Darwin Award Averted. Webcam catches tourists walking on Old Faithful

While not as amusing as the two who tried to urinate into the geyser a few years ago, this was still just as stupid.

You can watch the web cam here: Old Faithful web cam

Webcam catches tourists walking on Old Faithful.
The Associated Press

Greater Yellowstone Bison show signs of inbreeding.

Government slaughter could irreparably harm bison species.

Buffalo on Horse Butte © Ken Cole

Recently I referenced unpublished data indicating that bison suffer from compromised mitochondrial DNA which could be exacerbated by government slaughter without any examination as to how it will affect the already genetically compromised herd.  That information has now been released.

Historically, bison have gone through what is known as a bottleneck where the population declined to such a low number that their genetic diversity became severely limited. The Yellowstone herd of bison is derived of only about 50 individuals, half of which were brought in from other areas such as northwest Montana and Texas. In recent years, while conducting repeated culling – where greater than half of the Yellowstone herd could be killed either by slaughter or winter kill – government managers never studied how their actions affected the genetics of the bison. For example, prior to the winter of 2007/2008 the population was estimated to be 5,500. That winter 1,631 buffalo were killed by the government and hunting but an additional 1,500 died from starvation due to the harsh winter that they were unable to escape because their habitat has been so curtailed by the policy of Montana and its greedy livestock industry. This left only 2,300 bison, or less than half of the bison herd, the following spring and possibly irreparably harmed the remaining genetic diversity of the herd. Read the rest of this entry »

*NEWS: Conservationists Seek Emergency Injunction To Prevent Yellowstone Bison Slaughter

Conservationists Seek Emergency Injunction To

Prevent Slaughter of Yellowstone Bison

Harsh Winter Conditions May Lead to Repeat of 2008 Slaughter

Contacts:

Tom Woodbury, Western Watersheds Project: (406) 830-3099
Dan Brister, Buffalo Field Campaign: (406) 726-5555
Mike Mease, Buffalo Field Campaign: (406) 646-0071
Glenn Hockett, Gallatin Wildlife Association: (406) 581-6352

Bison in deep snow © Ken Cole

Bison in deep snow © Ken Cole

HELENA, MONTANA – A coalition of conservation groups, Native Americans, and Montanans filed an urgent motion for injunctive relief in federal court today to prevent a repeat of the 2008 slaughter of over 1400 wild bison captured on public wildlands near the border of Yellowstone National Park in Montana.

Many of the same factors that contributed to the mass slaughter in 2008, including heavy snowpack, bison population size, and the continuing agency intolerance for migrating bison, are in place this year as well.

With the Stephens Creek bison trap inside the Park already near capacity, and more bison migrating toward their natural winter range in Montana to forage at lower elevations, Park Service Spokesperson Al Nash indicated that the agencies may begin sending hundreds of bison off to slaughter whether they carry the disease brucellosis or not.  While it is concern over the possible transmission of brucellosis to cattle that is the justification offered for preventing bison from utilizing their winter range in Montana, at the present time there are no cattle present in the bison’s winter range corridor, and no risk of transmission.  And that, according to the Plaintiffs challenging the bison management plan in federal court, perfectly illustrates why the plan needs to be scrapped.

“One of the twin goals of the bison management plan is ‘to ensure the wild and free-ranging nature of American bison’,” said Tom Woodbury, Montana Director for Western Watersheds Project, “but ten years into the plan, there is still zero tolerance for bison being bison on our public wildlands.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The impending bison slaughter.

National Park Service hazing buffalo inside Yellowstone National Park © Ken Cole

National Park Service hazing buffalo inside Yellowstone National Park © Ken Cole

The snow is deep, in fact it’s 130% of average in Yellowstone this year. That makes for a bad situation if you are a buffalo there. Do you try to stay in the Park where you can’t get to the food that you know is under all of that snow or do you follow your instincts and move to lower elevation where there is less snow? Either way, you’re screwed if you’re a buffalo.

This year, with an estimated population of 3,900 buffalo in Yellowstone, things are reaching a tipping point and a mass exodus of buffalo is likely to ensue.

What will await them when they leave the Park? Well, this year, there have been over 100 bison killed outside the Park, mostly by tribal treaty and sport hunters according to the Buffalo Field Campaign (full disclosure, I am a long time volunteer and board member of BFC), one was hit on the road as a result of being orphaned during the hunt and unable to trudge through the deep snow on its own, and another one was shot by Montana officials after it left the Royal Teton Ranch after being captured, tested and marked in an obscenely expensive program which is vaunted by the government and “conservation” groups for its greater “tolerance” towards bison outside of Yellowstone National Park.

That experiment hasn’t gone too well. The buffalo aren’t behaving the way, or staying where the government wants them to so they have been chasing them around on horseback trying to keep them on the RTR.

Read the rest of this entry »

New report indicates that Yellowstone Bison are the only genetically pure herd managed by the Department of Interior

Yellowstone herd also contains two distinct populations.

Buffalo on Horse Butte © Ken Cole

Buffalo on Horse Butte © Ken Cole

It has long been postulated that Yellowstone bison are important because they remain the only continuously free roaming herd but their importance has been elevated with the disclosure of a recent report which says that they are also the only genetically pure herd among those managed by the Department of Interior.

Not only this, but the Yellowstone population actually consists of two distinct populations which has extraordinary management implications.  Currently the management plan for Yellowstone bison does not take in to account the two distinct populations leading to the possibility that management actions could have a disproportionate impact on one population over that of the other.  These kinds of impacts can be profound genetically and can lead to loss of genetic diversity over time.  The management activities can also have disproportionate impacts on herds because they can eliminate entire maternal groups, groups of closely related cow/calf groups, which are routinely captured and slaughtered on the northern and western boundaries of Yellowstone Park.

Read the rest of this entry »

Grizzly Managers Spin Whitebark Pine Woes: Just How Important is Whitebark to Yellowstone Bears?

Very important.

Interesting post by NRDC’s Louisa Wilcox about how the science shows how critical whitebark pine nuts are for grizzlies and how the managers talk out of both sides of their mouth.

“In its August 9th legal brief challenging the 2009 ruling by Federal Judge Donald Molloy that required relisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear under the Endangered Species Act, federal attorneys said, “the grizzly does not depend on whitebark pine for its survival. The grizzly is a very successful omnivore, and that…they will somehow be able to adapt to a decline in whitebark pines.” The legal briefs then go on to dismiss the issue of whitebark pine relationships to grizzly bear vital rates, including mortality risks, as well as the reproductive success of females. This argument, as the district court ruled, and I will discuss later, runs counter to the evidence on the record.

Then, just yesterday, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team sent out a press release saying, “the scarcity of whitebark pine cones this year may be driving bears to find food at lower elevations, where there is more human activity, increasing the chances of bear-human interactions.” (This comes in a year when 22 grizzly bears are known to have died, and many human-bear conflicts have occurred — months before bears will den up.)”

Grizzly Managers Spin Whitebark Pine Woes: Just How Important is Whitebark to Yellowstone Bears?.
Louisa Willcox’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

Yellowstone National Park – Summer 2010 Bison Population Estimate Released

Bison Population estimated to be 3900

Yellowstone National Park – Summer 2010 Bison Population Estimate Released.
U.S. National Park Service Press Release