Category Archives: Science

Montana Wolf Harvest Dashboard

Collared Wolf - courtesy USFWSWant to know how Montana’s politics-before-science wolf harvest is going this year? The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Wolf Harvest Dashboard has you covered. You can even drill down to information on each individual kill. For instance, the three wolves taken in Wolf Management Unit 110 (WMU 110), which encompasses the North Fork, were all trapped on January 20 in the Lazy Creek area.

Kudos to NFPA Board member Diane Boyd for highlighting this resource.

Link: Montana Wolf Harvest Dashboard

 

Op-ed: We cannot support delisting Montana grizzly bears unless state laws are changed

Here is a well-reasoned op-ed that recently appeared in the Helena Independent Record opposing grizzly bear delisting due to problems with Montana’s current wildlife management  regime. You’ll see some familiar entries in the 35-name signature block, including NFPA Board of Directors member Diane Boyd.

(Bonus: the Char-Kosta News, official news publication of the Flathead Indian Reservation, has a lengthy discussion of the underlying background issues.)


Grizzly bear on log - Ken Peaco, NPS

We are 35 state, federal, and Tribal wildlife professionals who have worked together for more than 40 years to help recover and manage grizzly bears, wolves, and other wildlife in Montana. We did this by building science and fact-based management policies and plans with public input while carefully balancing the needs of bears and other wildlife with the needs of the people who live, work, and recreate in Montana.

We believed in and promoted the eventual delisting of recovered grizzlies and wolves and turning them over to state management. We believed that the wildlife professionals in Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) would be good stewards who would continue to carefully manage grizzly bears and wolves using science and facts after recovery and delisting.

All this changed in 2021 when a new legislative majority and a like-minded governor took office. Science-based wildlife management in Montana was replaced by anti-predator hysteria fueled by misinformation and emotion. Professional wildlife management by FWP biologists was replaced by partisan political intervention that overturned decades of sound wildlife policy.

Continue reading Op-ed: We cannot support delisting Montana grizzly bears unless state laws are changed

‘Grizzlies and Us’ series worth the read

Grizzly Bear - Montana FWP
Grizzly Bear – Montana FWP

Wow! Lee Enterprises, owner of a number of newspapers in this part of the country, including the Missoulian, recently wrapped up their “Grizzlies and Us” project, a ten-part series consisting of some 22 individual articles examining “…the many issues surrounding the uneasy coexistence of grizzlies and humans…”

Highly recommended reading . . .

How does the wildlife cross the road?

Wildlife underpass, US-93 in Montana
Wildlife underpass, US-93 in Montana

Kudos to Roger Sullivan for spotting this one. It is the first of a three-part series . . .

During a Nov. 17 hearing, Martha Williams answered dozens of questions you’d expect an incoming director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to field from the Congressional committee considering her nomination. After she spoke about a life “steeped in conservation,” the Maryland farm she grew up on and lessons she learned at the helm of Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department, members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee grilled Williams about climate change, hunting on wildlife refuges and the USFWS-administered Endangered Species Act.

Then committee chair Tom Carper, D-Delaware, presented her with an unexpected question: How had Williams’ experience with wildlife crossings in Montana prepared her to help implement a $350 million federal pilot program that aims to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and increase habitat connectivity?

Williams described the program, which was included in the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package Congress passed Nov. 5, as “a big moment … a long time coming.” Adding some levity to the conversation, she described a video of a person sleeping in a wildlife underpass on the Flathead Reservation, oblivious to a grizzly bear sauntering by. Then she circled back to the intersection of transportation and wildlife conservation.

Continue reading . . .

Bikers vs. bears

Mountain Biker by Mick Lissone
Mountain Biker by Mick Lissone

The New York Times has a longish article focused on conflicts between bears and mountain bikers. The story centers on events in this corner of Montana, so you’ll encounter some familiar names and places . . .

The death of a ranger, Brad Treat, in 2016 was a wake-up call for grizzly bear biologists.

Mr. Treat, an avid mountain biker, was zipping along at about 25 miles an hour through dense forest near Glacier National Park in the middle of a summer afternoon when he collided with a large male grizzly bear.

Apparently startled, the bear reacted defensively and quickly killed him. A witness couldn’t see what happened but could hear it. “I heard a thud and an ‘argh,’” the unnamed witness told investigators. Then the bear made a noise “like it was hurt.” The bear disappeared before emergency responders arrived.

Read more . . .

Citizen science opportunities and trainings announced for 2019

From a Glacier Park news release . . .

Citizen Science Opportunities and Trainings Announced for 2019
Public Invited to Participate in Wildlife and Plant Research

West Glacier, MT –This summer, the public is invited to help the park track and study important species of concern through its citizen science program. The program allows participants to explore the park and learn about important park resources while collecting valuable data for park managers.

One citizen scientist said the experience was an “excuse to go into the park, sit down for an hour and just search with scope and binoculars—the greatest and most effective and cost-efficient therapy out there!”

Participants can help out with several projects on an ongoing basis, or attend a one-time citizen science event.

Citizen Science Projects

People who would like to collect data on a variety of species of concern and can commit to completing a minimum of three surveys should sign-up for a one-day training session to learn how to identify, observe, and record species information.

Once trained, citizen scientists are free to collect data during their own scheduled hiking trips in the park. Please contact the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center at Glac_Citizen_Science@nps.gov or 406-888-7986 to sign-up for training or for more information.

Scheduled training dates for all ongoing citizen science projects are listed below. Additional training sessions may be scheduled based on interest.

–      Common Loon Citizen Science

Gather information on the distribution and reproduction of common loons to understand more about population trends and nesting success.

West Glacier training dates:  May 7, May 14, June 27, July 9

St. Mary training date:  May 29

–      High Country Citizen Science

Document mountain goats and pikas at selected sites to assist with population and distribution estimates and genetic mapping. These species are habitat and temperature sensitive, and may be affected by changing climate.

West Glacier training dates: June 4, June 15, July 16, July 29

St. Mary training date:  June 26

–      Huckleberry Phenology Citizen Science 

Huckleberries are an important food source for wildlife, including grizzly bears. The park is collecting data to understand how weather and other factors influence the phenology, or timing, of berry ripeness.

West Glacier training date: June 6

–      Lynx Camera Trapping

Canada lynx are a rare and elusive predator native to Glacier National Park. The goal of this project is to learn the status of lynx populations in the park using camera traps to determine where they are currently present. Citizen scientists can help this research project by hiking to camera traps along trails to check and take down cameras. This is a new project, made possible by donor funding from the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

West Glacier training date: August 1 (evening)

–      Hawk Watch Raptor Migration Counts

One of the most important migration routes for golden eagles and other raptors on their way from northern breeding grounds to warmer climates passes through the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park. Citizen scientists count migrating raptors at Mount Brown or Lake McDonald Lodge.

West Glacier training date: August 27

Citizen Science Special Events

 Noxious Weed Blitz on July 18, 2019
Participants learn about the ecological impacts and identification of noxious weeds and assist in hand pulling.

July Wildlife Crossings Map-a-Thon
The park will hold a map-a-thon this summer to document wildlife crossings along US Highway 2. Multiple workshops will be held in July in West Glacier and East Glacier. Participant observations will help prioritize locations for wildlife crossing structures or other mitigation efforts to help keep wildlife migrating throughout the Crown of the Continent.

Alpine Bird Bioblitz on July 19, 2019
Participants will document and learn about twelve of Glacier’s alpine bird species.

Fall Fungus Bioblitz on October 12- 13, 2019
Participants team up with mycologists to identify as many species of fungus as they can find.

Citizen Science Program Information
Since 2005, the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center in Glacier National Park has managed the Glacier Citizen Science Program. It relies on trained citizen scientists to collect population data on species of interest to the park. Citizen science training informs participants about threats to native plants and animals that may result from human disturbance, climate change, and invasive species. The citizen science program not only provides valuable data to park managers, but also creates an informed group of people involved in active Glacier National Park stewardship.

Glacier National Park Conservancy donors provide nearly all funding for the park’s citizen science program. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/rlc/crown/citizen-science.htm or contact the office at Glac_Citizen_Science@nps.gov or 406-888-7986.

www.nps.gov

 

How to bring dark skies back in an increasingly developed world

Rural and urban night skies - Jeremy Stanley, Flickr
Rural and urban night skies – Jeremy Stanley, Flickr

If you wish to become well-informed about light pollution and the dark skies initiative, this article by Ethan Siegel is an excellent place to start. Dr. Siegel is a well known “science writer, astrophysicist, science communicator & NASA columnist.” . . .

For most of us here on planet Earth, navigating the world at night is just a little more challenging than during daytime. Without the Sun’s bright light to illuminate our world, our eyes do their best to adapt. Our color-sensing cones move back in our eyes while the monochrome-sensitive rods move forward. Our pupils dilate to larger diameters, letting more light in. Even in the wild, the Moon and stars provide enough light for a sufficiently dark-adapted eye to make out shapes and objects.

Evolutionarily, this was a spectacularly useful adaptation. Human vision may be optimally suited to daytime vision, but the ways our eyes adjust also allow us to perceive the Universe far beyond our world. Unfortunately, our connection with the night sky has been severed by a truly human endeavor: artificial lighting. While the benefits to public safety and commerce are inarguable, the tradeoff is unnecessary. Light pollution may a worse problem than ever, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

From a truly dark site — on a moonless night where there’s less artificial light generated on Earth than is incoming from the night sky — thousands of stars, multiple planets, the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, and up to four other galaxies beyond our own can be seen. Yet dark sites are becoming harder and harder to find, as the rise in artificial lighting has followed humanity wherever our species has settled. 80% of the entire world, including 99% of Europe and the United States, lives under light-polluted skies, where the Milky Way is never visible even under ideal weather conditions.

Read more . . .

Satellite imagery helps spot Glacier Park’s huckleberry patches

Huckleberry shrubs turn bright red in fall - USGS photo
Huckleberry shrubs turn bright red in fall – USGS photo

Researchers have developed a new tool to spot huckleberry patches in Glacier Park . . .

The average huckleberry is about as big around as a pencil eraser. But now we can spot them from space.

Several years of refinement have allowed researchers in Glacier National Park to tease apart landscape photos and pinpoint huckleberry patches. The method works on both aerial and satellite photos.

That could qualify as classified intelligence for some secrecy-bound huckleberry hunters. U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist Tabitha Graves and biologist Nate Michael joked they could be endangering themselves by revealing berry hot spots.

Read more . . .

Predicting how forests in the western US will respond to changing climate

Flathead National Forest - view of Whitefish Divide
Flathead National Forest – view of Whitefish Divide

Here’s an interesting research paper on predicting western forest response to climate change . . .

On the mountain slopes of the western United States, climate can play a major role in determining which tree communities will thrive in the harshest conditions, according to new work from Carnegie’s Leander Anderegg and University of Washington’s Janneke Hille Ris Lambers.

Their findings, published in Ecology Letters, are an important step in understanding how forest growth will respond to a climate altered by human activity.

As researchers try to anticipate how climate change will affect forest ecosystems, it is crucial to understand the factors that influence how forest habitats change over time — including both environmental conditions and competition for resources. One of the oldest ecological principles asserts that competition between trees will constrain growth under mild conditions and climate will constrain growth under harsh conditions.

Read more . . .Read more . . .

GPS map vividly illustrates wolf territoriality

Map Uses GPS Locations to Show How Territorial Wolf Packs Are - map by Voyageurs Wolf Project
Map Uses GPS Locations to Show How Territorial Wolf Packs Are – map by Voyageurs Wolf Project

Here’s an interesting find by the guy who operates the Twisted Sifter blog . . .

In a recent post by the Voyageurs Wolf Project, they demonstrate how territorial wolf packs are through the mapping of 68,000 individual GPS locations from 7 wolves in different packs from the summer of 2018. They explain:

‘Each wolf’s collar took locations every 20 min (with the exception of the northernmost pack which took locations every 4 hr starting in October) for the duration of the summer. The last photo of the post shows the name and territory of each pack. There are a few packs that we have had collared in the past 2 years that we were not able to get GPS-collars on this year.’

‘This detailed GPS-data is incredibly valuable for understanding pack boundaries and also for our predation research. We visited every spot these wolves spent more than 20 minutes to determine if the wolves made a kill. This required an estimated 5,000 miles of hiking this past summer from our field crew!’

Read more . . .