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Grand Teton National Park Euthanizes Fox After Reports of Human Feeding

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park officials have euthanized a fox involved in an incident in which a photography crew was accused of feeding wildlife in the park.

The fox had been targeted to be euthanized some months ago, but was captured after the wildlife feeding allegation which is now being investigated by the park.

“The investigation is ongoing, no updates at this time,” park spokeswoman Denise Germann told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

According to the Jackson Hole News&Guide, a photography crew led by British fine art photographer David Yarrow was spotted allegedly feeding foxes in the Colter Bay area of the park. Feeding park wildlife is illegal.

Yarrow denied the allegations, saying that the crew might have thrown snow near the foxes, but they weren’t feeding the animals. He said he was at Jackson Lake for an unrelated photo shoot and the appearance of the foxes was a coincidence.

“The last thing on my mind was to photograph a fox,” Yarrow told the paper. “It’s not what I’m interested in.”

A petition to ban Yarrow from all national parks began circulating through social media this week, gaining a little more than 2,400 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

A fox was euthanized earlier this week following the Yarrow incident.

Germann said that the fox was already “highly food-conditioned and habituated,” but had been involved with the photography crew incident.

“This fox has been involved in several incidents over the last year and was identified to be euthanized,” she said.

According to the newspaper, the red fox was a research animal known as 15M that had worn a tracking collar since 2018 and had a blue tag on its left ear and a green one on its right ear.

Fox 15M ate normal foods like ground squirrels and stayed out of trouble the first couple years it was on biologists’ radar but became dangerously habituated to people last summer, park officials said.

There had been plans to euthanize the fox since last summer, but he proved elusive until this week.

Feeding park wildlife could lead to the death of an animal or injury to park visitors.

Park visitors are reminded to maintain a minimum viewing distance of 25 yards from most wildlife and 100 yards from wolves and bears.   

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National Elk Refuge Begins Feeding 7,000 Elk

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Bull and cow elk in a meadow, ALT=Unable to eliminate brucellosis, officials focus on containment in elk and cattle
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By Tom Ninneman, Cowboy State Daily

The National Elk Refuge has begun this year’s feeding of the estimate 7,000 elk on the refuge. 

Refuge supplemental elk and bison feeding was initiated on Wednesday based on the amount of natural forage available at the refuge.  

When average available forage declines to 300 pounds per acre, supplemental feeding is typically recommended to begin. On Feb. 1, average available forage had declined to 263 pounds per acre. 

The decision to initiate feeding each season is a collaborative process between the National Elk Refuge and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

This year forage production was slightly below average due to low rainfall in May and June, but until now, snow-pack depth on southern refuge has been below average as well.  

The net effect of these factors was that 2021 feeding was initiated one week later than the long-term average start date of Jan. 26.   

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Wyoming Conservation License Plate Sales Generate $300K

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming raised more than $300,000 in 2020 through the sale of state conservation license plates.

The money will be invested in projects that improve Wyoming’s roadways and reduce vehicle collisions with wildlife, Gov. Mark Gordon announced.

“Thank you to the thousands of people, businesses and organizations who purchased the Wyoming Conservation License Plate and helped fulfill this challenge,” Gordon said. “We share the roads in Wyoming with our abundant wildlife, and the funds generated from the sales of the plate serves as a basis for projects that can prevent crashes with over 6,000 big game annually.”

The Wyoming conservation license plate is a permanent specialty plate option for drivers and is available for $180 with an annual $50 retention fee, in addition to regular registration fees.

The funds, along with other donations, will be used to support wildlife crossing initiative projects throughout the state. Planning and research for these projects is led by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Wyoming Department of Transportation.

Currently, there is a list of 240 projects throughout the state aimed at improving roadway safety.

Gordon extended his appreciation to the 44 Wyoming businesses that helped with the sale of the plates by joining a challenge in which they would offer discounts to drivers of vehicles displaying the conservation plates. Other companies were honored for equipping their entire vehicle fleets with the conservation license plates.

“Many businesses and organizations took the extra step to outfit their vehicle fleets with this plate and show their dedication to this cause, and I am very appreciative of those efforts as well,” Gordon said.

In August, there had been 15 vehicle/wildlife collisions, resulting in 19 injuries but no fatalities.

When it comes to a vehicle crashing into an animal in Wyoming, injuries are more likely than a fatality, according to the data provided. The highest number of fatalities resulting from such crashes was three in 2015.

A 10-year chart tracked what type of animals are involved in crashes on Wyoming highways, with deer being named the winner by a landslide. From 2009 to 2019, there were 23,058 collisions involving deer.

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Chronic Wasting Disease Found In Grand Teton Elk

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Bull and cow elk in a meadow, ALT=Unable to eliminate brucellosis, officials focus on containment in elk and cattle
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An elk in Grand Teton National Park has tested positive for chronic wasting disease, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently announced.

The cow elk was harvested by a participant in the park’s elk reduction program and tissue samples were collected as part of the park’s mandatory testing program.

This is the first elk to test positive for CWD both in northwest Wyoming and in close proximity to elk feeding grounds.

There have been no cases of CWD in humans and no strong evidence that people can contract the disease. However, experimental studies raise the concern that CWD may pose a risk to humans and suggest as a result it is important to prevent human exposure.

Therefore, the Game and Fish Department and the National Park Service are adhering to the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization that hunters not consume any animal that is obviously ill or tests positive for CWD.   
 
Wildlife managers said that while the positive test in an elk raises concern, the positive test result doesn’t come as a surprise based on the steady progression of the disease westward across the state and the positive result of CWD in a mule deer in the park in the fall of 2018.

Mule deer have also tested positive for CWD in Star Valley in 2016, in the Pinedale area in 2017 and in the Wyoming Range in 2020.
 
Intensive CWD surveillance of the Jackson elk herd has been ongoing since 2009.

Over 4,500 CWD samples have been collected and tested for the entire Jackson elk herd with more than 1,400 samples collected through the park’s elk reduction program alone. This is the first elk to test positive.

The positive test result for an elk in northwest Wyoming came as Game and Fish and partnering federal agencies recently began a public collaborative effort to discuss the future management of elk feedgrounds in Wyoming.

While Game and Fish is actively accepting public comment on state-managed elk feedgrounds through this public process, there is no plan to close any feedgrounds.

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Sheridan Game Warden Commended For Saving Two Moose in Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game Wardens Association on Wednesday commended Sheridan Game Warden Ryan Kenneda for saving two moose during separate events this fall.

The organization praised its Sheridan colleague for rescuing a cow moose stuck in a fence on state land between Murphy Gulch and Interstate 90 while she was on patrol back in October.

The moose attempted to cross the fence, but had gotten three of its legs tangled in the fencing. Kenneda removed the wires from the moose’s legs and after a short recovery time, the moose was able to stand and move on its own.

The moose has been seen in the area with its calf and appears to have suffered no lasting injuries.

Just a few days later, Kenneda got to assist with another moose call when the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was alerted by a hunter about a young bull moose in Bighorn National Forest that appeared to have been shot or injured.

When personnel found the moose, it was alert, but wedged between two tree saplings and unable to stand.

“From what we could tell, as the moose walked between two large saplings, it lost its footing and fell onto its right side,” said Kenneda. “As it fell, its two right legs slid under a fallen tree where there was about eight inches of clearance. All the legs were mobile, but could not get traction to allow the animal to get to its feet.”

Kenneda, Sheridan Wildlife Biologist Tim Thomas, Sheridan Fisheries Supervisor Paul Mavrakis and Fisheries Technician Nathan Jaksha removed the obstructions, checked for injuries and were able to get the animal into a kneeling position.

When Jaksha checked on the animal two hours later, it had recovered and left the area.

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‘Threatened’ Status For Tree Concerning, Gordon Says

in Mark Gordon/News/wildlife
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is expressing concern about a federal proposal to list a tree in Wyoming as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

While the listing of the whitebark pine would not impose any restrictions on activities on private property in Wyoming, the decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to seek the “threatened” status for the tree is worrisome, Gordon said in a news release Wednesday.

“Any listing under the ESA is concerning,” he said. “Wyoming always seeks to avoid the need for listing and will remain committed to working with our federal partners to approach species conversation in a pragmatic manner.”

The whitebark pine, a high-elevation tree, is threatened by a fungal disease called white pine blister rust. The Fish and Wildlife Service did not find that any human activities are a threat to the tree.

The proposed “threatened” listing would not restrict activities such as grazing and logging and does not propose any critical habitat designations, Gordon said.

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Wyoming Game Wardens Report An Increased Number Of Deer Hit On The Highway

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Wyoming Game and Fish Department wardens from Lander, Riverton, and Dubois report receiving an increased number of calls recently to assist with animals being hit by vehicles.

These areas have consistently seen large losses of big game animals and increased wildlife collisions in the fall.

Every fall, big game animals leave their higher elevation summer and fall ranges for traditional lower elevation wintering areas and their migration routes and winter ranges often put them into conflict with motorists.

Many migration routes for big game animals often lead them alongside and across highways.

In addition, big game animals are often drawn to areas along roadways to seek better forage that results from road runoff moisture, and areas recently seeded after construction.

Motorists are urged to be on the lookout at all times as animals may be on the move, but it is the dusk to dawn period when animals are most active.

“It is that time of year again when deer are moving around and bucks are in the rut. Big game animals are paying less attention to vehicle traffic and more attention to their biology,” Lander Game Warden Brady Frude said.

“They are most active at dawn and dusk and of course, with shorter daylight hours, this now coincides with high levels of commuting traffic. All these factors lead to significant increases in deer/vehicle collisions along our roads,” he said.

South Riverton Game Warden Mitch Renteria said with the deer rut in full swing, deer are less aware of their surrounds and more visible around roadways as they prepare for the long winter.

Please drive safely to and from your destinations, slow down, and as always, give wildlife a break,” Renteria said.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department advises people to be aware of roadside surroundings.

When motorists spot animals near highways, they should assume the animals will move onto the roadway. Following a few simple steps can prevent wildlife collisions:

Slow down.
Expect wildlife and scan the sides of the roads.
Use headlights and stay alert while driving at dusk, dawn and at night.
If you see one elk, deer, or antelope by the road, expect there to be more nearby.
If an animal is on the road, expect the unexpected. They do not instinctively know how to react to your car.
If you encounter an animal crossing the road, switch your headlights to low beam so that they are not blinded and can move out of your way.
Give the animal time and room to move off the road. Do not try to outrun it.
If you see a wildlife-crossing sign, pay attention. It is there for a reason.
Do not swerve to miss an animal. Steer toward the animal’s hindquarters, as they most often will move forward.

Nationwide, more than 150 people are killed and 29,000 injured each year in animal/vehicle collisions, and areas in Fremont County have some of the highest numbers of wildlife/vehicle collisions in the State.

If you see an injured deer, call the nearest Game and Fish Regional Office or the Stop Poaching Hotline 1-877-WGFD-TIP, after normal business hours, with specific information about the location (road, mile-marker, etc.).

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Elk Cull To Begin In Grand Teton National Park This Weekend

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Bull and cow elk in a meadow, ALT=Unable to eliminate brucellosis, officials focus on containment in elk and cattle
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Just after wrapping up its annual goat culling operation, Grand Teton National Park will begin an elk reduction program on Saturday, allowing elk to be killed to properly manage and conserve the park’s herd.

Federal and state resource managers have reviewed available data and concluded that the program is necessary this year.

The need for the cull is determined annually based on the status of the Jackson elk herd, including estimated herd size and composition and the number of elk on supplemental feed on the National Elk Refuge. A total of 550 hunting permits are authorized for this year’s program.

The only area open to the elk reduction program is Wyoming Game and Fish Elk Hunt Area 75, located mostly east of U.S. Highway 89. The Antelope Flats portion of this area closes Nov. 23, and the remaining portions close Dec. 13.  

The Snake River Bottom between Deadmans Bar and Ditch Creek is closed.

Wyoming Game and Fish Elk Hunt Area 79 will be closed to limit harvest pressure on northern migratory and resident elk.   

Participants in the program must carry their state hunting license, conservation stamp, elk special management permit and 2020 elk reduction program park permit, use non-lead ammunition, and are limited in the number of cartridges they are able to carry each day.

The use of archery, handguns, or other non-center fire ammunition rifles is not permitted, nor is the use of artificial elk calls. In addition, participants, regardless of age, are required to carry a hunter safety card, wear fluorescent orange or pink and carry and have immediately accessible a 7.9oz. (or greater) can of non-expired bear spray.

Information packets accompanying each permit warn participants of the risk of bear encounters and offer tips on how to minimize the risk of human-bear conflicts. 

Following detection of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a mule deer within Grand Teton National Park in November 2018, the National Park Service increased surveillance efforts to include mandatory collection of elk heads from all elk harvested during the program.

Park personnel will collect biological samples from the heads and submit them to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory for testing. Participants can check their results online.

National Park Service and Wyoming Game and Fish staff will monitor and patrol elk reduction program areas to ensure compliance with rules and regulations, interpret the elk reduction program to visitors, and provide participants with outreach regarding bear activity and safety.  

These areas remain open to park visitors, and wearing bright colors is highly encouraged during this time.

The park’s goat cull was supposed to take place in February, but was delayed to the fall after there was a call to stop the aerial gunning of the animals.

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Wolf Illegally Killed In Grand Teton National Park

in Crime/News/wildlife
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The National Park Service is investigating the illegal killing of a wolf in Grand Teton National Park.

National Park Service investigators are seeking information regarding the shooting of the wolf, which was collared and described as black-colored. Its body was found near the park’s Pilgrim Creek Trailhead on Oct. 26.

By placing radio collars on wolves, researchers can track the animals’ movements, finding out where they reside in the winter and other information while still allowing the wolves to roam free inside the national parks.

The illegal taking of wildlife is a violation and subject to a fine up to $5,000 and/or up to six months imprisonment.  Additionally, it is a violation to aid or assist in the illegal taking of wildlife and is also subject to a fine up to $5,000 and/or six months imprisonment.

Anyone with information that could help identify any of the individuals involved or was in the area of the Pilgrim Creek Trailhead the morning of Oct. 26 and can provide any information regarding this activity, call or text the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch Tip Line at 888-653-0009. Information can be provided anonymously.   

The Investigative Services Branch assists units of the National Park Service with the immediate and long-term protection of park resources, visitors, assets, employees and residents. 

They accomplish this through detection, investigation, apprehension, and successful prosecution of persons who violate laws of the United States while within, or while affecting, the National Park System.

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Cheney, Enzi Applaud Trump Decision To Remove Gray Wolf From Endangered List

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list by the administration of President Donald Trump on Thursday, prompting responses from officials all over the nation, including Wyoming’s senator and representative.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi both issued statements in support of the delisting.

“Delisting the gray wolf has been a long and bumpy road, but I think everyone should take pride in this announcement today,” Enzi said. “States like Wyoming have shown they are able to effectively manage the gray wolf.

“It is important to remember that the purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to get to this point, where a species is fully recovered,” Enzi continued. “I am hopeful that even more species in the future will be able to reach this milestone.”

Gray wolves in Wyoming were removed from the endangered species list in 2017. In other states where the wolves remained on the endangered special list, their management and protection will be taken over by state and tribal wildlife management agency professionals.

“This final rule puts the process of managing the gray wolf back where it belongs – in the capable hands of individual states,” Cheney said. “Over the past decade, our courts have been abused by radical environmental groups filing frivolous lawsuits to prevent states from managing the gray wolf population, despite repeated delisting decisions.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor the species for five years to ensure its continued success. The agency made its final determination to remove the wolves from the list based on a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated, as well as efforts by states and tribes to manage the species for healthy populations.

“We are proud of our efforts in Wyoming to conserve the gray wolf’s habitat and population in consultation with federal agencies,” Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman said. “Populations continue to thrive in the northern Rocky Mountains because states implemented scientific measures that balance the needs of the species and our residents at the same time. Today’s decision to delist the gray wolf in the lower-48 states is further proof that population recovery goals can be met when all levels of government work together in a collaborative manner.”

The gray wolves were first listed under the Endangered Species Act more than 45 years ago.

Not all of the responses to the delisting were positive.

“Again and again the courts have rejected premature removal of wolf protections,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But instead of pursuing further wolf recovery, the Fish and Wildlife Service has just adopted its broadest, most destructive delisting rule yet. The courts recognize, even if the feds don’t, that the Endangered Species Act requires real wolf recovery, including in the southern Rockies and other places with ideal wolf habitat.”

In total, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is more than 6,000, greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations.

The gray wolf is the latest in a long list of endangered species recoveries that includes the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, American alligator, brown pelican and 48 other species of animals and plants in U.S. states, territories and waters.

“For over ten years the State of Wyoming, together with our sister states of Idaho and Montana, has demonstrated the ability to manage an ever-increasing delisted wolf population,” Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna said. “Wyoming accomplished this with a steady hand despite periodic re-listings mandated by the courts. State management succeeds in large part because state management plans are developed in close collaboration with local, directly affected interests.

“We commend the USFWS for this nation-wide delisting that is long overdue,” Magagna continued. “Successful delisting of this high-profile species will serve to incentivize diverse partnerships that can expedite the recovery of many other listed or imperiled species,” 

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