Severe winter causes big die-off of big game in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

The never-ending winter in the Northern Rockies hits deer, elk, moose, pronghorn hard-

During the winter, I made a number of posts about the hard conditions for ungulates in the Northern Rockies. The failure of spring to arrive is causing deaths to continue and grow.

Record wildlife die-offs reported in Northern Rockies. Reuters. By Laura Zuckerman.

Herds of desperate ungulates dying on Montana railroads, highways

Severe winter in Eastern Montana is taking huge toll on pronghorn, other ungulates-

In deep snow, antelope often seek out railroad tracks and highways so they can move.  When a train comes, and fences on both sides, hundreds can die; and they are, right now.

Herds of desperate ungulates dying on Montana railroads, highways.Written by Kim Skornogoski. Great Falls Tribune Staff Writer.

Update: Trains kill more than 800 antelope and deer on Montana tracks this winter. AP

Idaho Fish and Game feeding wildife in SE Idaho

Elk, deer, and pronghorn being fed since January 1-

Idaho Fish and Game doesn’t like to feed, but deep snow and frozen snow after a melt has prompted off and on feeding.  Some of it is to keep the wild animals away from farms.

Idaho Fish and Game news release.

Posted in Deer, Elk, pronghorn. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Idaho Fish and Game feeding wildife in SE Idaho

Winter takes toll on northeastern Montana wildlife

Pronghorn and mule deer hit hard-

Winter takes a toll on northeastern Montana wildlife. By Brett French. Billings Gazette.

I posted a news release from ID Fish and Game the other day about winter conditions and wildlife in Eastern Idaho, but hardly anyone read it.  I took it down. I’ll watch this one to see if there is a true lack of  interest in the subject.

Nevada pronghorn released for new start on Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington State

The Cattle Association opposes the release-

Pronghorns released for new start on Yakama Indian Reservation. Ancient inhabitants are of the Columbia Basin.  Rich Landers. The Spokesman-Review. [ed. note to Spokesman-Review, the plural of pronghorn is pronghorn]

Good for the Safari Club! It appears that when the cattle association took their traditional selfish approach to restoration of any kind of wildlife, the Club went around them and their grasp on the government, and got them released on the Indian Reservation.

Wyoming to spend $9.7M to protect pronghorn

Finally, it looks like a real effort to keep antelope bottlenecks west of Pinedale from closing-

Over the years, we have written about the Trapper’s Point pronghorn migration bottleneck a number of times.  There has been growing awareness that the thousands-of-year-old antelope migration from the Wyoming high desert over the Gros Ventre each year, down into Jackson Hole could easily be severed by increasing development.

I had heard something was being done.  This summer I visited Trappers Point, walked all around, took photos, but saw no changes to the situation had been made. Today the Jackson Hole News and Guide has some good news.  There will be an expansive and expensive overpass built at Trappers Point and another at a dangerous highway crossing about 5 miles to the NW, north of Daniel Junction.

Of course, these overpasses will benefit other kinds of wildlife hit on the highways in this area of increasing traffic and development from the gas fields and subdivisions.

State to spend $9.7M to protect pronghorn: Plan would build fences, highway underpasses and overpasses in Sublette County (WY). By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Wyoming Water Development Commission against proposed Green River dam

Commission calls it “too expensive, unnecessary and bad for recreation and the environment”-

This proposal is so obnoxious I couldn’t believe it was real the first time I heard about it. This is a world class fishing river and the reservoir would cut off the famed pronghorn migration route from the Red Desert to Grand Teton National Park that so many have worked on to keep open.

Nov. 10. Commission against Green dam. State legislators will make final decision on $750,000 proposal in December. By Cory Hatch.  Jackson Hole News and Guide.

– – – –

Recent background on this Nov. 4. Green River dam up for vote. By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.  Jackson Hole Daily.

Part of the Green River that would be impounded. Copyright Ralph Maughan. 2010

2010 Wyoming big game hunting prospects look great

Rocky Mountains Elk Foundation’s CEO David Allen’s annoying hysteria about wolves causing the “biggest wildlife management disaster since the 19 Century buffalo slaughter” is discredited-

2010 Big Game hunting forecast. By Christine Peterson. Casper Star-Tribune staff writer Posted at the trib: Thursday, August 26

The Trappers’ Point Antelope Trail – A Precarious Wildlife Corridor

One bottleneck is crucial to the continuation of the many thousand year seasonal migration from Jackson Hole to the Red Desert-

We haven’t discussed this for a couple years. There is an especially good article on Trapper’s Point constriction in

The Trappers’ Point Antelope Trail – A Precarious Wildlife Corridor. By Emilene Ostlind. Wyofile.

Posted in B.L.M., pronghorn, Wildlife Habitat, Wyoming. Comments Off on The Trappers’ Point Antelope Trail – A Precarious Wildlife Corridor

Stimulus funds for Wyoming wildlife underpasses denied by feds

Although proven to work, WY high value wildlife crossing projects failed to get funding-

Ambitious Wyo big game underpass plan takes hit. By Jeff Gearino. Casper Star Tribune Southwest Wyoming bureau

It is especially sad to see pronghorn crossing projects at Trapper’s Point near Pinedale denied. This bottleneck is a huge threat to the semi-annual, thousands-of-year-old trek of pronghorn to Jackson Hole and the Tetons from the Red Desert and back.

After study, NPS alters fencing for pronghorns in Idaho

Jackson Hole herd is not the only long pronghorn migration-

Most people who follow wildlife news the West now know about the epic migration of the the pronghorn in Jackson Hole from summer to winter on desert south of Pinedale, WY and the big squeeze being put on this migration by the gas industry and subdivisions. They are also aware of the major effort to keep the migration route from being blocked.

Idaho has its own migrations too. They are not so long, but impressive. Finally some study is being done to map the routes and to use fencing to protect the route.

John Miller of the Associated Press has a good article on this.

Wyoming moose numbers are far below Game and Fish objective

Deer and bighorn are down too. Pronghorn and elk doing well-

Moose © Ken Cole

Moose © Ken Cole

Recently we ran the story how well Wyoming’s supposedly beleaguered elk population was doing. Every herd in the state was above Fish and Game objectives.

It’s a different story for moose, which are only at 44% of objective. We ran a story how the moose were starving and suffering from climate change in NW Wyoming. Bighorn would do better if some domestic sheep allotments on public land were closed.

State moose numbers fall short of target. Mule deer count is also below goals, but antelope are going strong, Game and Fish survey shows. By Angus M. Thuermer Jr. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Nevada deer herds down; other species doing well

Loss of habitat and drought to blame, according to article-

NV deer herds down; other species doing well. By Sandra Chereb. Associated Press Writer

Posted in Deer, Elk, pronghorn. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Video on Utah big game transplants

I think moose have been the biggest success story in Utah-

This video is a 5-minute overview of big game transplants in Utah from the Salt Lake Tribune.

Good news. Sonoran pronghorn numbers show sign of bouncing back

From the 20s to 124 animals of the endangered sub-species of pronghorn-

Pronghorn numbers show sign of bouncing back. By Arthur H. Rotstein. Associated Press.

The sonoran pronghorn became almost extinct due to recent drought. The article says possible new drought and border patrol activities are the primary threats.

Posted in pronghorn. Tags: . Comments Off on Good news. Sonoran pronghorn numbers show sign of bouncing back

Pronghorn numbers rising in SW Montana

Pronghorn populations small but rising on this side of Divide, and hunting can be a challenge even where animals are abundant. By Rob Chaney. Missoulian

I think they are down just across the state boundary in Idaho.

Are Wolves The Pronghorn’s Best Friend?

Are Wolves The Pronghorn’s Best Friend? Wolves benefit pronghorn by keeping coyotes in check. Coyotes are a very serious predator of pronghorn fawn, whereas wolves pretty much ignore them.

ScienceDaily. Mar. 3, 2008 — As western states debate removing the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act, a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society cautions that doing so may result in an unintended decline in another species: the pronghorn, a uniquely North American animal that resembles an African antelope.  Rest of story.

EPA slams new plan for gas field near Pinedale, WY

Wow, if Bush’s EPA doesn’t like it, it must have a really terrible environmental impact.

EPA slams new plan for Sublette gas field. Watchdog agency rips BLM proposal, says past study underestimated pollution by factor of 5. By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole News and Guide

“The EPA letter comes in response to the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal for two options to develop 4,399 new wells on 12,278 acres of the Pinedale Anticline, late last year. The anticline is a tight-sands gas reserve beneath the Pinedale Mesa, located about 70 miles southeast of Jackson.

The windswept mesa is winter range to mule deer that summer as far away as Snow King Mountain and rises on a migration route for antelope that summer in Grand Teton National Park.”

Sublette County, WY supports Green River dam

A stupid program designed to help a tiny number of people in a vain attempt to “help to safeguard the County’s economic and cultural viability” (the purpose, according to the County Commissiors).

If these people wanted to safeguard their economic and cultural viability, they should have opposed the massive natural gas industrialization of Sublette County. Talk about a day late and 50-billion dollars short!

Sublette County supports Green River dam. Booster says Warren Bridge site is best location for impoundment on main stem of river. By Angus M. Thuermer Jr., Jackson Hole, Wy. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Preserving the pronghorn corridor into Jackson Hole

The Bridger-Teton National Forest may alter its forest plan to make sure its portion of this 350 mile long migration route is conserved. Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.

The biggest worry, however, is at Trappers Point just west of Pinedale, where BLM gas developments and private land have almost squeezed off the migration corridor.

Posted in pronghorn, public lands. Tags: , . Comments Off on Preserving the pronghorn corridor into Jackson Hole

Arrest made in blatant antelope killing

Arrest made in blatant antelope killing. By The Associated Press. Billings Gazette.

Bluetongue spreads in Montana with high pronghorn mortality in places

Hunters advised on bluetongue death toll. By Mark Henckel. Billings Gazette Outdoor Editor

“Antelope, deer decimating Wyoming’s ‘sagebrush sea'”

As folks know, including the government of Wyoming, which fears a sage grouse listing under the ESA, large continuous areas of sagebrush steppe are in big trouble.

It is fascinating how they blame wolves wolves for too few elk and then say there are too many antelope and deer and they need to have a big hunt to decrease their numbers.

Aren’t these overgrazed sagebrush lands described in the article grazed by cattle and/or sheep as well as deer and antelope?

The one constant in Wyoming politics is ranching and minerals come first, and wildlife gets what’s left except it always gets the blame.

Story “Antelope, deer decimating Wyoming’s ‘sagebrush sea‘” By Jennifer Frazer. Rocky Mountain News.

Note I borrowed the headline from “Headwaters News.’

Domestic livestock disease is killing wildlife

Bluetongue is a disease carried by livestock which has been found to be spreading into game populations, killing antelope and white-tail deer. Montana has confirmed two deaths caused by the disease, and flights indicate a significant amount of dead animals:

“Bluetongue can affect wildlife, and we got testing results back on our first two animals Tuesday that show bluetongue was the cause of death,” said Jay Newell, wildlife biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at Roundup.

Disease is a significant consequence of intermingling domesticated livestock with wild animals. Consider the Buffalo slaughter in yellowstone ~ brucellosis was originally introduced by livestock, the consequences of the domesticated arrangement in the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming, or the die-offs of bighorn intermingling with domestic sheep.

Note: Western Watersheds Project, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, and the Wilderness Society have re-opened litigation regarding the use of the Salmon River Driveway to trail domestic sheep off of the Payette National Forest, a practice that exposes bighorn to epizootic diseases.

Are prey hard-wired to fear predators?

Preliminary data about predators and large ungulates indicates that fear is learned rather than inherent, although not all scientists agree.

Story: Are prey hard-wired to fear predators? By Brodie Farquhar. Casper Star-Tribune

Study: Antelope flourish in gas fields

Study: Antelope flourish in gas fields. By Whitney Royster. Casper Star-Tribune environmental reporter.

The headline is contradicted by the very first paragraph of the story.  “JACKSON — Antelope do not appear to be unduly stressed so far on and around the Pinedale Anticline, but increased energy activity may change their use of the area, according to recent results of an ongoing study.”

“Unduly stressed so far” is not the same as “flourish.”

Nevertheless, this study raises hope that the gas developments might not wipe out the pronghorn in the area.  Snow depth and the presence of fences seem to be more important than gas development so far.

While most readers are probably aware of the impact of fences on pronghorn, it should be reiterated that pronghorn and fences do not mix. Pronghorn, though very swift, do not jump fences over 3 feet high. They try to crawl under them.  A relatively benign fence for pronghorn is a wire fence with no barbs on the bottom strand with that strand being at least 18 inches above the ground. Most of pronghorn killer fences are associated with sheep grazing, with coyote proof woven fences being the worst.

Additional info. Pronghorn Management Guide – 2006 (fences). Game and Fish Department of North Dakota. This has good illustrations.

Idaho Fish and Game may curb hunting in burned areas

Wildlife took a beating in the Murphy Complex and other rangefires. The article says it may take 30 years to restore the sage grouse habitat. Giving the increasing incidence or rangefires, however, it is hard to imagine 30 years will pass before it burns again.

Unlike forest fires the flames moved so fast that a number of elk, deer and even antelope might have perished when they could not escape. Story in the Times News. Fish and Game may curb hunting in burned areas. By Matt Christensen
Times-News writer.

Note that the Murphy Complex is now about contained at just short of 700,000 acres

More news from Wyoming where wolves have killed all the big game. Not!

Of course, wolves haven’t and these recent articles indicate. This new info is just short of incredible given all the ranting and raving by Wyoming politicians and some hunting organizations over the last ten years about how the wolf had decimated the elk.
April 26. Wyoming Game and Fish proposes additional hunting licenses to offset forage shortage. By Brodie Farquhar. Jackson Hole Star-Tribune correspondent.

The drought has greatly reduced the forage and so the number of animals needs to be reduced, but the elk and most other ungulate populations are well over objectives. Of course, the drought is not a happy situation because it will reduce the number of elk and deer, and pronghorn, but the point here is the problem is not wolves. We can imagine, however, that once drought and hunting have reduced the numbers, wolves will be blamed for the reduced numbers.

May 12. Wyoming Game and Fish predicts good hunting. By Ben Neary. Casper Star Tribune. “”Elk are probably at an all-time high historically,” said Bill Rudd, assistant chief for of the wildlife division for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Cheyenne.”

New. May 17. Elk numbers soar as hunting seasons set. Wyo. population grows to 99,867 animals, 17 percent above objectives. By By Angus M. Thuermer Jr. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Sonoran pronghorn makes a comeback.

Their numbers have grown from just 21 to over 100.

Using the Kempthorne/Otter logic, I guess we should butcher 4/5 of them now.

Story. Associated Press. (with the original silly headline). Deer-Like Animal Rebounds in Arizona. By Arthur R. Rotstein.

post 1117

Posted in endangered species act, pronghorn. Comments Off on Sonoran pronghorn makes a comeback.

Deadline today for comments on 4000 new gas wells on the Pinedale, WY anticline

It’s kind of sadly amusing that the article says “Today is the last chance for people to comment on a proposal for the Pinedale Anticline that would add up to 4,400 new wells in a part of Sublette County that biologists say is crucial habitat for pronghorn, sage grouse and mule deer.” [boldface mine]

As though there was a real mystery as whether this is crucial to pronghorn, sage grouse and mule deer, and it takes a biologist to figure it out.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. By Cory Hatch.

Copper Basin, Idaho

This high valley, surrounded by sky-raking mountains for about 330 degrees is one of the most scenic in Idaho if you don’t look down. Link to Google Maps.

For a hundred years it has been abused by livestock. The situation is so bad that they even range far above timberline in the adjacent Pioneer Mountains, Idaho’s second highest mountain range. It have seen them crapping in Idaho’s highest lake — Goat Lake — beneath Standhope Peak.

All of Idaho’s native wildlife persists here (except grizzly bears), but in small numbers. For a number of years various Copper Basin wolf packs have formed and taken a few cattle (mostly calves) now and again. They have been controlled and controlled, but they keep coming back much to the apparent dislike of Idaho’s new governor Butch Otter, who apparently had a “show me” tour at the courtesy of livestock politicians last summer.

He emerged vowing to wipe out the wolves.

More and more people are thinking we should (legally) wipe out the cattle. This valley could dwarf Yellowstone’s Lamar with the abundance of fish and wildlife and beauty if the cows were gone.


Pronghorn in Copper Basin. Numbers are not large, but the variety of wildlife is great. Photo © copyright Ralph Maughan

I’ve seen pronghorn at 9800 feet in the adjacent Pioneer Mtns. (beneath Scorpion Mountain). There are moose despite the trashed out condition of the beaver ponds from cattle. I predict the moose population would explode in a few years, if the cows were gone.


Goat Lake, elev 10,438 feet with Standhope Peak on the far side (just short of 12,000 feet). Cattle are allowed to graze the "lush" pastures 😉 in the photo. © copyright Ralph Maughan

Read the rest of this entry »

Deal made for 178,000 acres of cow-free wildlife habitat east of Grand Teton

The National Wildlife Federation has paid to buy out Stanko’s Bacon Creek grazing allotment on the Bridger-Teton national forest, which is home to very important elk, deer, bighorn sheep, moose and pronghorn habitat as well as grizzly bears and 3 wolf packs.

The buyout was voluntary.

Story in the Billings Gazette. Deal expands wildlife habitat. By Mike Stark of The Gazette Staff

Wolf density aids pronghorn fawn survival

I missed this important story earlier.

I wouldn’t say this is proven yet, but the hypothesis is based on the observed fact that wolves actively kill coyotes and reduce their numbers. It is also observed fact that wolves rarely bother with pronghorn fawns, but coyotes prey heavily on them.

Story in the Jackson Hole Planet. Wolf density aids pronghorn fawn survival. By Melanie Stein

Accident that Killed 21 Pronghorn Not All that Uncommon

Accident that Killed 21 Pronghorn Not All that Uncommon. Carnage Abounds on Western Wyoming Roads. New West. By Brian Maffly.

This article is an explication of the earlier story, 21 pronghorn die as they veer into oil services truck near Pinedale.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, pronghorn, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Accident that Killed 21 Pronghorn Not All that Uncommon

21 pronghorn die as they veer into oil services truck near Pinedale.

21 Pronghorn Dead. Deadliest Roadkill Ever in Wyoming. By Brian Maffly. New West

Many have had the experience of pronghorn racing along your vehicle, sometimes even sprinting to pass the road in front of you. Something like that may have happened.