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

in News/wildlife
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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

in News/wildlife
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

in News/wildlife
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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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Bison Herd Keep Tourists Away From Calf In Yellowstone

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

Tourists managed to avoid being treated like a “Mortal Kombat” character, thankfully, after being warned to keep away from a herd of bison in Yellowstone recently.

By the bison.

A video posted to Rumble that was recorded in August showed three bison warding off curious tourists trying to get a closer look at the herd and a calf in particular.

Unlike many other wildlife encounters in the park, this one ended peacefully and with no blood or pants being ripped off.

A family was shooting a video of the bison as two males began to approach, grunting loudly.

It was unclear if the family recording a video were the same people who uploaded the video to Rumble.

In the video, people can be heard commenting on the bison calf, saying things such as “Look at the baby.”

“The person shooting the video realized the danger of the situation and quickly jumped into the car to get out of their way,” the video description said.

After the person shooting the video got into their car, you can hear them say “Oh my God” as more of the bison herd appears in the frame.

It should be noted that the average bison weighs in at one ton, making it about an even match with most of the cars usually surrounding the animals in Yellowstone.

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Gordon, Barrasso Call For Update Of Endangered Species Act

in Mark Gordon/News/wildlife
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso joined forces in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to call for work to update and modernize the federal Endangered Species Act.

Gordon testified during a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Wednesday. He expressed strong support for allowing states and tribes to continue to expand their work on conserving imperiled species.

He pointed to some significant improvements proposed in the Endangered Species Acts Amendments of 2020, which would elevate the role of state wildlife agencies in species management, allow impacted states the opportunity to help develop recovery plans and delay judicial review of delisting rules during the post-delisting monitoring period.

He also emphasized the damaging impact excessive litigation has had on those efforts.

“These lawsuits, and the associated investment of money, time and energy, detract from species recovery and conservation and divert important resources away from species that truly need help,” he said. “The states have proven time and time again they are committed to and capable of managing wildlife within their borders. They should be given the chance to do so for delisted species without the threat of endless and costly lawsuits that in the end do not benefit the species in question.”

Gordon pointed specifically to the staggering costs of managing wildlife through litigation and stressed his belief that prohibiting judicial review during post-delisting monitoring will not be harmful to species conservation. 

“The largest barrier to returning the management of fully-recovered species to the states and tribes is litigation,” Gordon said. “These suits, and the associated investment of money, time and energy, detract from species recovery and conservation and divert important resources away from species that truly need help.

Private landowners also need to be recognized for their contributions to the conservation of wildlife, Gordon said.

“Private landowners, ranchers and farmers across our nation have made amazing contributions to wildlife conservation and should be recognized,” Gordon told the committee. “In my state, farmers and ranchers have demonstrated their commitment to wildlife as the ultimate conservationists.”

During his testimony, Gordon outlined Wyoming’s leadership on efforts to protect several species, including the grizzly bear, gray wolves, black-footed ferrets and the greater sage-grouse.

He noted that Wyoming’s core area strategy to conserve greater sage-grouse populations was copied by other states and has been effective at preventing listing of the species as endangered, allowing multiple-use activities to continue in those areas. 

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Researchers Continue Long-Term Study Of Wyoming’s Golden Eagles in Big Horn Basin

in News/wildlife
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Researchers in Park County are keeping an eye on golden eagles in the Big Horn Basin as an indicator of the health of the area’s ecosystem.

According to biologists, the golden eagle is a species of greatest conservation need because of the rapidly changing conditions of its primary habitat. 

Dr. Charles Preston is the curator emeritus for the Draper Museum of Natural History at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. For the last 12 years, his staff and a group of volunteers have been keeping a close eye on the golden eagle population in the Big Horn Basin.

“Because raptors are the top of the food chain – and, so they give us an idea of what’s going on with the ecosystem,” Preston said. “And I’m really interested in ecosystem dynamics, how ecosystems change through time. Raptors give me a good window into that.”

Each year, select birds are banded, measured, weighed and their general condition is determined. This year, feathers were collected from the golden eagles as well.

The team also collects the remains of prey found in the eagles’ nests to study how what they eat affects their reproductive cycles. 

Data from the study will be stored in the McCracken Research Library at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody for the public to access. 

But it’s not just the predator-prey relationship that the study has focused on, according to Preston. People are also a large part of the equation.

“It’s important to understand how our activities affect, both positively and negatively, the wildlife,” he said. “Because almost everybody wants to maintain a healthy wildlife population and community.”

Preston noted that continuous, long-term research is the key to this study – especially for a species like the eagle.

“Because things change from year to year, whether it’s weather, or prey abundance, or landscape, those changes are important,” Preston said. “So just a couple of years, a snapshot in time might be valuable for one thing, but it doesn’t give you a big picture.”

With the advancements of wind farms and other energy development, an increase in outdoor recreation, and residential construction encroaching on the birds’ habitat, Preston said studies like this one will continue to provide valuable information.

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History Channel Star From Lander Frees Stuck Bison Caught in Cattle Guard

in News/wildlife
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Adrenaline rush of the day, I am still alive and the bison cow is healthy and back with her calf.~ Josh Kirk#joshkirkmountainmen #mountainmen #history #windrivermountainrange

Posted by Joshua Native Kirk on Thursday, September 17, 2020

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One of the stars from the History Channel’s TV show “Mountain Men,” sure knew how to celebrate his birthday last week at his home outside of Lander.

Josh Kirk, who is a regular on the show, posted a video showing him cutting through an old cattle guard to free a bison cow who got caught up in it.

“Adrenaline rush of the day, I am still alive and the bison cow is healthy and back with her calf,” Kirk announced on his Facebook page.

Kirk apparently sedated the bison and it took some prodding to get the animal to walk away once freed from the trap.

To do that, Kirk swatted the bison on the head a few times. After about the fourth swat, the bison had enough, got up, and stumbled away.

“I was shaking because once she got up, I was afraid she was going to move forward on me,” he said.

Although the animal was limping, Kirk believed she would be ok. And who’s going to argue with him?

“The sedation should be wearing off. Bison are pretty tough.  I’m glad to see her up and moving. She’s going to be sore but she’s going to be alright,” he said.

Kirk went on to say that after that tense episode, he was taking the rest of the day off.

Well done, Kirk. And happy birthday.

Attention Iowa People: Don’t try this. You’ll get de-pantsed. Or worse.

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No Way — Outside of Time And Traveling Whack-A-Mole — To Escape the Smoky Air in Wyoming

in Don Day/News/wildlife
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Like it or not, parts of Wyoming and other places in the west are stuck with smoky air for awhile because of the wildfires in California and the Pacific Northwest.

And that can be problematic for everyone but especially for people who already have breathing issues.

That’s why when we saw a television station in Spokane recommend Cody and Rock Springs as locations in Wyoming to escape the bad air, we wondered what was so special about these locations. Could they be home to smoke-free unicorns?

Sadly, there are no unicorns. The respite from the smoke could all be temporary.

Wyoming meteorologist Don Day said those two locations might be have good air quality presently, that could easily change.

“It is a moving target, the whole Cody/Rock Springs thing was at a moment in time, the smoke plumes come and go, so what is good one day may be bad the next,” Day told Cowboy State Daily.

“There are no good or worst spots,” he said.  “It all depends on the day.”

Day recommended visiting this website to check on the conditions in case you wanted to travel to get away from it.

If that is your strategy, be prepared to play a game of traveling whack-a-mole. You might be in a good location for six hours, only for weather patterns to shift and smoke to roll-in.

If you can suck it up for a couple more days, he says it will get better.

“I expect the smoke through Thursday, it starts to thin out Friday and into the weekend but may not completely move out,” Day said.

He said much-needed rain is headed for Washington and Oregon in the next few days which will certainly help. But most locations in California are still going to be dry.

“California fires will only get rain in the far north,” he said.  “Central and southern California fires will be the bigger smoke producers this weekend and next week.”

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Wyoming Wildlife Webcam Shows Moose, Elk, Deer (Sadly No Bears) In Action

in News/wildlife
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We love wildlife stories.

Especially wildlife stories that have a bit of drama to them.

Whether it’s the convenience store worker who has to fight bears (despite it not being in his job description) or the hikers who ran away from the grizzly (no one got hurt), or the bison de-pantsing the woman tourist who thought Custer State Park was a petting zoo (she lived).

So although we would prefer the trail cam — set up in the Snowy Range by the Wyoming Game and Fish department — have a little more action to it, it’s still worth watching.

On the trail cam compilation video (embedded above), you can see moose, deer, elk, and other animals going about their business unaware they were being filmed.

What’s nice about this video (unlike the webcam of the recently awakened Giantess Geyser in Yellowstone) is that sound is included. 

So when a storm rolls in, you hear it.  When a moose explores the webcam, you hear it. When a moose gets caught in the storm and is not happy, you hear it.

Of course, it’s always better in person. But with the webcam, you stand a better chance of not being a headline with hundreds of commenters calling you a “moron tourist” or a “touron”.

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