wildlife

Bison Population Count Shows Decline

19 hours ago
Bear River State Park

The bison population in Yellowstone National Park has been a longstanding subject of interest for state biologists. From the ground and also from air, biologists have been working to record the age and sex of the bison they see for an annual count.

Biologist Rick Wallen did a live interview on Facebook to share the 2017 population numbers and to explain the importance of tracking changes.

Stotting mule deer. Seen at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada.
Steven Fine

Mule deer can migrate a little bit easier starting this year thanks to new fencing along their migration route. Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department replaced old livestock fencing this summer with the help of several partners including the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund, Upper Green Muley Fanatics, Jonah Energy, and the Conservation Fund.

Mule deer migrate from Hoback, south of Jackson, to the Red Desert every year. It allows them to get the best vegetation and find the safest areas to raise fawns.

Ghost of the Mountains, Brian Leith Productions with Disneynature Productions and Chuan Films

The Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival attracted an international audience this week for what many call the Oscars of nature film. Finalists included Wyoming filmmaker Shane Moore. Moore started making films when he was just 12 and growing up in Granite Creek, 30 miles southeast of Jackson. He met pioneers of nature shows, including the Wild Kingdom and Walt Disney, on his family ranch where they came to film. Moore was a finalist for two films, Born in China and Ghost of the Mountains. Both feature the rarely seen and rarely filmed snow leopard.

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Interior Department is expected to take its first tangible step in making large changes to sage grouse management plans. Ninety-eight of these plans were established in 2015 across 10 western states. They came after more than a decade of collaboration in hopes of avoiding an endangered species listing for the chicken-like bird.

Ghost of the Mountains, Brian Leith Productions with Disneynature Productions and Chuan Films

Hundreds of filmmakers are gathering at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park this week for a biennial film competition that attracts filmmakers from around the globe.

"It's incredible, I mean there's more than 800 people attending this festival from all over the world so it definitely is the Oscars of wildlife filmmaking," said Jackson filmmaker Shane Moore.

Red Desert
Sam Cox / US Department of Agriculture

The Wilderness Society, a national conservation group, has designated the northern Red Desert as one of 15 wildland areas most at-risk of energy development on public lands. The Red Desert in southern Wyoming is home to several hundred wildlife species and numerous wilderness study areas, and up till now, has avoided significant energy development.  

But the Bureau of Land Management is reconsidering its management plan, which could result in renewed oil and gas drilling.

Constance Baltuck / NPS Photo

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is partnering with the National Elk Refuge and several other outdoor and hunting organizations to distribute 100 cans of bear spray to hunters and anglers in Jackson.

Dusty Lasseter, the Bear Wise Wyoming Coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said, as bears prepare for winter, human-bear conflicts become more likely.

“Because [the bears] are really bold and they’re trying to do whatever they can to get on some needed calories before they go into hibernation,” said Lasseter.

Cooper McKim

  

Energy companies, environmentalists, ranchers and government officials are getting back together at meetings across the West this fall to talk about the fate of a chicken-like bird.

 

Many of these so-called stakeholders have sat at this table before. The well-being of the Greater Sage Grouse was the focus of a hard-fought compromise among 11 states, finalized a few years ago.

 

Sage Grouse Implementation Team meeting, 09/15/17
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

The sage grouse implementation team met for the first time since the Department of Interior announced recommendations to a collaborative state and federal Obama era plan. But early last month, DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended changes to the plan that would loosen restrictions on energy development while giving states more flexibility in implementing their own sage grouse protection plans.

CC0 Public Domain

Wyoming Hunters will be able to take wolves again. October first will start the first wolf hunting season in the Cowboy state since 2013.

Hunters took 43 wolves in the state’s first modern wolf hunt in 2012. Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department cut the next year’s quota. Only 23 wolves were killed then.

The state’s large carnivore biologist Dan Thompson said the upcoming wolf season will be a lot like the 2012-2013 seasons.

Black-footed Ferret
J. Michael Lockhart / USFWS

Wyoming biologists have spotted the first wild-born black-footed ferrets in over 35 years. They were found this week at a ranch outside of Meeteetse. The Game and Fish Department introduced a large number of black-footed ferrets at two ranches there last summer in hopes of developing self-sustaining populations.

Cooper McKim

  

Paul Miller just got back from a 12-day hunting trip outside of Cody with some friends. 

 

"Yeah, we went on a mountain goat and bighorn sheep hunt. One guy drew both tags and we archery hunted it for a couple of days, then we hunted sheep with a rifle,” Miller said.

 

Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Yellowstone area grizzly bear from the endangered species list. On Wednesday, wildlife and tribal groups filed a lawsuit to stop the delisting.

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Sacramento, US

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has approved a regulation that would allow captive breeding of greater sage grouse in the state. The law would allow specially licensed private farms to possess, breed, and sell the bird.

Several groups are working on a project aimed at representing the cultural importance of elk to the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes.

Wyoming toad
Sara Armstrong / USFWS Mountain-Prairie

While you’re watching the eclipse next week, you might notice a change in the sound of wildlife around you. With the sudden switch from light to dark, along with a temperature drop, the eclipse may affect the behavior of certain animals — like rodents, birds, and amphibians.  

Grant Frost, a biologist with Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department, said, “Some animals will begin to awaken, to stir, because they think that night is coming on . . . you might hear some changes in the calls they make just because they’re thinking they should gather together or whatever the activity is.”

Alexis Bonogofsky

Yellowstone National Park plans to use a temporary bison quarantine facility in the upcoming winter/spring for 54 animals it kept separate from the rest of the herd.

Park Supervisor Dan Wenk said last spring the herd was 5,500 strong but the bison management plan required it be whittled down to 3,800.

“Because we have a large population that necessitated we removed over 1,200 animals last year,” Wenk said. “That is not, unfortunately, unusual.”

A greater sage-grouse male struts for a female at a lek (dancing or mating ground) near Bridgeport, CA
Jeannie Stafford / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is concerned about the Interior Department’s recommendations to the sage grouse conservation plans. The federal agency released a report this week outlining recommendations to the 2015 plan, including giving states more leniency in enforcing the rules and changing the focus from habitat management to population goals.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has released a final version of their State Wildlife Action Plan, or SWAP. This is an update from the 2010 document they have been using to guide management of all non-game species in Wyoming.

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Sacramento, US

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to make fundamental changes to a sage grouse conservation plan adopted under the Obama administration. They could make it easier for ranchers and energy companies to move into sagebrush habitat that’s now off limits. 

Melodie Edwards

If you want to catch mule deer fawns, you’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning. It’s 5 a.m. when University of Wyoming Research Scientist Samantha Dwinnell gets on her computer. She checks signals emitted from a radio collared pregnant doe that shows she’s been hunkering down in one spot.

“Oh man, that’s beautiful,” Dwinnell says, laughing. “That’s exactly what we’re looking for,”

(NPS Photo/ Tim Rains)

The Endangered Species Act has been the law of the land for more than 40 years. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, the act was intended to highlight the “esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people.” But Wyoming Senator John Barrasso says it needs updating.

“The Endangered Species Act was written, created and adopted for all the right reasons and there’s just too much sand in the gears right now.”

Barrasso says the Act creates too many hoops and hurdles.

Tom Koerner/USFWS

A new report called “The Sage Grouse White Papers” released last month by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies shows that captive breeding methods have a long way to go before they can help bring up sage grouse numbers.

Public Domain

A new study shows tourism dollars generated by a single bobcat are greater than if the same animal is killed for its fur pelt.

Because of tighter international laws banning trapping of other spotted cats, the number of bobcats hunted or trapped for their pelts has quadrupled in recent years.

By USFWS Mountain-Prairie (Mule Deer on Winter Range in SW Wyoming) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Wyoming researcher recently discovered that mule deer continue to avoid areas developed by oil and gas companies, after more than fifteen years.

Biologist Hall Sawyer has been studying a herd near Pinedale since 2000, just as more oil and gas wells were starting to appear on the landscape. Because the deer have steered clear of development, Sawyer says they have had a smaller winter range. The herd’s population started declining in just two years, and by now it has shrunk by 40%.

Photograph obtained by Wyoming Untrapped
Provided by Wyoming Untrapped

The Game and Fish Department continues to search for a grizzly bear with a steel trap caught on its right foot. Someone photographed the bear walking near the Bridger-Teton Forest on May 31. 

The day after the blurry photograph was taken, someone alerted the Game and Fish Department of the injured bear. Dan Thompson, large carnivore section supervisor at the Department, said they quickly jumped into action. 

"Since then, we’ve been monitoring on a daily base both on the ground and with some flights . . . I flew over the area directly last week,” Thompson said. 

Department of Interior Logo
U.S. Department of Interior

Grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone National Park have been removed from the endangered species list. The bear has been considered endangered since 1975 when there were only 150 of them remaining. Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke said, with a population now close to 700 in the area, the species has been sufficiently recovered. Governor Matt Mead agreed saying it's been true since 2003. 

The decision will put management into the hands of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and local tribes in about a month. 

Charles Preston

 

Grizzly bears may be taken off the Endangered Species list soon. And, hunts are part of Wyoming’s bear management plans. Those planned hunts are drawing fire from tribes, the Sierra Club, and comments from Yellowstone National Park.

For 40 plus years, the only people who have hunted grizzlies here are tourists and photographers. They come from around the world, hoping for a glimpse of the country’s largest and most powerful carnivore.

Charles Preston

Grizzly bears may be taken off the endangered species list soon. And, a Wyoming Game and Fish supervisor said the state will make plans for grizzly hunts. Yellowstone’s superintendent said he wants Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho to consider the impact on park visitors who come to see grizzly bears. A Sierra Club representative said it is too soon to remove federal protections.

Arturo de Frias Marques / WITH USE UNDER CC BY-SA 4.0

The U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wyoming have published a new study showing that polar bears are having to expend more energy to keep up with faster drifting sea ice.

The study, titled "Increased Arctic sea ice drift alters polar bear movements and energetics," came out in the June 5 issue of Global Change Biology.

Pages