Disease and migration have reduced the wolf population in Yellowstone National Park by half since 2003 . . .
The gray wolf population in Yellowstone National Park has dropped to about 80 wolves, officials say — less than half of the high population mark in the park.
While Yellowstone leaders won’t have an accurate count until the fall after surviving pups are visible, the park’s top biologist doesn’t expect numbers to rise dramatically after litters are included in population estimates.
“Unfortunately, many of them die. Gray pup survival is about 7 percent,” Doug Smith, long-time project leader for the Wolf Restoration Project in Yellowstone, said in a Wednesday video broadcast on the park’s Facebook page.
The New York Times put together a spectacular interactive presentation on the effect of climate change on Yellowstone Park. In our own back yard, Glacier Park is undergoing similar changes. Kudos to Debo Powers for spotting this one . . .
On a recent fall afternoon in the Lamar Valley, visitors watched a wolf pack lope along a thinly forested riverbank, ten or so black and gray figures shadowy against the snow. A little farther along the road, a herd of bison swung their great heads as they rooted for food in the sagebrush steppe, their deep rumbles clear in the quiet, cold air.
In the United States, Yellowstone National Park is the only place bison and wolves can be seen in great numbers. Because of the park, these animals survive. Yellowstone was crucial to bringing back bison, reintroducing gray wolves, and restoring trumpeter swans, elk, and grizzly bears — all five species driven toward extinction found refuge here.
But the Yellowstone of charismatic megafauna and of stunning geysers that four million visitors a year travel to see is changing before the eyes of those who know it best. Researchers who have spent years studying, managing, and exploring its roughly 3,400 square miles say that soon the landscape may look dramatically different.
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.”
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.”
This seems quite sensible, but will no doubt trigger considerable head-butting. (Kudos to Bill Fordyce for spotting this.) . . .
The National Park Service said Tuesday there should be no hunting of grizzly bears in the 24,000-acre John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway between Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
The parkway should be “identified” as a national park unit where grizzly hunting is prohibited, Park Service regional director Sue Masica said in a memo to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The parkway is owned and managed by the Park Service, but hunting is allowed. Additionally, any hunting program in the ecosystem should limit the likelihood that “well-known or transboundary bears will be harvested,” Masica wrote.
Her comments were in response to a proposed Fish and Wildlife Service plan to remove federal protection from the Yellowstone grizzly. That delisting action is expected to be completed by the end of this year and would open the door for Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to institute hunts. The deadline for submitting comments on the delisting plan was Tuesday.
Here’s an interesting article that picks up social media’s impact on bear management and runs with it . . .
When a grizzly bear killed a hiker in Yellowstone National Park last year, millions of people took it personally.
“The public response was 100 percent different than two years ago,” said Kerry Gunther, Yellowstone’s bear manager. “Twenty-five grizzly bears a year die in Yellowstone Park, but this one had a name.”
Her name was Blaze, according to the outpouring of outrage on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets that appeared within a day of the Aug. 11 incident. Gunther and other park officials still aren’t sure it was that particular, often-photographed sow with two cubs (there were four such females with two cubs in the area). But they are sure their decisions, and all future debate about managing grizzly bears in the Rocky Mountain West, are under a new level of scrutiny.
It takes a hike over high ridges and numerous toppled lodgepole pine trees to find the small pool of fresh water in Yellowstone National Park.
This is not some out-of-the-way hot springs that adventurous tourists seek out to soak in. Instead, the well-worn trails marked by tracks leading to the site attest to its use as a “bear bathtub.”
The first of these pools was discovered more than a decade ago by Yellowstone bear researchers as they searched for a tracking collar that had fallen off one of the bears they were studying, according to an article in the recently released issue of the journal Yellowstone Science. The signal sent by the collar led them to the small pond at the end of a narrow gully surrounded by forested hills, according to the article’s lead author, Kerry Gunther, Yellowstone’s bear manager.
Well, the guy’s last name is “Bullock” after all . . .
Wild bison will be allowed to migrate out of Yellowstone National Park and stay in parts of Montana year-round under a Tuesday move by Gov. Steve Bullock that breaks a longstanding impasse in a wildlife conflict that’s dragged on for decades.
The Democratic governor’s decision likely won’t end the periodic slaughters of some bison that roam outside Yellowstone in search of food at lower elevations. But it for the first time allows hundreds of the animals to linger year-round on an estimated 400 square miles north and west of the park.
The move has been eagerly sought by wildlife advocates — and steadfastly opposed by livestock interests. Ranchers around Yellowstone are wary of a disease carried by many bison and the increased competition the animals pose for limited grazing space.