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Carbon County Prepares For Onslaught Of 10,000 “Rainbow Family” Members This Weekend

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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Carbon County officials are working with the U.S. Forest Service to prepare Wyoming and Colorado for the arrival of thousands of Rainbow Family of Light members attending the group’s 50th annual gathering.

“We found out two weeks ago they were going to be on the Routt National Forest,” said Aaron Voos, a U.S. Forest Service spokesperson. “We’d known they wanted to be somewhere in Colorado, but due to the loose leadership of the group, we didn’t have a lot of lead time to prepare.”

More than 10,000 Rainbow Family attendees are expected to visit the Adams Park area of the Routt National Forest, about 13 miles south of the Wyoming border, during the Independence Day weekend.  

“We went down to Craig, Colorado, with the Carbon County fire warden and a sheriff’s deputy,” Carbon County Emergency Manager Lenny Layman said. “I wanted to see a general layout of Adams Park and get a feel for where they would be coming through.”

The Rainbow Family is “the largest non-organization of non-members in the world,” according to one of its websites, www.welcomehome.org. The group declares it has no leaders and no organization and it promotes intentional community building, non-violence and alternative lifestyles.

The group has been gathering on National Forest land since 1972, when it hosted its first gathering near Strawberry Lake on the Arapaho National Forest in Colorado, the Forest Service reported. 



Because of the group’s lack of leadership, the Rainbow Family does not apply for a special permit the Forest Service would typically require of a gathering this large. 

“This is an unlawful, unauthorized gathering on public land,” said Hilary Markin, a spokesperson for the Forest Service’s National Rainbow Incident Management Team (NRIMT).

Regardless of the gathering’s legality, Layman said it’s incumbent on Wyoming to be prepared in the case of an emergency.

“If a fire started southwest of the event, the egress routes south might be blocked, making an evacuation only viable north into Wyoming,” he said. “If we don’t think of these things before they happen, then we are caught on our heels.”

Unlawful Gathering

As of Monday, more than 2,000 attendees were already on site in the Adams Park area, the NRIMT reported. 

Much like wildfires and other natural disasters, the Rainbow Family gathering is assigned its own incident management team, said Markin, who’s been with the team since 2019. 

“We have about 60 people in the management team,” she said. “We’re here to engage the public, field questions, deal with health and safety risks and reduce the amount of actions that could impact the land.”

Voos said one of those impacts is caused by the number of vehicles that can accompany 10,000 people. Rainbow Family gatherings are typically hosted in vehicle-accessible areas and while the forest has some parking available, the sheer number of vehicles could damage the resource.

“When you start talking about thousands of people, there’s potential for serious impacts,” Voos explained. 



For the family’s part, Markin said group members will try to negate the impact of their vehicles by carpooling in busses and RVs. 

While working with the NRIMT in 2021, Markin said she saw one gathering attract about 7,000 people who traveled to the area in about 2,000 vehicles. 

“Even with the carpooling, it’s still a significant impact,” Markin said. 

The Forest Service has periodically cited Rainbow Family members for failing to obtain a permit, according to NRIMT documents. However, the agency also works with the family to adhere to a resource protection plan in lieu of a special use permit to protect the health and safety of individuals at the incident and in the surrounding community, to ensure sensitive resources are protected, to minimize any environmental damage and to coordinate post-event cleanup and rehabilitation of the event site, the documents state.

“Members of the group typically start showing up at gathering site a week or two in advance,” Markin said. “Then, after the event, the Rainbow Family will have a group come in and rehab the area, which can take weeks.” 

Ever Ready

Officials from Routt County and Colorado are the gathering’s lead responders should anything go awry, but Layman said Carbon County’s communication center stands ready if the need arises. 

The Carbon County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) could dispatch Carbon County resources, such as medical or law enforcement personnel, if requested, he said.



“What I’m asking for from Colorado partners is that all non-911 resource requests go through our EOC,” Layman said. “That way, rather than someone calling up to every firehouse or police department in Carbon County to locate a needed resource, all the calls come into one place, and we can find them the resources they need.” 

County officials are also working with partner agencies to create an evacuation plan. While the most likely evacuation route would take family members further south into Colorado, Layman said he wants Wyoming to be prepared should it prove the only viable means of escape. 

While the gathering is no longer than a few weeks, Voos said the Forest Service’s primary goal is to ensure it does negatively affect the landscape for years to come. 

“Where there are lots of people, there are lots of feet, wheels and infrastructure,” he said. “So there are impacts to the land, wildlife and natural resources.” 

Go to https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mbr/landmanagement/?cid=FSEPRD1033996 for daily NRIMT reports about the gathering. 

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And Another Person Gets Gored By Bison In Yellowstone; Second Person In A Week

in Yellowstone/News/wildlife
Photo credit: Allen Tooley
21597

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Just days after a Colorado man was gored by a bison in Yellowstone National Park, a woman from Pennsylvania was injured in a similar situation, park officials said.

A 71-year-old woman from West Chester, Pennsylvania, was gored by a bull bison near Storm Point at Yellowstone Lake on Wednesday, officials announced on Thursday.

According to reports, the bison charged the woman and her daughter as they inadvertently approached it while returning to their vehicle at the trailhead. The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in the encounter and was taken by ambulance to West Park Hospital in Cody.

This is the third reported bison goring of the 2022 season and the second to take place this week.

A 34-year-old man from Colorado Springs, Colorado was gored by a bison on Monday near Old Faithful and according to one eyewitness who filmed the incident, the tourist brought it on himself.

“The dad and the kid were just walking up to the bison when the bison took off,” Rob Goodell told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. 

An Ohio woman was gored by a bison and thrown 10 feet in the air at the park in late May.

As the bison walked near a boardwalk at Black Sand Basin, just north of Old Faithful, the woman approached the animal. The bison gored her and tossed her 10 feet into the air.

The woman sustained a puncture wound and other injuries that were not immediately specified.

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Groups Work Together To Save Wildlife By Getting Rid Of Barbed Wire

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

An early-morning ruckus at a home on the Shoshone National Forest boundary made Wapiti residents Mike and Margie Johnson aware that their friendly neighborhood deer were in danger.

“At 5:00 in the morning, we got up and we heard this noise,” Margie said. “When we went outside, it was totally dark. And there’s a big tree that was right on the fence line, and two humongous, mule deer boys – racks as big as you can see – were going at it, but they had this wire wrapped around their antlers. And they were trying to get free, and they were fighting.”

Johnson, visibly upset as she recalled the incident, said she and her husband did their best to free the animals with bolt cutters without putting themselves in danger.

“Finally they got loose, one ran away with a little bit of wire wrapped on his antlers still,” she said. “The other one, he tried to get up and he never made it up. And two hours later he passed.”

“And that’s what got us knowing how bad this stuff is,” Johnson said. 

“This stuff” is barbed wire, which forest managers and landowners have used for years to delineate boundaries between private and public lands. 

But the wire, with its sharp barbs, is a danger to many animals that inhabit the forests and open lands in Wyoming, according to Kerry Murphy, wildlife biologist with the Shoshone National Forest.

“Big game animals (get) caught by their hooves in fence wire, or bird strikes, that kind of thing,” Murphy said.



So on a Friday morning in June, more than a dozen people gathered in a parking area at the boundary of the Shoshone National Forest west of Cody to take down stretches of the dangerous barbed wire that can catch wildlife.

The Absaroka Fence Initiative is a partnership of federal agencies, private landowners and local volunteers with a common goal – to enhance wildlife movement and reduce wildlife mortality, while still meeting the needs of livestock producers.

“The objectives are to enhance wildlife movement, most often big game, but also birds like sage grouse,” said Murphy. “(Also) enhance their migratory movements or their movements on winter ranges and reduce mortality of wildlife associated with fence wire.”

Public-Private

The Absaroka Fence Initiative truly is a public-private partnership in the best sense of the term, according to Murphy, in which volunteers, landowners and federal agencies are working to help the wildlife.

“There are many different folks out here from different federal agencies, state agencies, private landowners, ranch caretakers, private citizens – they all come together to form the Absaroka Fence Initiative, and it’s a great bunch of folks working together,” he said.

On this particular workday, the volunteers and staff from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Shoshone National Forest and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are taking down or replacing five different sections of fence, according to Murphy. 

“On two of them, we’re modifying the fence and replacing barbed wire with smooth wire,” he said. “And on the other sections of fence – and this is all coordinated with the landowners – it’ll be fence wire removal in entirety. And then the Bureau of Land Management folks, they have a skid steer and a wire winder that once the fence wires laying on the ground will stand clear. They’ll hook it up to the winder, and they’ll buzz it in.”

Livestock Producers

Murphy pointed out that the agencies make sure to work with livestock producers to meet their needs as well.

 “We set up these projects and leave fences that are very consistent with livestock production,” he said.

One of the landowners volunteering his time on this Friday morning is Jason Schultz, who with other local landowners has already gathered yards of barbed wire after witnessing animals getting caught up in it.

“In the wintertime, the snow builds up along these fence lines,” Schultz told Cowboy State Daily. “And a lot of the barbed wire is actually loose, and it’s just kind of strewn around where the fence posts are. And what happens is, the animals come down, or go up the mountain, and then they can’t see the fence line, and they get tripped up on it.” 

Johnson pointed out that the work being done today will help wildlife, but won’t affect the humans who rely on the fencing. 

“The fence posts will stay so we know where the forest is, but it’ll be way safer,” said Johnson, who shares a property line with Schultz. “And where they do need to put up fence, they’ve got smooth wire and it goes lower, so that the animals can go over it.” 

Murphy added that the group is always looking for volunteers.

“We’re always interested in having citizen folks come out, and landowners come out and join us on our operation,” he said, encouraging anyone interested to go to the website absarokafenceinitiative.org.

“We have several more fence projects coming up this summer,” Murphy added. “And folks can just join in, contact us on the website.”

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Move Over Grizzlies, Golden Eagles Are Most Dangerous Predator In Bighorn Basin

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

If asked, most Americans might think of the grizzly bear or the wolf as the most dangerous predator of the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming.

Not so, according to a world-renowned scientist, whose focus is on birds of prey.

“We know that we have grizzlies occasionally that come down in the basin now, and wolves and coyotes and everything,” said Dr. Charles Preston, founding curator for the Draper Museum of Natural History at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. “But really, the apex predator in that system is the golden eagle.”

A new documentary that was screened this weekend in Jackson and in Cody spotlights the research that Preston has supervised for the past 18 years. “Golden Eagles: Witnesses to a Changing West” is an hour-long documentary created by Wild Excellence Films, and features dramatic footage of scientists going where very few humans have gone before.

“We have always loved, respected and been inspired by Golden Eagles,” said David Rohm, who with his wife Melissa created the documentary. “As we wrote in the script to the film, ‘It’s a memorable moment, some would say life changing, when you see a golden eagle in the wild for the first time.’”

The film’s central characters are the golden eagles, raptors with wingspans up to 7-feet, which are the apex predator in the sagebrush steppe ecosystem that defines Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin. 

“An apex predator is a predator that has no predators on its own as an adult,” Preston told Cowboy State Daily. “So nothing really preys on the eagles out there. Golden eagles have taken coyotes and other smaller predators, or even larger predators in some cases that they can handle. I mean, they have the ability to even kill an adult pronghorn or deer.” 



The film documents Preston and his team as they rappel down cliffs to eagle nests, place leg bands on the raptors, and record the habits and behaviors of the birds as part of a long-term study.

“I’ve been conducting this monitoring program, this research on golden eagles in the Bighorn Basin, since 2009 formally, and really exploring it before then,” said Preston. “We developed an exhibition that opened in 2018 at the Draper Natural History Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.”

Rohm said he first became aware of Preston’s work when a mutual friend, Leslie Patten, worked at the Draper Museum with Preston. Patten, a local author and conservationist, mentioned Preston’s work with the eagles to the Rohms, who were fascinated by his research.

“(Preston’s) golden eagle work opened our eyes to the challenges facing one of our favorite birds, in one of our favorite places on the planet: the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” said Rohm. “He has made discoveries that are key to the birds’ survival, and we want to help tell the story of his work and the challenges the golden eagles are facing to help further their conservation.” 

Rohm said his admiration for the birds grew during the filming.

“Golden eagles are so intelligent, they can work out complex problems in their environments,” he said. “They’re smart and tough, but at the same time, caring and devoted to their chicks.”

Preston pointed out that the species faces threats from wind turbines, illegal shootings and poisonings, vehicle collisions and electrocution from power lines. And much of the Rohms’ focus in creating the documentary was to raise awareness of the need for conservation of the birds’ habitat. 



Preston was skeptical, however, that a film crew could capture the spirit of these unique birds of prey.

“Even though you see golden eagles around it’s very difficult to get the kind of film that would make a compelling documentary,” said Preston.

But the filmmakers had a vision. The documentary features never-before-seen footage of baby eagles; aerial views of the sage-covered plains; footage of other wildlife such as grizzly bears and sage grouse; and narration by renowned naturalist and author Kenn Kaufman.

“They captured some incredible footage, some that I’d never seen before,” said Preston. “I just pointed, and talked to them about how careful they need to be around the eagle nests, and not to approach too closely. And they were very respectful of that.” 

Filming in the Bighorn Basin came with its challenges, according to Rohm.

“Adjusting to the altitude and heat in the Basin, especially in 2021, and clambering up rocks to get up to where the birds were being banded while carrying pounds and pounds of camera gear was hard, but worth every second,” Rohm said. “One day, it was approaching 105 degrees and our high-end film camera shut down. On another day, there was so much wildfire smoke that it blocked out the sunset.” 

Preston said the golden eagle is an icon of wide open, wild spaces throughout the northern hemisphere, but especially in western North America.

“It’s certainly an icon of the sagebrush steppe system that we find ourselves surrounded by here in the Bighorn basin and in most of Wyoming,” he said.

The Rohms said that through their documentary, they hope to bring attention to a fascinating creature that plays an integral role in the ecosystem of the American west.

“Golden eagles are unfamiliar to many people, and we want to help change that,” said Rohm. “It’s an honor to see these birds up close and to get to witness the research.”

The film will be broadcast on PBS stations in several states this spring, premiering on Wyoming PBS Wednesday, August 24 at 7 p.m., and will be available on the PBS app later in the summer, according to Rohm. 

“The Golden Eagle film is running, or will soon be running, in multiple PBS markets, like Miami, Colorado, Illinois, Seattle, Northern California, the San Franscico Bay area and New Mexico,” Rohm said. “By August the program will be available to PBS stations nationwide.”

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Woman Attacked By Bison At Same Location Where Tourist Was Depantsed Two Years Ago

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

When it comes to bison attacks, South Dakota’s Custer State Park is hallowed ground.

After all, it was here where a woman made international news for not only getting flipped by a bison but getting de-pantsed at the same time.

This is the Wimbledon for bison incidents.

So to make news on this surface is an achievement.

A woman did it last week but her bison incident was eclipsed by the historic floods of Yellowstone National Park, coincidentally another top venue for bison attacks.

Sadly, little is known. No photos have surfaced. No videos. Online chatter is minimal.

Custer State Park officials report that a woman was hospitalized after a bison charged her after being surprised by the woman’s dog.

She was then taken to a hospital, a spokesperson said.

The woman was hiking near the Wildlife Loop Road when her dog crested a hill which spooked a small herd of bison.

“One of the bulls charged the dog and hit the female visitor,” said park spokeswoman Lydia Austin.

Austin went on to use all the cautionary language that is so often ignored by visitors to parks whose attractions include ill-tempered animals who often weigh in at around 2,000 pounds.

“We hope this serves as a good reminder to always be aware of your surroundings, and give animals their space when possible,” she said.

The extent of the woman’s injuries is unknown. 

Nor is it known if this was the same bison which was involved in the infamous depantsing incident of two years ago.

It’s unlikely as there are an estimated 1,400 free roaming bison in the park. 

But perhaps like bears that tend to gravitate toward human food once they taste it, perhaps bison who flip people could be more prone to repeating that process.

It’s a fabulous theory but an unlikely one, said noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich.

“Although I suspect it’s simply the age-old mistake of getting too close to a bison, I truly hope that it is the same bison,” UIrich said. “Perhaps the bison has developed a kind of spidey-sense.”

Calls to Custer State Park to discuss the bison incident or the likelihood of the offender being the same bison were not returned.

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Yellowstone Biologist: Animals Will Survive Flooding, Don’t Worry

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The historic flooding in Yellowstone National Park has destroyed roads, bridges and multiples pieces of infrastructure, but one concern some people have is about one of the park’s most popular attractions: the animals.

Many comments on social media this week have popped up, with people inquiring about the safety of the bears, bison, elk, moose and the many more creatures that inhabit the Yellowstone ecosystem.

And for those concerned about the fate of the millions of animals that call Yellowstone home, wildlife biologists and game officials have reassuring words — they’re doing just fine.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that although the department does not manage the Yellowstone wildlife, the permanent inhabitants of the 2.2 million-acre park are very resilient.

“They continually contend with and survive Wyoming’s extreme weather,” DiRienzo said. “A large flood would certainly temporarily displace them to other areas. But, like we’ve seen with fires in the southeast, they do return quickly when conditions stabilize.”

Wildlife Care

But many people who aren’t familiar with the outdoors don’t seem to understand that animals can adapt.

Case in point, Preston Ferguson who wrote on a popular Yellowstone Facebook page that he saw a lot of empty cattle trucks heading to Yellowstone. “I hope they’re saving all the wildlife,” he posted.

Ever the helpful group, other Facebook posters jumped right in to respond.

“Yes, the cowboys will be along to lasso all of the animals,” Linda Faber wrote. “You can sleep tonight, rest assured, they’ll all be transported to Chicago.”

“Didn’t you know that when the ‘zoo’ has an emergency, all the wildlife are picked up and placed in foster care?” Christine Edwards said.

One person couldn’t handle the question.

“6:45 in the morning and I’ve already lost hope in society for the day,” Caleb Mertz said.

No Evacuation For Animals

The park has been closed since Monday morning, when flooding caused by torrential rains and melting snow washed out roads and made the northern part of the park completely inaccessible. More than 10,000 visitors were removed from the park.

But National Park Service wildlife biologist Doug Smith told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that no such drastic action was needed for the park’s biggest predators, such as wolves and bears.

Smith said the large animals can tolerate major flooding since they don’t tend to stay in dens or travel near rivers.

“These areas will be easy for them to avoid, and most are mature enough to move away,” Smith said. “There will be some accidents for an animal trying to cross a swollen stream, but this will be like any other year when waterways are in flood stage.”

Smith said that the predators’ offspring are at least a few months old by this time of year, so they are also less vulnerable to the flooding.

Ungulates such as bison will likely experience some accidents, but Smith said high water is a challenge for those animals every year.

Smith also said some of the animals that wolves and bears eat, like elk, moose and deer, are also probably doing fine and that they could even benefit from the flood because the influx of water gives the plants they eat a boost.

Waterbirds have strategies to withstand floods, such as adding material to their nests to build them up and keep eggs dry.

“Waterbirds may have trouble with reproduction due to nest flooding,” he said Friday. “We are monitoring trumpeter swans, which have begun nesting, and common loons, which are starting or have started, and nesting pelicans and cormorants as the one colony in the park is likely underwater. We check it aerially and have not done so yet, but it could be complete reproductive failure.

“Ospreys may be severely impacted as they depend almost entirely on fish,” he continued. “They may have difficulty finding fish with such high-water levels and murky, muddy water. Fish researchers have said many trout may get blown out.”

Bald eagles will likely not be impacted as they have a broader diet than just fish. 

“Wet, cold weather can affect other nesting raptors like golden eagles and peregrine falcons. We plan to monitor their nesting activities once access is safe,” Smith said.

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Saratoga Ice Fishing Derby, Started By C.J. Box, Canceled Because All Fish To Be Killed This Fall

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Saratoga Ice Fishing Derby, a tradition for almost 40 years, has been canceled for 2023 because of the presence of non-native perch in Saratoga Lake.

The event, which at one time drew national headlines for naming international celebrities as the “king” or “queen” of the event, was canceled in what would have been its 40th year because of the presence of yellow perch, a non-native species which could wreak havoc on the aquatic ecosystem.

The event is planned to return in 2024.

The fish kill is planned for sometime in the fall, which means there will be no fish even available in time for next year’s derby, according to the state Game and Fish Department.

“Last summer, we discovered [yellow] perch in the lake during routine university sampling,” Alan Osterland, Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s fisheries chief, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “We manage that as a trout fishery, so having perch so high up in the system could be a problem for many reasons.”

The department will treat the lake with rotenone, an insecticide, this fall. Osterland said the plan is to restock the lake with trout next summer.

The fishing derby was started in the 1980s by C.J. Box, who has since become a household name for his series of Joe Pickett and Cassie Dewell novels.

“The chamber of commerce didn’t have any money, so … C.J. started the fishing derby,” former legislator and fourth-generation Wyomingite Teense Willford told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

Box did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Monday.

Willford said that back in the early days of the derby, the organizers would do silly things such as give out prizes for the best “hard luck” story or send out official invites to famous people, such as Prince Charles and Princess Diana or U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, to serve as the “king” or “queen” of the derby.

While none of the invited celebrities ever attended the derby, Willford believes if they had, the Saratoga community would have shown them a good time.

Osterland said the department is still investigating who was involved in stocking the lake with the illegal yellow perch, but he believes it is someone who enjoyed fishing for perch and wanted to do it locally.

“Stocking” could be a strong word, however, as Osterland said the person could have brought in as few as two yellow perch and the fish mate quickly and at a young age.

He said that if Wyoming Game and Fish Department staff believed yellow perch would be a viable species in the lake, the fish would already be there.

“We’re having to do all this work to try and protect aquatic resources all the way through that system all because of one person’s selfish act to try and create a fishery they want and not thinking of the ramifications,” Osterland said.

This is not the first time the department has had to treat Saratoga Lake for illegally stocked fish, but Osterland said it has been many years since this last occurred.

Once the perch were discovered in the lake, Osterland said the department immediately began getting in touch with local stakeholders about what the fish meant for the next 18 months at the lake.

Saratoga/Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce director Amanda Knotwell did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Monday.

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Out-Of-State Hunter Pays $115k For Bighorn Sheep Hunting Tag At Lander Event

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Bighorn
20756

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Ellen@Cowboystatedaily.com

An out-of-state hunter paid $115,000 at a charity event in Lander last weekend for the opportunity to hunt a bighorn sheep in Wyoming.

That may sound like a lot, but it’s actually a bargain price according to the Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation.

The foundation auctioned the tag at its 39th annual fundraiser on Saturday.

Foundation deputy director Dean DiJenno told Cowboy State Daily that the $115,000 raised from a single tag was actually not the largest number the group has ever seen. He said the tags usually go for around $120,000 when they are auctioned.

“We think the ‘lower’ number is related to the limited hunting opportunities that stemmed from COVID,” he said. “But those other four available sheep tags went for so high, in total, the five tags brought in about $980,000.”

Bill Brown, an avid hunter from Riverton who attended the event, said it’s never shocking to see tags like these go for six figures.

“The odds of you drawing a sheep tag in your lifetime in any given state are extremely low so those with no financial limitations will pay almost anything for the opportunity,” Brown told Cowboy State Daily.

“In this situation it’s great to see the money going to an organization that is devoted to keeping wild sheep populations healthy and thriving,” he said.

Governor’s Big Game License

The tags auctioned by the sheep foundation at its fundraiser were a part of the Governor’s Big Game License Coalition, which makes a number of big game licenses available to conservation organizations to be auctioned.

This coalition was created under Gov. Dave Freudenthal and has raised nearly $10 million in the years since.

The proceeds raised from the auctions are used to fund various wildlife/conservation projects across Wyoming, such as habitat improvements, research and migration.

There are a few reasons hunters will spend big dollars to obtain a particular big game license in Wyoming.

“Hunters are often conservationists and most of our conservation dollars come from hunters,” DiJenno said. “These guys care deeply about the species they’re pursuing and they want to make sure those animals remain up on the mountain for the next generation.”

Winning The Lottery

But getting a bighorn sheep hunting license is not unlike winning the lottery. For some hunters, it might be even more exciting than that. Drawing odds are typically less than 1%, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“We are so popular that it’s about a 25-year wait to draw a [bighorn sheep] tag through our lottery system” DiJenno said. “If they plunk down their money and they buy that license, they can go hunting without waiting 25 years.”

Wyoming is only one of about a dozen states that even offer bighorn sheep hunting to residents and non-residents. Most of these states have some type of lottery system for allocating tags.

Wyoming Game and Fish spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the Governor’s Big Game License Coalition licenses brought in thousands this year, with one bighorn sheep tag garnering $305,000 and one moose license bringing in $67,500.

DiRienzo echoed similar sentiments about why hunters spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to hunt in the state.

“These licenses are for some of the most highly sought-after species in Wyoming, like bighorn sheep and moose,” she said. “The hunters who invest in these licenses are passionate about hunting the species and also value their conservation deeply. Much of the revenue from these licenses go to support conservation organizations and on-the-ground projects for wildlife.”

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Yellowstone: Do Not Take Selfies With Bison Even If They Appear Like They Want To

in Yellowstone/News/wildlife
20760

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By Ellen Fike
Ellen@cowboystatedaily.com

A series of photos circulating on social media have led Yellowstone National Park officials to, again, warn visitors to not stand too close to any wildlife, including bison.

Facebook user Ken Carleton shared photos on Tuesday of a bison at the park that walked up to one of the boardwalks and laid its head down to rest.

Unsurprisingly, people in the vicinity began taking photos of the wild animal and got close to it, as shown in Carleton’s photos from the encounter.



Yellowstone spokeswoman Linda Veress told Cowboy State Daily that all of the people captured in Carleton’s photos, including the photographer himself, were too close to the sleepy bison.

“If wildlife are on or near a boardwalk in a thermal area within 25 yards (from wildlife such as bison or elk) and 100 yards (for bears and wolves) [of a person], people should move away to maintain that distance,” Veress said. “On a boardwalk, they should go back the way they came and wait for the animal to leave. All of the people in the Facebook photo[s] were much too close and this was an unsafe situation.

“The animals in Yellowstone are wild and unpredictable, no matter how calm they appear to be, and bison can run three times faster than people,” she continued.



This advice is pretty typical of the park’s spokespeople. They often have to remind visitors to stay away from the wildlife, usually due to some type of incident involving someone not heeding their advice.

Everyone left the recent bison boardwalk encounter unharmed, but not all park visitors are quite so lucky.

Last week, a bison gored a young woman from Ohio and tossed her 10 feet in the air.  She approached within 10 feet of the animal. 

The woman was later taken to a hospital in Idaho due to her injuries.

That was the first bison goring of 2022 in the park, but park officials noted Yellowstone bison have injured more people in the park than any other animal.

Earlier in the season, a tourist was caught on video getting chased by a bison, but the individual escaped unharmed.

An elderly California woman was gored by a bison in summer 2020 after she got too close to the animal while trying to photograph it.

An Iowa woman was also caught on video being attacked by a bison in 2020, but it was in Custer State Park. She was de-pantsed during the encounter.

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Fate Of Wyoming Alpha Female Wolf Living In Colorado Is Unknown

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20731

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Ellen@cowboystatedaily.com

A Wyoming wolf that migrated to Colorado two years ago has not been seen in several months, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Travis Duncan told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that while the wolf’s pack has been spotted recently, he doesn’t know if F1084, the alpha female, was one of the group.

“We have recently had visual contact of seven animals in that pack, the male gray colored breeder and six black animals. The animals born in spring 2021 are all black individuals, and full size at this point. It is difficult, if not impossible to differentiate these individuals when observing from a plane and from far distances,” Duncan said.

“The collar on F1084 is no longer functioning, so we cannot use that to determine if she is one of the black animals that has been observed,” he continued.

Duncan said last week that there had been no confirmed sighting of the wolf in months.

F1084 mated and is traveling with M2101, who was collared in 2021. The female wolf was collared when she was in Wyoming. The two wolves had six pups in 2021, the first wolf litter in Colorado since the 1940s.

F1084 was originally thought to be male.

Duncan said that if the female wolf is alive, she could possibly be in a den with pups, but there is no evidence that she was successful in breeding this year.

She also could have left the pack, but Duncan said this is unlikely.

If F1084 is dead, it is unlikely the alpha male would mate with one of his offspring. The pack may stay intact without a breeding female for a time, but another unrelated female could theoretically come into the pack and take over the breeding status, Duncan said.

“It is a natural course for wolves to die. F1084 was born in 2016, making her 6 years old, which is old for a wolf in the wild,” he said. “While the attention and the contribution of F1084 to wolves in Colorado has been unique, the fate of an individual animal does not have outstanding significance for the future of wolves in Colorado.”

In May, Cowboy State Daily spoke with Don Gittleson, a Colorado rancher whose livestock had been killed by the wolf pack. The pack had been preying on Gittleson’s animals since Christmas.

It’s illegal to kill or injure wolves due to federal wildlife guidelines. Gray wolves are also considered endangered in Colorado.

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Six Years After Bison Placed In Minivan, Wildlife Officials Plead With Public To Leave Animals Alone

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20721

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It doesn’t seem that long ago, but it’s been six years since a photo of a bison calf placed in the back of a minivan went viral.

It was placed there because tourists thought it looked cold. After all, the high temperature that day in Yellowstone was only 50 degrees and the low was 39.

A couple of tourists, however, were certain the calf was “freezing and dying.”

So to “rescue” the animal, they loaded it up and took it to a ranger station.

Turns out the bison only needed rescuing from the tourists, as it was euthanized shortly thereafter due to its mother rejecting him because of the rescuers’ interference.

As a result, every year the Wyoming Game and Fish department puts out an annual plea for potential rescuers to leave baby wildlife alone as human “help” rarely is helpful.

Even if the animal looks abandoned, it’s not. 

“The mothers knows where her young are and will almost certainly return to care for them,” said Will Schultz, Game and Fish biologist.

“With all animals, the first few weeks of life are the most critical in determining their survival and interference from humans can most definitely put their lives at risk,” he said.

Don’t Mess With Mom

Even worse than getting away with attempting to help newborn wildlife is getting caught by the mother.

Wyoming artist Andy Robbins knows this. That’s why he put together a graphic coloring book warning tourists to leave animals alone.

“This coloring book isn’t for everyone!” the preface reads. “It depicts scenes of graphic violence, including disembowelment, dismemberment, electrocution, and immolation. Recommended for mature colorists only!”

The Hard Way

The maternal instinct is nothing to play around with. A grizzly learned that the hard way last week when snooping around a baby moose at Glacier National Park.

The momma moose had no patience and took off after the bear near a parking lot at the Many Glacier Hotel.  

So panicked was the bear that he ended up slamming into a hotel window before finally running away.

The bear had it coming, if we’re keeping score, as it was successful in pilfering one of the moose calves earlier in the day. 

Two months earlier, a snowmobiler tried to pet a moose and paid dearly for it.

https://twitter.com/cozyCowpoke/status/1531058342164156417?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1531058342164156417%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fftw.usatoday.com%2F2022%2F05%2Fmoose-chases-grizzly-bear-in-a-wild-scene-caught-on-video

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Yellowstone Bison Being Considered For Endangered Species List

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20647

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Yellowstone National Park’s famed bison species is being considered as a potential species to be listed as “endangered,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Friday.

The service recently completed a 90-day finding of three petitions to designate the Yellowstone bison, which are a segment of the Plains bison, that are in portions of Wyoming and Montana as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Service officials found that the petitions presented substantial and credible information indicating that listing the bison as threatened may be warranted. The service will now initiate a comprehensive status review of the segment to determine if ESA protections are warranted.

According to the service, the petitioners presented credible information to indicate potential threats to bison, such as reductions of its range due to loss of migration routes, the lack of tolerance for bison outside Yellowstone National Park and habitat loss.

The petitioners also provided information suggesting that regulatory mechanisms (in the form of management actions intended to address disease, provided for in the Interagency Bison Management Plan), overutilization, disease and loss of genetic diversity may pose further threats.

The Plains bison is a subspecies of the American bison and is historically found from central Canada to northern Mexico, nearly from coast-to-coast.

Primarily abundant on the Great Plains, the species was eliminated from many areas of the country by the early 1800s. Following conservation efforts by landowners, Tribes, state, federal and other partners, today there are more than 400,000 Plains bison. 

Despite the possible threat to bison, they also have a tendency to be a threat toward humans, as well. Yellowstone officials reported that bison have injured more people in the park than any other animal.

Bison have been popping up in Wyoming news quite frequently in the last few months.

This week, an Ohio woman was injured by a bison after she approached too closely to it and it gored her. She was flipped 10 feet into the air.

Yellowstone park officials are also sending bison to tribes across the country so they can begin their own bison herds to honor the culture of the tribes, Cowboy State Daily reported this week.

The first export of bison from Yellowstone occurred in 2019, when park officials moved 55 bison to the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana. Because Montana law prohibits the live transfer of Yellowstone bison to new areas unless they are first certified as brucellosis-free, the animals had been held at the quarantine facility for 17 months and had undergone rigorous testing for signs the disease that induces abortions in pregnant cattle, elk, and bison.

Additionally, “Mountain Men” series star Josh Kirk, a Lander resident, is offering the chance to hunt bison with him in a rugged, primitive manner where hunters can learn how to harvest all parts of the animal.

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Yellowstone Bison Gores Woman, Then Flips Her 10-Feet In Air

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20539

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Ohio woman was gored by a bison and thrown 10 feet in the air in Yellowstone National Park on Monday after getting too close to the animal, park officials announced late Tuesday.

The 25-year-old woman from Grove City, Ohio, approached to within 10 feet of a bison on Monday morning, officials said. Two other people were also within 25 yards of the same bison.

As the bison walked near a boardwalk at Black Sand Basin, just north of Old Faithful, the woman approached the animal. The bison gored her and tossed her 10 feet into the air.

The woman sustained a puncture wound and other injuries that were not immediately specified.


RELATED: News organizations across globe wrongfully report woman died from goring


Park emergency medical providers responded to the incident and transported the woman to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls.

The incident remains under investigation, but park officials said there was no other information to share immediately.

This is the first bison goring of 2022 in the park, but park officials noted Yellowstone bison have injured more people in the park than any other animal.

Earlier in the season, a tourist was caught on video getting too close to a bison, but the individual escaped unharmed.

An elderly California woman was gored by a bison in summer 2020 after she got too close to the animal while trying to photograph it.

An Iowa woman was also caught on video being attacked by a bison in 2020, but it was in Custer State Park. She was de-pantsed during the encounter.

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Lander TV Star Josh Kirk Of “Mountain Men” To Host Bison Hunts

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20057

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Josh Kirk might be a television star, but there’s no Hollywood glamour about him.

The “Mountain Men” star spends his days managing more than 400 head of bison in Fremont County and has a homestead with his family near the Wind River Range. He has a love for all things outdoors and wants to pass on his passion to other interested conservationists.

“This is my opinion, but in the last 150 years, the world has sold its soul for supply, demand and a house on Main Street,” Kirk told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “We’re trading our freedom for convenience. When you look at our existence, going to a grocery store or a butcher shop is a relatively new thing.”

To give people an idea of what life on the range used to be like, Kirk wants others to experience the beauty of hunting and harvesting their own food, so he is offering the opportunity to hunt bison with him this year.

Prices for bison hunts with Kirk began at $2,500 and go up from there and the hunts can last anywhere from one to three days. The hunts will take place likely in the late summer and early fall, but Kirk will work out details with interested hunters.

Be forewarned, though: this is not a “glamping” style hunting trip. Kirk believes in getting in touch with nature and has offered hunters the opportunity to fully harvest their bison, using everything from the meat all the way down to the sinew in the muscles.

“It’s about connecting back with the land and connecting with the animal,” Kirk said. “Instead of buying a ribeye from the store, you can harvest this animal in an ethical way. Then you have more respect when you walk back into the grocery store to buy a piece of meat, because you know what it takes to harvest that animal.”

Kirk said by hunting in this manner, he allows his guests to be go back to the time of their forefathers and ancestors, who were hunters and gatherers many generations ago.

He can also teach his hunters how to find shelter, make a fire and procure food and water while out in the wild, if they so choose.

Kirk said there is nothing more beautiful than learning to take care of yourself in nature, without the help of modern luxuries and technology.

“For me, you’re paying homage to the animal, showing it the utmost respect by harvesting the animal yourself and processing it yourself and utilizing all of the resources from it yourself,” he said. “And if you choose to do it and then make clothing out of that animal, it’s even more badass. You’re really touching the earth and a manifestation that most people never get.”

Kirk will soon be featured in his third season, the 11th overall, of the History Channel series “Mountain Men,” which will begin airing on June 3. The series focuses on the lives of various homesteaders across the country, from Wyoming and Idaho to Alaska.

Anyone interested in bison hunting with Kirk can contact him at: Joshkirkmountainmen@gmail.com.

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Wyo Wildlife Taskforce Recommends Splitting Hunting Licenses For Mule, White-Tailed Deer

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20029

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce has unanimously recommended that the Wyoming Legislature split hunting licenses for white-tailed and mule deer to allow for improved management of the separate species.

Currently, white-tailed and mule deer are just considered as “deer” when it comes to issuing Wyoming hunting licenses, but the task force believes this should change. When a hunter receives a deer license, the choice should be made whether the hunt will be for white-tailed or mule deer, the task force said.

Task force Co-Chair Josh Coursey told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the recommendation was “long overdue.”

“This is something that wasn’t needed at the onset, until our white-tailed deer population has grown as robust as it has statewide,” he said. “But mule deer and white-tailed deer are completely different species, two different ungulates on the landscape.”

By changing the current statute, Coursey noted that this would also allow the Game and Fish Department to manage the two deer populations separately and accordingly.

The Legislature’s joint Travel, Recreation and Wildlife committee will take this recommendation up as an interim topic, but Coursey was not sure when the committee would study the issue.

Committee chairs Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, and Rep. Jamie Flitner, R-Greybull, did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment by publication time.

Coursey said he did not see this topic being a “heavy lift” for the Legislature, either during the interim or legislative session next year.

“I really don’t think this is going to be a difficult statute change,” he said. “We were mindful of this when making the recommendation and the Game and Fish Department has assured us that this won’t be difficult to implement if it does pass.”

Rick King, chief of the Game and Fish Department’s Wildlife Division, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that splitting the deer into two populations for management has been discussed in some form for decades.

“The concept has been discussed internally and with the Wyoming Legislature for a long time,” King said. “Game and Fish has taken a look at this internally several times, going back to the late 1980s. A bill was introduced during the 2015 legislative session, but died in the TRW committee.”

Neither King nor Coursey could say how much the state would benefit, financially, if the licenses were to be split. Resident hunting license fees for Wyoming residents is $42, while non-resident fees are $374.

King did note that the process to apply for and obtain a hunting license for either mule or white-tailed deer would be the same as it is now.

In 2020, 21,370 mule deer and 19,904 white-tailed deer were harvested, according to the Game and Fish Department.

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Sweetwater County Hunters Banned From Hunting After Multiple Counts Of Poaching

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19907

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The president of a hunting advocacy group on Wednesday welcomed the news that two Sweetwater County hunters have been convicted of multiple wildlife violations and barred from hunting.

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Justin Chewning and Steven Macy were convicted of a series of charges filed in connection with numerous hunting violations committed in 2019 and 2020 and fined a combined amount of nearly $15,000. In addition, Chewning lost his hunting and fishing privileges for 15 years, while Macy lost his for two years.

Muley Fanatics president and CEO Josh Coursey told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that he was glad to see both men convicted of charges including hunting elk out of season, but expressed concern that if they were willing to break the law before, they could be willing to do so again.

“We have law and order for a reason and we have rules and those that violate the rules are held accountable,” Coursey said. “It’s unfortunate, because wildlife is a public trust.”

Coursey said that Chewning and Macy were cheating the state’s hunting system by illegally tagging wildlife they also illegally killed, taking something of value from the Wyoming residents who own the wildlife.

He added that people do not have to be hunters in order to appreciate the wildlife in Wyoming.

“Yellowstone has beautiful landscapes, but I’ve said several times that if you remove the wildlife from the park, I imagine that the number of visitors would plummet to next to nothing,” Coursey said. “You don’t have to be a hunter to appreciate the beauty and seeing free ranging wild animals that are plentiful on our landscape.”

According to the Game and Fish Department, during an investigation into game bird violations, its wardens learned that between Oct. 1 and Oct. 6, 2019, both Chewning and Macy illegally killed mature bull elk during the closed season, which they then tagged with general elk licenses. 

Game wardens were able to determine the locations of where the elk were killed. They also found the carcass of a bull elk illegally killed by Chewning on Oct. 1, 2019.

Using DNA analysis, the Game and Fish Department a skull and antlers Chewning had in his possession were from the bull elk.

Investigators also determined that on Oct. 4, 2020, Chewning and Macy were hunting deer in Sublette County when Macy illegally killed a buck mule deer and Chewning illegally tagged it. 

Later that same day, while returning from the Pinedale area to Rock Springs, the two men hunted in an area using the wrong license and before the area had officially opened for hunting.

Macy shot and killed two mature bull elk, and Chewning tagged one of the two illegally killed bull elk with his general elk license. 

Chewning was charged with violations including five counts of intentionally taking antlered big game without a license or during a closed season; two of transferring a license and two of intentionally wasting edible portions of game bird and big game back straps.

Chewning pleaded guilty to three counts of intentionally taking antlered bull elk without a proper license, one count of taking a buck mule deer without a license and one count of transferring a license.

Chewning’s hunting and fishing privileges were suspended for 15 years and he was ordered to pay fines of $1,585 and restitution of $7,000. All wildlife seized was forfeited to the state of Wyoming. All other charges were dismissed.

Macy was charged with five counts of intentionally taking antlered big game without a license or during a closed season and two counts of transferring a license.

He pleaded no contest to one count of taking a buck mule deer without a license and two counts of intentionally taking a bull elk without the proper license.

Macy’s hunting and fishing privileges were suspended for two years and he was ordered to pay $5,640 in fines, restitution of $1,500 and to forfeit the Browning .338-caliber rifle used in the commission of these crimes to the state of Wyoming. All other charges were dismissed. 

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Wyo Ag Groups Say Supreme Court Was Right In Denying Rancher $350K For Grizzly Bear Cattle Killings

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19863

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association felt the Wyoming Supreme Court made the right decision when it ruled against a Hot Springs County rancher who requested more than $300,000 in compensation for his calves killed by grizzlies.

In late April, the Supreme Court ruled against cattle and sheep rancher Josh Longwell, who in 2018 requested nearly $350,000 in compensation from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department after finding a number of his calves had been killed by grizzly bears.

The Supreme Court denied this, ruling that the more than $61,000 the rancher received in compensation was fair.

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the Supreme Court made the right decision in the ruling, even if Longwell did not get the amount of money requested.

“I feel for Mr. Longwell and he has suffered severe losses,” Magagna said. “But at the same time, the law is what it is.”

Ken Hamilton, executive director of the Wyoming Farm Bureau, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the issue was more than the ruling for money, but rather about hunting grizzly bears.

“By protecting the grizzly bear under the federal Endangered Species Act, it shifts these costs back to the rancher and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department,” he said. “We’ve run into this before where the federal government is anxious to protect an animal, but they’re not anxious to accept the responsibility of that.”

Hamilton said that until animals such as the grizzly bear or gray wolf can be removed from the endangered species list, states will not be able to manage them the way they should properly be.

A Game and Fish Department investigation determined 20 of Longwell’s calves had been killed by the bears. But in the compensation request, Longwell noted that 294 calves were unaccounted for by the end of the 2018 grazing season.

“Mr. Longwell based his claim on an assumption that for every calf confirmed as killed by a grizzly bear, 19 others had been killed and their remains could not be found,” the ruling said.

The Game and Fish Department rejected this claim, but officials agreed to compensate Longwell for the loss of 70 calves, an amount that totaled $61,202.79.

However, the case went into arbitration and Longwell was awarded $266,695.32. The Game and Fish Department appealed the decision, which ultimately reached the Supreme Court.

“We are sympathetic to Mr. Longwell’s plight. His frustration with the grizzly bear predation occurring on his ranch is obvious…,” the ruling said. “However, as the court also recognized, Mr. Longwell’s remedy lies with the [Game and Fish] Commission or the legislature, not this court.”

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WYDOT, Game And Fish Begin Work On $15M Wildlife Crossing Project

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19787

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A 17-mile wildlife crossing project in southwestern Wyoming will make a significant difference for mule deer in the region, according to an official with the Muley Fanatic Foundation.

Josh Coursey, president and CEO of the foundation, told Cowboy State Daily he was excited about this week’s start of work on the Dry Piney Wildlife Crossing Project near LaBarge.

“It’s a very expensive project at $15 million, but it’s truly the flavor of the day for how conservation in the 21st century works,” Coursey said. “The one thing about overpasses and underpasses, you can quantify their success instantaneously.”

The project includes fencing about 17 miles of U.S. Highway 189 and building nine underpasses beneath the highway.

The project should be complete by fall of 2023, Coursey said, but likely, at least a few of the underpasses will be open by the end of the year.

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, there are an average of 6,000 collisions between vehicles and big game in Wyoming every year, which result in $20 million to $23 million in wildlife losses and $24 million to $29 million in personal injury costs.

Eighty-five percent of the wildlife collisions in the state involve mule deer. Fifteen percent of all Wyoming crashes involve wildlife.

The Dry Piney area is the third “hottest” spot in the state for wildlife collisions, according to MFF.

“This (project) is going to help the mule deer population exponentially, while in turn enhancing motorists’ safety,” Coursey said. “The connectivity of mule deer migration is so important to their overall sustainability of the herd’s health. That’s what these underpasses will allow for.”

MFF has donated a little more than $100,000 to the project, which Coursey called a “drop in the bucket” compared to its $15 million price tag, but the organization was also integral in the creation of the Wyoming Wildlife Conservation license plates, which raise money for the Wildlife Conservation Fund.

The funds raised from the license plate sales are used for wildlife projects related to roadways, such as wildlife-friendly fencing modification, signage, overpasses and underpasses.

Besides the Dry Piney project, Keith Fulton, assistant chief engineer of planning and engineering for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, told Cowboy State Daily that there are a couple of other wildlife crossing projects the department is hoping to get off the ground in the next three to five years.

“When we did the traverse point crossing down by Pinedale, we saw a decrease in animal/vehicle collisions by about 80%,” Fulton said Friday. “I don’t think we had a number in mind for a goal, but we started looking back at crash data and carcass counts and we saw very good improvement.”

Earlier this year, the construction of a $3.8 million crossing path between Buffalo and Kaycee was announced.

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Wyoming Wolf, Cubs Keep Killing Colorado Rancher’s Cows

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19784

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

For nearly six months, Don Gittleson of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, has had a wolf problem. Which came to him all the way from Wyoming

Gittleson is one of a handful of ranchers who has seen firsthand the destruction wolves can cause to the agriculture industry if left unchecked. He has been fighting to keep a former Wyoming wolf and her pack from killing off his livestock.

“We have a yearling and two bred cows that have been confirmed killed by the wolves,” Gittleson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “One cow was injured, but it’s recovering. We have two dead calves that Colorado Parks and Wildlife haven’t yet confirmed were killed by the wolves and I had some CPW folks out today to check out another calf that’s been injured.”

A former member of a Wyoming wolf pack identified as F1084 broke away its pack about two years ago, according to wildlife officials. She, along with her mate and litter, have been preying on the cows since before Christmas.

F1084 and her mate M2101 had six pups in 2021 and when the pack of eight traveled south out of Colorado, it became the first wolf pack in Colorado since the 1940s.

“[Colorado Gov. Jared Polis] thinks they’re just the greatest things ever,” Gittleson said. “The first couple cows they killed, we weren’t even allowed to chase them off or haze them. After three cows and the neighbor’s dog were found dead, they said we could haze them, but it’s a little late for that now.”

Gittleson could not estimate how much he has lost since the wolves began preying on his cows, but some of his livestock can be worth more than $3,500 per animal. It is safe to say he has lost thousands in just the few cows that have been killed, he said.

The wolves cannot be killed or injured due to federal wildlife guidelines. Gray wolves are also considered endangered in Colorado.

Gittleson has been taking certain precautions around his ranch to prevent the wolves from continuing to prey on his cattle, but so far, not much has worked.

He has placed several miles of fladry, brightly colored plastic streamers that are a preventative measure, around his property. He has used cracker shells, which are like shotgun shells that can be fired into the air to shoot sparks and frighten predatory animals.

He, his wife and his employees have even tried staying with the cows at night, when the wolves like to prey on them, to try and scare them off.

While these fixes have worked temporarily, nothing has been a permanent solution.

“The reason most of these tools work is because the wolves are afraid of you doing them harm or killing them,” Gittleson said. “Here in Colorado, that doesn’t happen. We’ve got a governor that goes out and kisses them, so we don’t do anything to make them afraid of people and slowly get them used to us.”

Since his hands are tied, he has to wait until the federal or state government decide livestock producers can take some sort of action over preying wolves, a move that likely won’t happen for at least a year.

“If you look at other states like Wyoming, for example, and look at the difference between what they paid before allowing wolf hunting and after and there’s definitely a difference,” he said. “But I don’t know how soon, if ever, Colorado is going to be hunting wolves.

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Wyoming Game And Fish Cuts 11,000 Mule Deer & Pronghorn Hunting Licenses

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19521

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A continuing drought and disease have prompted the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to cut by more than 11,000 the number of mule deer and pronghorn hunting licenses it will issue.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has decided to cut pronghorn licenses by 8,000 and mule deer tags by 3,300 at the urging of Ian Tator, the department’s terrestrial supervisor.

“That lack of soil moisture is going to limit our future shrub growth, which is a critical component of big game winter diet,” Tator said during the commission’s hunt season setting meeting last week. “If things don’t get better now, next winter we’re not going to have the shrub growth necessary to sustain those populations the way we want to.”

The department estimated the 2021 post-hunt populations at 363,200 for pronghorns and 291,700 for mule deer.

The decision was supported by the Wyoming Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, which told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that while the short-term reduction in hunting opportunity was frustrating, the Game and Fish department is using its best data for tag allocation decisions.

“If the science and data show that fewer tags now will – hopefully – mean healthier pronghorn and mule deer herds in Wyoming in the long run, then it’s our responsibility as hunters to accept that – and to ideally support that decision by addressing the root causes of population declines with other conservation efforts, like habitat enhancement and protect,” the organization said in a statement.

Mule deer and pronghorn were specifically targeted with this cut due to their reliance on shrub growth, commissioners were told. Elk consume a larger range of plants, meaning they are less affected by the drought.

The spread of chronic wasting disease is also a major concern for Game and Fish staffers. CWD is a fatal disease of the central nervous system in mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose.

Pronghorn are susceptible to epizootic hemorrhagic disease, a viral disease spread by midges.

Hunting officials with the Game and Fish Department were not immediately available to comment on this story.

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Kinnear Couple Fined $60,000 For Deer Baiting; “Not Nearly Enough” Says Wyo Hunting Group

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19514

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Kinnear couple fined $60,000 for using bait to lure deer to hunters is being condemned by the head of the southwestern Wyoming chapter of the Muley Fanatic Foundation.

Josh Coursey, president of the chapter, welcomed the news Wednesday that Michael and Teresa Rinehart had reached a federal plea deal in a wildlife baiting case that has been going on for more than a decade.

The Rineharts have been ordered to pay $60,000 in restitution to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for the value of illegally-killed wildlife. The Rineharts were also placed on one year of unsupervised probation and had their hunting privileges suspended worldwide for one year.

Coursey told Cowboy State Daily that he felt the couple should have their hunting privileges revoked for life, not just a year.

“They’re obviously criminals and knew what they were doing,” he said. “If we really want to make these types of situations go away, I believe that the deterrent is that these penalties should be as stiff as they can be.”

The couple pleaded guilty in federal court to violating a federal wildlife trafficking law last year.

More Than A Decade

This case has been going on for more than a decade, according to the Game and Fish Department.

In 2011, the Shosone and Arapaho Fish and Game Department seized a trail camera on tribal lands near the boundary of the Rineharts’ Wind River Whitetail Ranch. The Rineharts were non-native private landowners.

The camera photos showed the Rineharts putting out large piles of corn during the fall hunting season to lure deer into shooting lanes directly in front of large, elevated permanent hunting blinds located on the couple’s property.

The Shoshone and Arapaho Game Department asked for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to assist with the case, as it appeared the Rineharts were illegally hunting deer using bait, both on the reservation and on private lands, as part of their outfitting business.

The Rineharts’ business catered to both resident and non-resident white-tailed deer hunters. Over the next year, the Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collected evidence for the case.

The investigation confirmed the Rineharts placed bait so their clients could kill deer, a violation of Wyoming hunting regulations.

The Rinhearts charged hunters up to $3,000 for each deer hunt. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement contacted clients in 11 states.

The investigation led to the Rineharts being charged with violations of the with a federal Lacey Act, which bans the transport of illegally killed animals.

In addition to the baiting violations, some clients also took more deer than allowed under state law and harvested deer without a license, among other crimes.

More To Come

Following the settlement of the federal case against the Rineharts, the Fremont County Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case and could charge up to 30 clients with various wildlife violations in Wyoming state court.

Coursey called the couple’s use of bait “cheating” and said that what they were allowing hunters to do was not actually hunting.

“The aspect of the hunt is never the reward of the kill,” Coursey said. “It’s the entire process, like the stalk, being in nature, following the animal’s tracks. It’s matching your natural wits against an animal’s and this case certainly undermines all of that.”

Coursey said that it is a hunter’s responsibility to know the laws in the spot being hunted and to make sure those rules are being followed.

“This just comes down to personal responsibility and accountability,” he said. “Everybody that was involved in this knew that it wasn’t upfront and honest. If you continue to engage in activity like that, you have to recognize that you will be held accountable.”

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Wyoming Game And Fish Kills 1,200 Pheasants At Sheridan Bird Farm To Prevent Avian Flu Spread

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently killed 1,200 pheasants at its Sheridan bird farm in an attempt to prevent the spread of avian flu, a disease deadly to both wild and domestic birds.

Wyoming has become part of a national outbreak of avian flu, with several strains of birds being infected, Game and Fish Department spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

The flu has been affecting larger birds such as pheasants, turkeys and hawks, but not not smaller songbirds people normally see in their yards, she added.

“We found three wild turkeys dead near the Sheridan bird farm that were really concerning to us, because they could have exposed the entire (farm) population,” she said. “We raise tens of thousands of pheasants for stocking for hunting every year, so we felt like we needed to reduce the risk to the overall bird farm.”

The 1,200 pheasants that were killed were in close proximity to where the dead turkeys were found, so the decision was made to depopulate a portion of the bird farm. Many of the birds that were euthanized had already laid eggs, which have been harvested by the department in hopes they will hatch.

The Game and Fish Department produces more than 30,000 pheasants at bird farms in Downar and Sheridan for use in stocking for the annual hunting season. There have been no birds killed at the other Game and Fish Department bird facility in Downar.

“We’re pretty diligent about protecting birds against diseases all times of the year with biosecurity,” DiRienzo said. “This was pretty close and could have a significant effect, so we had to swiftly reduce that risk.”

Wyoming Wildlife Advocates executive director Kristin Combs told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that she questioned whether stocking pheasants for hunting season was wise.

“Any time you have an unnatural concentration of animals in one place, disease concerns abound,” she said. “Somehow pheasants are one of those species that has been determined to have only ‘sporting’ value. Non-native pheasants are raised in farms only to be released to be killed. Many that aren’t killed by hunters, die from exposure as they aren’t adapted to Wyoming’s harsh winters.”

She added that game and other wild animal farms are similar to feedgrounds, in that they are ripe for disease transmission.

“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that zoonotic diseases can have vast implications beyond what we can currently foresee. When we know better, we should strive to do better. Not only for the pheasants, but also for humans,” Combs said.

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Lifetime Hunting Ban Appropriate For Poaching Grizzly, Wyoming Wildlife Official Says

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A man who admitted to poaching a grizzly bear outside of Yellowstone National Park was suitably punished when he lost his hunting privileges for the rest of his life, according to an official with a Wyoming wildlife group.

Josh Coursey, co-chairman of Gov. Mark Gordon’s Wyoming Wildlife Task Force, said the punishment handed down for the Idaho man who pleaded guilty to charges connected to the shooting of the grizzly in March 2021 was appropriate. The grizzly was shot more than a dozen times.

“These are criminals,” Coursey told Cowboy State Daily.  “This case was littered with criminal intent from the onset.”

Jared Baum, of Ashton, Idaho, pleaded guilty to the unlawful killing of wildlife in March, 2021. The death of the female grizzly also resulted in the death of her male cub who died in its den after its mother’s death.

Baum’s father, Rex, pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and is prohibited from hunting for a decade, must pay more than $1,000 in fines and serve three days in jail.

According to a report from the Idaho Fish and Game department, Jared told authorities he mistook the grizzly for a black bear. However, the shooting was illegal in any case because it took place outside of bear hunting season. Self-defense was not offered as a motivation.

Further, Baum shot the bear with a handgun.

“Nobody shoots a bear with a handgun unless it’s self-defense, which they never claimed,” Coursey said. “This was a joy-kill.”

Mortality Signal

According to the Idaho Fish and Game Department, the dead grizzly was discovered on April 9, 2021 after a mortality signal emanated from its radio collar.

Investigators discovered the bear’s carcass half submerged in the Little Warm River, about 15 miles from Yellowstone.

A bullet was retrieved from the rib cage of the bear and X-rays later revealed 12 additional bullets lodged in the animal.

“Jared then told officers that he had tracked the bear and thought he had shot it 40 times as it was running downstream towards the Little Warm River,” a report from the Idaho Game and Fish said. “After Jared saw that it was a grizzly, he said he realized he had shot her too many times and she was going to die, so he finished her.”

The report said when Jared realized that the bear was collared, he disposed of the two handguns used to commit the crime in a pond.

Still Dealing With Poaching

Coursey, who also serves as CEO of the Muley Fanatic Foundation, a conservation group that focuses primarily on mule deer, said it’s disturbing to him that in the 21st century, poaching is still an issue.

“Wildlife belongs to the people,” Coursey said. “This is outright theft.”

He said he understands why the issue can get contentious at times when people claim they poach because they need to put food on the table, but added laws are laws and need to be heeded.

“At the end of the day, we have rules and we have law and order and it is required that we follow these rules,” he said “It is for the good of our citizenship as human beings and as Americans.”

Although the penalty fit the crime in this instance, overall, Coursey said laws may need to be enhanced to reduce instances of poaching.

“This is the only crime, that I’m aware of, that is committed with a firearm where it is not a felony,” Coursey said.

“Until we put a deterrent in place that really slams this as unacceptable and unwanted behavior, I think we’ll never really curb the real consequences of what we’re seeing with poaching all over the West and in Wyoming, in particular,” he said.

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Wildlife Advocates Argue Against Hunting Wyo Wolves After Game And Fish Releases Wolf Report

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s success in maintaining a healthy wolf population is due in part to hunting of the predators, according to a Wyoming Game and Fish Department report, but two wildlife advocacy groups disagree.

This week, the department released its annual wolf management and monitoring report, which showed that as of Dec. 31, there were at least 314 wolves in the state.

The department’s report noted that the hunting of wolves as an important management tool in managing the population. Thirty wolves were killed during the 2021 hunting season.

“Wyoming’s wolf hunting seasons and strategy has been an effective wolf management tool,” said Ken Mills, the department’s lead wolf biologist. “With hunting, the state has met our population objective for four consecutive years.”

Hunting also promotes disease control and helps reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock, according to department spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo.

“We also monitor wolves for genetic diversity — and we know our population in Wyoming is genetically diverse,” she said.

But Wyoming Wildlife Advocates Executive Director Kristin Combs told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the state’s use of hunting in wolf management was heavy-handed and unnecessary.

“As we have now seen in Yellowstone, when a large percentage of wolves are killed by humans, pack sizes decrease and reproduction increases. Killing wolves leads to more wolves being born the next year,” she said. “Trying to maintain a status quo of around 160 wolves in the state with a total of about 300 wolves is manipulating their pack dynamics in ways that can lead to increases in conflicts with livestock.”

She added that the state was setting up a “wolf conveyor belt” and that more wolves would be killed in the future as the state tries to keep the animals sectioned off to only the northwestern corner of the state.

Combs said wolf hunting was not a long-term solution and questioned what data supported the claim of hunting promoting tolerance and co-existence between humans and wolves, as the Game and Fish Department has claimed.

“We should be aiming for nearly zero conflicts by allowing wolf packs to stabilize and using non-lethal techniques that have been proven to reduce conflicts,” she said. “Social science isn’t practiced by the WGFD and making broad sweeping statements that wolf killing leads to public tolerance without data to back it up is just providing assumptions, not facts.

“The WGFD states that wolf populations are kept steady by a hunting season, but do you know what else keeps wolf populations steady? No hunting of wolves,” she continued.

A spokeswoman for the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit organization working to protect endangered animals, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that wolves were too valuable to Wyoming and the northern Rockies’ wild places “to be needlessly gunned down.”

“We’re hopeful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will restore federal protections to wolves in Wyoming and across the northern Rockies,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the center. “Predictably, the (department’s) annual report shows that wolf-livestock conflicts increased in the area with the highest wolf killing. The science shows that killing wolves weakens packs, harms their ability target native ungulates and makes them more likely to attack livestock.”

In its report, the Game and Fish Department said 2021 marked the 20th consecutive year Wyoming’s gray wolf population remained above recovery criteria.

The report also said that wolves were confirmed to have killed or injured 109 head of livestock last year, 50 cattle, 53 sheep, five dogs and one horse. Thirty-two wolves were killed by the department in an effort to decrease livestock losses.

Combs argued that the number of cattle and sheep killed by wolves was small compared to Wyoming’s total livestock numbers. She added that the sheep killed by wolves were on public land grazing allotments.

“There are only a few producers who are losing livestock to wolves, it’s not a statewide systemic issue,” she said. “Wolf management should focus on providing these producers with financial resources and teaching them techniques that will minimize their losses while keeping wolves alive. In order to graze on public lands, there should also be a requirement for use of non-lethal conflict reduction methods before lethal removal is authorized.” 

Earlier this year, a federal court restored endangered species protections for the gray wolf that were rolled back during former President Donald Trump’s administration, which included relisting the wolf as endangered, except in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Gov. Mark Gordon have argued against Wyoming’s gray wolves being relisted as endangered, noting the species is thriving in the state.

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“She Has Risen!” — Grizzly 399 And Four Cubs Have Awakened

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Bear lovers have been anxiously awaiting the day that the 26-year-old celebrity bear known as Grizzly 399 and her four cubs would awaken from hibernation from their den in Grand Teton National Park.

According to wildlife photographer Sam Bland, that day was Saturday although the writers at the popular wildlife site Team 399 made a play on the Easter holiday by announcing the awakening by saying “She Has Risen!”

Bland reported — along with posting photos and videos — that the five grizzlies had a busy day full of hiking and swimming on Saturday before disappearing again into the woods.

“So glad to see they all survived the winter and are looking healthy,” Bland said. 

But the group won’t likely stay together long. That’s because this is the year, wildlife biologists say, the cubs are likely to head out on their own.

“399 will soon be pushing out the cubs to begin living on their own,” Bland said. “My hope is that they all live long lives and continue the legacy of their 26 year old mom, #399.”

The Facebook page “Midlife Rices” posted video of the five bears crossing a highway in Grand Teton National Park.

“I was super lucky since I had no idea she was heading straight towards me with her healthy fam,” the site said.



The five-some, which has received enormous international media attention, got into a bit of trouble last year when they — looking for food — pried into improperly stored garbage and wildlife feed. They also showed a proclivity toward beehives.

These habits, acquired because of careless humans, are what wildlife advocates are worried about. Hillary Cooley, Grizzly Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said last week that she anticipates “issues.”

“Bears in general, when they know they have a food source, they will repeat that and go try and find it again,” Cooley said. “It can be a human safety issue, and that’s a big deal for us.” 

If those habits continue, dire circumstances could await such as hazing, relocation, and euthanasia.

Famed wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen, a champion of 399 and her cubs, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide last week the more serious penalties would be “overreactions.”

“Most of this is is preventable,” Mangelsen said.  “I think they should be just very careful with her and not overreact.”

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Wyoming Wolf Killing Colorado Cattle Won’t Be Put-Down Or Relocated Due To Endangered Species Status

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A wolf which broke away from a Wyoming pack will not be put-down for preying on cattle in northern Colorado, wildlife officials told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) spokesman Travis Duncan told Cowboy State Daily that three cows believed to have been killed by wolf “F1084” near Walden in northern Colorado will not be destroyed because of its status under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

CPW rather will be working closely with ranchers in the community to implement approved hazing methods, such as fencing, carcass management, guard animals, scare tactics, and more.

“Gray wolves are also a state endangered species in Colorado, and wolves may not be taken for any reason other than self-defense,” Duncan said. “The gray wolf in Colorado is protected by the ESA and state law. Penalties can vary and can include fines up to $100,000, jail time and loss of hunting privileges.”

The most recent report of cow depredation was on March 15. Injuries to the cow were consistent with a wolf attack and wolf tracks were found on the scene. A necropsy was performed, and bite marks confirmed the animal was a wolf.

“Three cows have been killed by wolves in three separate depredation incidents in Colorado, the first on Dec. 19, 2021,” Duncan said. “CPW wildlife officers believe the three depredation incidents on livestock that have occured in Jackson County, Colorado were due to the known population of 8 wolves nearby, which includes F1084.”

Duncan said depredation events are relatively rare and wolves tend to prey on ungulates, such as deer and elk. However, if livestock and wolves share a landscape, conflicts may arise, as CPW has seen in recent months.

“It is worth pointing out that this depredation incident is not related to or a result of wolf reintroduction efforts in Colorado,” Duncan said. “It’s also worth noting that the state has an existing depredation reimbursement fund for predation by other species that can be used for wolf depredation, and depredation reimbursement options specifically related to wolf reintroduction are currently being evaluated to develop reintroduction plan recommendations.”

F1084 mated and is traveling with M2101, who was collared in 2021. The female wolf was collared when she was in Wyoming. The two wolves had six pups in 2021, making the pack a total of eight and the first wolf litter in Colorado since the 1940s.

F1084 was originally thought to be male.

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Evanston Rancher Concerned About Wolverine Threat After One Wolverine Killed 18 Sheep In Utah

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The discovery of a wolverine in Utah near the Wyoming border has an Evanston rancher worried about the potential threat the predators bring, he told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

Vance Broadbent, who has cattle, sheep and goats throughout Uinta, Lincoln and Sweetwater counties as well as in Utah, told Cowboy State Daily that even though the number of wolverines in Wyoming is believed to be low, after seeing the damage done by the one in Utah, he is concerned about the predators.

Earlier this month, a wolverine was captured and collared by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources after it was caught attacking sheep.

“Until this incident, I didn’t know the devastation they could wreak,” Broadbent said. “It killed or injured 18 sheep over a couple of days. Then it was relocated to the area that we use for our summer range.”

While Broadbent was glad the animal was collared, he still was concerned about having another predator near his animals.

He said that in the current livestock market, ewes can cost anywhere from $350 to $450, meaning that if he lost 18, he would be out thousands of dollars.

“The bottom line is that those ewes are also producing lambs, so this isn’t just a one-time problem,” Broadbent said.

He added that one of his biggest concerns is how he would be reimbursed if one of his animals were to be killed by a wolverine. In situations where bears or mountain lions have killed one of his animals, the state has reimbursed him for the livestock.

But since wolverines do not have the same protections, any livestock producer would be out the cost of the animal if a wolverine were to kill it.

“I saw there was a sportsman group in Utah who reached out to the producer who lost 18 sheep and are going to reimburse him for the loss,” Broadbent said. “I think that’s awesome, but I also know we would have the same issue in Wyoming as in Utah.”

During the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s most recent wolverine monitoring count, there were only eight recorded in the state, but biologist Zack Walker previously told Cowboy State Daily that there are likely more.

Earlier this month, the sighting of a wolverine in Yellowstone caused so much excitement it became national news.

“They’re still considered a species of great conservation need and they’re actually protected by law in Wyoming,” Walker said. “They fill kind of a middle predator role, where they will eat live prey, but they also do a lot of scavenging, too.”

The entire species nearly went extinct in the 1920s in the lower 48 states because of unregulated harvesting, habitat loss and broad-scale carnivore poisoning, according to the Game and Fish department.

Wolverines are generally not dangerous to humans, unless they are backed into a corner and are desperate.

They are the largest mammal in the weasel family, and while they are similar to badgers, they tend to scavenge more than their temperamental family members.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story said that the state would reimburse a livestock producer when a coyote killed an animal, but this was incorrect. The story has been updated to reflect this.

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Spring Is In The Air: Tourist Tries To Pet Moose, Gets Instantly Attacked

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s like hearing “Gentlemen, start your engines” at the Indianapolis 500.

It’s been said that the “season opener” for spring is the first time of the new year a tourist at a natural destination — such as Yellowstone National Park — does something that prompts a wild animal attack.

Even if the attack didn’t happen in Yellowstone, which appears to be the case in this event, it still marks an important time of year, when the much-anticipated mauling season is right around the corner.

By all accounts, the first event of the year occurred a few weeks ago in Canada, according to the Canadian website “Noovelles.”

The title of the video posted on the site tells the story: Never pet a wild moose.

And, of course, the video goes on to show why that’s a wise bit of advice.

The video shows a snowmobiler climbing off of his snow machine and walking over to cheerfully greet a moose like he’s meeting Bullwinkle at a carnival.

However, Bullwinkle is not happy to see him.

Instead of shaking the tourist’s hand, the moose gets up on his hind legs and knocks him down and then repeatedly kicks him.

No mercy. When the guy attempts to roll to safety, the moose follows him and continues to pummel him. In fighting parlance, it’s an absolute ass-whooping.

Then, in English, a voice announces that the moose broke the tourist’s leg. Seconds later, the video shows the kick that may have just done that.

In the meantime, the tourist’s friends appear to show some concern. But not enough to risk the wrath of the miffed moose. Mostly, the injured tourist’s pals — including the guy who kept the camera rolling the entire time — just have front row seats to the epic battle between a snowmobiler and a force of nature weighing in at more than 1,000 pounds

The condition of the tourist is unknown.

Many of the French-speaking commenters, however, mention that his snowmobile escaped serious injury.

The clock is now ticking for the first event in Yellowstone.

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Why Are Wolverines In Wyoming So Elusive? There Are Only 6 (Maybe)

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Over the weekend, a tour group got the opportunity of a lifetime when they encountered a wolverine out in the wild of Yellowstone National Park.

Wildlife experts say such sightings are extremely rare, with last weekend’s observation in Yellowstone being only the eighth reported in the last 15 years.

Sightings are so unusual, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Biologist Zack Walker, because there appear to be very few wolverines in the state.

“During our last monitoring efforts five years ago, we know we had at least six individual wolverine, but there are likely more,” Walker told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “But that’s the minimum number we know of.”

The department is again monitoring the wolverine population this year, and Walker said that so far, there appear to have been more wolverines detected than in 2017. He didn’t have exact numbers, but he said it seems the monitoring efforts are more successful this year.

Wyoming is not alone in having low wolverine numbers. The entire species nearly went extinct in the 1920s in the lower 48 states because of unregulated harvesting, habitat loss and broad-scale carnivore poisoning, according to the Game and Fish department.

“They’ve been naturally trickling back into the state over the years, reoccupying new areas,” Walker said. “The other part of why they’re so rare to see is because they’re really solitary animals. They have very large home ranges and they’re spaced out across the landscape. Life history has made it so you never really have any congregations of them in one place.”

Event Of A Lifetime

MacNeil Lyons, who runs the Yellowstone Insight tour group, was astounded when he saw the wolverine in Yellowstone over the weekend.

“I’ve worked in Yellowstone for almost 22 years, and over the course of that time, I’ve been very fortunate to have seen some very unique, amazing, wild moments,” Lyons told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “But the only wolverine I’ve seen, before Saturday, was through binoculars at a great distance.”

Lyons compared the wolverine sighting to seeing a unicorn in the park. While he would be happy for more wolverine sightings to occur, he does not necessarily expect to see one again in his lifetime.

“I like to go to work with a pocketful of optimism and a smile on my face,” he said. “You never know what could be around the corner. It’s highly unlikely we will see another one, but it just shows you’ve got to keep coming back to the park. Patience, practice and persistence pays off.”

Wolverines are generally not dangerous to humans, unless they are backed into a corner and are desperate.

They are the largest mammal in the weasel family, and while they are similar to badgers, they tend to scavenge more than their temperamental family members.

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Rare Sighting of Wolverine in Yellowstone; Biologist Says Only 8th Sighting in 15 Years

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Photographs Republished With Permission From Yellowstone Insight

A group of people on a tour in Yellowstone National Park over the weekend got the opportunity of a lifetime when they came across a rare sight: a wolverine in the wild.

In what is believed to be only the eighth such sighting in the last 15 years, the visitors riding through the park on a guided tour Saturday saw a wolverine walking through the area. A 2-minute video posted to YouTube by visitor Carl Kemp shows the wolverine moving through the area. The gasps of other visitors on the tour can be heard in the background.

“After an already amazing day in the park, filled with wolves, bears, mountain goats, big horn sheep, elk, golden eagles and more, we turned around to make our way back, when I saw what I thought was a black bear running down the road,” Kemp wrote in the video description. “As soon as it turned, we realized we were in the middle of a once in a lifetime experience.”

The group’s tour guide stopped the vehicle, and allowed the group to take photos and video of the wolverine from a distance.

“The wolverine…appeared to be more curious than afraid,” Kemp said. “It looked at us several times before bounding up the hill. After giving us one more inquisitive look from the top of the hill…it disappeared into the Yellowstone’s deep evergreen forest, and left us all with a memory we will never forget.”


Very Rare Sight

Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Zack Walker told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the wolverine sighting was a very rare sight.

“We’re getting sightings, but it’s usually on a trail camera or something like that, but very few of them are seen in-person,” Walker said. “We usually hear about a handful of sightings every year.”

The Game and Fish department does not track the sightings in Yellowstone, but according to the park’s website, only seven have been documented in the park over the last 15 years.

Walker said the sightings the department hears about are usually in the western mountain area, though, around Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone and Cody.

However, it is an exciting event any time a wolverine is spotted in Wyoming, Walker said. He added he hopes such sightings occur more often and noted that the wolverine population has been expanding in the region, although ever so slowly.

“They’re still considered a species of great conservation need and they’re actually protected by law in Wyoming,” he said. “They fill kind of a middle predator role, where they will eat live prey, but they also do a lot of scavenging, too.”


Photo republished with permission from Yellowstone Insight

Guiding Company

An employee of Yellowstone Insight, a guiding company located outside the park in Montana, took many photos of the wolverine.

They reported seeing the animal at 11:38am on Saturday and said they watched the wolverine for three minutes until an oncoming vehicle made it scamper off the road and back into the wild.

But for those three minutes, they said they were thrilled.

“My guest said out loud, exactly what I was thinking, ‘Is that a bear?’, they wrote on their Facebook page.

“For a hot second, we both thought that it might be a young black bear moving away from us, but as it turned and looked over its right shoulder towards us – there was no mistaking that the animal was indeed, a Wolverine!”

Editor’s note: The story and headline originally said this was the seventh sighting, but it is believed to be the eighth.

Photo republished with permission from Yellowstone Insight

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Officials Have Mixed Response To Gray Wolves Being Relisted As Endangered, Except In Wyoming, Montana, Idaho

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

There was a mixed response from officials regarding the federal ruling on Thursday that exempted gray wolves in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana from an order that all other gray wolves in the country be relisted as an endangered species.

A federal court in California on Thursday restored endangered species protections for the gray wolf that were rolled back during the Trump administration. 

Many conservation groups praised the decision overall, but still were concerned about what it could mean for the gray wolves managed by the three Western states.

“Whether under federal protection or managed by individual states, wolf populations thrive best in wild lands with adequate food, cover and tolerance from local human populations,” Grant Spickelmier, executive director of the International Wolf Center, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

Wolves in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho were delisted prior to the Trump administration’s decision. The Trump administration in 2020 removed endangered species protections for the wolves that had been in place for more than 45 years, saying populations of the animals had exceeded recovery goals. 

The Center for Biological Diversity said it hoped the ruling would change the direction taken in the past by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“This is a huge win for gray wolves and the many people across the country who care so deeply about them,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I hope this ruling finally convinces the Fish and Wildlife Service to abandon its longstanding, misguided efforts to remove federal wolf protections. The agency should work instead to restore these ecologically important top carnivores to places like the southern Rockies and northeastern United States.”

The Wyoming Farm Bureau questioned the need for relisting gray wolves at all.

“I understand that Wyoming’s management plan for wolves was not part of this decision, but this ruling affects a large number of other states,” Executive Director Ken Hamilton told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “Wolf numbers in areas like the upper Midwest have far exceeded scientifically established recovery numbers years ago.

“We are concerned that a judge in California didn’t uphold what the scientists at the USFWS concluded about wolves in the US.  Unfortunately, people in the upper Midwest and much of the rest of the nation must now live with a decision made by a judge in California,” he concluded.

Although the judge’s ruling did not affect wolves in the northern Rockies, the Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that over the next year, it intends to review the status of the wolves to determine whether they should also return to the endangered species list.

That decision was criticized by Gov. Mark Gordon.

“(Interior) Secretary (Deb) Haaland’s decision is very disappointing and indicates a strong disconnect between Washington D.C and realities on the ground,” Gordon said Thursday.

“In Wyoming, wolves have been successfully managed by our state’s wildlife experts since regaining authority in 2017,” he said. “I firmly stand behind our state wolf management plan that has served as our guide to ensure a viable, healthy population for a species that has met all recovery criteria for nearly two decades.

“Managing Wyoming’s wildlife from Washington D.C is not a good model and is counter to the intent of the Endangered Species Act,” Gordon continued. “I urge the Secretary to ensure that the status review is grounded in science and recognizes the states’ strong track record effectively managing this species.”

The most recent count showed Wyoming had 327 gray wolves. At least 147 of those wolves reside within the wolf trophy game management area, where the Wyoming Game and Fish Department focuses its management efforts.

The wolf population for Yellowstone National Park is estimated at 123 and the Wind River Indian Reservation has around 21 wolves.

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Natrona Man Fined $45K For Selling Poached Meat As Beef Jerky

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Natrona County man was fined recently for selling jerky made from poached game meat and advertising it as beef jerky, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced Monday.

Gary Lee Ferrier was fined $45,070 after pleading no contest to hunting violations filed in connection with allegations he improperly took game meat and then used it in place of beef to create jerky.

Department officials credited the public for the tip that led to an arrest in the case.

“Game and Fish is grateful to the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office for their diligent work on this case, along with the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office and the person who came forward with this information,” said Brian Olsen, Casper region wildlife supervisor. “This type of case can significantly impact Wyoming’s wildlife. It may have gone undetected without the public’s help. 

“Antelope Hunt Area 73 is an extremely busy hunt area near Casper,” he continued in an interview with Cowboy State Daily.

“However, the importance of a single tip to the Stop Poaching Hotline from one individual made the difference. It kicked off the entire investigation. We are proud of our game wardens for following up on a single tip and stopping what could have been a significant negative impact on a local herd. But, mostly, we thank the individual who made the call. Their observations and information made all the difference,” he said.

According to Game and Fish officials, a tip from the public through the Stop Poaching Hotline alerted Game and Fish staff to possible hunting violations. The investigation revealed Ferrier had been killing mule deer and pronghorn without licenses and during closed seasons.

He then substituted the big game meat for beef to sustain his jerky business. The business sold products to unsuspecting customers throughout Wyoming and online.

Game and Fish game wardens located multiple deer and pronghorn antelope carcasses. Investigators sent tissue and jerky samples from the animals to the Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic Lab for DNA comparison, which showed a match from 18 mule deer and pronghorn antelope that were poached.

Ferrier was arrested by the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office and charged with 26 wildlife violations. In a plea agreement with the state, he pleaded no contest to killing a buck mule deer and a buck antelope without a license and during a closed season.

Ferrier was also charged as an accessory to the killing of another buck mule deer and buck antelope without a license and during a closed season.

The plea agreement also included two counts of wanton destruction of big game animals and three counts of selling game meat.

In exchange for his no contest plea, the Natrona County district attorney dismissed the remaining charges.

In addition to the fines, Ferrier lost his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for a minimum of five years. He also will not be able to hunt in Wyoming or 48 other states that are members of the Wildlife Violator Compact until all of the fines and restitutions are paid in full.

Additionally, Ferrier forfeited all firearms seized by Game and Fish, all illegal wildlife parts and all supplies associated with the sale of game meat. 

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Wyoming Game And Fish, Landowners Save Moose Calf From Icy Pond

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department joined forces with a number of Jackson community members recently to save a moose calf from an icy pond and a tragic fate.

“This is not necessarily a unique situation, with moose calves falling through the ice, but it is also unique in the fact that we were able to get there in time to save the calf,” department spokesman Mark Gocke told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “We normally don’t get a call about this situation until after the calf has died and been found.”

The afternoon of Jan. 24, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department office in Jackson was contacted by a landowner in the South Park area, alerting them to a moose calf that had fallen through a hole in an icy pond and could not get out.

Three department staff arrived on the scene to find a large manmade pond with at least four aerators in it, with open water around each of them, surrounded by thicker shelf ice. The calf could not touch the bottom of the pond, but was also unable to climb out of the hole due to the thick ice surrounding it.

Gocke noted there were several hurdles to overcome to save the calf, the main one being a cow moose, which had previously been collared by the department, standing nearby.

“You have an adult cow that’s obviously stressed out about its calf and is likely going to be protective against people getting near it,” he said. “Then, you have the ice that could break while you’re trying to get an animal out of the water. Plus, this is happening during the winter and it’s cold, so you have to do this in a certain amount of time.”

He noted that the Game and Fish staff wore lifejackets while doing the rescue, in case anyone went into the water.

To solve at least one problem, the Game and Fish staff tranquilized the cow moose for her own safety and the safety of the humans in the area.

However, then another issue popped up: she laid down on the ice. While the ice might have been relatively thick, a 600- to 700-pound animal falling asleep on it was probably not going to end well for anyone. One of the biologists was with the cow when she heard the ice crack underneath them.

The decision was made to reverse the tranquilizer, which got the cow up and off the ice in about five to 10 minutes. Then, she just watched as her calf was rescued from the icy water.

“Interestingly, she just laid down and watched and allowed everybody to get the calf out,” Gocke said.

A moose calf watches as its calf is warmed up after being rescued from an icy pond.

A rope was tied around the calf, and it took at least four people to pull it out of the pond. By the time the young moose came out of the water, it had been in for at least 90 minutes and was hypothermic and exhausted.

By this time, two department wildlife veterinarians arrived on scene and went to work getting the calf warm by using blankets, towels and hot water bottles provided by all of the neighbors. It took about 45 minutes to get the calf warm and strong enough so it could stand on its own.

A moose calf is warmed with blankets, towels and hot water bottles after being saved from an icy pond.

The mother and calf were reunited and the next day, a Jackson resident sent over a picture of the two after he spotted them while driving.

Gocke noted the incident was a good lesson for landowners who are using aerators in their manmade ponds to stop using them during the winter months, as animals can easily fall through the ice and drown.

“It was an exhausting and stressful situation, but what a great story this was,” Gocke said. “We could not have done this without the help of the landowners and neighbors, though.”

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Gray Wolves’ Endangered Status Under Review; Gordon Disappointed

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon said Thursday he was disappointed with a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review the endangered status of gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.

On Monday, the agency officials sent out a letter announcing their intent to initiate a 12-month status review to determine whether a distinct population segment of the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains or in the western United States should be included on the endangered species list.

“Secretary Haaland’s decision is very disappointing and indicates a strong disconnect between Washington D.C and realities on the ground,” Gordon said Thursday.

“In Wyoming, wolves have been successfully managed by our state’s wildlife experts since regaining authority in 2017,” he said. “I firmly stand behind our state wolf management plan that has served as our guide to ensure a viable, healthy population for a species that has met all recovery criteria for nearly two decades.”

“Managing Wyoming’s wildlife from Washington D.C is not a good model and is counter to the intent of the Endangered Species Act,” Gordon continued. “I urge the Secretary to ensure that the status review is grounded in science and recognizes the states’ strong track record effectively managing this species.”

A report published by the department in September indicated that including a specific population segment of the wolves on the endangered species list might be warranted, but further review is needed. A final determination should be published by late September, service regional director Matthew Hogan said in the letter.

Hogan noted in the letter that the department was particularly interested in data developed since 2020 regarding the distribution, abundance and trends of the gray wolf in the western U.S., conservation activities taken up by states and tribes, disease and predation and other natural or man-made factors affecting the gray wolf’s continued existence in the west.

According to the department, a distinct population segment is a group of animals distinct from other populations of its species and significant in relation to the entire species.

In September, the department announced that it would review the gray wolf’s status and review whether it should be re-listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Gordon said at the time that the state met delisting criteria for its gray wolf population for the 19th consecutive year in 2020, with the wolf population holding steady at more than 300.

“Wyoming’s management strategies have established predictability and stability within the wolf population,” he said. “That lends credence to our balanced approach that conserves wolves and gives flexibility to landowners. We are confident the review will find Wyoming’s wolf management program has been highly successful in meeting our commitment to the long term viability of wolves in Wyoming.”

The most recent count showed Wyoming had 327 gray wolves. At least 147 of those wolves reside within the wolf trophy game management area, where the Wyoming Game and Fish Department focuses its management efforts.

The wolf population for Yellowstone National Park is estimated at 123 and the Wind River Indian Reservation has around 21 wolves.

The wolf population is considered “recovered” when 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs are found outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. 

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Protestors Against Coyote Killing Contest Getting Flipped Off, Told To Move Back to California

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Wildlife Protection Group is not being warmly received outside of a popular Rock Springs bar that is endorsing a coyote-killing contest.

The organization is holding a seven-day protest outside of Buddha Bob’s Bar in an attempt to dissuade citizens from participating in the annual hunt.

But it’s not an easy job, said protest organizer Madhu Anderson.

Anderson told Cowboy State Daily that passersby routinely give the middle finger to the protestors and tell them to move back to California.

“They are very rude and not supportive at all,” Anderson said of people she has encountered outside of the bar.

“Most of the people in our group have lived in Rock Springs for many years,” she said. “I don’t know why they are telling us to go back to California.”

Buddha Bob’s is the meeting place for hunters taking place in this weekend’s Red Desert Predator Classic, a qualifying event for a contest known as the “Wyoming Best of the Best.” Teams collect points toward a championship by killing coyotes. Last year’s championship event was held in Rock Springs in November.

Anderson said despite not having a receptive audience, the protest will continue because she believes most people in Wyoming don’t support the idea of animal killing contests.

“We are fighting so hard because we know this wildlife killing contest is wrong,” she said. “I have friends who are hunters and they don’t support this kind of behavior.”

Anderson said many of the protestors have family members who are hunters and they don’t support killing contests either.

“I know we are doing the right thing by speaking up against these wildlife killing contests,” she said.

According to Anderson, wildlife management agencies and lawmakers in a growing number of states—including Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington—have banned killing contests in recent years.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department said, ”These kinds of competitive coyote hunts are raising concerns on the part of the public and could possibly jeopardize the future of hunting and affect access to private lands for all hunters.”

Contest organizer Mark Gillespie told Sweetwater Now that the goal of the contest is to help with the ecosystem.

“We’re doing nothing illegal. What we are doing is for fun. We’re doing it because we like to hunt coyotes,” Gillespie said.

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Game And Fish Kills Mountain Lion After It Returns To Lander

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Game and Fish officials killed a mountain lion on Monday after it repeatedly wandered into Lander, the department announced.

According to department officials, the female sub-adult mountain lion had been previously captured on New Year’s Day after being seen near McManus Park in Lander. Upon initial capture, she was fitted with a radio collar and relocated to a more remote area within a different river drainage.

However, she returned to the Middle Fork Popo Agie drainage area within a week.

On Monday evening, Game and Fish officials received a report that a deer was covered up with wood chips in a yard in Lander. Upon investigation, it was verified as a mountain lion kill.

In coordination with the public and the Lander Police Department, Game and Fish personnel located the mountain lion and killed her to ensure human safety.

“Relocation is tough with mountain lions because of how far they can move, but based on the initial circumstance of the capture on New Year’s we felt it was proper to try,” said Dan Thompson, a Game and Fish Department large carnivore supervisor. “However, because of the failed relocation attempt and the bold behavior within the city, for human safety, we felt the best option was lethal removal.”

Thompson thanked the city and public for its support, noting it was a “tough day” whenever Game and Fish officials had to put down wildlife.

According to the department, mountain lions often use river and stream drainages as natural travel corridors, which can lead them into town. Mountain lions can move long distances, especially juvenile animals that are dispersing in search of their own home range.

While it is not surprising to see a mountain lion moving through town, Game and Fish doesn’t promote them living in the city of Lander.

There have been fewer than a dozen mountain lion-related fatalities in North America in more than 100 years and most of those attacks involved young lions, which perhaps were forced out to hunt on their own, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Mountain lion hunting is legal in Wyoming, and about 150 to 200 of the animals are killed every year during the season.

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$3.8 Million Wildlife Crossing Being Constructed Over I-25 Between Buffalo & Kaycee

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A $3.8 million crossing path for Wyoming’s wildlife is being built between Buffalo and Kaycee as part of a statewide master plan to reduce collisions between wildlife and vehicles.

The state Wyoming Department of Transportation and Game and Fish Department are working together to reduce the collisions between wildlife and vehicles that number in the thousands every year, said Luke Reiner, director of WYDOT.

“We all know that when we travel Wyoming roads, we don’t like vehicles to bump into wildlife,” Reiner told Cowboy State Daily. “And it happens way too often – over 6,000 times a year in our state. And that’s just 6,000 times too many.”

This particular wildlife crossing project will use existing underpasses and high fencing on a 15-mile stretch of I-25 to funnel wildlife through to the other side of the interstate, reducing accidents with mule deer and white-tailed deer.

“These deer are essentially using the median of the interstate as habitat,” said Cheyenne Stewart, Sheridan Region wildlife coordinator for the Game and Fish Department. “But because we have these existing underpasses, because it’s not a major migratory area, the idea came that we could just put high fences along the interstate, funnel the animals through the existing underpasses and not have to build overpasses and underpasses, which is a lot more expensive.”



This more affordable option should address the danger and continue to allow some movement by the deer across the interstate, according to Sara DiRienzo, public information officer for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“Any roadway project is really expensive,” said DiRienzo. “But this is considered one of the more affordable ones because it utilizes those existing structures.”

According to data collected by WYDOT in 2018, an average of 1,841 vehicles passed through that 70 mile stretch each day. And an estimated 57 vehicles collide with deer every year as the animals try to cross the interstate at that point.

“So when this project is all in place, we anticipate that it will reduce collisions with wildlife up to 80%,” said DiRienzo. “And that’s really valuable. It saves drivers money, it saves the state money, and of course, saves wildlife lives.”

She pointed out the Buffalo/Kaycee project was given the go-ahead now because of its affordability.

“This one rose to the top of the list,” DiRienzo said, “because not only does it have one of the most high-collision rates with wildlife in our state, but also it’s one of the most easily attainable projects because of the existing structures, and everything that we have learned about the movements of wildlife on that road. So $3.8 million goes a really long way on that stretch.”

Stewart, who moved to Buffalo a few years ago, has personal experience dodging wildlife on that stretch of highway.

“The last bit of stretch from driving anywhere is from Kaycee to Buffalo,” she said. “And it’s the most stressful part of the drive because it’s probably getting dark, and you’re probably a little tired. And you’re seeing deer and you’re just wondering, which is the one that’s going to run out in front of my vehicle?”

Support for the project came from 17 different funding sources, including partners, local government and donations from the public.  

“It’s truly a Wyoming success story,” Reiner noted, “of identifying something we really care about – wildlife – pairing it with transportation, which we all have to do – you’ve got to go from point A to point B, but you want to do it as safely as you can – and come up with a solution where everybody participates.”

DiRienzo said the project should go out for bid in February, with a plan for construction to begin in the spring.

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BLM Roundup Of 500 Wild Wyoming Horses Just A Start

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

In the last two and one-half weeks, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has rounded up around 500 wild horses in the southwest part of Wyoming — but that’s just a start.

The BLM has a goal of rounding up over 3,500 horses before the 2021 Rock Springs Wild Horse Gather is complete, according to Brad Purdy, Public Affairs Specialist for the BLM-Montana/Dakotas State Office.

“The ultimate goal for all five of the HMAs (Horse Management Areas) is about 3,500 Horses removed,” he said, adding that the intention is to round up a total of 4,300 horses before the project’s targeted completion date in early 2022.

“When BLM looks at this, we look at it as basically five gathers, with the largest gather in the Great Divide Basin — I believe we are gathering 1,124 there,” he explained. “This gather is in line with the Red Desert gather that we completed in 2020, I believe we gathered 3,420 some-odd horses.”

BLM Wyoming manages 16 wild horse herd management areas on nearly 5 million acres.

The BLM Wyoming Rock Springs and Rawlins field offices are removing wild horses from the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in southwestern Wyoming. The combined appropriate management level for all HMAs in the state is 3,725 animals.

The BLM estimates the wild horse population across the five HMAs to be approximately 5,105.Since 1971, the BLM has removed approximately 37,000 animals from public rangelands in Wyoming as part of its efforts to maintain healthy horses and burros on healthy public rangelands.

“The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burro Act of 1971 is the law that oversees these type of operations,” Purdy explained. “The BLM is compelled, when we have more of a population than the appropriate management level states, that law says, we shall go out there and then gather horses.”

Warren Murphy of Cody was actually present and part of the legislative process when the act was created.

“I was working at the time on the staff of Senator Birch Byah of Indiana,” he said, “and he was the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. I spent a couple of years on his staff, and I was there for all the discussion from the staff firsthand when that issue of wild horses came up, came out of nowhere. 

“There were televised things on the news, people in airplanes shooting wild horses in the desert, probably, Nevada, although I found out later where that did happen in Wyoming,” he continued.

Murphy explained that there was such a national uproar over people seeing horses being shot that pressure was put on Congress to do something. “The senator from Wisconsin at the time, Senator Gaylord Nelson, came up with this bill called the Wild Horse and Burro Act to protect wild horses and burros who were wandering throughout the western country,” he said. “And Senator Byah was a co-sponsor, and we debated that bill in one year, that thing went through, Congress passed it overwhelmingly, and was signed by President Nixon in 1971.”

The Rock Springs gather is being conducted to address the overpopulation on the HMAs, prevent deterioration of the rangeland due to overpopulation and remove horses from private lands and areas not designated for their long-term use.

The BLM estimates that around 800 animals that are gathered will be returned to the range. Any mare returned to an HMA will be treated with temporary fertility control. 

“Some of the horses are going to be put back out onto the range with things like PZP and intrauterine device treatments,” Purdy said.

Porcine Zona Pellucida, or PZP, is a fertility-control vaccine given to female horses on the range through an injection via remote darting. The treatment has proven successful in other horse management areas — including the McCullough Peaks herd east of Cody.

Murphy, the former rector at Christ Church in Cody, became part of the non-profit organization FOAL (Friends Of A Legacy) in 2005. The organization works closely with the BLM in managing the McCullough Peaks HMA, including administering PZP to the herd.

“Over the last few years there have been no round ups here, because PZP worked, and we’ve got designated shooters,” he said. “Our PZP programs are working — and not only working, but became a model for the whole country.”

“I think how successful PZP is, kind of hinges on whether or not you can apply it consistently to the horses that you need to, to apply it right,” Purdy countered. “In places like McCullough Peaks, we have lots of partners, lots of people helping us out.”

He added that the McCullough Peaks herd is more accessible to the public, which might play into the success of the program there.

“Here on some of these other HMAs that are a little bit more remote, you don’t get the kind of visitation, and those horses become, you know, more skeptical of these weird looking bipeds that are walking around,” he said. “So it’s more difficult to apply PZP via darting on some of these other herds.”

But Purdy acknowledged that there is controversy surrounding wild horse gathers such as this one.

“There is a general dislike of wild horse gathers, and I understand where folks are coming from,” he said. “And one of the things that I tell them is, you know, we are a federal government agency and we have to follow the law. Some of the changes I think some of the folks who disagree with these things want are going to take a change in the law.”

Part of the controversy, according to Purdy, is that the public feels that observation sites aren’t adequate.

“We have a lot of different factors playing into it, terrain, safety for the public, for the BLM employees, for the contractors, and for the horses,” he said. “We don’t want the observation site and people moving around and taking photos and things to spook a horse and a horse to get injured – that’s the last thing that BLM wants.” 

Resource concerns also play into observation sites, Purdy explained.

“I do believe about 50% of the Great Divide Basin herd management area is also priority habitat management areas for sage grouse habitat,” he said. “That’s important to Wyoming, that’s important to BLM. So when we select these observation sites, you know, resource damage is something that we do take into consideration.” 

Animals removed from public rangelands are offered to the public for adoption; unadopted animals are cared for on open pastures for the rest of their lives. 

“All the horses that are gathered will go into the adoption program, after they are seen by a vet,” Purdy said. “If they get too old, they go to long-term holding – we have several sanctuaries on range pastures, we have some here in Wyoming, they’re scattered in the Midwest. I think there’s some even on the East Coast. And so those horses that don’t get adopted, they go and live out the rest of their lives at those longer term holding facilities, which are basically private pastures where a rancher is paid to feed and look out for these horses for the rest of their lives.”

Opportunities are available for the public to observe gather operations, provided that doing so does not jeopardize the safety of the animals, staff, contractors and observers, or disrupt gather operations.

The BLM will escort the public to gather observation sites located on public lands or authorized private lands.

If you are interested in watching the gather, you must contact Brad Purdy at bpurdy@blm.gov.

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Survey: Majority Of Americans Against Wyoming’s Wild Horse Roundup

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A recently released poll showed that the majority of surveyed Americans were against the planned wild horse roundup in Wyoming.

On Monday, the Cloud Foundation, a national organization dedicated to protecting America’s wild horses and burros on public lands, released a national opinion poll commissioned by the organization that was conducted online by The Harris Poll last year.

The poll found that 69% of respondents opposed removing all wild horses from 1.5 million acres of public lands in southern Wyoming to accommodate the oil/gas and livestock industries.

“I understand the opposition and appreciate seeing the horses when I’m traveling around the desert here,” Sweetwater County Rep. Chad Banks told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “That said, I also understand the need for the round-ups.  The horses have no predators and their populations just continue to expand.  Much like hunting is a mechanism to keep herd sizes in check and ensure healthy populations, the round-ups are necessary to ensure that our wildlife have the forage necessary to thrive.”

Sweetwater County Sens. Tom James and John Kolb and Rep. Mark Baker did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment by press time.

The Cloud Foundation called on President Joe Biden’s administration to halt what will be the largest wild horse roundup in recent history.

The mega roundup, which is organized by the Bureau of Land Management, started last week in southwest Wyoming with the goal of rounding up more than 4,000 wild horses. The wild horses will be removed from areas in Sweetwater County and southern Wyoming, the Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, Great Divide Basin, White Mountains and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas – known as the Wyoming Checkerboard.  

The survey was conducted among over 2,000 U.S adults aged 18 and older. It explained that if this roundup is implemented, America’s wild horses and burros will have lost a total of 40% of the original public lands specifically designated for their use by the 1971 Wild Horse Act which was passed to protect them.

According to the Casper Star-Tribune, removed horses will be “freeze branded, vaccinated, dewormed and given a Coggins test.” Officials will then return about 800 of the removed horses to the range, administering temporary fertility controls to all returned mares, in an effort to reduce the wild horse population in those areas to a target of 1,550–2,145.

The remaining 3,500 will be adopted out, pending medical and behavioral clearance.

“The vast majority of Americans oppose this government give-away of our public lands to the oil/gas and livestock industries,” said Dana Zarrello, Executive Director for the Cloud Foundation. “The government is pushing the same old anti-wild horse PR campaign mythology by claiming wild horses and burros must be rounded up while they allow more livestock to continue to graze in the same areas. Private, commercial livestock must be the first animals removed in these Congressionally-designated Wild Horse and Burro Herd Areas.”

Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, the agency is required to maintain a minimum population of around 3,800 wild horses in Wyoming.

“Wild horses and burros are restricted to just 11% of public lands compared to livestock which is permitted on more than 60% of public lands,” said Lisa Friday, board member of the Cloud Foundation. “Even in Congressionally-designated Wild Horse and Burro Herd Areas, livestock is given more than 80% of the forage compared to the 20% allocated to wild horses and burros. Wild horses are the poster child for this corporate greed and mismanagement of our public lands.”

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Green River Game Officials Seeking Info About Poached Doe

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is seeking information from the public about a poached doe mule deer that was found along the Green River Saturday.

The doe had been shot and left to waste along the east shore of the Green River across from the Pioneer Trails picnic ground on Oct. 2, according to WGF Game Warden Justin Dodd. 

Dodd said it’s a highly trafficked area and WGF is hoping that someone might have seen something around that time. 

General deer season in that region opened on Oct. 1, though it is not legal to shoot a doe nor is it common to find one left to waste, Dodd added.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Stop Poaching Hotline at 1-877-943-3847, texting a tip to 1-877-943-3847, by texting “WGFD” and message to TIP411 (847-411), reporting online, or by contacting Green River game warden Justin Dodd at (307) 875-3225 ext. 8609. 

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Moose On The Loose Strolls Through Cody

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s moose population is on the rise — and young bull moose looking to strike out on their own are moving farther away from their traditional stomping grounds.

One of these wandering ungulates made his way into downtown Cody on Friday, causing quite a stir among residents.

“Our first report was Thursday afternoon,” said Tony Mong, a biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Cody. “We had a report of him up by the landfill road, and I drove up there, and sure enough, there he was. He just crossed the road to the east and then headed off and into the sagebrush there. 

“Then about 5 a.m. on Friday morning, we got a report from the Cody PD – he was around the bowling alley,” Mong continued. “And then we got another report Saturday morning about 3 a.m., he was just across from the sheriff’s office.”

Tara Hodges, public information officer for the Wyoming Game and Fish Office in Cody, said that the last time a moose came this close to town was in the fall of 2018.

“We captured and relocated a moose that was near the (Buffalo Bill) Dam October 2018,” she said. “And in January 2017, we captured and moved a moose that was on 17th Street in Cody.”

That’s the closest that any of these animals have gotten to the populated areas around Cody in recent memory, according to Mong. He said the increasing moose population is forcing young males in particular to leave their normal habitat.

“It’s not unusual for these moose to make some pretty big movements during this time of year, especially young bull moose that are getting bullied by bigger bull moose,” Mong explained. “So they want to go find their own place and get away from that harassment and find their own new area.”

The moose that visited Cody last week caused quite a stir among residents. Facebook chatter followed the young bull as he made his way through town.

“I watched him from my dry lot, trot all the way down to the Boot & Bottle field (just west of the Cody City limits), jump both fences at the water plant, scatter the herd of deer there, & disappeared behind the (Cowboy) church,” reported Bernie Butcher. 

South Fork resident Erin Geving managed to take a video of the youngster as he made his way across a field, which she posted to social media.

“I think we have to remember that we are surrounded by a significantly vast and wild landscape,” Hodges said. “And we do have the Shoshone River running right through town, which can act as a corridor for wildlife.”

Hodges encouraged residents to contact the Wyoming Game and Fish Department if they see large wildlife in areas where the animals haven’t been spotted before.

“Certainly if you see a moose in developed areas around Cody, we do ask that folks give Game and Fish a call,” she said.

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Black-footed Ferrets: Cloning May Be Last Hope

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

In an attempt to supplement a struggling wild population of black-footed ferrets near Meeteetse, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released 10 males and 10 females last week. Their goal is to maintain at least 35 individuals at the recovery site, but 20 may not have been enough.

While other sites have had better results, the endangered ferrets aren’t faring well on the historic Pitchfork and Lazy BV ranches adjacent to the Sunshine Reservoir complex. During population surveys in 2020, only one ferret was sighted by biologists. With about a week left in the current survey, only two have been reported.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t more ferrets out there,” said Angela Bruce, deputy director of external operations for Game and Fish, but “we definitely have concerns with the Meeteetse reintroduction area and will continue to focus efforts there on the disease management.”

The work to save North America’s most endangered mammal has been and continues to be incredibly complex. Starting with just 19 individuals taken from the Meeteetse about four decades ago, more than 10,000 have now been bred in captivity and those that pass intense testing (capable of making kills to feed themselves) are released at several sites across the West.

As few as 200 to 300 ferrets now live in the wild; 3,000 are necessary to consider the species — often referred to as BFFs — fully recovered. They’ve been reintroduced at 29 sites across eight states, plus in Canada, and Mexico, according to Fish and Wildlife .

While the program has had great success, worthy of celebrating, black-footed ferrets only live for a short time, according to Robyn Bortner, captive breeding manager for the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center. “In the wild, some of the original populations, especially in Meeteetse, were estimated to have only mean life expectancy of 0.9 years.”

Ferrets unable to raise a litter in their first year of life are often lost in the effort to repopulate the area, Bortner said. Predation and disease seem to be the culprits.

All release sites and native prairie dog populations in the area are treated for disease, as silvatic plague and canine distemper are both deadly to the ferrets and widespread. In Meeteetse, thousands of acres were dusted for the fleas that carry plague and prairie dogs — the ferrets’ main food source — were inoculated through bait before the endangered predators could be released.

Yet, despite intense efforts by scientists studying the species for more than 40 years, there are inherent issues that have stymied scientists. The most difficult challenge to overcome is the lack of genetic diversity, due to the small number of ferrets originally used in the captive breeding program. It is a tough nut to crack.

Bortner said problems associated with the ferrets’ lack of genetic diversity have been popping up.

“Due to their inbreeding they do have a slightly suppressed immune system,” Bortner said. “They are very susceptible to [gastrointestinal] problems and can die within 48 hours if left untreated.”

Then came Elizabeth Ann.

Elizabeth Ann was cloned from preserved DNA from Willa, a wild black-footed ferret that died almost 40 years ago. The clone was brought to term by a domestic ferret and then transferred immediately to the captive breeding center near Ft. Collins, Colorado. The process, from concept to a living clone, was extremely quick.

“It actually happened much quicker and easier than we had expected,” said Shawn Walker, chief science officer for ViaGen, which does genetic preservation and cloning research.

Elizabeth Ann was the first of what they hope are many clones that carry tens of thousands of unique alleles (one of two or more alternative forms of a gene that arise by mutation and are found at the same place on a chromosome) that can possibly give the captive breeding program a fighting chance to breed healthier, more genetically diverse ferrets.

With permission from federal officials, the California conservation organization Revive and Restore has now taken DNA samples from another specimen in efforts to clone a male. 

However, the donor died from canine distemper virus and its DNA contains particles of the deadly disease. Scientists for the organization now need to strip the virus from the cells before they can clone the possible mate. Fortunately, ferrets in the captive breeding center can live up to eight years, so they may have time to breed Elizabeth Ann.

Further down the road and much more difficult to achieve, Revive and Restore hopes to develop disease-resistant clones.

Representatives from several organizations involved in the process met for a virtual conference last week, led by Dr. Lenox Baker, a retired heart surgeon who owns the Pitchfork Ranch outside Meeteetse. He has continued running the historic cattle operation and supports reintroduction efforts on his land. It’s a seemingly odd mix.

One of the reasons for the extirpation of black-footed ferrets from most of their traditional range was due to massive extermination efforts by ranchers to rid their land of prairie dogs, Baker said. But he insists reintroduction efforts of ferrets have made no difference to his ranching efforts.

“Nor do the prairie dogs,” he said. “To those ranchers out there, listen to this: I would not be at all hesitant to have this kind of project on your ranches.”

Ryan Phelan, of Revive and Restore alluded to the myths still being prevalent.

“I wish more people understood that dynamic and how healthy it can be for a ranch owner with cattle,” Phelan said.

Partnerships with landowners in Wyoming have been key to the species recovery efforts, according to Zack Walker, Game and Fish non-game supervisor.

“We have phenomenal partnerships with the Lazy BV and Pitchfork ranches who are dedicated to black-footed ferrets and their success,” Walker said. “Much of what we’ve been able to accomplish for ferrets is due to their considerable support, of which we’re grateful and appreciative.”

Ashlee Lundvall, a Game and Fish Commissioner from Powell, was on hand for the release of the 20 additional ferrets last week. It continued an effort to restore the ferrets in the Meeteetse area that began in 2016.

Lundvall called it an honor to participate.

“I was so thankful that my daughter, Addison, was able to join me and experience the thrill of seeing these amazing creatures headed back to their natural habitat,” she said in a statement. “This is a side of conservation that I want her, and those of her generation, to see and be part of.”

The department plans to release 10 ferrets in Shirley Basin near Laramie in the coming weeks — the first place in Wyoming to reintroduce black-footed ferrets following successful captive breeding.

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Man Attacked By Moose While Walking Dog Near Jackson

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man was injured Friday morning when he was attacked by a moose near Jackson while walking his dog, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The man was walking his dog on the bike path northeast of the Wilson Elementary School in Wilson around 7:15 a.m. on Friday when he noticed a bull moose approximately 50 yards away. His dog was at his side when the bull decided to charge him and knocked him down.

The man was admitted to the hospital for his injuries. Game and Fish officials received the report Saturday and promptly responded to the scene, but did not see the moose in the area.

While human injuries from moose are not common, Game and Fish officials are warning people that it is now the fall mating season for moose, elk and other ungulates and to give wildlife plenty of room.

Moose and elk are relatively common throughout the Jackson Hole valley, but especially along the Snake River corridor and slopes of the Teton Range, including residential areas associated with the towns of Wilson, Teton Village and Jackson.

The Jackson Game and Fish office commonly receives an increased number of calls this time of year regarding wildlife in residential areas, especially moose and bears.

Wildlife officials offer the following advice on how to avoid a conflict with these animals:

  • Do not feed wildlife.
  • Be especially watchful during times of low light. Moose and other animals can be difficult to see at night.
  • Look for fresh signs of wildlife, such as tracks or scat on trails, pathways, or around houses.
  • Never crowd or surround an animal and always allow the animal an escape route.
  • Always control pets while walking them and make sure there are no wildlife around before letting animals out of the house.
  • View and photograph animals from a distance.
  • Carry and know how to use bear pepper spray as a defense.

Moose attacks have been regularly reported over this summer. Incidents involving, moose, people and dogs have been a fairly common occurrence, happening multiple times in Colorado.

A Boulder, Colorado, woman was attacked by a moose in August after literally walking into it near Winter Park, Colorado. The moose reportedly attacked the woman twice. She said the second time, she played dead and the animal left.

An older New Mexico man was attacked in August by a bull moose while running with his two dogs on a trail in central Colorado.

An elderly woman was severely injured late in mid-August while dog-sitting when she was stomped by a cow moose in western Colorado.

In June, Shoshone National Forest officials warned of an aggressive cow moose seen around Sinks Canyon.

An elderly man was stomped by a moose in Colorado in late May. The victim stated that his small dog was outside unleashed when he heard it start barking and realized there was a moose in the area. He stepped forward to grab the dog, which is when the moose charged him.

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Three Yellowstone Wolves Killed During First Week Of Montana Hunting Season

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three wolves that were members of Yellowstone National Park’s Junction Butte pack were killed during the first week of hunting season in Montana, park officials reported Monday.

The pack is one of the most-viewed wolf packs in the world and roams the lands in and around the park’s northern range. It has now been reduced from 27 to 24 wolves with the loss of two female pups and one female yearling.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks confirmed three wolves were killed outside of the park in the general vicinity of where the pack was traveling in mid-September.

Yellowstone wolves in the northern range spend an estimated 5% of their time outside the park, usually in late fall.

For over a decade, the state of Montana limited the number of wolves taken from state wolf management units which are immediately adjacent to the park’s northern boundary. Ninety-eight percent of wolves in Montana are outside those units.

Recent state changes to hunting and trapping have lifted restrictions within these units, making Yellowstone’s wolf population in the northern range vulnerable to hunting.

Montana has also authorized the use of bait on private property to lure wolves. Over 33% of the boundary Yellowstone shares with Montana is within one mile of private property where baiting is now permissible.

“Yellowstone plays a vital role in Montana’s wildlife conservation efforts and its economy. These wolves are part of our balanced ecosystem here and represent one of the special parts of the park that draw visitors from around the globe,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly“We will continue to work with the state of Montana to make the case for reinstating quotas that would protect the core wolf population in Yellowstone as well as Montana’s direct economic interests derived from the hundreds of millions spent by park visitors each year.”

Visitor spending within communities that are 50 miles from Yellowstone exceeds $500 million per year, tens of millions of which is spent by visitors coming to watch wolves and supporting Montana businesses in gateway communities, the park said in a news release.

The Junction Butte Pack formed in 2012 in the northern section of the park. It is the most observed pack in Yellowstone because its members den within view of the Northeast Entrance Road and the road to Slough Creek Campground, providing thousands of visitor’s daily views.

The pack had eight pups in 2021.  

“Montana’s new laws are putting bullets not just into wolves but into the hearts of everyone who loves Yellowstone’s wolf families,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The puppies and yearling wolf were raised inside a national park where people are not a threat. To mercilessly gun them down when they step beyond Yellowstone’s borders is cruel beyond any measure. We’ll continue to fight to stop this senseless killing.” 

In May and July, a slew of organizations — including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, the Sierra Club, the Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians — filed two petitions with the Secretary of the Interior. The groups claim new laws in the states of Idaho and Montana will “drastically reduce their wolf populations.”

Wyoming has at least 327 gray wolves, according to the most recent count. At least 147 of those wolves reside within the wolf trophy game management area, where the Wyoming Game and Fish Department focuses its management efforts.

The wolf population for Yellowstone National Park is estimated at 123 and the Wind River Reservation has around 21 wolves.

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Should The Wolf Be Relisted? Feds Considering The Question

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

Responding to concerns from environmental groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday that it will study whether gray wolves in Wyoming and elsewhere in the West should be relisted as a threatened or endangered species.

In May and July, a slew of organizations — including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, the Sierra Club, the Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians — filed two petitions with the Secretary of the Interior. The groups claim new laws in the states of Idaho and Montana will “drastically reduce their wolf populations.”

On Wednesday, the Fish and Wildlife Service said the petitions presented “substantial, credible information” that relisting the species may be warranted and that the agency will conduct a status review.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., immediately denounced the decision.

“Today’s actions are just more of the endless political antics from Washington bureaucrats and extreme environmentalists who have no interest in doing what’s right for Wyoming,” Barrasso said in a statement. “Wyoming, not Washington, continues to be in the best position to manage the state’s wolf population.”

In a Thursday statement, Gov. Mark Gordon said he’s confident in Wyoming’s wolf management program, saying it both meets wolf population targets while allowing producers to protect their livestock.

“Ours was a hard-fought and careful process that resulted in a unique plan that works. If it’s not broken we don’t need to fix it,” he said. “Wyoming will stand by our plan, which is supported with unassailable data.”

Gordon called Fish and Wildlife’s action was an attempt to usurrp state authority.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., similarly said that the wolf has recovered and called Fish and Wildlife’s announcement an example of why the Endangered Species Act must be reformed.

“Activists should not be able to take advantage of the ESA’s loopholes,” Cheney said Thursday. “We must update this law to prevent this from happening and ensure that local stakeholders and states, as opposed to the federal government, are calling the shots when it comes to these decisions.”

According to the May petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and Humane Society of the United States, hunters, trappers and private contractors in Idaho can kill up to 90% of the state’s estimated 1,500 wolves, using new — and highly effective — methods of hunting previously unavailable. In Montana, new rules could pave the way for killing approximately 85% of the population, currently reported to be at 1,200 wolves, the groups charge.

“Unless the Service restores federal protections, the region’s wolves will soon lose decades of progress toward recovery,” the petition says.

Bonnie Rice, senior representative with Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, said the goal of Montana’s and Idaho’s “extreme” new laws is to decimate wolf populations in the northern Rockies.

“It makes no sense to allow wolves to be driven back to the brink of extinction and reverse over 40 years of wolf recovery efforts,” she said.

The groups asked the federal government to immediately protect gray wolves in the Northern Rockies with emergency listing authority, but the service did not grant that request.

“I’m hopeful that wolves will eventually get the protection they deserve, but the Fish and Wildlife Service should have stopped the wolf-killing now,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The service says it did find the petitions provided substantial information that potential increases in human-caused mortality may pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western U.S. The Service also said the new regulatory mechanisms in Idaho and Montana may be inadequate to address threats. “Therefore, the Service finds that gray wolves in the western U.S. may warrant listing,” the agency wrote.

Fish and Wildlife’s next steps will “include in-depth status reviews and analyses using the best available science and information to arrive at a 12-month finding on whether listing is warranted.”

When the Trump administration removed all gray wolves in the contiguous United States from protections in 2020, several groups threatened legal action. Under one of President Joe Biden’s first executive orders, federal agencies were asked to review controversial actions taken by the Trump administration — including stripping federal protections from gray wolves.

In August, the Biden administration said it was sticking by the decision to lift protections for gray wolves across most of the U.S. But federal wildlife officials said there was growing concern over aggressive wolf hunting seasons adopted for the predators.

In May, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said that the state’s gray wolf populations have remained stable and are at “healthy levels.” At the end of 2020, there were at least 327 wolves in Wyoming, marking the 19th straight year in which wolf numbers remained above minimum delisting criteria. The Game and Fish said the figures also showed “the way the presence of the animal has become integrated into the broader ecosystem.”

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Gordon Confident Gray Wolves Will Remain Off Endangered Species List

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s gray wolves will probably stay off of the endangered species list, said Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon, during a news conference held to announce the state will seek to remove Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from the list, said he believes wolves have recovered to the point they do not need the protection afforded by the list.

“Wyoming wolves, like grizzly bears, have recovered under the state management and their population has continued to exceed all recovery requirements,” he said.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would review the gray wolf’s status and review whether it should be re-listed under the Endangered Species Act.

But Gordon said the state met delisting criteria for its gray wolf population for the 19th consecutive year in 2020, maintaining a steady population of more than 300 wolves.

“Wyoming’s management strategies have established predictability and stability within the wolf population,” he said. “That lends credence to our balanced approach that conserves wolves and gives flexibility to landowners. We are confident the review will find Wyoming’s wolf management program has been highly successful in meeting our commitment to the long term viability of wolves in Wyoming.”

The state has at least 327 gray wolves, according to the most recent count. At least 147 of those wolves reside within the wolf trophy game management area, where the Wyoming Game and Fish Department focuses its management efforts.

The wolf population for Yellowstone National Park is estimated at 123 and the Wind River Reservation has around 21 wolves.

The wolf population is considered “recovered” when 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs are found outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. 

Reaching a steady wolf population has been partially attributed to hunting in the northwest corner of the state, according to the gray wolf monitoring report published by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Wolf hunting seasons require hunters to have a license and adhere to set mortality limits and other regulations.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney said that the efforts to re-list the wolf as endangered were coming from the “radical environmentalist left” and demonstrated the need to reform the Endangered Species Act.

“In Wyoming and across the West, we know that the species has successfully been recovered and that states have demonstrated their proficiency to manage the species,” she said. “Activists should not be able to take advantage of the ESA’s loopholes. We must update this law to prevent this from happening and ensure that local stakeholders and states, as opposed to the federal government, are calling the shots when it comes to these decisions. I will continue to fight for needed reforms to the ESA to protect the people and interests of Wyoming.” 

The Center for Biological Diversity celebrated the review for gray wolves’ protection, but expressed disappointment that more immediate action wasn’t taken.

“I’m hopeful that wolves will eventually get the protection they deserve, but the Fish and Wildlife Service should have stopped the wolf-killing now,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Anti-wolf policies in Idaho and Montana could wipe out wolves and erase decades of wolf recovery. We’re glad that federal officials have started a review, but wolves are under the gun now so they need protection right away.”

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Blood-Sucking Midges Lead To Disease In Wyoming White-Tail Deer And Antelope 

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

The drought hitting Wyoming through the summer has not only wreaked havoc on the ag industry and fishermen, it’s also led to an outbreak of a wildlife disease caused by tiny, blood-sucking parasites that are attacking ungulates in at least three Wyoming counties. 

Currently, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has detected epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in several white-tailed deer and pronghorn antelope in the Arvada area as well as in areas surrounding Douglas, Cheyenne and Laramie, according to WGFD Public Information Officer Sara DiRienzo. 

EHD is spread through the disease-carrying midge, which, much like a mosquito, feeds on “blood meals” and infects animals it feeds on.

EHD, which is not transmissible from animal-to-animal contact and has no impact on humans, can be fatal to white-tailed deer and pronghorn, DiRienzo said, but will not necessarily kill an impacted animal.

Instead, it can lead to symptoms like fever and lethargy. 

The disease typically cycles every seven to 10 years, she said, and is driven by hot weather and drought and conditions, usually in the fall, that lead to wildlife congregating around small water holes where the midges thrive.

While there have been outbreaks of EHD in the past, WGFD expects to see a greater impact this year than in years past.

“This year seems worse, but we are just at the beginning of the outbreak,” said Hank Edwards, WGFD wildlife health laboratory supervisor. 

Wildlife managers predict that white-tailed deer will be impacted the hardest with isolated outbreaks among pronghorns, DiRienzo added, noting that WGFD is carefully monitoring the spread of the disease on an online map

Humans and pets are not at risk of contracting the disease, DiRienzo said, though a significant outbreak may curtail hunting season as WGFD continues to monitor spread.

“Hunters shouldn’t have concerns about consuming animals,” she said, “and we are not asking hunters or the public to contribute samples or reports. Our goal is to let the public know we are aware of the disease and are monitoring its presence.”

The outbreak is expected to continue until the first hard frost that will wipe out large midge populations while some animals will develop natural immunity. 

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Glacier National Park Staff Kills Food-Conditioned Black Bear

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An adult female black bear was killed this week by Glacier National Park staff after it became conditioned to human foods.

The bear was killed Thursday after multiple incidents of it eating human food and not showing fear of humans.

On Aug. 28, the black bear was reported moving through the Many Glacier Campground and was not readily responsive to attempts to move it out of campsites. 

On Aug. 29, the bear returned and was observed snatching apples out of an open trunk while visitors were nearby packing their vehicle. The bear then proceeded to eat the apples at the campsite, exhibiting little fear of humans.

While park staff attempted to verbally drive the bear out of the campground, the bear tried to stop at another campsite where people were preparing breakfast and after being driven out into the woods, returned half an hour later. 

On Wednesday, the adult female bear was trapped in a culvert trap near the Many Glacier housing area. 

Based on photographs and visitor reports, it is possible this could be the same bear that was approaching people and exhibiting unusual behavior near Grinnell Lake last week, resulting in closure of the Grinnell Lake trail on Aug. 25. DNA samples collected from both sites will be tested and compared to determine if the same animal was involved in both incidents. 

Many Glacier Campground recently restricted campers to hard-sided vehicles due to the presence of the bear. The campground is now open to all camper types again, including tents.

In accordance with Glacier National Park’s Bear Management Plan, and in consultation with park wildlife biologists, the bear was killed.

The bear was estimated to be around four-years old and approximately 120 pounds. A field necropsy revealed it to be in otherwise healthy condition.

Food-conditioned bears are those that have sought and obtained non-natural foods, destroyed property, or displayed aggressive, non-defensive behavior towards humans and are removed from the wild. Given this bear’s behavior and successful acquisition of human foods the decision was made to remove the animal from the park. Once a bear has become food-conditioned, hazing and aversive conditioning are unlikely to be successful in reversing this type of behavior. Food-conditioned bears are not relocated due to human safety concerns. 

Black bears are not good candidates for animal capture facilities such as zoos and animal parks due to the plentiful nature of the species throughout the United States.

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Boulder, Colorado Woman Hospitalized After Walking Into Moose

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A Boulder, Colorado, woman was attacked by a moose on Sunday after literally walking into it near Winter Park, Colorado.

The Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) department reported that the unnamed woman was walking in “complete darkness” at 4:30 a.m. on a forest road when she bumped into the animal.

The agency said that moose generally don’t like to be surprised and have a tendency to respond violently when bumped into in pitch-black surroundings.

The moose reportedly attacked the woman twice. She said the second time, she played dead and the animal left.

The woman received injuries to her back, legs, and wrist but was later released by the medical center in Granby, Colorado.

As a result of the accident, the wildlife agency put out an unusual reminder to the public that walking in complete darkness at 4:30 a.m. on forest roads where wildlife is present is not a good idea.

“Hikers should choose routes with good visibility and be extra cautious when walking in close proximity to willows and thick habitat,” CPW Area Wildlife Manager Jeromy Huntington said.

Noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich said this was one of the “stupidest things” he had ever heard of.

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Bison Attacks Another Woman in South Dakota; Pants Stay On This Time.

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s August and it’s South Dakota. That means someone is going to get thrown by a bison.

Reminiscent of the spectacular bison de-pantsing of 2020, another woman in South Dakota got in the crosshairs of a bison — and lost.

This time, it’s not as dramatic. It could be but no video has surfaced.

Just a fuzzy picture and an eyewitness.

Kind of like a Saquatch sighting.

Angela Ohmer, from Rapid City, South Dakota, took a photo of downed person, a departing bison, and a man looking like he’s there to help.

Ohmer explained on her Facebook page that this occurred during a wedding in South Dakota on Saturday.

“Only in South Dakota can you go to a wedding and witness a bison tossing a woman that got too close!!!! Not even kidding!  This is not a petting zoo, homey!” Ohmer said.

Perhaps the bison was simply celebrating the event and was tossing the woman like the bride tosses her bouquet.

Ohmer went on to clarify that unlike the situation of a year ago where the dimwitted tourist did try to pet a bison, this couple was just walking past the bison “and it turned on them.”

Sheila Schielke-Ross concurred: “She was simply walking to her cabin from the wedding. It randomly turned direction and attacked her with no warning. Luckily, a ranger was there and was able to immediately intervene. She did nothing to provoke the animal, other than walk.”

Kobee Stalder, visitor services program manager for the Custer State Park, said the woman did not suffer any significant injuries.

“Other than some bumps and bruises, she was OK,” he told the Rapid City Journal. “We’re very fortunate in that aspect that no more severe injuries were sustained during that incident.”

Nathan Foote, who appears to be acting as the official scorekeeper of South Dakota, noted that bison are leading women by a 2-0 margin.

Another commenter posted a photo of Custer State Park’s new ambulance featuring a bison on it. 

And actually, that’s not a joke. That is on the side of the service’s ambulance.

In the meantime, commenters on the Yellowstone: Invasion of the Idiots Facebook page, did not seem to be too concerned.

“Thank God! I was afraid the tourist season would end without the annual bison toss the tourist game. The bison love it,” said Marie Morgan.

As for the woman who took the photo, she left a happy person.

“Best. Wedding. Ever. 😆,” Ohmer said.

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Algae That Can Kill Pets, Cause Illness In People Reported In Wyoming Waters

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

There’s something dangerous in the water.

In lakes and reservoirs around the state, a harmful plant is lurking near the shore – one that poses a deadly threat to pets and livestock, and can cause serious illness for people.

It’s called a harmful cyanobacterial bloom (HCB) — a bluish-green algae that grows near the surface of calm water bodies, and right now it’s blooming in all corners of Wyoming. 

From the Buffalo Bill Reservoir near Cody to the West Granite Springs Reservoir near Cheyenne; from the Keyhole Reservoir near Sundance, to the Woodruff Narrows Reservoir near Evanston — seventeen locations around the state have reported HCBs.

“Cyanobacteria are naturally occurring photosynthetic organisms that play an important role as primary producers in the ecosystem,” said Kelsee Hurshman, HCB Coordinator with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. “Cyanobacteria multiply rapidly with sunlight, warm temperatures, and nutrient abundance.”

When the concentrations of cyanotoxins pose a risk to people or animals using water in affected regions, the Wyoming Department of Health issues advisories so people — and pets — can stay safe.

“In humans, when they come into contact with the contaminated water, it can act more as an irritant,” said Courtney Tillman, an epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health. “If they drink contaminated water, they can get pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache from neurological symptoms, such as muscle weakness or dizziness, and in severe cases, liver damage occurs as well.”

But for pets, even limited exposure to the toxic algae can be fatal, according to Dr. Hallie Hasel, the Wyoming State Veterinarian.

“Even if they would just maybe go for a minor swim or walk into the water, that is enough exposure to actually kill an animal,” she said. 

According to Tillman, symptoms to look for in pets and livestock that may have been exposed to the toxins can include excessive salivation, vomiting, and staggered walking — they can even have difficulty breathing, and have convulsions. She noted that exposure to the harmful cyanobacterial bloom can ultimately result in liver failure for animals.

“Animals can actually die pretty quickly after an exposure to cyanotoxins,” she notes. 

And sadly, there is no treatment or cure to counteract exposure to HCBs.

“The treatment is mostly supportive care,” Tillman explains. “There’s no antidote for the toxins.” Hurshman said reports of HCBs have increased dramatically in the last five years.“

They have become more prominent with warmer temperatures,” she said, “in addition to additional nutrients in the reservoirs from runoff. Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that cyanobacteria thrive in, as well as warm temperatures and sunlight.”

Hurshman said the nitrogen and phosphorus that feed cyanobacteria can be from fertilizer as well as other pollutants, such as manure and other substances contained in runoff.

To protect yourself, your family, and your pets, Dr. Hasel urges people to be on the lookout around large bodies of water.

“You essentially need to watch for any kind of algae or growth along the edges of wherever you’re at, whether it’s a lake or a pond or a body of water that doesn’t have a lot of movement to it typically,” she said.

But Dr. Hasel pointed out that not all algae is harmful. 

“You need to stay up-to-date on areas that have been declared harmful for Wyoming,” she said referring residents to the Department of Environmental Quality’s page that details HCB blooms that have been reported.

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Man Attacked By Bull Moose In Colorado While Running With His Dogs

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An older New Mexico man was attacked this week by a bull moose while running with his two dogs on a trail in central Colorado, according to wildlife officials.

The 62-year-old man was running on a trail around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday with his two dogs off-leash when the attack occurred.

He was taken to the emergency room of a Winter Park hospital with minor injuries and released later that day. His two dogs were unharmed.

“The dogs were 40 to 50 feet in front of him and came running back toward him,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife Manager Serena Rocksund. “He stopped and saw the moose at 50 feet. At that point, the dogs ran past him and left the scene.”

Rocksund said the man reported he took two steps forward to get a better look at the moose and “those two steps caused the moose to charge.”

“He’s very lucky that his only injury is a hoof print-shaped laceration on the back of his head,” she said.

She added wildlife officers did not find the moose after walking the trail system around the area he was attacked.

“This is a good reminder for folks to keep their dogs on leash and give moose plenty of space when recreating outdoors,” Rocksund said. “It’s hard to see around these corners with the thick vegetation on these trails, so having a dog on a short leash here is key.”

A 79-year-old woman was attacked by a cow moose and severely injured in Colorado earlier this month. The woman was dog-sitting for one of the tenants living at the house when she saw an adult female moose and its two calves in the yard. When the woman no longer saw the moose in the area later that evening and believed it to be safe, she took the dog out on a leash in the yard. 

In early August, a man walking along a willow bottom heading towards a lake in Clear Creek County, Colorado, was charged by a bull moose he just happened to come across. That man came away uninjured as he dived behind a tree, which the bull moose hit.

In May, a man was knocked over on his back and stomped by a cow moose with two calves. The victim stated that his small dog was outside unleashed when he heard it start barking and realized there was a moose in the area. He stepped forward to grab the dog and that is when the moose charged at him. That man was examined for minor injuries on site.

Fifteen years ago on March 26, 2006, a man from Grand Lake was attacked and critically injured by a bull moose as he walked to church. That man later died from his injuries on April 6. 

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Moose Calf Rescued From Burned Out Basement, Reunited With Mother

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A moose calf was rescued from a burned out basement and reunited with its mother in northern Colorado late last week, officials announced Monday.

The calf was trapped in the foundation of a house in Grand Lake that burned during last year’s East Troublesome Fire. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers received a call on the morning of Aug. 19 from residents in the house’s neighborhood reporting that a moose calf had fallen into the 4-foot deep foundation that was left when the rest of the structure burned.

The neighbors tried to rescue the calf themselves by creating a ramp with boards that might have allowed the calf to climb out, but it was unable to get enough traction to make the steep climb.

CPW Officer Serena Rocksund responded to the calls for help and found the calf’s agitated mother nearby. 

“The calf’s mother would come up to the foundation, walk over to the calf and touch muzzles and walk away about 40 yards,” Rocksund said. “The residents saw the calf and mother were stressed and needed help so they called CPW.”

Rocksund tranquilized both the cow moose and calf and the calf was removed from the basement. Then both animals were placed inside a wildlife transport trailer to be relocated to more suitable habitat.

The two were released in near Craig, Colorado, later that afternoon.

“It’s a good reminder that folks need to fence off foundations and cover their window wells because animals can get trapped and die,” said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Jeromy Huntington. “We’ve had some increased reports of human-moose conflicts near Grand Lake since the East Troublesome Fire burn and we didn’t want to take the risk that this moose might get trapped again if we released it near the burn area.”

Huntington said CPW has been working to grow the moose population near Craig and Meeker, Colorado.

“So this relocation actually was a win-win for these moose and the CPW project,” Huntington said.

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Elderly Woman Stomped, Severely Injured By Moose In Colorado

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An elderly woman was severely injured late last week when she was stomped by a cow moose in western Colorado, according to wildlife officials.

The 79-year-old woman was injured late Friday night in a rural area outside a home south of Glenwood Springs.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the woman was dog-sitting for one of the tenants living at the house when she saw an adult female moose and its two calves in the yard. When the woman no longer saw the moose in the area later that evening and believed it to be safe, she took the dog out on a leash in the yard. 

That is when the attack occurred. Another resident of the house then observed the cow stomping on the victim.

The woman was taken to a local hospital and later that same night transported by helicopter to another hospital on the Front Range due to the extent of her injuries and care required.

“The incident occurred in an area of quality moose habitat and it is known that the moose frequent this area year-round,” Area Wildlife Manager Matt Yamashita said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the woman. This incident was no fault of her own. Conflicts with moose can happen, even when you follow best practices for living in moose habitat.”

The cow and its two calves have reportedly been in the area for an extended period of time without incident. No previous aggressive behavior has been reported. 

Wildlife officers searched the area for the cow and its calves on Saturday, Sunday and into Monday. They were using photos and videos of the moose from residents recorded on the day of the attack to try and identify physical characteristics or traits that could be used to identify the correct animal involved in the incident. 

Discussions with surrounding residents revealed that there are multiple sets of cows with calves in the area, making it challenging to locate the animal involved in the attack.

Wildlife officers have since discontinued an active search for the moose involved in the attack unless new information arises.

“This likely was an incident of a cow protecting her calves,” Yamashita said. “Since Friday night we have been talking with the local residents to educate them about living in moose habitat, the potential dangers associated with interacting with moose and actions they can take to minimize the risk of conflict.”

Earlier this month, a man walking along a willow bottom heading toward a lake in central Colorado was charged by a bull moose he just happened to come across. That man came away uninjured as he dived behind a tree, which the bull moose hit.

In late May in Steamboat Springs, a man was knocked onto his back and stomped by a cow moose with two calves.

The victim stated that his small dog was outside unleashed when he heard it start barking and realized there was a moose in the area. He stepped forward to grab the dog and that is when the moose charged at him. That man was examined for minor injuries on site.

Fifteen years ago on March 26, 2006, a man from Grand Lake was attacked and critically injured by a bull moose as he walked to church. That man died from his injuries a couple weeks later.

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