By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist
Fat Bear Week
This is Fat Bear Week, the online celebration of brown bears congregating at Brooks River in Alaska’s Katmai National Park as they fatten up on spawning salmon in preparation for winter hibernation. You can view live bearcams, see profiles of the top contenders, download the bracket and cast daily votes for the bear to be given the title of Fat Bear 2022 in the annual competition.
A group of backpackers in the Teton Wilderness recently had an adventure like no other, according to Yellowstone Insight. Naturalist Doug MacCartney and two friends were starting to ascend a peak when they noticed a sow grizzly bear with three cubs of the year as the bears began running away – from several wolverines. According to MacCartney’s account posted to social media, the men eventually saw 12 or 13 wolverines, and another sow grizzly with two yearling cubs. There is speculation the carnivores might have been congregating at a food source such as an Army cutworm moth site, or perhaps animal carcasses. Read the account, and have a look at the photos of the animals as they crossed a snowfield, on Yellowstone Insight’s Facebook page.
I checked in with a few Wyoming Game and Fish Department folks, but they hadn’t yet had the chance to review the report. One mentioned that some reports of groups of wolverines turned out to be marmots.
While groups of wolverines are usually small family groups, there is a video of about 20 wolverines congregating at what appears to be a dump in Siberia.
It’s been a good year for wolverine sightings in our region, according to The Wolverine Blog.
A wolverine was spotted in Yellowstone in March, and another in Lewistown, Montana, and wildlife officials were able to collar a four-year old male wolverine after the animal was caught preying on domestic sheep near Randolph, Utah. Another wolverine was captured on video in the Tetons in July.
Fall is also the time for massive bird migrations, and BirdCast provides real-time predictions of bird migrations, showing when birds migrate, where they migrate, and how far they will be flying. BirdCast applies weather surveillance radar to gather information on the numbers, flight directions, speeds and altitudes of birds aloft in order to expand the understanding of migratory bird movement.
As I write this column early Tuesday morning, BirdCast tells me that 2,578,300 birds crossed Wyoming during the night, and there are more than 1.3 million birds currently in flight in the state. A quick search on the migration dashboard lets me pinpoint the migration over Sublette County: 492,900 birds overnight, with an estimated 43,000 birds currently in flight. The dashboard shows the peak of birds around midnight, with birds traveling nearly 28 miles per hour, at an altitude of less than 4,000 feet. There are plenty of more details available, so check it out for yourself.
This free smartphone app allows you to point your phone at the sky to learn about stars, constellations and even satellites in the night sky. From focusing on an individual star or planet, to the app is easy to use and great for enhancing your stargazing experience.
Animal Tracker App
My last recommendation is for the Animal Tracker App available for free download to a smartphone. Transmitters placed on wild animals by researchers allow the tracking of animals via the app. While there are a lot of wildlife researchers around the globe participating in this data-sharing effort, the app allows citizen scientists to upload photos and behavioral information when they encounter these animals in the field. While I don’t participate the citizen-science part of the app, I do like using the app to track bird migrations – especially tracking whether some of the golden eagles in our area are migrants or residents.
You can use the app to look at movements of a particular species during the last 12 months or last two weeks. Here’s a screenshot of golden eagle migration during the last year, using data from 51 eagles.
Or narrow it down to one particular animal. The app tells me that Hank the golden eagle has traveled over 10,508 km, through 2 countries, and his last recorded location was just six hours ago.
Once snowfall limits our outdoor travels, you can still use some of these resources to keep in touch with what’s going on in the wild world, virtually.
Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily.