Teton Range herd of bighorns at risk of extinction

Winter recreation may be one of the impacts to the remaining bighorn.

This population of bighorn sheep has dwindled to very low numbers. Inbreeding, habitat loss due to development, and domestic sheep disease have restricted these sheep to very high elevation and sites of low productivity so human entry into these areas during winter may have a severe impact.

Teton Range herd of bighorns at risk of extinction
Scientists are exploring ways to reduce risks to isolated sheep.
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.

One year after large prescribed burn, vegetation flourishes in Gros Ventre

Prescribed fire east of Jackson Hole was big success; more planned-

Meanwhile late season fires break out amidst planned ignitions

Link Fixed. Plants healthier year after Gros Ventre burn. Prescribed fire improved forage for bighorns, other wildlife in Red Hills area. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

For those unfamiliar with this common place name east of Jackson Hole, it is pronounced Grow Vont

Update 8:30 PM, Sept. 26. I found out in a big way, why they might have run this story in the News and Guide. Last Wednesday, Sept. 23, I went up to this general area. Phase 2 of this burn had been ignited and put up a huge cloud of smoke visible 50 miles away!  As this fire, several other “prescribed burns” and lighting fires began in Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks, what were gloriously blue crystalline skies slowly turned to awful gray crud.

cave-falls-.arnica-fire-smoke

Smoke from the Arnica Fire in Yellowstone Park fills the sky upstream from Cave Falls. Sept. 24, 2009. Copyright Ralph Maughan

9-26. Here is the story on the second substantial fire in Yellowstone Park this year. Fire [the Arnica Fire] closes park’s Grand Loop. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide

Late 9-26. Arnica Fire grows from 250 to 1600 acres. More growth expected. Billings Gazette.

Posted in winter range, Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on One year after large prescribed burn, vegetation flourishes in Gros Ventre

Debate Rages Over Elk Feeding

The most recent on Wyoming’s elk feedlot fiasco –

Debate Rages Over Elk Feeding – Kirk Johnson, New York Times

thanks jdubya

Vet urges ranchers to adopt brucellosis plan

Online Poll in the Bozeman Chronicle

This is a non-scientific Poll concerning the management of wild bison in Montana…

To vote in this online poll in the Bozeman Chronicle:

Scroll to the bottom of this link to find the question:

Do you think the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks should take over sole responsibility for managing wild bison in Montana?
Then vote.

Update: Poll results.

Suit Opposes Elk Feeding in Wyoming

The New York Times details a recent lawsuit filed yesterday by environmentalists to stop the feedlot-like conditions of the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming.

Suit Opposes Elk Feeding in WyomingNew York Times. By Jim Robbins.

The spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) threatens wildlife given its recent proximity to the “refuge” and is of particular concern given the congregated conditions fostered by feeding wild elk and the catastrophic potential for massive spread.

The feedlot-like conditions are maintained to keep wild elk off of land livestock producers covet as their own – the herds’ native winter range. When elk eat the forage, cows don’t have as much.

Opportunity for elk feedlots serving as de facto baiting-grounds for killing wolves post-delisting has also been a concern.

Story added. Jackson Hole News and Guide. Refuge feeding fought in suit. Conservation groups say practice threatens elk with disease; critics argue animals will starve. By Cory Hatch.

Harper’s gets it right on Buffalo

For those of you with a Harper’s Magazine subscription, you’re in for a treat with Christopher Ketcham’s article They shoot buffalo, don’t they: Hazing America’s last wild herd in Harper’s most recent edition. Ketcham gets it right again.

For those of you, like myself, who don’t have a subscription to the publication, get on down to your local newstand and pick up a copy. It’s the June 2008 edition.

The article hearkens back to Harper’s Bernard DeVoto days in it’s candid willingness to take Livestock to task for their crimes against wildlife and the absurd hold this special interest has on management – on its ability to mangle the truth. It’s a stark depiction of just how little this cultural identity – this mentality, has changed.

It’s a good read, let’s hope Ketcham keeps following this path ~ Livestock’s contribution to the subsidized War on Wildlife with other species and co-opted agencies – there are plenty to choose from.

Here’s a work of Christopher Ketcham published in the recent past :

The Cowboy’s Carnage: Ranching and the War on Wildlife in the American West (Men’s Journal, Jan. 2008 ..)

Posted in Bison, Grazing and livestock, public lands, winter range. Tags: . Comments Off on Harper’s gets it right on Buffalo

Many things contribute to big game deaths

Ticks, starvation – lots of things kill ungulates in Idaho :

Biologists track carcases in  E. Idaho riverThe Olympian

It will be interesting to see whether any anti-predator group sends out an alert about the vicious ticks devastating game species in Idaho.  Perhaps we’ll see some grandstanding about the need to control the hard winter at the next commissioner meeting ?

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.

Wyoming Game and Fish is creating a new elk feedlot under guise of “emergency”

In a state overrun with disease spreading feedlots for wintertime elk feeding, we would think Wyoming doesn’t need more, but they seem to be slowly establishing yet a new one. This is in the Buffalo Valley, a very sensitive spot from standpoint of wildlife and Grand Teton National Park.

The Buffalo Valley is a scenic, and deep snow, side valley near the north end of Jackson Hole. It is one of the places where moose have continued to hold out as Wyoming’s moose population continues to slide. It bounds both Grand Teton National Park to its west and the national forest’s Teton Wilderness to its north.

The area has had quite a few wolf packs, including some that live most of the time inside Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton National Parks. Because Wyoming has said they are going to shot wolves this disrupt elk feedground operations (makes it hard for those who pitch the hay), this new feedlot could be a significant source of human mortality of Park-based wolf packs.

Here is the sad story.

Pinedale, WY area elk avoid Game and Fish traps

Jan. 29, 2008

We’ve covered this pointless plan to trap elk and test them for brucellosis antibodies before they go onto the Muddy Creek winter feedlot. Those that test positive are killed and the rest left to act like cattle for the rest of the winter.

Regarding the slaughtered elk, most of which really don’t have brucellosis although they test positive for antibodies, where is “Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife – Wyoming.” Is this OK with them?

The elk haven’t cooperated and continue not to act like cattle. Now, if only some of the doomed wolves in the area would appear and chase the elk well away from the feedlot.

Elk avoid traps. By Cat Urbigkit. Casper Star Tribune.

Note: the Muddy Creek feedlot was the indirect source of the brucellosis infection that caused Wyoming to lose its class 1, “brucellosis-free” status several years ago.

Jan. 30, 2008. Pinedale elk trap themselves. By Cat Urbigkit. Casper Star Tribune.
Screwups continue in this misbegotten program.

Feb. 1, 2008. 20 elk are finally tested for brucellosis antibodies, but operation continues to be messy. By Cat Urbigkit. Casper Star Tribune.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists expressing concern ahead of winter snows near Sun Valley, Idaho

With the drought and the Castle Rock Fire, wildlife may have a hard time surviving the winter due to poor food availability during the summer and burned winter range. This is true too  in many places beyond the vicinity of Sun Vally, Hailey, and Ketchum, Idaho.

Story in the Idaho Mountain Express. Drought leads to more wildlife sightings.. Fish and Game biologists expressing concern ahead of winter snows. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer.

Posted in wildfire, Wildfires, Wildlife Habitat, winter range. Comments Off on Idaho Fish and Game biologists expressing concern ahead of winter snows near Sun Valley, Idaho

Challenge to Wyoming’s elk feeding/killing program fails in federal court

The judge ruled Wyoming’s program to test elk for brucellosis before they enter a winter feedlot (and kill the elk if it tests positive for brucellosis anti-bodies) was not an arbitrary and capricious decision. Indeed that legal standard is a high bar (that a government program is arbitrary and capricious).

Livestock groups were happy because it means they won’t have to share any winter range with elk (as ranchers do in most other Western states).

There is no way this test and slaughter will reduce the brucellosis infection rate because there are too many “false negatives” as well as even more “false positives” in the crude test they use.

I continue to be amazed that Wyoming’s version of the group “Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife” continues to support this worthless elk killing program and yet keep a straight face when they talk about how horrible it is that predatory animals kill elk. I guess elk dying a natural death to predation is bad and a stupid bureaucratic-ordered death is acceptable.
Story in the Billings Gazette. Elk-feeding challenge rejected

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Governor: Feed grounds necessary in Wyoming

Freudenthal is gearing up to defend the indefensible, — Wyoming’s winter elk feed grounds, the continued source of brucellosis transmission in elk and the place where chronic wasting disease will first show up in the Greater Yellowstone elk and deer.

If you are going, defend something so wrong, it might just pay off to say just the opposite is true. He does. “Feed grounds are a vital part of the state’s elk management and brucellosis strategy and will be a part of that strategy for the foreseeable future.” That’s what he said in Jackson, WY on Monday.

By defending the feed grounds as vital in preventing transmission of brucellosis, he can then accuse the wolves who come to the feed grounds to hunt in the winter just as naturally as bears come to backyard birdfeeders, as something menacing that needs to be killed. In fact the feedgrounds is one of the two major reasons for the proposed new 10j rule that will be argued in Cody tonight. The new 10j would allow the states to kill wolves if the wolves if they are a major cause preventing the state from meeting “herd objectives,” a term that the Federal Register says means the movements of herds, not just desired population size.

Freudenthal then gives the real reason for the pro-feedground, anti-wolf policy. The Jackson Hole News and Guide writes, “Freudenthal said the only thing that could possibly reduce the state’s dependence on supplemental feeding programs would be significant state investment to secure more wintering habitat for the animals.” [emphasis mine]. However, he said winter range would be too expensive to buy.

He is right, but not the way it seems. Wyoming state government is rolling in money from the mass industrialization of state for gas development. They have plenty of money to buy the land, but the political support for it isn’t there with a governor like him.

The expense the governor is talking about then, is political. To eliminate the feedgrounds, he would have to oppose the influential, old guard ranchers who have for a century, opposed using the successful method of Idaho and Montana — use natural winter range for wintering wildlife.

In Wyoming, it takes a lot of courage to oppose the old guard ranchers, and Freundenthal will allow disease to spread and the wolves south of Yellowstone to be killed because he has no courage. That’s what the wolf killing program is about.

Story: Governor: Feed grounds necessary in Wyoming. By Noah Brenner. July 17, 2007

post 1334

WY Game and Fish says far too many elk in herd just SW of Jackson

Here’s another elk herd in wolf country that is deemed too populous — Wyoming’s Fall Creek herd (just south and SW of Jackson)

On the other hand, there are too few mule deer in the Wyoming Range, especially the buck to doe ratio. Wolves are not tolerated in the Wyoming Range (too far south WY says).

The number of moose in the Teton Wilderness has made a comeback since a three-year closure of three hunting areas in the Wilderness was implemented. There are lots of wolves in this huge Wilderness along the south boundary of Yellowstone Park.

The point is, once again, there are many deer and elk herds inside and outside wolf country in addition to the Northern Range Yellowstone elk herd, which anti-wolf folks always point to with alarm. Hunting rules and the quality of the ungulates’ range are the major factors in the how the elk and deer are doing in terms of population.

Story- State to target Fall Creek elk herd. By Angus M. Thuermer Jr., Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Scientists’ take on Wyoming Elk Feedlot – Wolf Scare

Perhaps many of you have heard of the WGFDs quick fire-off of the news release below last week.  The argument is that wolves are pushing/disrupting elk off of Wyoming’s large elk feedlots, brought about to entice elk away from cattle in an effort to prevent the spread of Brucellosis from elk to cattle.  We’ve seen Montana use Brucellosis to slaughter and haze buffalo, we’re seeing Wyoming use it to “manage” elk in high-density feed-camps and now we’re seeing it extended to justify inflated antagonism toward wolves.  

The Jackson-Hole News&Guide’s Cory Hatch wrote an article entitled State: Wolves disrupt elk feeding areas on March 7 which includes some biologists’ take on the matter.    

Wolves said to disrupt winter elk feeding in Wyoming

“Wolves are causing a variety of problems on state elk feedgrounds, from spooking the elk and causing them to move from one area to another to killing work animals,” the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said. From Billings Gazette News Services. Read Article.

The entire premise of the article is wrong. There should not be elk winter feedlots! If the wolves disrupt the operations and chase the elk, so much the better, especially in the Gros Ventre River drainage (disruption may be a problem further south near Pinedale, Wyoming where the elk feedlots are near ranches and roads).

The article mentions that the wolves killed a feeder’s dog as though that was unexpected and terrible. Several weeks ago Ed Bangs sent out a much longer description of the event.

Bangs wrote: On the 23rd [Feb], Jimenez [WY FWS] examined and confirmed that a 8-month old male Catahula hound was killed by wolves on one of the Gros Ventre elk winter feedgrounds near Jackson, WY. The feeders stay at the feedground and had 5 pet hounds sleeping outside the cabin. The dog was killed about 200yds from the cabin. The other dogs are fine. The feeders had been previously advised that a wolf pack was visiting that feedground and their dogs might be at risk. No control is planned.

Did the feeders care about the dogs ? They were left sleeping outside next to an elk feedlot frequented by wolves, coyotes, and no doubt cougar as well. This is way back in the mountains, east of Jackson Hole, untamed country.

Wyoming Game and Fish is just plain irresponsible, and these “problems” are to be expected.

The wolves seem to be the only ones in Wyoming actually doing something to reduce the prevalence of brucellosis (by scaring elk off of the diseased feedlots).

Fewer elk to be fed on National Elk Refuge

In response to a past lawsuit, the National Elk Refuge at Jackson, Wyoming has announced it will feed fewer elk, probably, therefore, reducing the size of the Jackson Hole Elk Herd. The plan is to also reduce the Jackson Hole bison herd by half, a good idea because, unlike Yellowstone Park bison, the Jackson bison are not controlled by conditions of winter severity and threaten to grow beyond all bounds expect for the availability of summer range.

Naturally, Sportsmen for Feeding and Whining (a.k.a. “Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife-WY”) didn’t like the plan. Conservationists said it didn’t go far enough to reducing the disease spreading nature of feeding elk and bison in the the winter.

Story in the Casper Star Tribune. By Whitney Royster. Note that the headline is a bit misleading.

The Jackson Hole Daily (edition of Jackson Hole News and Guide) has a more accurate heading and a slightly different take on the story. Refuge to cut herd. By Corey Hatch.

Posted in Bison, Elk, wildlife disease, Wildlife Habitat, winter range. Comments Off on Fewer elk to be fed on National Elk Refuge