Thursday, September 20, 2007
Click any image to enlarge it.
The story of wolves returning to Yellowstone is an amazing one. Rather than just posting some photos I wanted to take time to explain the unreal journey these amazing creatures have taken.
One of the biggest reasons for the reintroduction of wolves back into Yellowstone was that they had originally roamed from Yellowstone all the way down to Mexico. While a lot of people were in favor of the reintroduction of the wolves, there were many who were against it. The main people that were against the reintroduction of the wolves back into the park were the ranchers that made a living in the areas surrounding the park.
During 70 years of absence from the Rockies, the Grey Wolf had been protected under the Endangered Species Act that was passed in 1973. Since the wolf is under the protection of Endangered Species Act a person could be punished with up to a $100,000 fine and up to 1 year in jail for killing a wolf. Back in the 1850's there was a major population increase of the wolves in America, this was due to settlers moving west. These settlers killed more than 80 million bison, the wolves started to scavenge on the carcasses left behind.
By the 1880's the majority of the bison were gone, so the wolves had to change food sources. This meant that they turned their attention to domestic livestock, causing farmers and ranchers to fight back. There were even some states offering bounties for the wolves. Montana had a bounty on wolves that totaled more than $350,000 on 81,000 wolves. Due to the lack of a food source, as well as the bounties being offered, a wolf was no longer safe in the lower 48 states.
However, there was one safe haven, and that was Yellowstone National Park that was established in 1872. In the year 1916 the National Parks Service started to eliminate all predators in Yellowstone National Park, which meant killing 136 wolves, 13,000 coyotes, and every single mountain lion. By 1939 this program was shut down, but all the wolves were long gone before that (Timber, 1998).
In 1974 the Fish and Wildlife Service started the Grey Wolf reintroduction plan. With this plan they decided on three areas in which to reintroduce wolves; Northwest Montana, the Yellowstone Ecosystem, and Central Idaho. In 1987 they released another plan that was more detailed than the first few. The recovery goal for the Grey Wolf was ten breeding pairs per area, which meant ten packs of ten wolves, or 100 total. With the release of the 1987 plan, a lot of opposition was raised.
For the first time in 70 years, the howl of the Grey Wolf is being heard throughout Yellowstone Park (Sanders, 2000). In January of 1995, 14 wolves from separate packs in Canada were trapped and transported to Yellowstone. Once in the park the wolves were placed in one acre acclimation pens. In total there were three pens scattered across the northern portion of Yellowstone: one a Crystal Creek, another at Rose Creek, and the last at Soda Butte. During the wolves time spent in these pens they were fed winter kill, or road kill. The packs that were formed in these pens were released in the winters of 1995-1996 and also again in 1996-1997 for a second release period (Sanders, 2000). In 1995 fourteen wolves were released and in 1996 seventeen were released. In 1997 there were 64 pups born and since 1995, 33 wolves have died in the Yellowstone area.
With the reintroduction of the Grey Wolf into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem there have been many people who are opposed. Mainly the ranchers in Montana and Wyoming, along with Wyoming Game and Fish, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. The folks that live and survive around the park have the same issues with the wolves that many ranchers in Wyoming have with the Grizzly Bear. Why, do you ask, would ranchers have a problem with the reintroduction of a native species into a National Park? Well here are some good reasons, for one, the wolf is a predatory animal that finds the easiest type of food source available. What is easier than an animal that has been domesticated and no longer has natural predators?
From 1995 to 1998 there have been 9 head of cattle and 132 sheep killed by wolves. The wolves that have killed livestock were mainly traveling from Canada to Yellowstone, across Montana. From 1987 to 1997 Defenders of Wildlife have paid $42,000 for 62 cattle and 141 sheep that have been lost to wolves. Many environmentalists feel that ranchers will kill off all of the introduced wolves. Only two wolves have died legally, while seven have died of unknown causes (Timber, 1998).
The reintroduction of the wolf has had many problems, ranging from lawsuits to loss of livestock. The two lawsuits that have been filed, thought it was unconstitutional to reintroduce the wolves into the park. They believe this because reintroduction is not covered under the Endangered Species Act. The judge that was looking over the lawsuits said that the wolves needed to be returned to Canada, but Canada didn't want them. Then the judge said that all the introduced wolves were to be sent to a zoo, but no zoo had room. Finally the judge said all of the introduced wolves needed to be destroyed, but the environmentalists protested. In the end nothing was done (CNN, 1997).
Most of the livestock losses due to the wolves have been mainly in Montana. There have been a few down around Dubois, Wyoming. Most of the problems in Wyoming have just recently been showing up. Recently wolves have started moving south and east, out of the park. Last year the Fish and Wildlife Service had a few problems of their own, around Cody, WY. They were transporting three collared wolves and had to land their helicopter on private property. Not the biologist that was on the property is facing trespassing charges, the county is looking into it.
As of right now the population of the wolf has met the recovery goal of ten breeding pairs. So this means that the states are now trying to get the wolf off the Endangered Species List, and get them into state control. Back around 1998 all of the states (Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana) started to make plans for how they were going to manage the wolf populations in their states. Each plan was then reviewed by wolf specialists and depredation specialists, to see what they thought of the plans. Each state had their plans finished by 2002. Wyoming was the first state to send its plan to be reviewed by the U.S. Congress. The other two states waited to see what would come of Wyoming's plan, before they sent theirs in. In 2003 the Wyoming Grey Wolf Management Plan was sent back to the state, saying that it would not work. Most people probably felt the plan did not go through due to the nature of how Wyoming was planning on managing the wolves. Wyoming was planning on managing the wolves like they were a predator species. This meant that the wolves could freely be hunted as long as they were off National Forest or National Park property and on private property. Many environmentalists did not want this to come to be since they felt this was the reason all the wolves had been lost in the first place. The Montana and Idaho plans were a little bit different than Wyoming's. They were planning on putting a trophy hunting season out on the wolf. The thing about all of these plans in the first place is that they were all approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service before they were sent to Congress.
As of right now, Wyoming has not made any changes to their plan, even though Congress wants them to change it to better manage the wolf population. Wyoming is going to take this matter to the courts. They feel their plan is a good way to manage the wolves. They also feel that if everyone has signed off on this plan before it went to Congress then it must be a good plan to manage the Grey Wolf population in the state. This is a highly controversial topic that will continue to be debated.
The Following Agroecology Paper was written by Gavin Flint with research by Laura Gunderson. Photos are either by myself or or courtesy of the National Park Service when Noted.
Monday, September 17, 2007
After a few warnings on the 10:oopm news it looked like we were going to get our first frost this morning. The first truly cold day of the fall seems to be a warning sign to animals that the cold is coming soon on. On a short walk in my yard I headed down to the lower field, this over grown field is about 8- 10 acres. While the dew was not really frozen there seemed to be a distinct line where the sun hit to there the shade from the night still remained. I was taking in the cool almost purple color of the shade when I noticed a flicker of movement. I knew it, a fox! I got a few decent shots but I really like these. One you can see that line between the frost and the warm tones of the rising sun, Look close and you can see the fox in the frost grass. The second image shows where he lives. I have yet to discover an active fox hole until today, this guy went right to it and was digging for about 20 minute, preparing for winter. I plan to monitor this den while staying far enough away not to disturb it. Hopefully with enough patience I will be able to get the " fox in the snow" shot that i have been wanting for years!!!! I know where you live!!!!!
Posted by Bill at 9/17/2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Last night we hosted a mid week party for my roommate Dale, it was his Birthday. Good friends, good drinks, good food. It was getting to be about 10:15 pm and the grill is off, but oddly I still smelled smoke, not grill smoke but more like something is burning. So after a bit of investigating I determined it was not coming from the house...(Whhhew) I hopped in my truck and took a little drive off towards a bright spot int he sky. As I crested the hill near route 7/84 interchange in Danbury here I discovered the source of the smoke!
Here is the story on the News Times website about what happened.
Posted by Bill at 9/13/2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
CLICK HERE TO SEE FULL SLIDESHOW ON Yahoo! Photos
Hello everyone, Its been a while! But I have some great new photos and stories to share!! Early Saturday morning I arrived back at Bradley International Airport after 6 days of traveling out West. To sum up my trip quickly ..
I flew into Bozemen Montana ( a great small airport), rented the cheapest car they had, $135 for the week with insurance, grabbed a cooler from a local grocery store, packed it with bread, cheese veggies, meat, water, juice, and yes, beer. Then I drove 70 miles south of the airport to the West Gate of Yellowstone National Park. This is my second trip in as many years to the park and feel like I could go there every year and never get bored. I stayed in the park for 4 days, then during the peak of the Labor Day weekend ( too many people) I headed down through Grand Teton National Park to Jackson Hole to get a little rest and see some close friends.
While I was there I got to know my new camera ( Canon 30d) intimately. Over the course of the week about 900 captures were taken. This camera is much more professional camera than what I am used to, and the options are endless. Because so much happened out there I decided to break the trip photos into a new post everyday this week. Then I can kind of explain them with out a massive amount of typing. BUT if you would like to get a look at a gallery I posted about 75 pictures on my Yahoo Photos. Please feel free to comment on them or rate them. I would like to narrow them down to the top 15 or 20 to add to my site as final images.
I am going to start off with some Bald Eagle shots. Ironically these were taken on the second to last day of my trip. I spotted him sitting in a dead tree about 300 yards off the road through a narrow strip of burned trees. He was fishing for trout in the Gibbon River. I parked a bit down the road and walked back. After quietly making my way down a hill through the remains of the huge forest fire that destroyed thousands of acres in 1988, I walked up the river bank until I found a perfect tree where I could sit against and wait. I wanted more than a snapshot, I had time on my side and decided to wait and see what he was going to do. Sure enough within about a half hour ( my eye was getting tired of looking through the view finder) he plummeted toward the water. Instead of grabbing a fish he got a mole, or vole. Then ate it while some ravens waited for scraps. Then he took off and that was a wrap. Here are a few of the 40 images I took during the experience.
click Images to enlarge