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Yellowstone Records Second-Busiest August In History

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The coronavirus wreaked havoc on many industries across Wyoming and America, but tourism in Yellowstone National Park — at least recently — doesn’t seem to have been affected.

The Park Service announced on Thursday that this past August was the second-busiest on record for the area — with visitor numbers coming in at 881,543, second only to 2017, the year of the total solar eclipse.

To be fair, month-by-month records have only been kept since 1979. So there could have been a bigger August. Cavemen, theoretically, could have had a huge August retreat back in 39,000 BC. We just don’t know.

When a spokesperson for the National Park Service was asked why she thought the numbers were up, the spokesperson chose not to speak saying that she didn’t want to speculate.

We can speculate. People are tired of being in their homes and Yellowstone is a great place to be.

Unfortunately, with an increase in tourists comes an increase in visitors who may not behave in the most prudent way — like the two guys charged with harassing bison the other day.

Then there was the moron who miraculously survived when she was out hugging bison like she was at a petting zoo in a McDonald’s parking lot.

Darwin helps keep these numbers down but clearly not enough.

Although it was a great August, overall numbers are down for the year.

Back in June, the outlook was dismal as there was a sizable drop in visitors. But the park has rebounded since then.

So far in 2020, the park has hosted 2,546,373 recreation visits, down 18% from the same period last year. But, the park got a late start because of the pandemic.

The park was closed due to health and safety reasons related to COVID-19 beginning March 24, 2020. Two Wyoming entrances opened on May 18 and three Montana entrances opened on June 1, 2020. All five entrances have been open since June 1.

If you are interested in all of these statistics, here’s a good page for you. It includes traffic counts, camping reports, how counting is administered, etc. etc. Lots of good stuff.

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Brothers Cited For Harassing Bison In Yellowstone

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two brothers have pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from allegations they harassed wildlife and drove off-road while in Yellowstone National Park last week.

Dallin McAllister, 25, of Utah and Tyler McAllister, 36, of Arizona were charged for disturbing/approaching wildlife and for driving vehicles off-road in the park, according to information from the park provided to Cowboy State Daily.

The brothers were seen driving motorcycles off of the road near Fountain Flats Drive around 5:30 p.m. Friday. In videos posted to Facebook, the brothers can be seen driving their motorcycles near a herd of bison.

The brothers began to rev their engines and drive near the herd, making them run and scatter.

One of the men looks as if he was attempting to touch one of the fleeing animals and a woman behind the camera can be heard yelling at the brothers to leave the wildlife alone.

“Get out of the field! Get out of there!” she cried in the video.

The two pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday. There will be a court proceeding sometime this fall, but hasn’t been scheduled yet.

This news comes just one month after a woman was attacked by a bison in Custer State Park in South Dakota, where she reportedly got off of her motorcycle and approached a calf.

An adult bison charged the woman, attacked her and ripped her pants off.

An elderly woman was attacked by a bison in Yellowstone in July, as well.

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Enzi: Remove Yellowstone Grizzlies From Endangered Species List

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park areas have recovered and should be removed from the endangered species list, U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi said this week.

Enzi addressed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in support of his bill S.614, the Grizzly Bear State Management Act, which he introduced in February 2019.

The bill would direct the Department of the Interior to re-issue its 2017 decision to remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the endangered species list and prohibit further judicial review of this decision. It would also turn management of the grizzlies over to the states.

“Wildlife experts and federal officials agree that the grizzly bears in Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have been fully recovered for years,” Enzi said in his testimony at the hearing. “Senseless litigation still continues to hinder the effective state management and protection of the species.”

The grizzly bear was first listed on the federal threatened species list in 1975.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed grizzlies from the endangered species list, citing a significant increase in bear populations and a doubling of their range land.

In September 2018, a federal judge in Montana ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to return the grizzly bear to the endangered species list. The state of Wyoming appealed the decision, and in July, a federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld the continued protections for the grizzly bear.

Opponents of Enzi’s bill believe the animals remain threatened despite the Fish and Wildlife Service’s findings.

“This bogus hearing shrugs off the huge threats still facing these beleaguered bears,” Stephanie Kurose, a senior endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement Wednesday. “Yellowstone’s grizzly bears are some of America’s most iconic animals and still have a long way to go before recovery. If they lose protections, it will make it much more difficult to recover other grizzly populations in Idaho and other places south of Yellowstone.

“As the world faces both a wildlife extinction crisis and a global pandemic caused by our exploitation of nature, we need to strengthen protections for our most vulnerable animals and plants, not weaken them,” she continued.

Enzi argued that while proper management of grizzly bears is critical to protecting the species, it is also critical to protect people from potential attacks, along with the species that grizzly bears prey on.

“As the grizzly bear population has increased in Wyoming, so has the danger these animals pose to livestock, property and to humans,” Enzi said. “That’s why I believe the authority to manage the species needs to be turned over to the states. I have often found that states are better suited to address these kinds of issues because they are more familiar with the unique needs of their own communities and ecosystems.”

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso is one of the co-sponsors on the management act. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney introduced an identical companion bill in the House of Representatives last year.

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Yellowstone’s Biggest Road Fuel Spill in Nearly 20 Years Still Not Cleaned Up

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The road between Mud Volcano and Fishing Bridge Junction in Yellowstone National Park was still closed Wednesday after a tanker overturned last week and spilled more than 3,000 gallons of unleaded fuel in the area.

The National Park Service said it hoped the road would be reopened within a week once the cleanup is finished and the road is repaired.

“A large hole in the road was excavated to locate the extent of the spilled gasoline, remove the contaminated soil, and ensure cleanup. The hole is 100 feet wide by 100 feet long by 10 feet deep,” the agency said.

Excavated materials contaminated with gasoline will be removed from the park and disposed of at an appropriate facility.

The park is coordinating with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality on cleanup efforts.

Due to the prolonged road closure between Mud Volcano and Fishing Bridge Junction, visitors are urged to consider alternate routes.

Currently, Mud Volcano is only accessible from the north and Fishing Bridge Junction is only accessible from the south and from the East Entrance.

For more information on this road closure and all road conditions in Yellowstone, visit this page.

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Lone Star Fire in Yellowstone Will Slow Down Monday, But Could Flare-Up Again Later This Week

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Lone Star Fire in Yellowstone National Park was expected to decrease in intensity Monday, but park staff worried that dry and warmer weather later this week might cause the fire to flare up again.

As predicted, a cold front moved into the area overnight Monday and was expected to bring rain showers to the Yellowstone area that could last much of the day. Snow flurries were also possible.

But warm, dry weather was predicted for later in the week and park officials were concerned that areas of the fire left smoldering by Monday’s cooler, wetter weather could respond by picking up in activity.

The Grand Loop Road and day use areas between Old Faithful and the West Thumb Junction were open Monday, but officials said they could close at any time if the fire activity increased.

Trailheads on the Grand Loop Road between Old Faithful and West Thumb Junction remained closed to the public. This included Howard Eaton, Lone Star, Divide and DeLacy Creek trails. 

Many of the campsites around Shoshone Lake and Lone Star Geyser are closed.

The fire picked up over the weekend to involve nearly 960 acres. Nearly 50 personnel were working on the fire as of Monday.

The National Park Service is predicting containment of the fire by Oct. 30.

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Giantess Geyser, One of Yellowstone’s Largest, Roars Back to Life After 6 1/2 Year Silence

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On Tuesday, August 25, 2020, Giantess Geyser roared back to life after a period of more than 6-1/2 years without…

Posted by Yellowstone National Park on Saturday, August 29, 2020

We love everything Yellowstone, so when we heard that the Giantess Geyser was erupting again, we immediately went over to the live webcam to watch it.

The fact that it came back to life on Tuesday and is still going is a big deal. It’s been 6 1/2 years since the geyser, one of the largest in Yellowstone, last erupted.

And when it erupts, everyone knows.  The eruption, according to yellowstonegate.com, can be heard a mile away and the eruption can last more than a day.

We hate to criticize our friends at Yellowstone but the live webcam has no sound so it is disappointing not to hear it. Perhaps they can throw a microphone in the geyser (waterproof would be advisable) or pipe-in sound like Major League Baseball is doing due to the pandemic.

Other interesting notes, courtesy of YellowstoneGate:

— Water eruptions send up jets of water lasting from 24 to 48 hours with possible pauses between series of bursts (a 1938 report states they recurred every 20 to 30 minutes).

— Steam eruptions send up jets of water for the first 30 to 45 minutes of the eruption, then shifting to a strong and powerful steam phase that can be heard for up to a mile away. These eruptions last for about 12 hours.

— Mixed eruptions follow the same pattern as steam eruptions until about three to six hours into the eruptions, when they shift back to water, sending up more jets. These mixed-phase eruptions will continue for 24-48 hours with possible pauses between series of bursts, and may shift back and forth between steam and water.

— Aborted eruptions also start with jets of water, but are much weaker and end after one to six hours. These haven’t been seen since the 1983 Borah Peak earthquake in Alaska that sent energy waves that affected and changed some of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal systems.

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Overturned Gas Tanker Spills 3,000 Gallons of Fuel in Yellowstone

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

You just gotta wonder if the driver of the gas tanker got bored and decided his rig could act like the “General Lee” from “The Dukes of Hazard.”

Looking at the photo, it doesn’t appear the road had a hairpin turn or anything.

And, as of now, there’s no evidence the driver was eluding a Yellowstone version of “Boss Hog.”

But somehow the back part of the rig got overturned and 3,000 gallons of fuel (unleaded) got spilled into the area.

As a result, the road between Mud Volcano and Fishing Bridge Junction in remained closed Friday while park staff assessed the impact of a gasoline spill.

Park officials say there is no evidence that gasoline entered the Yellowstone River. The incident remains under investigation.

The semi-truck was transporting the gas to facilities in the park.

Mud Volcano is open and can be accessed from the north.

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Size of Lone Star Fire In Yellowstone Increases

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Lone Star Fire in Yellowstone National Park grew by 58 acres on Tuesday, bringing the size of the fire that began Saturday to 821 acres.

According to an update from the National Park Service, the fire remained fairly inactive throughout Tuesday morning, but picked up in the afternoon due to increased temperatures and gusty winds.

There were also a number of small spot fires in front of the fire’s perimeter, some as far as one-half mile away. A large spot fire to the south of the main blaze was found Tuesday night through an infrared flight.

The fire grew on its southwest and northeast edges, pushing away from the Old Faithful area toward Grand Loop Road. Thirty-eight personnel are currently assigned to the fire.

Fire personnel will continue to assess the Old Faithful area for risks to its structures. The fire has forced the closure of the area’s main road from Old Faithful to West Thumb Junction.

The fire was ignited ignited Saturday evening by a lightning strike.

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Grizzly Bear Captures To Continue At Yellowstone Until October

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grizzly bear capture operations in Yellowstone National Park have been extended from Aug. 28 to Oct. 23, the National Park Service announced Monday.

In order to attract bears for research, biologists use natural food sources such as fresh road-killed deer and elk. Potential capture sites are baited with these natural foods and if indications are that grizzly bears are in the area, culvert traps or foot snares will be used to capture the bears.

Once captured, bears are handled in accordance with strict safety and animal care protocols.

Capture operations can include a variety of activities, but all areas where work is being conducted will have primary access points marked with warning signs.
 
Monitoring of grizzly bear distribution and other activities are vital to ongoing recovery of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem.
 
Whenever bear capture activities are being conducted for scientific purposes, the area around the site will be posted with bright warning signs to inform the public of the activities occurring. These signs are posted along the major access points to the capture site.

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Coronavirus Found In Wyoming Wastewater, Including At Old Faithful

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

The coronavirus has been detected in wastewater from 11 sites across Wyoming, including Yellowstone National Park.

The Wyoming Public Health Laboratory has found that wastewater in areas including in Sheridan, Casper, Laramie and two sites in Yellowstone National Park (including Old Faithful) showed some concentration of the virus.

Many of the locations showed a prevalence under 1%, such as Old Faithful (0.2%), Laramie (0.1%) and Rock Springs (0.8%). However, Jackson showed a prevalence of 2.3%, the highest on the chart.

For each of the sites, the lab has broken the data down into three charts: modeled prevalence, threshold cycle and sample concentration.

  • Modeled prevalence shows the estimate of the trend in the percent of people that are infectious in each community. However, the lab noted there were “a lot” of assumptions factoring into the estimate and the numbers “need to be taken with a grain of salt.”
  • Threshold cycle shows the raw data from the lab, showing if there might have been a higher initial concentration of viral RNA in the wastewater sample.
  • Sample concentration translates the raw cycle threshold numbers.

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