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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

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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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