Wolf number 690 from Yellowstone National Park had seen her pack ravaged by disease and attacks by other wolf packs before she wandered south of Butte. The 2-year-old female that was stricken with mange was shot recently by a rancher when he spotted the black wolf attacking cattle. State wildlife officials inspected the collared wolf and found she was from the former Druid Peak pack, which no longer exists after members caught mange and then dispersed into the hostile territory of other packs…
Every year, thousands of big game animals and birds die of injuries caused by fences. However, as a new Colorado Division of Wildlife publication explains, it is possible to build effective fences that meet the needs of landowners and that minimize harm to wildlife.
The new publication, “Fencing with Wildlife in Mind,” explains how to build a variety of wildlife-friendly fences. It also includes instructions on how to construct enclosures around areas to exclude wildlife. When properly built, fences can allow wildlife to move through an area, both in their normal daily movements and in seasonal migration patterns.
The information offered by the publication is based on long-term research and observations by wildlife officers and biologists. In addition, private landowners provided suggestions and designs that they employ on their properties.
“Fences are major investments for landowners,” said Pat Tucker, coordinator of the Habitat Partnership Program for the DOW. “This publication isn’t the final word on fencing but it does show real life examples of fence designs that work for both landowners and wildlife.”
A research study of 600 miles of fence line conducted by Utah State University examined carcasses of animals found hanging in the fences, dead animals next to fences, and different types of fences. Here are some of the key findings:
– woven-wire fences topped with a single-strand of barbed wire were most lethal to wildlife;
– one big game animal was found tangled for every 2.5 miles of fence;
– one animal was found dead next to fences every 1.2 miles;
– most animals died by getting caught in the top two wires while trying to jump;
– 70 percent of all mortalities were on fences higher than 40 inches;
– young animals are eight times more likely to die in fences than adult animals;
– 90 percent of the carcasses found near fences were of young animals that had been separated from their mothers.
Despite mortality rates averaging 25 percent – more than three-quarters of them human-caused – gray wolves are thriving in most of the northern Rocky Mountains, according to a recently published tri-state survival analysis.
However, they’re doing poorly in Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness of western Montana.
By Jeff Welsch
Communications Director, Greater Yellowstone Coalition – Bozeman, Montana
Never let facts get in the way of some good hysteria.
That seems to be the mantra of the fringe anti-wolf crowd as it once again seizes on the iconic animal’s imagined evils in yet another attempt to revisit the futile notion of a second extermination.
Pick up a newspaper in any part of Montana, Idaho or Wyoming these days and there’s a fair chance you’ll read a screed about the latest reasons why the big, bad wolf should be banished:
They’re eating all the elk.
They’ve got tapeworms.
Let’s start the myth-busting from the top:
They’re eating all the elk: Yes, it’s true, wolves eat elk. It’s just as true that elk are doing just fine in Greater Yellowstone and beyond.
Hunter success rates are high. For instance, in Wyoming’s prized Jackson herd, in the heart of prime wolf and grizzly country, an average of 36 percent of hunters have harvested an elk over the past 10 years. Compare that to a 20 percent success rate in neighboring Colorado, where there are essentially no wolves and the elk population is triple the size.
Populations are still above wildlife-agency objectives in some places, leveling off in others, and lower elsewhere. Where elk numbers are lower, wolf predation is just one of many factors. In most cases, suppression of wildfire and corresponding reduction of elk habitat is a prime culprit.
Hunter complaints about not seeing as many elk are more about wolves changing ungulate behavior than population declines. Elk simply aren’t lingering where they once did.
Moreover, keeping elk wary has had an extraordinary impact on habitat, especially in Yellowstone National Park. Willows, cottonwoods and aspen are regenerating after seven decades of elk over-browsing, re-opening areas to other wildlife.
This “trophic cascade” phenomenon moved one northwest Colorado rancher to shift his thinking on wolves after they moved into his lands. At first wary of the wolf’s impacts on cattle and elk herds, he now welcomes their presence after seeing how they apparently helped restore his dying aspen stands.
Biologists using aircraft to look for radio-collared wolves say more than 20 wolf packs in northwest Wyoming have likely denned, including five in the Jackson Hole area.
Most recently, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wyoming wolf management coordinator Mike Jimenez found probable den sites for the Phantom Springs and Pacific Creek packs, both located in or near the northern part of Grand Teton National Park. Other local packs that have denned are the Buffalo, Antelope and Pinnacle packs.
Elsewhere in Wyoming, the Absaroka, Beartooth, Chagrin River, Hoodoo and Sunlight packs appear to have moved to denning sites. Between nine and 11 packs in Yellowstone National Park have also denned.
For the 2010 wolf hunt, northwestern Montana would have a total of nine wolf management units with a total quota of 122 or 133 wolves; western Montana would have two management units with a total quota of 26 or 31 wolves; and the three proposed management units in the southwestern portion of the state would have a total quota of 38 or 52 wolves.
Trapping and baiting led to wolves’ extermination from the Northern Rockies in the early 1900s, said Jesse Timberlake, a conservation associate with Defenders of Wildlife’s Boise office.
“We’re very worried that they’re steamrolling ahead, without taking time to consider whether the methods are ethical and allow for fair chase,” Timberlake said. “The hunting community’s standards say that animals must have a fair chance.”
Busy couple of weeks at work, not a whole lot of time for photography…
Soggy spring is in full swing – the bears should start showing up more frequently in their usual spots pretty soon (only one bear pair sighting so far at Roxborough, though several bobcat sightings), can’t wait to get out there early on my next day off!
Yellowstone field notes. April 10 -18, 2010. By © Kathie Lynch.
During my Spring Break in Yellowstone National Park (April 10-18, 2010), I managed to see at least one wolf every day, but it wasn’t as easy as it used to be.
There are really only 17 wolves that might typically be visible in the Northern Range (nine Blacktails, five “Silvers,” and three in 755M’s Group). Sometimes the three Canyons or some of the seven or eight Quadrants help out by dropping in to the Mammoth area for a visit.
The most exciting happening was the rediscovery of the Druid Peak pack two-year-old “Black Female” (formerly called the “Black Female Yearling”). She had not been seen since March 9. So, on April 17, we were delighted to find her taking turns with a grizzly scavenging on a carcass below Hellroaring.
Before that it had been almost a month since a Druid had been seen (571F on March 24). The other missing Druids and last confirmed sightings include: alpha 480M (February 9), 690F (March 10), “Dull Bar” (March 9, with the “Black Female”), “Black Bar” (end of January), and “Triangle Blaze” (January).
The Druid “Black Female” moved well and seemed to feel fine, but she is still ravaged by mange. She has a rope tail, but she does have some hair on her head and back. We were so thrilled to see this spunky survivor and are hoping that, with the coming warmer weather, she may be on the road to recovery.
More good news–the alpha of 755M’s Group, the infamous “’06 Female,” (originally an Agate and lately of the Lava Creek pack) has chosen to den at Slough Creek! For several days, we had observed the two black males (alpha 755M and 754M) frequenting the area. We were excited when we finally saw the “’06 Female” digging at a den entrance and then disappear into the hole! Since she is the champion hunter of the group, we’re not sure how those two younger males are going to get the groceries without her. But, we’re hoping that all goes well and that we’ll get to see pups come tumbling out in May.
The unofficially named “Silver” pack seems to have settled on the prime vacant territory of Lamar Valley as their new home. The “Silvers” spent most of the week feasting on a bison carcass at the west end of Jasper Bench. Either they’re incredibly lucky at finding dead bison, or they may be one of those rare Yellowstone packs that knows how to kill a bison. Their only problem is fending off invading grizzlies that almost always succeed in taking the kill away from the wolves.
The “Silver” pack appeared to have two pregnant females, the silvery white alpha and the two-year-old gray. Both had been observed to breed with the new black alpha male, 147M. He ousted the former alpha male in February, but then he benevolently let the “Old Gray Guy” remain with the pack. New alpha 147M is a huge favorite of the two young females in the pack. They both delight in jumping all over him and showering him with affection.
The Blacktail pack may also have had two pregnant females, alpha 693F and 692F. Since the new alpha male, “Big Brown,” is the son of Druids 480M and 569F and is also the nephew of the late Blacktail alpha 302M, the hoped for Blacktail pups will be of royal heritage indeed.
The Canyon pack made several visits to the Mammoth area. The pack still consists of just three adult wolves: the former Hayden alpha female (mother of the famous Hayden black pup in 2007), alpha 712M, and a dark gray adult male. Their only pup last year, a black, disappeared in the fall, as did 587M. All of the Canyon males are thought to have originally come from the Mollies pack.
By now, the Canyons have hopefully returned to the south to den. That could save them from conflict with the powerful Quadrant Mountain pack. Besides the Blacktails, the Quadrants were the only Northern Range pack to successfully raise pups (three females) last year. The Quadrants now control Swan Lake Flats and occasionally visit the Mammoth area.
The Mollies males continue to disperse from that large pack. In January, 641M and 586M dispersed to join two Agate females, alpha 472F and her niece or daughter, 715M.
The Agates occasionally appear in Little America but likely also headed south to den. Nine-year-old alpha 472F successfully raised pups in the Antelope Valley in 2006 and 2007 (to the delight of watchers on Dunraven Pass road), but she had no surviving pups the last two years.
The Everts pack is considered disbanded, following the death of the alpha female last fall and the subsequent dispersal of alpha male 685M. He joined the last remaining member of the Lava Creek pack, venerable 471F (born to Agates 472F and 113M). The duo, 471F and 685M, is seldom seen, but they frequent the Undine Falls/Wraith Falls area. The other two known members of the Everts pack, 684M and 470F, are both now considered lone wolves and are often out of the Park.
The large Gibbon Meadows pack has a huge territory that includes the Madison and Firehole Rivers and also part of Hayden Valley. Both of the Gibbon’s longtime alphas, 537F and 482M, have died since last fall, so the pack’s new leadership structure is uncertain.
So many changes have occurred since last fall. Much of the negative change was precipitated by the loss of the alpha(s) in various packs. This contributed to the decline of the Druids, the Everts, and the Cottonwoods, although some individuals of those packs may still exist.
Some positive change came with the arrival of new wolves from outside of YNP. A new pack, the “Silvers,” came in and decided to stay, as did 755M and 754M.
In addition, many wolves moved from one pack to another (147M from Lava Creek to “Silver,” 755M and 754M from the Druids to 755M’s Group, the ’06 Female from Lava Creek to 755M’s Group, 641M and 586M from Mollies to Agate).
The wolves have done their best to set the stage for a rebound. A good pup survival year will help them rise above adversity to maintain their integral and rightful place as a keystone species in the ecosystem.
British Painter Julie Askew Ventures Into The Dale Of Wild Wolves and Goes ‘Eye to Eye’.
Unfortunately, most hunters are single minded about what is important and ecological integrity takes a backseat to “getting their elk.”
If the restoration of wolves to the Rockies is really “one of the worst wildlife management disasters since the destruction of bison herds in the 19th Century” as David Allen of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation suggests, I believe we need a lot more of these disasters across the country.
Soggy week, not very conducive to outdoor photography – I was able to make it to Chatfield SP early in the week and Rocky Mountain National Park on Thursday, but other than that I’ve been sticking around the studio and processing photos.
There’s a fox den across the street from my mother-in-law’s house, I’ve been staking out the den in the mornings from 6 to 7 or so. The fox mom, dad, and 2 kits have made many appearances, but I’ve yet to nail any decent shots of the family (fingers crossed for this week!). I snapped this photo of another neighborhood fox one morning as she was attempting to carry two eggs in her mouth without breaking them. It was a slow, painstaking endeavor – frequently stopping to rearrange her precious cargo, jumping several 6-foot fences and even avoiding a couple of speeding vehicles on the way back to her den, without breaking either egg.
Mountain lion sightings are becoming more and more common in Colorado. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has produced a short video about safety in lion country to help educate residents and visitors. The video explains lion behavior, how you can prevent attracting lions onto your property, how to protect pets and livestock, and what to do if you come close to a lion on a trail or in the backcountry.
On the 18th my wife and I volunteered with Defenders of Wildlife, hauling out old barbed-wire ranch fencing from the Betasso Preserve. Betasso is located at the junction of Boulder and Fourmile Canyons, just west of the city of Boulder. Carrying the bales up and down trails was hard work, but the reward is priceless – a safer place for both wildlife and people, as well as the restored beauty of this wonderful landscape. We were treated to a friendly fox and a herd of mule deer as soon as we arrived, too!
Later that day we decided to head to Cherry Creek State Park – quietly enjoying sunset from the shore of the lake made for a perfect end to the day.
Click thumbnail to view panoramas at full size…
My wife was attending an archaeology conference in Montrose, so I decided to drive out and join her for a weekend on Colorado’s western slope. Spent some time rambling around Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Ridgway State Park, and the Uncompahgre Plateau.
On the 28th we visited the Ute Indian Museum, then we joined a group tour to Shavano Petroglyph Park. The petroglyph park lies at the crossroads of several ancient trails used by natives for thousands of years, and those that used the trails left behind some excellent rock art.
Game farms across the nation, but mostly in the West, truck animals to distant, scenic locations where they perform for “wildlife photographers.” On calendars, posters and magazine pages, wildlife fauxtography proliferates like vacationers’ junk mail.
Three of the most respected nature magazines — Audubon, National Geographic and National Wildlife — no longer knowingly accept game-farm shots. But accurate identification is hard because some photographers and most photo-stock houses don’t label game-farm images, aware that disclosure might discourage purchase.
I was thrilled when one of my favorite wildlife conservation groups, WildEarth Guardians, contacted me about using some of my photos for their “Restoring the Wolf, Restoring the Wild” photo essay, narrated by Alan Arkin!
“The release is a celebration and a call to action. From the snowy peaks of the Colorado Rockies to the Mexican border and all throughout the American West, wolves are a symbol of freedom and wildness to cherish and protect.” – WildEarth Guardians
Yellowstone wolf Biologist Doug Smith has played an integral role in the park’s wolf program since wolves were reintroduced 15 years ago. Yet for all that time spent working on the reintroduction, a day in Smith’s life during March can be as unpredictable as wildlife itself.
What was once the most watched, largest and most dominant wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park has dwindled to one collared female, ill with mange, two males forming their own pack elsewhere and no more than six lone wolves wandering the landscape, according to Rick McIntyre, a biological technician with the park’s wolf project.
Spring in the Rockies began with a beautiful weekend, sunshine and temperatures in the upper 60’s melting nearly all of the snow from the storm on the 19th. Plenty of wildlife to be seen enjoying the weather, most of them just out of my lens range (as usual). The usual prairie dogs, porcupine, coyotes, whitetail and mule deer were out at Chatfield, along with hawks, great blue herons and the returning mountain bluebirds and western meadowlarks.
Saw both bald and golden eagles in Roxborough, as well as mule deer, coyotes and a red fox preparing a natal den – hopefully I can get some decent shots of mom and the kits here later this spring.
Trudging through the marshland around Plum Creek in my waders earlier in the week didn’t produce much, so I was excited that Dan was up for a trip to Banner Lakes on Thursday. The wind left little opportunity for shooting the long-eared owls that we’d gone there for, so we ducked into a blind along Lake 9 and focused on waterfowl. Didn’t leave with many great photos, but really fun shooting nonetheless.
The lack of new photos left me with some time to process a few older shots this week…