New study reveals more about Yellowstone cougars

Cougars in Yellowstone National Park - Dan Stahler, NPS

Cougars in Yellowstone National Park – Dan Stahler, NPS

Here’s a pretty interesting article about Yellowstone National Park’s cougar population . . .

Through DNA analysis of scat and hair, along with photographs and specially equipped GPS collars, researchers in Yellowstone National Park are acquiring new information about the Northern Region’s secretive cougars.

“Because cats aren’t seen or heard much, they’re kind of out of sight, out of mind,” said Dan Stahler, Cougar Project manager.

“We’re trying to change the dialogue and get the public to understand this is a multi-predator ecosystem,” he added. “There’s another top predator that also plays an important role here.”

Read more . . .

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Montana FWP to add new bureau to fight aquatic invasive species

Mussel-fouled Propeller - NPS photo

Mussel-fouled Propeller – NPS photo

In response to last year’s detection of invasive mussel larvae, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is adding a new bureau to fight aquatic invasive species.

(By the way, they are also looking for additional aquatic invasive species inspection and laboratory technicians for the upcoming season. Go here for details and interview dates.)

The official press release follows . . .

As part of the statewide effort to address the risks of invasive mussels, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks plans to create a new bureau to manage the prevention, detection and control of aquatic invasive species within state borders.

The Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau will be housed in FWP’s Fisheries Division, with plans to be operational beginning in March. The agency began a nationwide recruitment for a bureau supervisor this week.

“Aquatic invasive species pose an enormous risk to Montana’s waters, economy, and way of life,” said Eileen Ryce, FWP Fisheries Division Administrator. “The increasing scope and complexity of managing these threats requires a more comprehensive approach.”

Responsibilities of the Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau will encompass all aspects of AIS prevention, including early detection, rapid response, control, outreach and vector management.

In October 2016, Montana’s first-ever detection of invasive mussel larvae showed up in Tiber Reservoir – and “suspect” detections turned up in Canyon Ferry Reservoir, the Missouri River below Toston Dam, and the Milk River. The discovery triggered a natural resource emergency in Montana and led to several recommend strategies to manage the threat of invasive mussels spreading to other areas.

In January, Montana’s Joint Mussel Response Implementation Team leaders presented a series of recommendations to the Montana Legislature to address prevention, detection and control efforts, including the creation of an AIS management bureau within FWP. Other recommendations included additional mandatory Montana watercraft inspection stations; deployment of watercraft decontamination stations at Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs; and doubling sample collection to more than 1,500 taken from more than 200 waterbodies, all of which will fall under the management of the new bureau chief.

The AIS bureau chief will be responsible for the rapid response to AIS detections, which will often require coordination among multiple agencies, partners, and stakeholders, while mobilizing and redirecting resources to address threats. The Incident Command System, used in Montana under Gov. Steve Bullock’s natural resource emergency executive order last November, will become a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency responses for specific AIS detections in the future.

Information on the AIS bureau chief position is available online at: Bureau Chief – Applications are due Feb. 28.

The Joint Mussel Response Implementation Team includes staff members from FWP, DNRC and other agencies. It is tasked with carrying out recommendation to further minimize the risk of spreading mussels to other Montana waters.

All boaters and anglers are urged take year-round precautions and to Clean, Drain and Dry their equipment after each use. For more information visit or Montana Mussel Response on Facebook.

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Grizzly carcass-stealing doesn’t mean wolves kill more

In Yellowstone National Park, hungry wolves wait to access their elk kill as grizzly bears feast on the spoils - Daniel Stahler, NPS

In Yellowstone National Park, hungry wolves wait to access their elk kill as grizzly bears feast on the spoils – Daniel Stahler, NPS

Science is at its best when it produces unexpected results . . .

Research that compared Yellowstone National Park grizzly bear and wolf interactions with those same animals in Sweden has produced a surprising finding: brown bear presence in both ecosystems reduces the wolf kill rate.

“It’s a baffling finding,” said Doug Smith, Yellowstone’s wolf biologist. “To be honest, for 20 years I’ve been saying bears increase wolf kill rates because bears steal so many carcasses.”

That data from two very different ecosystems pointed to the same conclusion helped convince Yellowstone bear biologist Kerry Gunther that the research was “not just a fluke.”

Read more . . .

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Behind the battle over public lands

Public lands rally at the Montana State Capitol on Jan. 30, 2017 - Greg Lindstrom, Flathead Beacon

Public lands rally at the Montana State Capitol on Jan. 30, 2017 – Greg Lindstrom, Flathead Beacon

Over at the Flathead Beacon, Tristan Scott has a lengthy, well-researched article on the public lands debate.

Recommended reading . . .

On Jan. 30, a lively crowd of more than 1,000 public land advocates packed the Capitol rotunda floor, lining the balconies of the statehouse in Helena while chanting, “Keep public lands in public hands,” and waving signs denouncing the sale of “Our American Heritage.”

Conrad Anker, the famous mountaineer who has summited Mount Everest three times and who lives in Bozeman, raised his chin and literally howled at the high-domed ceiling, invoking the wild heritage of Montana’s outdoors and calling on attendees to protect public land while holding their lawmakers accountable. “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children,” he said, paraphrasing Duwamish Chief Seattle.

Fly-fishing guide and Trout TV host Hilary Hutcheson, who grew up in Columbia Falls and is raising her daughters under the banner of Glacier National Park’s peak-studded boundary, said the quality of her family’s outdoor environment is critically linked to their livelihood.

Read more . . .

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Trumbull Creek conservation easement finalized

Congratulations to everyone, including the Stoltze company, who worked to make this happen . . .

A $9.5 million, 7,068-acre conservation easement has been finalized for the Trumbull Creek area north of Columbia Falls, the Trust for Public Land and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Park announced Friday.

The land-use agreement for the property, owned by Stoltze Land & Lumber Co., permanently bars commercial and residential development, while allowing timber management and public recreational use to continue. Stoltze contributed to the cost of the easement by donating a portion of the land value. The majority of the $9.5 million came from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, Forest Legacy Program and Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund.

“It really has high resource values,” Trust for Public Land Northern Rockies Director Dick Dolan said in an interview. He added that the land includes grizzly bear and Canadian lynx habitat, and serves as the headwaters for bull trout spawning areas.

Read more . . .

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Montana releases strategy to detect, contain and control invasive mussels

Zebra mussels

Zebra mussels – via Wikipedia

Montana has a plan to step up efforts to fight invasive mussels. Now, they need to get it funded . . .

The Montana Mussel Response Team has released its $10.2 million strategy to combat the threat of invasive zebra and quagga mussels and is urging the Montana Legislature to help fund the two-year plan.

The plan, called the Invasive Mussel Framework Implementation Strategy Recommendations, marks a shift from the team’s initial emergency response to the detection of mussel larvae in the state to an implementation strategy to detect, contain and control the invaders if they take hold.

Developed by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the plan recommends doubling the number of inspection stations on roads leading into the state from 17 to 34 in an effort to intercept infected watercraft before boats are launched, while adding four new decontamination stations.

Read more . . .

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Conservation groups ask Canadian government to halt proposed mines in Elk Valley drainage

Conditions in the Elk Valley, a little ways to the west, serve as a reminder of why it is so important to fight extractive industry in the transboundary Flathead watershed. . . .

Last week the Canadian government charged Teck Resources with three environmental violations after 74 fish were killed near the mining company’s treatment facility in British Columbia’s Elk Valley north of Montana, elevating concerns over contaminants entering transboundary waterways.

The fish were found dead in late 2014 and an investigation determined they died from nitrite poisoning and low dissolved oxygen levels in the water. The deaths occurred near one of Teck’s open-pit coal mines and treatment facility.

The charges followed an investigation by the company.

Read more . . .

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Rally for public lands draws 1000+

Public Lands Rally, Jan 30, 2017 - Thom Bridge, Helena IR

Public Lands Rally, Jan 30, 2017 – Thom Bridge, Helena IR

The Missoulian posted extensive coverage of yesterday’s rally for public lands in Helena, including a photo spread and videos . . .

The Capitol rotunda played host to a raucous crowd of public land advocates Monday, many traveling from across the state to denounce land transfer efforts while calling for improving access.

Organizers estimated more than 1,000 people packed the main rotunda floor and lined the balconies above, which was about double the attendance of a similar rally held during the 2015 legislative session. Many rally-goers loaded buses in Missoula, Billings and Bozeman to attend while smaller contingencies came from other locales, including about 40 from Sanders County.

They came to tell the Legislature in no uncertain terms that public lands are not just parcels on a map but define Montana as a state, and Montanans as a people.

Read more . . .

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U of M students head to Polebridge to learn about landscape, community

Polebridge Field Course presentation atendees, Jan 16, 2017

Polebridge Field Course presentation attendees, Jan 16, 2017 – W. K.Walker

The Missoulian posted a story, with photo spread, on this year’s Polebridge Field Course. There are a few familiar names and faces . . .

A snowshoe hare? A fox? A wolf, maybe?

In snowshoes, the students tromped to the edge of a bench, and the sun shone as they looked across the North Fork to Rainbow Peak shouldering the season’s snowfall, then below to the meadow.

Sarah Halvorson, a geography professor at the University of Montana, and Mitch Burgard, an expert on fire for the U.S. Forest Service, led the excursion.

Read more . . .

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Multi-state wolverine monitoring project underway

Wolverine in snow - Steve Kroschel

Wolverine in snow – Steve Kroschel

Here’s a follow-up on last May’s announcement of a multi-state wolverine study . . .

One of the rarest animals in Montana gets a fresh look as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports new efforts to conserve the wolverine.

Bob Inman of FWP says the agency will produce the first ever documentation of where wolverines presently occur in the lower 48 states.

“They are fierce. They are an animal that a lot of people find interesting. There’s mystery to them because they are so rare and so little had been learned about them,” Inman said.

Read more . . .

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