Courtesy of Ken Lund, Flickr Creative Commons

It’s no secret that late summer is a great time to visit Yellowstone National Park. And, that means lots of traffic. With many people celebrating the Labor Day holiday, park officials say safety is a big concern. Park spokesman Amy Bartlett says that’s why park rangers and local law enforcement are working together to post traffic safety checkpoints along the park’s hundreds of miles of backroads.

Western Watersheds Project Wyoming Director Jon Ratner has made quite a stir over the last few years, monitoring stream quality in areas where cattle graze, sometimes crossing private property to do so.

“What our work over the last decade has found is that virtually everywhere that livestock grazing is found, you will have violations of state water quality standards.”

He says, when he gave his data to the DEQ, he got push back. In fact, in the last legislative session, two new statutes shut down his data collection by prohibiting trespassing.

Wendy Rumminger

Autumn is the time of year when lots of wildlife like bears, moose and bobcats tend to wander into the streets of Jackson. It often leads to conflicts with humans. That’s why a local coalition of government agencies and non-profits called Wild Neighborhoods has created a website.

The group’s spokesman Stacy Noland says they’re encouraging locals to share tips and stories about how to minimize conflicts with wildlife.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Polar bears are one of the species that’s been hardest hit by climate change. But scientists have long thought the bears might be capable of effectively hibernating in summer, to save energy during a longer open water season. New research from the University of Wyoming disproves that hypothesis though. Merav Ben David is a professor of wildlife ecology and one of the authors of the new study. She told Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce that without hibernation, it’s an increasingly long and hungry summer for the bears.

Luke Anderson

Sometimes there can too much of a good thing, even cute little bunny rabbits.

This year’s wet weather has brought on an explosion in the population of cottontail rabbits. Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Steve Tessmann says lots of grass means more for rabbits to eat and hide in. But he says an increase in prey is often followed by an increase in predators.

Ben Ramsey

In the small town of Pinedale, people have a lot of opinions about sage grouse. That’s because Pinedale just happens to sit in the middle of some of the best sage grouse habitat in the state. It’s also in the middle of some of the best oil and gas fields in the country. So when a Pinedale math teacher joined forces with a sage grouse conservation project, it started a community conversation.

Mark Elbroch

A researcher studying the social behaviors of mountain lions will present his findings on Thursday, June 18, in the first of a series of summer talks co-sponsored by the University of Wyoming and the National Parks.

Mark Elbroch is a wildlife biologist with Panthera, a conservation group studying big cats and their habitats. He says new technology like GPS collars and remote video cameras have given him unprecedented access to the lives of mountain lions.

Eric Cole / USFWS

North America’s largest shorebird—the Long Billed Curlew--might not be a household name now, but a lot more is about to be discovered about its nesting and migration habits.

New funding this year has allowed researchers to affix satellite transmitters on 7 new curlews in Western Wyoming. Researcher Jay Carlisle with the Intermountain Bird Observatory at Boise State University says last year they tracked a female named AJ that migrated to central Mexico, which is much farther than usual.

Ben Ramsey

A Pinedale high school teacher used math to teach kids about the importance of sage grouse conservation last week. Cami Dudrey’s Algebra I class collaborated with the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation to solve real world math problems related to putting reflective tags along fences in a critical sage grouse breeding area outside Pinedale.

“Kids don’t see the application of math ever. The most common question I get is when are we ever going to use this?” Dudrey says. “Math’s everywhere. So just finding something to apply any type of math to helps the students connect.”

Chris Servheen

Elk and other wildlife are beginning their spring migrations. Moving to summer ranges can mean crossing roads and highways, which puts wildlife at risk of being struck and killed by vehicles. But research shows that properly designed wildlife crossings can make roads safer for wildlife and for people. 

Tony Clevenger has been studying wildlife crossings in the Canadian Rockies for more than 17 years, and he says the data is clear about when building crossings is cost effective.

Asher Jay

A wildlife advocacy group in Jackson wants to convince the public that the use of traps for hunting is inhumane, and they’re using art to convey their message.

The group, Wyoming Untrapped, has commissioned an internationally renowned environmental artist to show the value of free-roaming wild animals such as bob cats and coyotes that traditionally are some of trapper’s favorite targets.

When Rancher Frank Robbins had his cattle leases revoked a few years back, he decided to run sheep on his property instead. But now his animals are trespassing into the habitat of the state’s largest bighorn sheep herd, exposing them to pneumonia which is deadly in bighorns. Advocates on both sides say that while Robbins may be using the situation to pressure the Bureau of Land Management to return his cattle leases, the agency is also at fault. Kevin Hurley is director of the Wild Sheep Foundation.

Penny Preston

Chronic Wasting Disease spread into seven new hunting areas around the state in 2014. The slow-spreading neurological disease affects deer, elk and moose and causes weight loss, abnormal behavior and, eventually, death. Game and Fish tested more than 1500 animals this year. 

Communications Director Renny MacKay says although the disease continues to move into almost every county in the state, the new areas were no surprise.

Wikimedia Commons

The overall population of grizzly bears is now at around 1,000. That’s according to a biannual study from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team that has adopted a new method for estimating grizzly populations. Wildlife biologist Frank Van Manen says the higher numbers came as a surprise even to him.

“So far, relatively low conflicts, relatively low mortality, good reproduction.  We already had kind of a peak year last year. So we did not anticipate a lot of females with cubs this year. But we were pleasantly surprised.”

Melodie Edwards

Last week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was in Pinedale, taking part in a ceremony to sign up Wyoming ranchers to help protect sage grouse. These conservation agreements are called Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances or CCAA’s. They’re supposed to protect the birds on private lands, but as Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards reports, some wildlife advocates question whether the program really has the teeth to make a difference.

Rebecca Huntington

Singer-songwriter Beth McIntosh and her son, Rainer McIntosh-Round, who live in Wilson, Wyoming, share stories about surviving moose and bone-chilling temperatures living in the cowboy state. McIntosh also reflects on her Scottish immigrant roots.

Penny Preston

Cody – Grizzly bears, moose, bison, and many other Yellowstone area animals are hit and killed by speeding motorists every year. But now, a baby moose that made newspaper and magazine headlines when it survived a raging river, has been photographed all alone. Locals fear it is orphaned and unlikely to survive, because a motorist killed its mother. It’s led to a renewed discussion over speed limits and signs in forested areas of northwest Wyoming.

A heavy snowpack swelled the Shoshone River this spring.

Linda Peterson

The National Park Service at Grand Teton National Park will be limiting what areas campers can use in the Gros Ventre campground for the rest of this season. That’s after a crowd Wednesday possibly caused a bull moose to charge, resulting in the fatal injury of a female moose.

Public Affairs Officer Jackie Skaggs says people have been getting far too close to animals, in some cases less than ten feet. She says new, plain clothed rangers will be introduced to protect both people and animals.

August in Wyoming: Stories of nature and wildlife. 

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The Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife, and Cultural Resources Interim Committee is holding a meeting in Thermopolis tomorrow/Tuesday to discuss two bills that would strengthen state poaching laws. The first bill would make it illegal to knowingly sell, barter, trade, or buy such animals. The second would specify fines based on the economic value of the poached animal.

Bruce Burns is the Committee’s Senate Chair. He said the legislature didn’t come up with the new guidelines on their own, but received input from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Rebecca Huntington

What do butterflies, pikas and a challenge course have in common? They're all at the heart of the summer camp experience for teens in Kelly, Wyoming. Bordering Grand Teton National Park, Teton Science Schools offers a perfect setting for campers to study and appreciate nature. But as Rebecca Huntington reports students walk away with a lot more.

“Is this one lupine? Oh there's a painted lady, I think.”

Researchers at the University of Wyoming have found that energy development is scaring off river otters in the Upper Green River Basin.

Scientists counted the number of otters in several waterways throughout the Upper Green River Basin in western Wyoming. The rivers farther away from energy development had dozens of otters, but the New Fork River had only two.

Report co-author Merav Ben-David says research shows that otters don’t like the noise and commotion associated with development, and she says another concern could be water contamination.

Joe Riis

Scientists in Wyoming have recently discovered the longest mule deer migration route that’s ever been recorded. The animals travel 150 miles, from the Red Desert to the Hoback Basin. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with Hall Sawyer and Joe Riis, who have been documenting the migration. Sawyer is a research biologist at Western Ecosystems Technology,  and Riis is a wildlife photographer. Sawyer says he discovered the migration route kind of by accident.

When John Simms moved to Jackson, he started a business giving tours of the Flag Ranch. After getting married, he started Jackson White Water Trips. In this story, John tells his daughter Morrison about an unexpected late night visit to their Jackson home.

Joe Riis

Wyoming has some of the longest wildlife migration routes in the U.S. Animals travel in some cases over 100 miles from summer ranges to winter habitats. Protecting the migration routes is important for maintaining healthy populations. But land managers and other decision makers often don’t actually know where the animals travel. Now, scientists are tracking their routes. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

(Sound of deer walking along streambed)

Wyoming’s pronghorn populations have been declining rapidly in the last ten years and a coalition of groups including the University of Wyoming and Game and Fish are trying to figure out why.  In 2010, there were over 500,000 pronghorn in the state.  Today, that number has dropped to a little more than 400,000.

Jeff Beck is an associate professor of Ecosystems Science and Management at UW.  Last November, he and a team of scientists took to the field to figure out why. They helicopter-netted 130 pronghorns in three test areas of the Red Desert. 

The National Park Service does not wish to start using air guns to vaccinate Yellowstone bison for Brucellosis.

Brucellosis is a disease that can cause bison and other large animals to abort their calves. Currently, the park only vaccinates bison when they leave the park, and even then, only a few animals are vaccinated. But Park Spokesman Al Nash says after some legal disputes regarding bison management over a decade ago, Yellowstone agreed to look into new options.