campaign gets a permanent home

The Island Park News has reported that the Buffalo Field Campaign has been able to purchase the land which they have been using the last ten years in their struggle to protect Yellowstone bison from being summarily killed when they leave the confines of Yellowstone Park.

Read story in the Island Park News.

Posted in Bison. 2 Comments »

Despite media spin that the Rock Creek Mine will actually help grizzly bears, “Wild Bill dissents.

I put up a brief story on this last week. Many mainstream media stories simply said “Mine to benefit grizzly bear” as though the bears might gain nourishment from the tailings.

Wild Bill writes that the Rock Creek Mine Decision Sells Off Grizzly’s Future. New West.

Posted in Bears, politics, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Despite media spin that the Rock Creek Mine will actually help grizzly bears, “Wild Bill dissents.

Bringing back the American bison — symbol of the Great Plains

Support for restoring bison to part of the Great Plains is growing, and money is flowing into the effort.

Here is the story in Wildlife Conservation Magazine.

Posted in Bison. 2 Comments »

Wolf injures calf near Libby [MT]. Why is this a news story!?

The Associated Press has written a story about wolf injuring a cow calf in the vicinity of Libby, MT. See AP story in the Helena Independent Record.
While wolves overall are a minor source of livestock mortality, much larger wolf depredations (such as 5 calves being killed) in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming do not get in the news. I don’t report them anymore unless there is something unusual about the event.

That this event would make the news, shows the random nature of much reporting on the subject. Common events do  sometimes make the news, and people who don’t follow the subject get the wrong impression about how often such things happen.

Buffalo Field Campaign Update from the field

Meanwhile, as the last wild herd continues to suffer harassment, slaughter and quarantine, buffalo “restoration” is becoming a hot topic of conversation. This week there was a conference in Denver, CO called “The Ecological Future of the American Bison,” focused on bison restoration. Many thanks to Buffalo Warrior Justine for attending conference, and for always standing up for the wild buffalo and their perspective.

While the restoration buzz should be good news, the unfortunate thing is that what government and certain scientists consider restoration is a far cry from how the buffalo and the land see it. Their ideas include capturing wild Yellowstone buffalo, sending adults to slaughter and calves to quarantine. The calves spend years in confinement, being treated as livestock, handled and experimented on by scientists. Many calves are sent to slaughter for experiment’s sake, and those that suffer years in captivity and “graduate” (as they put it) would be transported in trailers to other public and tribal lands. The government scientists even boast that they will “teach” these now-domesticated buffalo “how to be wild again.” The sad truth is that the answer is right in front of them, embodied in the last wild, genetically unique, migrating Yellowstone bison. Yet these groups and agencies allow brucellosis to scare them from true buffalo restoration.

Brucellosis, as you know, is the European cattle disease that cattle brought to this country’s wildlife and the supposed reason for the war against the Yellowstone buffalo. Wild buffalo have never transmitted it, but this fact continues to be ignored. And while many scientists agree that natural dispersal of wildlife will curtail the prevalence of the disease, their actions defy this logic. So, brucellosis, for now, remains the smoke screen that the decision-makers hide behind in order to maintain control over the land and her inhabitants. In this, restoration becomes a mockery of itself. We must continue to dispel the myth and insist that the restrictions are placed on the invasive cattle, not our native wild buffalo.

As the last wild herd left in America, the Yellowstone buffalo have an easy answer to the restoration question: step aside and buffalo will restore themselves. We as humans must relearn to coexist, to make room for the great, wild creatures. We must piece back together the habitat, the homeland, that we have so selfishly fragmented, and welcome these magnificent animals back home. Then, and only then, will buffalo restoration with integrity be realized.
Roam Free,


* Thank You Patagonia!
Patagonia, Inc., the ethical and famous outdoor clothing company, continues to do great things for defenders of our Mother Earth. They empower, inspire, and help make possible the work of Buffalo Field Campaign and many other ecology-minded organizations. Patagonia helps keep BFC volunteers warm in the field with their generous clothing donations; they generously support us financially; their stores host many BFC presentations; they pledge 1% of their sales to environmental groups; they encourage people to Vote the Environment; they created the “Save the Buffalo” post cards addressed to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer that so many of you have signed and sent in; and they helped facilitate our billboard campaign, which has informed thousands of visitors to Yellowstone of the injustice suffered by the buffalo at the hands of Montana and the National Park Service. Patagonia also has an environmental internship program that allows employees to participate in the work of the groups they support. Patagonia has joined BFC on the front lines in West Yellowstone, placing their very bodies into action in defense of the last wild buffalo.

Patagonia also hosts the Tools for Grassroots Activists Conference every eighteen months, bringing together a variety of groups from around the globe. BFC has been fortunate to attend this conference over the years. Each one of us who attends comes back feeling refreshed, inspired and truly empowered. It is a place where activists can share their campaign struggles and successes, learn from effective campaign managers, network with incredible people, and come away stronger and more inspired. Having just returned from the latest Tools Conference, BFC wants to extend a huge THANK YOU to Patagonia for all the great work you have done and continue to do on behalf of the wild buffalo and the forests, oceans, rivers, winds, wildlife and all of us who share space on this beautiful blue ball of life.
To learn more about Patagonia and their Tools for Grassroots Activists conference, visit:

Check out Patagonia’s environmental internship program page and see a photo of Patagonia’s Ron Hunter in a BFC tipi, nice and warm in the frigid mid-January Yellowstone winter:


* Last Words
Message from Chief Arvol Looking Horse.
Mitakuye (my relative),
I, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nation, ask you to understand an Indigenous perspective on what has happened in America, what we call “Turtle Island.” My words seek to unite the global community through a message from our sacred ceremonies to unite spiritually, each in our own ways of beliefs in the Creator.
We have been warned from Ancient Prophecies of these times we live in today, but have also been given a very important message about a solution to turn these terrible times around.

To understand the depth of this message you must recognize the importance of Sacred Sites and realize the interconnectedness of what is happening today, in reflection of the continued massacres that are occurring on other lands and our own Americas.

I have been learning about these important issues since the age of 12, upon receiving the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle and its teachings. Our people have striven to protect Sacred Sites from the beginning of time. These places have been violated for centuries and have brought us to the predicament that we are in at the global level.
Look around you. Our Mother Earth is very ill from these violations, and we are on the brink of destroying the possibility of a healthy and nurturing survival for generations to come, our children’s children.

Our ancestors have been trying to protect our Sacred Site called the Sacred Black Hills in South Dakota, “Heart of Everything That Is,” from continued violations. Our ancestors never saw a satellite view of this site, but now that those pictures are available, we see that it is in the shape of a heart and, when fast-forwarded, it looks like a heart pumping.
The Dine have been protecting Big Mountain, calling it the liver, and we are suffering and going to suffer more from the extraction of the coal from there and the poison processes used in doing so.

The Aborigines have warned of the contaminating effects of global warming on the Coral Reefs, which they see as Mother Earth’s blood purifier.

The Indigenous people of the rainforest relay that the rainforest are the lungs of the planet and need protection.
The Gwich’in Nation has had to face oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, also known to the Gwich’in as “Where life begins!”The coastal plain is the birthplace of many life forms of the Animal Nations. The death of these Animal Nations will destroy Indigenous Nations in this territory.

As these destructive developments continue all over the world, we will witness many more extinct Animal, Plant, and Human Nations, because of mankind’s misuse of power and their lack of understanding of the “balance of life.”
The Indigenous people warn that these destructive developments will cause havoc globally. There are many, many more Indigenous awarenesses and knowledge about Mother Earth’s Sacred Sites, her Chakras, connections to our spirit that will surely affect our future generations.

There needs to be a fast move toward other forms of energy that are safe for all Nations upon Mother Earth. We need to understand the types of minds that are continuing to destroy the spirit of our whole global community. Unless we do this, the powers of destruction will overwhelm us. Our Ancestors foretold that water would someday be for sale. Back then, this was hard to believe, since the water was so plentiful, so pure, and so full of energy, nutrition, and spirit.
Today we have to buy pure water, and even then the nutritional minerals have been taken out; it’s just empty liquid. Someday water will be like gold, too expensive to afford.

Not everyone will have the right to drink safe water. We fail to appreciate and honor our Sacred Sites, ripping out the minerals and gifts that lay underneath them as if Mother Earth were simply a resource, instead of the Source of Life itself.
Attacking Nations and having to utilize more resources to carry out destruction in the name of peace is not the answer! We need to understand how all these decisions affect the Global Nation; we will not be immune to its repercussions. Allowing continual contamination of our food and land is affecting the way we think.

A “disease of the mind” has set in world leaders and many members of our global community, with their belief that a solution of retaliation and destruction of peoples will bring Peace.

In our Prophecies it is told that we are now at the crossroads: Either unite spiritually as a Global Nation, or be faced with chaos, disasters, diseases, and tears from our relatives’ eyes.

We are the only species that is destroying the Source of Life, meaning Mother Earth, in the name of power, mineral resources, and ownership of land, using chemicals and methods of warfare that are doing irreversible damage, as Mother Earth is becoming tired and cannot sustain any more impacts of war.

I ask you to join me on this endeavor. Our vision is for the Peoples of all continents, regardless of their beliefs in the Creator, to come together. As one at their Sacred Sites to pray and meditate and commune with one another, thus promoting an energy shift to heal our Mother Earth and achieve a universal consciousness toward attaining Peace.
As each day passes, I ask all Nations to begin a global effort, and remember to give thanks for the Sacred Food that has been gifted to us by our Mother Earth, so the nutritional energy of medicine can be guided to heal our minds and spirits.
This new millennium will usher in an age of harmony or it will bring the end of life as we know it. Starvation, war, and toxic waste have been the hallmark of the Great Myth of Progress and Development that ruled the last millennium.

To us, as caretakers of the heart of Mother Earth, falls the responsibility of turning back the powers of destruction. You yourself are the one who must decide.

You alone – and only you – can make this crucial choice, to walk in honor or to dishonor your relatives. On your decision depends the fate of the entire World.

Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind.

Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger?

Know that you yourself are essential to this World. Believe that! Understand both the blessing and the burden of that. You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this World. Did you think you were put here for something less? In a Sacred Hoop of Life, there is no beginning and no ending!
Media & Outreach

Buffalo Field Campaign

P.O. Box 957

West Yellowstone, MT 59758



BFC is the only group working in the field every day

to defend the last wild herd of buffalo in America.
Stay informed! Get our weekly email Updates from the Field:

Send your email address to bfc-media@wildrockies.org
BOYCOTT BEEF! It’s what’s killing wild buffalo.
Speak Out! Contact politicians and involved agencies today:

Write a Letter to the Editor of key newspapers:

Help the buffalo by recycling your used cell phones & printer cartridges:

It’s free and easy. http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/support/recycleprint.html.

Dan Brister, MS
Project Director
Buffalo Field Campaign
PO Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758

(406) 726-5555
(406) 726-2222 (fax)


Media & Outreach
Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758



BFC is the only group working in the field every day

to defend the last wild herd of buffalo in America.
Stay informed! Get our weekly email Updates from the Field:

Send your email address to bfc-media@wildrockies.org
BOYCOTT BEEF! It’s what’s killing wild buffalo.
Speak Out! Contact politicians and involved agencies today:

Write a Letter to the Editor of key newspapers:

Help the buffalo by recycling your used cell phones & printer cartridges:

It’s free and easy. http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/support/recycleprint.html.

Posted in Bison, politics, wildlife disease, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Buffalo Field Campaign Update from the field

Poll shows Oregonians now regret passing their state’s “property rights initiative”

It ‘s a case of buyer’s remorse. Oregon voters were suckered into passing a proposition like that before ten states this November, only Oregon did it in 2004. Now the state’s much praised land use lies in ruins and the Oregon taxpayers owe billions of dollars to developers whose “rights” were taken away by sound, public-spirited land use planning of years past.

Here is a story about it in New West by Dan Richardson.

Here are the Western states with “regulatory takings” like Oregon’s on the ballot next month: Arizona (Prop 207), California (Prop. 90), Idaho (Prop. 2), Montana (I-154), Nevada (“PISTOL”), Washington state (I-933).
– – – – – –

Update on Oct. 27. Montana’s Supreme Court has given I-154 the boot.

The court ruled 7-0 that those opposed to the initiative had given ample evidence that the signature gathering process violated state laws.

I-154 is another of Howie Rich’s sneak attack initiatives being billed as protecting property rights when it would do the opposite.

The court’s opinion, which was delivered by Justice Patricia Cotter, stated, “If the initiative process is to remain viable and retain its integrity, we can neither excuse nor overlook violations of these laws, for to do so here would confer free reign for others to do so in other matters.”

Too bad for us in Idaho that no suit was filed against the signature collection here.

More on Oct. 29. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commissioners breath sigh of relief that I-154 is dead in Montana. Billings Gazette.

Posted in politics, property rights. Comments Off on Poll shows Oregonians now regret passing their state’s “property rights initiative”

Eroded banks of the unstable Virgin River. Zion NP

The post on the lack of cougars resulting in damage to the ecology of Zion National Park has prompted a lot of comments.

I thought I’d post a photo I took of the Virgin River in Zion Canyon last March. The streambanks are trampled and bare or are calving off where the silt is deep. Some of the erosion is human, but the deer follow the human trails and vice versa.

Those high scenic photos you see of the Virgin are taken up in “The Narrows” where the walls close, leaving little riparian zone.

The eroding banks of the Virgin River in Zion Canyon. Zion NP. Photo by Ralph Maughan. March 2006

Posted in Deer, wildcats, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Eroded banks of the unstable Virgin River. Zion NP

Montana’s governor calls on Idaho to ban game farms

The Story in the Casper Star Tribune.

Montana’s Schweitzer, who has sky high popularity, was in Idaho campaigning for fellow Democrat Jerry Brady who is tied in a recent poll with Butch Otter in the governor’s race (many are skeptical, of course, about such poll results in the reddest state in the country).Schweitzer became the second governor to tell Idaho to ban the controversial facilities. Earlier Wyoming’s Governor Dave Freudenthal sent a letter to Idaho’s Governor Jim Risch with similar concerns. Risch steps down at the end of the year. He became governor when he ascended to the post when Governor Dirk Kempthorne became Secretary of Interior.

Brady has campaigned strongly on public lands issues. On the other hand, Otter introduced a bill in Congress to sell off 15% of the nation’s public lands in the Western States to raise money to deal with Hurricane Katrina. When keeping all of America’s public lands like national forests became very popular in Idaho and the West last winter, Otter withdrew his bill and said he had made a mistake, and sad he now supports public lands. The issue had come to a flashpoint when Richard Pombo of CA and Jim Gibbons of Nevada devised a scheme to allow “mining companies” to stake claims on essentially unlimited swaths of public land, and then privatize them after paying a fee. This is chronicled in my earlier “Congressional land grab page.”

Idaho critics of Freudenthal had pointed out the chronic wasting disease spreads unchecked in Wyoming, but has not been detected in Idaho.

Wild Bill writes about “Thinking Grizzly” and says “Hunters should do more of it.

Wild Bill’s column in New West.

I should add that so far this year, grizzly encounters of all kinds seem to be way down although their population is not. Much of the credit may go to the good whitebark pine nut crop that appeared in many places.

Posted in Bears. 4 Comments »

Disappearce of cougars in Zion NP has led to a general ecological decline

I always wondered why the Virgin River looked so oddly entrenched and actively eroding in Zion NP. It may be an indirect effect of the loss of the cougar. As any visitor will attest, the deer are everywhere.

Cougar predation key to ecosystem health

Yellowstone, still noisy after all these years

Brodie Farquhar is writing in New West about the snowmobiles in Yellowstone, which are supposed to be much quieter now with their 4-stroke engines.

I didn’t realize this, but the Park is going to have yet another comment period on snowmobiles. This time it is on a draft environmental impact statement that will be released in late winter.

Read also from the Jackson Hole News and Guide. “Noise still a problem with park sled use: Former park employees say snowmobiles exceed Yellowstone noise limits, should be banned.” By Cory Hatch.


Drilling the heart out of the West

The Post Register, published at Idaho Falls, Idaho has weighed in on the sacrifice-the-west first [my term] energy policy being pursued.

Read the entire editorial by J. Robb Brady for the Post Register.

Posted in oil and gas, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Drilling the heart out of the West

Hunters blast away at decoy elk at Union Pass (WY)

“A young bull elk decoy in a closed hunting area off Union Pass Road looked too good to resist for a number of hunters whom Wyoming Game and Fish cited Oct. 1.

Of 29 people who slowed down their vehicles to look at the decoy, nine, or 31 percent, fired weapons at it, resulting in 19 citations and four warnings from officers

Read all of the story in the Jackson Hole Daily. By Cory Hatch.

Posted in Elk. 6 Comments »

Proposition 2 on Idaho ballot opposed

There are many copycat measures in other states. I have heard of almost no non-paid support for prop 2, which would by trick not only take away the protection you get from zoning but defeat efforts to conserve open space all over the West.

The features in Prop 2 on “takings” have no historical basis in American law or English common law. They are a radical reading of property rights that give power to the few to destroy the property of others (unless money is paid to the aggressor). It it also totally incompatible with protecting our precious land from disordered development.

From today’s Idaho Statesman.

Proposition 2 will take away property rights, not protect them. By Vern Bisterfeldt (Boise City Council)

Idaho Nature Conservancy opposes Proposition 2. By Ken Pursley. (Chair of the Idaho Nature Conservancy)

In late news, Proposition 2 is now being attacked from the right in Idaho as well as the left and center. Just go back to New York City, Howie Rich! Note that the Bill Sali referred to the link to the blog above is the Republican’s candidate for the US House first district in Idaho. Most Republicans leaders don’t like him (except recently when he has been carefully hugged with GOP leaders flown in, followed by the statement “he will [at least] keep the seat in Republican hands.”)

Earthquake swarm under Old Faithful.

The quakes were numerous but small.

 Story in the Billings Gazette.

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Earthquake swarm under Old Faithful.

Latest wolf news on YNP northern range. Slough/Druid encounter?

I talked with Rick McIntye, and he had a lot of news I hadn’t heard.

Here it is in no particular order:

1. The Leopold Pack split-off, formerly called the “536 group,” has been named the Oxbow Creek Pack. Some folks may remember the Geode Creek Pack, eventually scattered by the Leopolds. Oxbow Creek is in the same area. This pack has 4 adults, and 9 of their 10 pups have survived.

2. The Leopold Pack is as usual on the Blacktail Deer Plateau or near vicinity. The most recent visual count was 18 wolves!

3. The Hellroaring Pack is seen off and on when they are not way down in the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone or north of the Park. They have 5 adults and 4 pups. Two adults dispersed during the summer.

4. The Slough Creek Pack remains together with 8 adult wolves, all them female except 490M, the alpha male. Two other Sloughs, informally called “the gray female” and “left tail” (a male) haven’t been seen since the events of last May. They seem to have taken off somewhere together. Given no radio collars, they are essentially untrackable.

To clear up what is apparently a common misperception, the “Unknown Pack” of last May probably did not kill any of the Slough Creek pups. What is more likely is that the pups (whose remains were never found) died for lack of hydration or food during the seiged conflict between the denned Sloughs and the “Unknowns” who had occupied their den area. The dead pups were then either consumed by the Slough females or, more likely, removed by them and buried.

The Unknowns are not really gone, although they disappeared from the Park in late May/early June. In fact recently, 9 of the Unknowns and the 8 Sloughs had a howling bout in Slough Creek. It is highly likely the Unknowns moved back into the headwaters of Slough Creek, from whence they came, and spent the summer there. Although there are a number of possibilities, I think the Unknowns are really the old Rose Creek Pack or some pack derived from them. Others think this is likely. I wonder if the Unknowns will come down Slough Creek this winter in search of more prey than in the drainages’ upper reaches north of the Park.
The Sloughs also recently had perhaps their first encounter with the greatly enlarged Druid Pack. As if they were being chased, the Sloughs were seen to come running down out of the Lamar Canyon upstream from Lamar Valley. They stopped running at the “Chalcedony rendezvous site” (a site established and used for years by the Druid Pack). At Chalcedony the Sloughs did a lot of upset howling. The Druids were not seen, however.
5. At times the Druid Pack has come down to the “Hitching Post” area, footbridge, the base of Mt. Norris, etc. There are indeed 15 of them — 4 adults and all eleven pups. The pups now appear to be almost as big as the adults, especially from a distance. I am curious as to whether the Sloughs simply saw how many there were and ran, or whether there was a test.

I am curious how the eight seasoned Sloughs would do in real test between 4 seasoned Druids and their 11 big, but wobbly pups. Of course, that’s not how things always work. After all, the Unknowns occupied the Slough den area while the Slough females were in their dens and the rest of the Sloughs off hunting or whatever, effectively splitting the pack.

The Druids will probably come down for the winter for good soon because the elk are coming down out of the snowy mountains into the Lamar and Soda Butte Valleys.

6. The Agate Creek Pack thrives. They have 7 adults and 6 pups, with old 113M still the alpha male. At 9 1/2 years he is tied for the oldest wolf the Park (tied with 193M, alpha male of Mollies Pack). The Agates and the Sloughs have so far had at least one confrontation, and the Sloughs ran, although the entire day might have been more complicated than that. The Agates are mostly seen in the Tower Junction to Elk Creek area, a place all wolf watchers are familiar with.

BLM trying to sell off public lands again.

After being repeatedly slapped down by folks all across the political spectrum, the BLM, at least in Wyoming, hasn’t learned that Americans love their public lands, and they don’t want them sold off.

This latest proposal is in eastern Wyoming. The media picked up the story a few days ago. At first it seemed like a minor sale of some isolated small parcels, but it keeps getting bigger.

Of course, this plan didn’t really originate in the Wyoming BLM office. You can trace it back to the Bush Administration. They may believe with all the scandals in the news, the public’s attention is diverted! They really know how make a sow’s ear into a silk purse for themselves.

Story: BLM land sale draws fire. Casper Star Tribune.

Western Watersheds Project saves giant junipers on remote Nevada Mountain from chaining

Story in Sun Valley on-line.

WWP keeps on beating the BLM. This time it was on remote Spruce Mountain of north central Nevada.

Chaining junipers is claimed to be a way of restoring grasslands where junipers have invaded and shaded out the grass. Of course, if the junipers are very large the notion of invasion is nonsense.

Besides the immediate ugliness of chaining, the end result is often not native grasses, but rather flammable cheatgrass invasion.

– – – – –

Today. Oct. 23. The Elko (NV) Daily Free Press has a longer story on the TRO on Spruce Mountain.

The BLM would have us believe that the objections of WWP are simply about a species (junipers) that is excessively abundant in Nevada. However, where junipers are invading (expanding their range), the trees are small, or at least much smaller. Because ancient juniper are not some threatened species doesn’t mean they should be chained. Moreover, this isn’t solid juniper, is is also broken by sagebrush (valuable winter forage for deer) and pinyon pine.

The experience of WWP is that these projects are often also portrayed as beneficial for deer or elk, but instead they become mudholes for cattle who more than make up for any new grass that grows where the junipers and pines stood. This is especially true when a water pipeline brings the cows into an area that would otherwise see only sporadic grazing. Can you imagine a 90-mile water pipeline for Nevada grazing? Somebody must have a lot of political pull.

The BLM’s argument that they are reducing the danger of catastrophic fire is a canard, an appeal to people who have no idea how far away from any town in this nearly empty landscape Spruce Mountain is. Look at the the area on TopoZone.

Five Western Slope Spots Dubbed ‘Too Wild to Drill’

The article is talking about the West Slope of the Rockies in Colorado. However, it is not the gas industry or the BLM who thinks they are too wild to drill.

The places listed are:

– The Roan Plateau
– The Clear Fork Divide
– Grand Mesa Slopes
– Vermillion Basin
– HD Mountains

Article in New West.

Read also: “Report says 100,000 more wells coming . HDs an area Wilderness Society declares shouldn’t be drilled.” Durango Herald.

And to the south in New Mexico. Groups say keep drillers off of Otero Mesa. Alamogordo News.

If anyone wants to email me a photo of any of these places I will be happy to post it. RM


Annual Grand Teton NP elk hunt is underway

The annual “elk reduction” hunt opened Saturday. It is in a small portion of the Park and the National Elk Refuge, and has always been very popular. It’s also controversial because it is a national park and the elk are migrating, mostly in the open, to their winter range on the Refuge.

All issues regarding winter feeding of Wyoming elk have become increasingly controversial in recent years.

Article in the Jackson Hole Daily by Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Saturday photo: Portneuf River at Pocatello

I decided to take some photos today rather than post to the blog. Here is the Portneuf River today at Edson Fichter Park on the south outskirts of Pocatello (SE Idaho).

Photo copyright Ralph Maughan. Portneuf River at Pocatello. Bannock Mountain Range in the distance.

Changing weather patterns drive dramatic changes in Yellowstone Park wolf predation

‘ “I’m not looking at whether this is connected to global warming,” said Doug Smith, lead biologist and team leader of the Yellowstone wolf project. Yet wolf and prey behavior is different from what it was at the beginning of wolf reintroduction to the park in 1994, because the weather is different,” he said.’

Brodie Farquhar has really put together what Doug Smith has been saying for a number of winters about the plight of the bull elk, something totally different than back in 1995-6-7-8.

Read Farquhar’s article in the Jackson Hole Star Tribune.

This is important stuff, and not discussed widely in the wildlife management literature I have read. Wildlife managers, especially those in key positions, don’t consider all the variables. Often politics prevents them from doing so.

For example when you don’t consider these likely future changes, the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear looks plenty ready to be delisted as a threatened species. When you consider global warming and the spread of diseases like whirling disease and whitebark pine blister rust, the future of the Yellowstone Country bear looks grim.

When you look at many politicians, with their narrow focus of hanging onto power, and compare them to the wildlife managers I just criticized, it is all of us for whom the future looks grim.

Three wolves from Montana’s Wedge Pack shot by Wildlife Services

3 wolves killed in Madison Valley. By Billings Gazette News Services.

This is actually the second control action on the Wedge Pack this year. In both cases it has been on the Sun Ranch which is at the base of the Madison Range.

The Sun Ranch has been extremely innovative and wildlife and wolf-friendly, so there is little doubt that this pack had taken the wrong direction. When the first control was made in July, the Sun Ranch even put out a news release expressing their regret. I didn’t see the news media pick it up, however.

It the large scheme of things–the local wolf population and the lost heifers–this is no big event. I post it because the main stream media picked it up.


Posted in Wolves, Wolves and Livestock. Comments Off on Three wolves from Montana’s Wedge Pack shot by Wildlife Services

Evacuation from wolf habitat was warranted says Farm Bureau

Taking a different position from almost all other public expressions on the matter, the Idaho Farm Bureau President wrote an op ed for the Idaho Mountain Express. Here, for the first time we learn more facts about the matter, including that they did have pepper spray.

In my view that fact makes their fear even less reasonable. Pepper spray would be far superior to a gun if you really were confronted with an wolf pack intent on eating you. It’s easy to miss with a gun, not so with spray, but, hey you can carry both! I do. The gun is for the real danger — generally two legged predators in the front country; spray for the backcountry.

Here is the Farm Bureau op ed in the Idaho Mountain Express.

These employees might not have been “greenhorns” to backcountry travel, but they didn’t know much about wolves. For example, the Farm Bureau opines, “However, as they were walking through thick buck brush they could hear wolves growling, snarling and howling.” If you have been around wolves, that is not a threat to you. Wolves communicate with each other. The wolves were most likely feeding on their kill — growling at each other. If you have been close enough to hear adult wolves at play or on a kill, there is lots of growling that would might make a person unfamiliar with wolves think they mean to kill each other.

Social psychologists have long studied ambiguous situations like this — incomplete knowledge in a new situation. In such situations social cues and personal dispositions are paramount in determining what people do. More training would, as the Forest Service said, help their employees make sense of what for them was a novel situation.

For all predictions that the wolves in the lower 48 are dangerous, I still haven’t seen any bite marks on someones’ butt, and frankly I’m surprised given all the stupid dog tricks people often do in the backcountry and tourists crowding wolves in Yellowstone, not to mention the incredible number of deer, deer hunters, and wolves in the Great Lakes.

Note that over a million people are bitten by dogs a year in the United States.

Pretty scars: National Geographic films the gas drilling

Pretty scars: National Geographic films the gas drilling. High Country News Blog.

It shows what’s going better than my few still photos.

Comparison of wolf and dog tracks

The earlier photo of all the wolf tracks led to a good discussion about their relative size, and how to photograph them. I’d say Lynne Stone really showed how.

Here’s her recent pic of wolf tracks in central Idaho with 60 pound mixed breed dog standing next to them.

Stone writes:

The photo shows the actual paw of a 60 lb mixed breed dog next to a wolf print. The dog’s paw is just over 3″ long. The wolf print is obviously nearly twice the size.
The wolf was walking along a road made of decomposed granite (“grit”) that’s common in parts of central Idaho — and grit gives an accurate depiction of paw size.
I did not consider the wolf track exceptionally large.

This photo might help folks identify wolf tracks from a dog or coyote. If you see a track and it’s about the size of your hand, it likely might be wolf. Obviously wolf pup prints are smaller and a few domestic dog breeds do have very large feet.

Report: Wyoming bears brunt of energy push

“A new report by conservationists shows that Wyoming, including the Wyoming Range and the Upper Green River Valley, would bear almost half of the new oil and gas wells proposed throughout the country.”

 Story in the Jackson Hole Daily by Corey Hatch

Posted in oil and gas, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Report: Wyoming bears brunt of energy push

Anatomy of a Wolf Attack

Anatomy of a Wolf Attack. To retaliate or not to retaliate? The question makes bedfellows of traditional foes. By Carissa Wolf. The Boise Weekly.

This is a very long and thoughtful discussion over the growing effort in Idaho (certainly not Wyoming) between wolf advocates and livestock growers, trying to prevent wolf attacks on livestock and wolf killing by the government — prevention not retaliation.

The Lava Lake Land and Livestock Company certainly deserves kudos, and business.

Tracks of the Buffalo Ridge Pack in the drained steelhead pond (mentioned in the article above). Photo by Ralph Maughan. May 2006. Note the Buffalo Ridge wolf pack was wiped out by Wildlife Services after minor depredations on newly born calves that were put on a pasture with a well known reputation as being in the winter territory of the Buffalo Ridge and previous packs (who were shot too for the same thing) . . . a historical failure of livestock operators to learn.

Tracking the Spirit Bear, the white bear that’s really black

This is about the Kermode bear of the central British Columbia coast and coastal islands. It is a black bear that carries a gene that makes a percentage of its numbers cream colored (not actually white). It is not an albino.

The uniqueness of the bear has helped build conservation efforts to restrain British Columbia’s normally unrestrained timber industry and to create a large reserve, which in principle, may keep the area fairly undamaged and conserve the bear, and more importantly the rain forest.


Posted in Bears, Logging, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Tracking the Spirit Bear, the white bear that’s really black

Talk about crying ‘wolf!’ The Missoulian opines on the frightened Forest Service workers

The story about the Forest Service employees from Utah, who were airlifted out of Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness because they heard wolves howling nearby, has prompted an editorial in the Missoulian.

10-17. Read Missoulian editorial.

– – – – –

It turns out the Idaho Statesman also had an editorial on Oct. 17, although it was much shorter.

Statesman Editorial. 

B-T Nat’l Forest taking comments on very important travel plan update near Jackson Hole

It’s called the “North Zone travel plan revision,” hardly exciting enough to make your heart pound. But the Forest Service has a very major revision of its travel plans for the area on the east side of Jackson Hole (and other prime wildlife areas) underway, and your comments are due on October 23.

The mighty Teton Range does not have dense wildlife populations, with all that rock and ice, but the more subdued mountains on the other side of the great valley of Jackson Hole do — moose, thousands of elk, deer, pronghorn, bighorn, wolves and both kinds of bears. Especially critical is the Gros Ventre/Shadow Mountain area and Togwotee/Blackrock area. Shadow Mtn/Gros Ventre proposed travel plan map. Blackrock/Togwotee proposed travel map.

On the surface it looks like a good idea because now these areas are open to all kinds of cross country vehicle travel, and the proposal will limit them to existing motorized roads and trails.

It is the reality of the situation on the ground that counts, however, not a nice-looking map.

I like to drive my truck around in the area, but each year I see more and more user-created trails, some of them even illegally constructed. The Forest Service would grandfather all of this, including some roads that have been closed for years due to unstable ground and past resource damage.

Here is an example

Here is what the Forest Service needs to hear from you.
1. No designation for motorized use of illegally constructed OHV roads or trails.
2. No reopening of roads that have been gated for years due to resource damage unless the damage can’t happen again.
3. Most important, no access to open ridgetops where OHVs can travel cross country with no fear of being stopped by a ranger. Remember that law enforcement for the Forest Service is grossly underfunded, a joke really.
4. If you know any of these areas near Jackson Hole, comment on them directly.

Send your comments to dwilkinson@fs.fed.us by Oct. 23.

When sending you emails to the Bridger-Teton National Forest, please state your name, address and map area or areas of concern.

– – – –

Added. Here is a photo of the off-road vehicle route, Bob Caesar, is talking about in his comment.

This is looking eastward across Ditch Creek from a slope on Shadow Mountain.

Roadless rule good for Wyoming

Way above timberline, looking across Meadow Creek Basin in the Francs
Peak roadless area. Shoshone National Forest. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

Wyoming has many fine roadless areas that are not protected as designated Wilderness — 3-million acres in total.

Liz Howell of the Wyoming Wilderness Association writes in their defense and against Governor Freudenthals’ short-sighted views. Many of them are threatened by oil or gas development.
Guest opinion in Casper Star Tribune

Roadless facts for Wyoming. From the Wilderness Society

Photo of a WY gas well. Thousands are underway in the area

Drilling for gas on The Mesa (Pinedale Anticline). Pinedale, WY and Wind River Mountains in the background. Photo by Ralph Maughan.

One well takes up a fair amount of space and disturbance. Over 3000 wells are planned in the Green River Basin beneath these mountains.

Shooter bull elk from yet another Idaho shooter ranch gets out

A bull elk from the Pine Mountain “Ranch” in Eastern Idaho has escaped. It was shot by state officials after wandering about 10 miles.

The ranch said they didn’t know the 7-point antlered bull was missing.

Earlier 160 or so domestic elk broke out of another Eastern Idaho shooter elk operation, making international news.

Read article.

Idaho is taking heat from Wyoming’s governor on the issue. When WY governor Dave Freudental is criticising you for dangerous wildlife practices, you need to be embarrassed.

Earlier: Freudenthal to Idaho: Ban game farms

Posted in Elk, wildlife disease. Comments Off on Shooter bull elk from yet another Idaho shooter ranch gets out

Kempthorne Likely to seek Changes in the Endangered Species Act

Secretary of Interior, Dirk Kempthorne (former governor of Idaho) is likely gearing up to change the ESA. Of course as DOI Secretary he can’t pass any laws, but he can undertake the writing of new regulations.

Story in the Great Falls Tribune

As a US Senator he was one of the few Republicans who sought a fairly moderate approach to the ESA. Since then the proposals have been to flat out gut the ESA under the guise of reform. An example is Richard Pombo’s bill that would require payment to developers for not building any proposed project in the critical habitat of endangered species — a sure fire incentive for them to seek out critical habitat and propose a development that would kill off the species in an effort to grab taxpayer money.

So Kempthorne is likely to propose something not so bad as Pombo’s legalized extortion.

Control of Congress will made a big difference. The House, on a nearly party-line vote, actually passed Pombo’s pay-me-not-to-kill-endangered-species bill.

Most likely will be another 2 years of fighting off the Bush Administration, regardless of what happens in the congressional elections, but perhaps Congress will not to be fought too.

Posted in politics, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Kempthorne Likely to seek Changes in the Endangered Species Act

Utah offers bounty for dead coyote ears

“In an effort to help increase the deer population and also protect grazing sheep in Utah, the state provides money to eight Utah counties to pay bounties for killing coyotes.”

Read the story in in Tooele Transcript Bulletin. Tooele is pronounced (TA will a).

Offering bounties on coyotes is a long discredited program, nevertheless it continues for political purposes.

It does not decrease the number of coyotes except in rare instances. Instead the coyote population increases unless 40 to 50% of the population is killed a year. Bounties and the many other efforts to kill coyotes are one of the reasons coyotes have spread from the West to the entire North American continent.

Replacement of existing coyotes with new coyotes, tends to increase predation on sheep if sheep predation was at a background level to begin with. The way to reduce sheep predation is to kill the coyote pairs or packs that kill the sheep, not a general assault on coyotes.

Coyotes are not primary predators on big game (except in harsh winters). Coyotes do reduce rodent populations and fox populations.

Even you don’t mind lots of “killin,” this is not cost/effective.

– – – –
Coyote Bounties

“During the early years of game management, many states relied on massive killing efforts (bounties) to
reduce predator numbers (e.g., wolves, coyotes, foxes) which were competing with man for game animals (e.g., white-tailed deer). Bounties are not used by most wildlife agencies nor are they supported by WS for predator control because:

• Bounties are not effective in reducing damage.
• Circumstances surrounding take of animals is largely unregulated.
• No process exists to prohibit taking animals from outside the damage management area for
compensation purposes.
• Bounty hunters may mistake dogs and foxes as coyotes.

Coyote bounties have a long history (>100 years in the U.S.) of use in many states without ever achieving the intended result of reducing damage and population levels (Parker 1995).

The overwhelming disadvantage of coyote bounties is the misdirection of funds meant to, but not effectively and economically able to, reduce coyote damage to livestock.”

This was taken from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ws/nepa/WVcoyoteFONSI.pdf

Reality in WY shows lie in oil and gas industry propaganda

We’ve all seen on TV and printed ads how sensitive about the land the oil industry is. They drill many wells from just one pad, avoiding surfance disturbance. If the land cannot bear any suface occupancy, they drill at an angle under it (called “directional drilling”).

Yes, they can do these things, just like it shows on the TV, but the reality in Wyoming and throughout the Rocky Mountain West, is that they don’t do it that way because it is cheaper not to, except for few showcase examples where they can take the media and politicians.

Drill pads on The Mesa (Pinedale Anticline). This is a new gas field, north of Jonah. The town of Pinedale, WY is in the lower left corner. View is to the SE. The deer population on The Mesa is way down.

Where are the animals going? By Whitney Royster, Casper Star Tribune.

Somehow, I don’t think it is drought per se. This decline was also predicted last year in a major study.

More folks in WY realize how much their wildlife and land heritage will pay for oil and gas

There has been a sudden realization that the massive industrialization of Wyoming’s open spaces by the natural gas industry is making a wrenching change to the state’s outdoor heritage — its clean air, vistas, wildlife.

Today there were numerous newspaper stories on the seemingly unstoppable conquest of Wyoming by the petroleum industry.

We’re going to feel it.‘ By Whitney Royster. Jackson Hole Star-Tribune.

Wyo drilling rig count climbs. By Dustine Bleizeffer. Star-Tribune energy reporter.

Jonah [gas field] office floats reclamation plan. By Whitney Royster. Casper Star-Tribune.

This might sound good, but in fact restoration of the natural vegetation of the high desert to its original form may take more than a hundreds years, if ever. The drillers will have to keep about 55% of the Jonah field land area “undisturbed,” but this is very misleading as the Google Earth photo of part of the field below shows. Most of the land in the image is undisturbed, but as you can see the effect of all the roads and drilling pads is almost total disturbance.

Part of the Jonah gas field. Most of the land is physically “undisturbed,” but you can see that in reality, it is totally disturbed.

USFWS say Rock Creek mine will benefit grizzly bears

Folks have been fighting the proposed Rock Creek mine in the Cabinet Mountains of NW Montana for about 20 years now. It has been stalled.

Now the USFWS has rewritten its earlier objection to the mine saying that with all the money for mitigation work planned, the grizzly will actually benefit. This may be so. One thing about predictions like that, however, is that the plans are often never, or are only partially implemented.

The other objections to the mine have been from downriver water users in Idaho.

AP Story.

Utah off-road group vows to fight closure of government land.

Here is the AP article.

The article says the “president of Americans with Disabilities Access Alliance, is looking for a crowd of off-roaders to drive . . . ”

The idea is to get some tickets and challenge them in court, but I want to comment on another aspect of this.

For years, off-road vehicle activists have tried to use the disabilities laws, which in my opinion are good and important laws, to bootstrap their way out of regulations to protect the land, the wildlife and other users.

The point needs to be made clearly that being lazy, unfit, outdoors incompetent and fat is not, and should not be a disability for these purposes.

They should waddle their way up to Factory Butte on their own two legs. If you need a wheelchair, fine, but not wheelchair that is really an ATV.

Added on Oct. 16. I’ve found no news about their protest. Maybe it fizzled. RM

Guest post on Freudenthal to Idaho: Ban game farms

“Buffaloed” asked if I would post this. Buffaoled puts two issues together in way that makes sense to me.

Ralph Maughan
– – – –

Freudenthal to Idaho: Ban Game Farms

While I agree with Wyoming Governor Freudenthal’s call for closing of game farms in Idaho it reminds me of this article from back in January of 2005. When Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana called for Wyoming to close elk feed grounds Freudenthal’s spokeswoman, Lara Azar, responded this way: “While the governor appreciates the advice, he thinks that Gov. Schweitzer should concentrate on Montana.”

Bison plan draws mixed reviews

Maybe Freudenthal, before asking Idaho to close its game farms, should take a hard look at how Wyoming’s feed grounds have affected surrounding states, and will likely affect surrounding states when Chronic Wasting Disease infects those very same feed grounds where it would likely go on to infect the many ungulates that call Yellowstone National Park home. He should also realize that elk infected with brucellosis, from the high concentrations caused by Wyoming feed grounds, have also infected Idaho cattle resulting in Idaho losing its brucellosis free status.

Posted in Bison, Elk, wildlife disease. Comments Off on Guest post on Freudenthal to Idaho: Ban game farms

Researchers Detect CWD in Heart Muscle of Elk and White-tailed Deer

This is from a news release today from the University of Wyoming. It is interesting that the rouge prions don’t show up in in the hearts of mule deer.

There is of yet little evidence that CWD can jump from cervids to humans like mad cow did from cattle to humans. Nevertheless, I would be reluctant to eat venison from Wyoming or Colorado.

News release

Posted in Deer, Elk, wildlife disease. Comments Off on Researchers Detect CWD in Heart Muscle of Elk and White-tailed Deer

Photo of Jonah gas field from Google Earth

There is a lot of talk about the Jonah “in-fill.” I quickly found it on Google Earth — photos of the gas field before the in-fill.

This gives some idea of the degree to which this wipes out wildlife habitat. Search around on Google Earth and you will quickly see this is just a small portion of Jonah, and a little movement to the SW brings you to the older mess at the Riley Ridge gas field.

Part of the Jonah natural gas field. The filling in (“in-fill”) is yet to come! This is in the Green River Basin to the SW of Pinedale, Wyoming

Wyoming goes back to court over USFWS rejection of its wolf management plan

Wyoming’s wolf conservation plan has now been rejected twice by USFWS, mostly because it in effect limits wolves in Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park, which Wyoming hopes will maintain the mininum number of wolf packs required for recovery in the state.

Granted the Wyoming plan would allow wolves to wander as “trophy big game” animals in the 3 wilderness areas immediately adjacent to YNP, but not a single wolf pack uses these wilderness areas year round. Outside of these areas (and Grand Teton National Park, which is too small to entirely contain one wolf pack), wolves could be killed year round for any reason by anyone.

Worse still, the Wyoming plan would also allow the killing of Yellowstone Park wolves if they leave the Park, and the Druid Pack and Mollies Pack both often leave to the east and wander outside the “protected” North Absaroka, Washakie, and Teton Wilderness areas.

The Wyoming wolf population stopped growing a few years back, but this year it resumed growth, and now there are over 300 wolves (including YNP wolves) in the “energy company” state.

Wyoming Game and Fish likes to argue that wolves are reducing the elk population, but in fact the elk population in the state remains above the “target” of the Department. Wolves may be the only thing being done in Wyoming to control the spread of chronic wasting disease, especially the new wolf packs which live on the eastern outskirts of the Greater Yellowstone. That is where CWD is moving in. It has been hypothesized that wolves might be able to detect a “mad elk” or mad deer before it becomes highly infective, and kill it. This has not been proven, and under the head-in-the-sand stance of Wyoming government, we will not get the chance to know.

Here is the story by Cat Urbigkit in the Jackson Hole Star Tribune.

If Wyoming’s plan gets approval, over 150 wolves could be shot, run-over, tortured, etc. by anyone for any reason.

The Gooseberry Creek Country, where the new Gooseberry Pack may be the front line (and only line) defense against the spread of chronic wasting disease. Photo by Ralph Maughan

This area is SE of the town of Meeteetse.

Rabies vaccine may save rarest wolf from extinction

The Ethiopian wolf will greatly benefit from the rabies vaccination of as few as 30% of their population.

Story in the UK Independent.

10/12/06. Here is the abstact of the article, “Low-coverage vaccination strategies for the conservation of endangered species.”

Posted in wildlife disease, Wolves. Comments Off on Rabies vaccine may save rarest wolf from extinction

Mange declines as a problem for Greater Yellowstone wolves

In recent years, mange has grown as a problem for wolves of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, both in Montana and Wyoming, although none has been seen inside Yellowstone Park itself.

A recent query posted to this blog asked about current conditions, so I contacted Mike Jimenez of USFWS and Carolyn Sime, Jon Trapp, and Liz Bradley of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Mange is known to affect just one Wyoming wolf pack this year, according to Jimenez. That is the Absaroka Pack, east of Cody. This pack has had a mange problem for years.

In Montana, mange has declined to three packs. They are the Mission Pack in the north end of the Montana Absaroka east of Livingston. Also afflicted are the Chief Joseph Pack and the Donahue Pack, which live on the fringes of Paradise Valley.

Below is a photo of a mangy Mission Creek Pack wolf.

Mangy Mission Creek pack wolf. Courtesy Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Sime told me that one male in particular in the Chief Joseph Pack is mangy.

Folks may recall that the Chief Joesph Pack was one of the original 1996 Yellowstone Park packs, but it slowly drifted north to reside entirely outside the Park.

Posted in wildlife disease, Wolves, Yellowstone wolves. Comments Off on Mange declines as a problem for Greater Yellowstone wolves

Recent Yellowstone Park wolf watching. October 2006

Cindy Knight posted a very interesting comment a day ago about her recent observations (early October) of the Agates and Sloughs on the Northern Range. She consented to have it made into a post. It follows.

“I watched the Slough Creek and the Agate Creek Packs all last week and had some of the best and most exciting views in the nine years I have been wolf watching.

The Agate Creek wolves were on a carcass by the Yellowstone River, and after gorging themselves all day, were sleeping when a grizzly took over the carcass. The alpha female, 472, immediately tried to drive off the bear and was charged by the bear several times. The other four adults reluctantly joined in and surrounded the bear, but 472 was the only one engaging the bear. They all gave up as it was evident the bear was much more determined than they were.

The next day the Slough Creek wolves chased the Agate Creek wolves back to Speciman Ridge where they regathered with great energy and howling. LaterI saw that seven of the Slough Creek wolves, minus “Sharp Right,” were back in the Lamar Valley. I saw the Sloughs in the same area again the next day.

It is great to see them at the old Druid rendezvous site. The Druids themselves made an appearance that day near Round Prairie, we learned, and heard that there were 14 of them?

The next day we watched the Slough Creek wolves (with Sharp Right and minus a yearling) chase away the wolf Parenthesis from “Dave’s Hill,” and then wander around howling for their missing member.

Later we saw all of the Agate Creek wolves on Dunraven Pass up the Chittendon Road on a small kill. The grays’ head were covered in blood, particularly 113M. A young bull was watching and 472F ran up to chase him away, but he backed her off. She’s feisty. Everyone else was fat and sleepy. The pups and yearlings went down into some aspen. The adult grays remained on or near the kill.”

Wilderness Society predicts “in-fill” of the giant Jonah gas field will degrade formerly pristine air beyond EPA Standards

The Jonah gas field is huge. It sits in the Green River Basin between the two splendid mountains ranges, the Wind Rivers and the Wyoming Range. It also damages winter range in the Basin.

This area had pristine air just several years back, but the “in-fill,” i.e., filling in of Jonah, may push the air quality below the EPA’s standard for particulates (grit in the air). This would be illegal, not just in Wyoming, but anywhere in the country where the air has always been cleaner than the minimum standards.

If it becomes a “non-attainment” area, Sublette County, WY would also have to forgo other types of development if they release any emissions at all.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.

“Wild Bill” says Rex Rammell could be a hero

However, Bill Schneider argues that his heroic status is purely inadvertent.

Read the column in New West.

Posted in Elk, politics, wildlife disease. Comments Off on “Wild Bill” says Rex Rammell could be a hero

Howling wolves in the Sawtooths scare FS employees (from Utah) to seek emergency evacuation

The poor dears!

Story in the Idaho Mountain Express. By Steve Benson.

Eastern coyotes and the red wolf. Guest opinion

Suburban Howls will be published by Dog Ear Publications (Indiana, IL). It should be out around Christmas-time. In it, I detail the possible evolution of coyotes. Note that Gerry Parker in Eastern Coyotes: The Story of Its Success does a great job detailing the evolution of the eastern coyote.

I also have an article coming out in the fall issue of the peer-reviewed journal Northeastern Naturalist.

Basically, the theory is that by the turn of this century there weren’t many wolves left (as everybody knows by now), but there were some. At the same time it is well known that coyotes were moving east from the Great Lakes States. As they reached northern New England and southern Canada they likely met lone wolves. Up until recently we thought they were gray wolves, Canis lupus lycaon. However, recent genetic data indicates that most wolves sampled in that area (including Algonquin Park in Ontario) are actually very similar to red wolves. The thought might now be that there used to have red wolves (or eastern wolves as proposed to be named) all along eastern North America from Florida through New England to SE Canada. It is believed that is what the western coyote mated with.

Then, by natural range expansion, the hybrid started breeding true (ie, back with other hybrids or even western coyotes or red wolves) as they colonized New Hampshire (1940s) and southern New England (Massachusetts late 1950s). Qualitatively it is obvious to me that they are hybrids – just looking at their size, appearance, and characteristics.

We are now just looking at the eastern coyote side of things genetically, .i.e., I am collaborating with Brad White and his team to examine the genetic profile of the eastern coyotes, much like has already been done for wolves in SE Canada. Because there is scant funding for eastern coyote research, there has been a lag to truly understanding the genetic makeup of these cool animals.

The paper that I have coming out in Northeastern Naturalist does definitively show that eastern coyotes are heavier than all other types of coyotes (specifically the coyotes from New England).

Tests are underway to determine what are the wolves that have occasionally been recolonizing the east. Note: there is also supposedly a population of gray, not red, wolves not far from Maine. While some still think that the wolf in SE Canada is a gray wolf, Canis lupus lycaon, it is well known that these wolves are smaller than grays from other areas, except maybe the Mexican wolf. However, one of the biggest problems for the red wolf reintroduction project in North Carolina has been hybridization with coyotes. This is no doubt what happened in northern New England many years ago. As you know, hybridization with western coyotes and the bigger gray wolves does not seem to occur.

At any rate, it is bewildering that the northern New England states allow unlimited killing of such closely related species. People out of New England might think that we are very “liberal” – but on the ground in New England, with policies like that for coyotes, that isn’t really the case. Hopefully those states will get sued for not protecting the wolves.

Idaho’s gubernatorial candidates differ on conservation issues

Idaho Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Brady and Republican nominee Butch Otter finally had a debate of sorts.

It turns out they differ considerably on conservation issues. Otter’s lack of clarity on the out-of-state-funded “property rights” Proposition 2 was troublesome. They also differed on Wilderness and Otter made it clear that while he might sign a bill prohibiting “canned” elk hunts, he would most likely not be a leader on the issue.

Story from the Idaho Statesman by Shawna Gamach.

Although they didn’t discuss it, Otter has been very strongly anti-wolf.

Added later. This election race, more than any other in Idaho will determine the future of Idaho’s immense wildlife population.

Here are the links to the two candidates’ web sites:

Otter for Idaho

Brady for Idaho Governor 

Gone for Decades, Jaguars Steal Back to the Southwest

Carnivore conservation has a great story on the slow and threatened return of the jaguar to the American Southwest.

If the border fence is built, I think part of the plan should be a reintroduction of jaguar.

Note that President Bush recently signed an authoization to build a 700 mile fence along the Arizona/Mexico border, but authorizations require appropriations. These are often not forthcoming, and the whole thing might be an election year stunt. In the next Congress conservationists should lobby for jaguar money.

SW Wyoming, the black hole for wolves

Wolves continually disperse southward in Wyoming following the drainages like the Greys River and the flanks of the Wyoming Range and the Salt River Range.

Most, but not all, run into lots of livestock, especially sheep as they get further south, and the wolves disappear.

Here, from last summer, is a band of sheep getting bedded down, at the very southern end of the Salt River Range. The area is full of aspen, beaver ponds, elk, deer and moose, so the wolves are not short of wild prey, but there are so many sheep!

Sheep in the Smith’s Fork. Salt River Range. Copyright Ralph Maughan

“Anger” said to drive property rights measures

Hmmm. Well I’m opposed to this “property rights measure,” and folks might note I’m plenty angry.

Here is a story in the New York Times that features Idaho as ground zero for the so-called “property rights” measures.

Anger Drives Property Rights Measures. New York Times.

This ” Katie Breckenridge” of Picabo, Idaho might be angry because their property was down-zoned (don’t know if this is really true), but people who play by the rules, people who buy property fully aware of what is and is not allowed in their neighborhood ought not to have their home values destroyed because some sleaze wants to build a porn palace or some similar enterprise next door, and the nuisance can’t be legally stopped because a landowner can now do anything they want with their land include destroying your property by harmful spillovers from theirs.

Regulated use of private property, where the rights of all the property owners are considered, is a hallmark of a lawful society and orderly government. If you own property, you can bet some jackass will try to abuse it with something obnoxious on his, and this radical scheme from outside Idaho (Proposition 2) would force law abiding citizens to pay off the jerk or let him do what he wants.

In this article in the Idaho Statesman, Rocky Barker makes it clear that conservative interests are not supporting this, and of course that is because it is an extremist, not a conservative measure; nor is it a conservation measure although the paid signature gathers showed up at conservation events claiming it was a land protection measure.

If we are lucky, Proposition 2 will be defeated. If this falsely-worded scheme passes, there will be litigation for years, and if in the end property rights only belong to the most aggressive, nasty people, you can expect law-abiding Idahoans to do what is necessary to protect what they own from an unconstitutional law.

Here is a link to Prop. 2. Note that the first part is “the bait.” It is already law in Idaho, and, therefore, meaningless. It is the second part that is “the switch, which would in effect disestablish zoning, and other safeguards for the use of property, and which would make Idaho taxapyers liable for billions of dollars of claims from speculators who want to turn property speculation into a sure thing.

Oregon voters were gulled into passing a similar law in 2004. Now Oregon taxpayers owe $5.8-billion in claims to people who say they couldn’t do what they wanted with their property because of past laws.

Here is info on Howie Rich from New York City, one of the main funders of efforts to abolish the protection of lawful property on the other side of the country (from him).

Posted in politics. Comments Off on “Anger” said to drive property rights measures

You’e Come a Long Way, Cowboy: Ten Truths and Trends in the New American West

A decade ago, “old west” patterns of thinking were still strongly preventing a realistic assessment of what the Western United States was really doing and how it was changing.

These attitudes are now giving way, but slowly.

Here is how the Sonoran Institute sees it.
You’e Come a Long Way, Cowboy

Posted in politics. Comments Off on You’e Come a Long Way, Cowboy: Ten Truths and Trends in the New American West

Sunday photo. Logan Canyon, Northern Utah

Logan Canyon is a well known and loved, lengthy canyon through the Bear River Range of the Wasatch.

Autumn colors are always brilliant as this on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006.

In Logan, Canyon. Bear River Range. Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006. Copyright Ralph Maughan

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Sunday photo. Logan Canyon, Northern Utah

How is chronic wasting disease transmitted? Probably by saliva!

No wonder this always fatal disease keeps spreading and spreading among the deer and elk of Wyoming, Colorado and into other states. A   s c a r y   p o r t e n t
It’s fortunate mad cow disease is not spread this way!

Read about it in the Jackson Hole Star Tribune. “Study pinpoints saliva

90-pound canid (wolf?) shot in Vermont

If this was a wolf, it would be the first true wolf seen in Vermont in over a hundred years. There are wolves to the north in Quebec, but they are not immediately adjacent to Vermont.

It is well known that the “eastern” coyote, which is usually much larger than the “western” coyote, is often a mixture of grey wolf (not dog) and coyote genes. These wolf/coyote hybrids seem well adapted to the New England countryside.

Story in the Boston Globe.

New. Oct. 9. Story with photo of the canid in the Burlington Free Press.

Judges increasingly slam Bush public land policies

“The rulings come at a time when an emerging bipartisan coalition of Western politicians, hunters, anglers and homeowners has joined conservation groups in objecting to the rapid pace and environmental consequences of Bush administration policies for energy extraction on federal land.” Read about it in the Washington Post (via the Casper Star Tribune).

Related: Interior Board of Land Appeals temporaily halts Oil and Gas leasing in the Wyoming Range. Earth Justice News Release.

The Wyoming Range may be the best elk country in the state of Wyoming.

On the divide between Lunch Creek (right) and the Roaring Fork (to the left).
High in the Wyoming Range (elk heaven). Copyright Ralph Maughan

Eight grizzly bears have been trapped this week at a farm near Cody, WY

The bears are attracted by the grain at a farm on the South Fork of the Shoshone River. I wish the story told more.
“The bears either break into a grain shed or crawl into feed bunks where the farmers are feeding calves. The bears haven’t bothered the calves so far, they just like to eat along side them, . . ” from the Jackson Hole Daily.

The latest bear was released in the Absaroka Mountains near Togwotee Pass (on the Continental Divide).

Posted in Bears. 2 Comments »

Beaver restoration in SE Idaho

This is a story about beaver being reintroduced to places in southeast Idaho where they have been wiped out. Because of the natural abundance of aspen and willows in Eastern Idaho, the area is naturally better beaver habitat than points north, such as central Idaho and Yellowstone.

In the past, many beaver dams were deliberately destroyed. Just a decade ago some agency people and some farmers argued that beaver stole water and grass by impounding it. The result of dynamiting or trapping out beavers was stream erosion from rapid runoff, and lower water flows in the summertime, and the drying of riparian meadows.

It’s good to see that incorrect view going and maybe gone and beaver restoration underway.

Article in the Idaho State Journal.

No sign of Colorado grizzlies, search is suspended

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has ended its search for the grizzlies reportedly seen near Independence Pass unless another sighting occurs. The search has yielded no clues. Hunters were told to be careful not to mistake a moose for an elk, a lynx for a bobcat, and a grizzly for black bear in the upcoming big game season (Oct. 14) and the various seasons for other animals that extends into December.
Story in the Aspen Times. 10-8. Note this link is now dead.

Try this. Associated Press. No sign of grizzlies.

Posted in Bears. 12 Comments »

For news on the Mexican wolf

I try to cover the struggling Mexican wolf reintroduction project, but I am very spotty in my knowledge of countryside there. I don’t know the politics or the people, although I have read a lot about Catron County, New Mexico.

Here are two government sites that will help those interested-

“Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project News” (from Arizona Game and Fish). These linked here as pdf files.

“Blue Range Wolf Reintroduction Area (BRWRA). Monthly Project Updates.” This is the site of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Go to the web site and browse down to find the monthly updates.

– – – –

Oct. 6. As the post below indicates the Southwest Environmental Center is a non-governmental site that has a lot of Mexican wolf news.

Farmers/ranchers and the blight of industrial corn

I recently ran across the book Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.

I was at a meeting so I only had time to read a couple chapters, but the one on “Industrial corn” had a profound effect on me. I have ordered a copy, and yet it already leads me to post.

Pollan cited an old quote that goes something like this. “there’s money to be made in food, but not if you are a grower.” He then goes on describe how corn by the billions of tons grown with huge inputs of petroleum have transformed the farm and farmer (much for the worse), led to huge contained animal feeding operations, and transformed the food we eat.

Industrial corn in particular lies behind the fast food industry and the plague of obesity.

It occurs to me that livestock growers could make a much better case if they raised their livestock on grass, didn’t sent them for finishing on corn and without the chemicals. A market would have to be created.

Of course, we all know about organic food. Grass fed organic beef is a great selling point if you can buy it. I should note that Pollan has some harsh words for big organic ag, and it is clear that agri-business is trying to subvert the organic grower so that the consumer has no real choice.

For reference here is a link to Amazon.com, which, of course, includes reviews of the book.

Now for Laird and others, is this a worthwhile thread? 

As Wolf Population Thrives, Livestock Predation Doesn’t Follow Suit

I missed this article in the Billings Gazette. Fortunately the Western Watersheds Project picked it up.

The facts are important because almost everyone, including some of the wolf project managers, had predicted that livestock predation would increase faster than the wolf population as wolves moved to less desirable habitat.

Read WWP story.

Posted in Wolves, Wolves and Livestock. Comments Off on As Wolf Population Thrives, Livestock Predation Doesn’t Follow Suit

Fire salvage logging in Oregon lost money

After almost every forest fire, there is a push for salvage logging based on the idea that the forest is destroyed, so some of its former value needs to be captured.

Folks who have watched salvage logging know that instead, the practice often introduces weed seeds, actually sets back forest regrowth and loses money too.

So far the controversial Biscuit fire salvage logging has fit this pattern, at least in terms of losing money. Part of the loss stems from the the Administration decison to greatly increase the logging after plans for a less ambitious project were underway. See news article. Here is the actual General Accounting Office Report (pdf file).
Note that the Biscuit fire was 500,000 acres, the largest in Oregon in many years, and maybe in the history of the state.

The Democratic side of the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee has a news release up this. See their news release.

Posted in Logging, Trees Forests, wildfire. Comments Off on Fire salvage logging in Oregon lost money

Idaho wolf kill shot down, anyone suprised?

This is from Wild Bill (Bill Schneider) over at New West. Read column.

Posted in Idaho wolves, Montana wolves, politics, Wolves. Comments Off on Idaho wolf kill shot down, anyone suprised?

Yellowstone wolf watching has improved lately

Several weeks ago (Sept. 19) I posted that wolf watching in the Park was at about a seasonal low point, but since then it has picked up a lot with the Agates, Sloughs, Hellroaring Pack, and Leopolds often visible.

In addition people have been treated to a number of bears, grizzlies and black bears, feeding on Mt. Washburn well within safe, but good photographic distance. That road will close soon, however. The Park Service shutters the road with the first real snow, or maybe even after just an inch or two. Weather is expected to close it soon.

Posted in Wolves, Yellowstone wolves. Comments Off on Yellowstone wolf watching has improved lately

Potlatch Corp. to charge fees for access to its land in Idaho

Potlatch has joined a growing trend toward access fees. It is the largest private land owner in Idaho, with almost all of its land in the Idaho Panhandle and in North Central Idaho.

There is also a continuing battle over US Forest Service, BLM, and other public land management agencies charging access fees.

Story in the Post-Intelligencer.

Posted in privatization, public lands, Trees Forests. Comments Off on Potlatch Corp. to charge fees for access to its land in Idaho

The Boulder Chain Lakes, White Cloud Mountains

Here are two of the Boulder Chain Lakes in Idaho’s White Clouds Mountains. The chain contains 13 lakes in the drainage. Because of the scenery and the wildlife habitat, especially further to the east, Idaho conservationists have been struggling for a Wilderness designation since the late 1960s for these and the adjacent Boulder Mountains.

Whether the non-wilderness side payments in CIEDRA to anti-wilderness or wilderness indifferent groups are too much, or not enough, has become an issue that extends beyond Idaho.

Two of the Boulder Chain Lakes
Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

Posted in politics, public lands, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on The Boulder Chain Lakes, White Cloud Mountains

A breakdown of the Yellowstone Park wolf packs as of this fall

Here are the data on the Yellowstone “mid-year” wolf packs — the pack names and number of adults, pups, total pack size. Finally a numeric ID has been assigned to the pack.

Yellowstone National Park = 143 wolves; 14 packs (13 packs producing 76 pups) [at least 12 potential breeding pairs). Northern Range 1) Swan Lake- 2, 6, 8; 2) Leopold- 8, 11, 19; 3) 536F Group- 4, 8,12; Hellroaring- 4, 4, 4; 5) Agate- 7, 6, 13; 6) Slough- 8, 0, 8; 7) Druid- 4,11,15; Non- Northern Range 8 ) Mollie’s- 5, 6, 11; 9) Yellowstone Delta- 6, 5,11; 10) Bechler- 3, 5, 8; 11) Snake River Group- 2, 7, 9; 12) Gibbon Meadows- 7, 5,12; 13) Hayden Valley- 4, 2, 6; 14) Cougar Creek- 3, 0, 3; Total: 67, 76, 143.

I’m not sure why the “536F group” is not regarded as a pack because they have eight pups. There might be the belief that they will still rejoin the Leopold Pack from which they came. I don’t think they will. I am not sure why the new pack near the south entrance is called the Snake River group, rather than “pack.”

The Cougar Creek II Pack is regarded as a non-Park pack although it denned in Daly Creek at the extreme NW boundary of Yellowstone Park. There is also a new pack, the Eagle Creek Pack, just across the Yellowstone River between Gardiner and Jardine.

As I mentioned in an earlier story, the Park wolf population is up this year, after the huge decline of the last year, but there are still fewer wolves than in 2003 and 2004.

Elk or energy?

This is another article about the effect natural gas development is having on elk in the country SE of Jackson, WY. This story is through the eyes of outfitters in the Upper Green River Basin.

Article “elk or energy.” It’s from today’s Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Posted in Elk, oil and gas, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Elk or energy?

Salmon Farms Kill Wild Fish, Study Shows

Wild salmon are having a hard enough time without the menace of disease and parasite spreading salmon farms.

British Columbia is the number one offender, as the host of a large number of these farms in the ocean. A robust University of Alberta study on the effects of salmon farms and wild salmon spell out the awful effects of the salmon farms.

Story in Science Daily.

Posted in Fish, wildlife disease. Comments Off on Salmon Farms Kill Wild Fish, Study Shows

Editorial about Proposition 2 on Idaho’s ballot.

Idaho’s Proposition 2 is similar to that in many other states. It hasn’t got the publicity it deserves. Folks are slowly waking up.

A similar initiative passed in Oregon several years ago. Now taxpayers are stuck with $5.8 billion in so-called “takings” claims. Does this sound like protection of your property. Land isn’t the only property. Your money is your property. It’s not just developers and those who want to do troublesome things with their land that have rights. Why should you have to pay them off not to harm the you, your property, the public, the environment or your community?

Avoid the quicksand of Proposition 2. By Len Harlig in the Idaho Mountain Express.

Posted in politics. Comments Off on Editorial about Proposition 2 on Idaho’s ballot.

Autumn on East Fork Salmon River, Idaho, on the Greenfire Preserve

East Fork of the Salmon River, Central Idaho
Autumn on the East Fork of the Salmon River in Central Idaho. Oct. 1, 2006. Photo Copyright Ralph Maughan

Here the very important anandromous fish stream runs through the Greenfire Preserve of the Western Watersheds Project

Posted in Fish. Comments Off on Autumn on East Fork Salmon River, Idaho, on the Greenfire Preserve

Feds to study whether wolverine to be on endangered species list

Like most additions to the endangered or threatened list, groups have had to sue to get the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to take their petition seriously.

There are those who mistakenly say that all it takes is a 39 cent stamp to put a species on the list. In fact, you have to have good scientific evidence, and even when you do, nowadays you usually have to convice a federal judge to order the USFWS to do its job. Judges do not entertain, much less rule in favor of frivolus suits.

Now the USFWS may make a 12 month study whether to list the wolverine, one of the classic wilderness animals.

Story in Missoulian.

Still more at Wild Again.

Grizzly maulings don’t always hurt (at least at first)

Here is an interesting article from the Hungry Horse News (near Glacier NP, Montana).

Painless griz bites.

Posted in Bears. Comments Off on Grizzly maulings don’t always hurt (at least at first)

Rex Rammell is arrested on obstruction of justice charge

Here in more on the on-going story of the escaped domestic elk in Eastern Idaho.

After a series of confrontations with hunters in the special hunt to kill the escaped domestic elk, Rex Rammell was arrested yesterday after a confrontation with Idaho Fish and Game officers.

He is free on bail.

Story in the Idaho Statesman, “Elk ranch owner vows to battle obstruction charges. Rex Rammell says he called F&G officers ‘every name in the book’ after elk were shot close to his property

This morning, the Idaho State Journal had a photo of Rammell’s elk enclosure. In the photo there was no vegetation on the ground and the elk looked skinny. The photo isn’t on-line.

Posted in Elk, wildlife disease. Comments Off on Rex Rammell is arrested on obstruction of justice charge

Wild Rivers and Riprap: The Case of the Yellowstone

Montana is famous for its great fishing streams and many undammed rivers. They attract newcomers to live on their banks, but then, as rivers do, comes a flood. Riprap often follows to the great detriment of the stream.

Here is a long feature article on the practice. It is especially a problem on the Yellowstone River, the longest undammed river in the West.

Wild Rivers and Riprap: The Case of the Yellowstone. By Hal Herring. New West.

Posted in Fish, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Wild Rivers and Riprap: The Case of the Yellowstone

Montana Fish, Wildlife, Parks proactive on chronic wasting “mad elk” disease

Chronic wasting disease has not shown up in Montana’s deer and elk, but Montana FWP isn’t waiting. They are setting up a program and procedure how to deal with it when, or if it shows up in Montana.

Read article.

Posted in Elk, wildlife disease. Comments Off on Montana Fish, Wildlife, Parks proactive on chronic wasting “mad elk” disease

A Plan For Reintroducing Megafauna To North America

It may be possible to restore extinct megafauna like giant horses, North American cheetah, cave bears, etc. by means of genetic engineering.

Just this weekend at a meeting I wondered if it were possible to restore the orginal cattle (today’s cow is a completely human-derived animal).

I’m not endorsing this, but it ought to provoke discussion.

Article in Science Daily.

October 3. More on this at Carnivore Conservation. “What is wrong with USA? Not enough giant cheetahs!”

Too much of a good thing?

This is a National Parks Conservation Association story about the overabundance of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park.

This is hardly a brand new revelation. However, the story is well written.

Read article.

Land use initiative pushed by New York developer threaten the landscape of the West and taxpayer’s pocket book

Idaho and a number of other states, including California and Washington are beset by a “property rightts” ballot initiative. Many stories have reported that the signature gathering was larged funded by New York developer Howard Rich. The initiative would basically outlaw zoning and other land use laws, and punch a huge hole in the budgets of the states if they try to regulate the uses of land.

It would never pass except that it is tied to a popular section, which is already law in Idaho. It has a Trojan Horse buried at the end. “‘They bait you with eminent domain, but you end up voting to destroy all land-use regulation,’ said Elaine Clegg, a nonpartisan member of the city council in Boise, Idaho.”

In a number of states the initiative has been kicked off the ballot because the signatures were gathered by paid signature gatherers (that’s legal) but the initiative was misrepresented and voters often tricked into signing it and other ballot intiatives. I know in Idaho it was even circulated at Earth Day celebrations, where people were told it was a land protection measure.

The way it is worded, I think it may pass. Few folks know that the eminent domain problem created by the Kelo case was taken care of.

Here is a story in the Washington Post. “Court Ruling Fuels Dispute in West Over Eminent Domain. Initiatives Challenge Land-Use Regulations.”

Here in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “$2.3 million pours into I-933. Two rival coalitions try to sway voters on land-use initiative.”

Now that the battle is on, in most of the states many are giving money to support it or fight it. The Farm Bureau seems to be a leading sponsor of the initiative of the Washington State I-933 initative (figures taken from the news story above), but as a comment below indicates this does not seem to be the case in Idaho.

Lolo National Forest in Montana expands by 4000 acres due to TNC purchase

A criticial wildlife area has been protected from subdivision by the  Nature Conservancy. The land has now been  purchased by the government and added to the Lolo National Forest.
AP story.

Posted in politics, public lands. Comments Off on Lolo National Forest in Montana expands by 4000 acres due to TNC purchase

Mary Bomar confirmed as the new director of the National Park Service

Bomar replaces Fran Mainella, who stepped down this summer.

She is apparently highly regarded despite being a Bush Administration nomination.

Story in the Jackson Hole Daily.

Posted in politics, public lands. Comments Off on Mary Bomar confirmed as the new director of the National Park Service

List of Idaho wolf packs and numbers; mid-year 2006

Here is a list of the Idaho wolf packs and estimated numbers at mid-year.

The list is from Ed Bang’s report. In each case, he has listed the name of the pack, the number of adults, third is the number of pups, 4 th is the total pack size. Last is the ID number they have given the pack.

As you can see, for many packs the figures are ? ? ?. This means they have confirmed its presence, that all. It’s pretty clear they came up with the number of 650 wolves by using a fixed size for a wolf pack they have no numeric data on. If they are off by 1 or 2 on the average for these packs the number 650 could be quite a way off.

Ralph Maughan

From Ed Bangs-

Idaho = Total is a rough estimate of 650 wolves; 74 packs; 176 pups; at least 31 potential breeding pairs. Growth rate = 20%. 1) Aparejo- 2, 1, 3; 2) Avery- 2, 2, 4; 3) Basin Butte-3, 5, 8; 4) Bear Valley- ?, ?, 8; 5) Big Buck- 3, 2, 5; 6) Big Hole- ?, 4, 4; 7) Big Water- 2, 5, 7;  8 ) Bimerick Meadow- 3, 6, 9; 9) Biscuit Basin- 7, 3, 9; 10) Blue Bunch- 4, 7, 11; 11) Brooks Creek- ?, 6, 6; 12)Buffalo Ridge- 6, 5, 11; 13) Caulder mt. 2, 4, 6; 14) Calderwood- 4, 4, 8; 15) Carey Dome- 9, ?, 9; 16) Castle Peak- 2, 3, 5; 17) Chamberlain Basin- 2, 4, 6; 18) Chesima- 2, 0, 0; 19) Cold Springs- ?, ?, ?; 20) Coolwater Ridge- 3, 4, 7; 21) Copper Basin- 2, 5, 7; 22) Danskin- 1, 3, 4; 23) DeBorgia 2, 4, 6 (shared with NW MT); 24) Driggs/Teton- 5, 0, 5 (shared with WY); 25) Eagle Mt.- 4, 3, 7; 26) Earthquake Basin- 8, 9, 17; 27) Eldorado Creek- 2, 3, 5; 28) Fish Creek- 9, 7, 16; 29) Fishhook- 2, 2, 4; 30) Five Lakes Butte- 3, ?, 3; 31) Florence- 15, 4, 19; 32) Galena- 8, 5, 13; 33) Giant Cedar- 3, 3, 6; 34) Gold Fork- 3, 0, 3; 35) Golden Creek- 7, 4, 11; 36) Grandad- 4, ?, 4; 37) Gospel Hump- ?, ?, ?; 38) Hazard Lake- ?, ?, ?; 39) Hemlock ridge- 6, 2, 8; 40) Hoodoo- 7, 2, 9; 41) Hughes Creek- 8, 8, 16; 42) Hyndman- 3, ?, 3; 43) Indian Creek- ?, ?, ?; 44) Jungle Creek- 2, 2, 4; 45) Jureano Mt.- ?, 5, 14; 46) Kelly Creek- 7, 3, 10; 47) Landmark- ?, ?, ?; 48) Lemhi- 3, 1, 4; 49) Lick Creek- 3, 3, 6; 50) Lochsa- 5, 1, 6; 51) Magruder- ?, ?, ?; 52) Marble Mt.- 1, ?, ?; 53) Monumental Creek- 3, 3, 6; 54) Morgan Creek- 13, 4, 17; 55) Moyer Basin- 9, 2, 11; 56) O’Hara Point- ?, ?, ?; 57) Orphan- ?, ?, ?; 58) Owl Creek- ?, ?, ?; 59) Packer John- 5, 1, 6; 60) Partridge Creek- ?, ?, ?; 61) Pettibone- ?, ?, ?; 62) Pot Mt.- ?, ?, ?; 63) Red River- ?, 1, ?; 64) Scott mt.- 6, 1, 7; 65) Selway- ?, ?, ?; 66) Sleepy Hollow- 4, 3, 7; 67) Soldier Mt.- 10, 2, 12; 68) Steel Mt. 9, 4, 12; 69) Stolle meadow- 2, ?, 2; 70) Superior- ?, ?, ? (shared with MT); 71) Tangle Creek- ?, 3, ?; 72) Thunder Mt.- ?, ?, ?; 73) Timberline- 12, 3, 15; 74) Twin Peaks- ?, ?, ?; 75) Warm Springs- 7, 6, 13; 76) Wolf Fang- 2, 5, 7; 77) Yankee Fork- ?, ?, ?; 78).