The relationship between ravens and wolves has been a topic of comments on a post about a Petition to Stop the Slaughter of Ravens in Idaho. Whenever I’ve seen wolves on a carcass in Yellowstone, ravens are right there with them to cash in and help clean up. The ravens lead in turn wolves to potential meals, letting them do the dirty work they aren’t equipped for.
Here’s a photo of the two together in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley…
The Nez Perce tribe once hunted bison in what is now Yellowstone National Park, and some tribal leaders want to revive the practice, which ended with Western settlement and the near total extermination of the once-vast U.S. bison herds.
Today, remnants of the bison, or buffalo, herds still roam the grasslands and river valleys of Yellowstone, a huge park that covers parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The park lands, in which hunting is illegal, once made up a key segment of the Idaho tribe’s traditional hunting grounds, and some Nez Perce leaders say they should again be able to hunt buffalo inside the park.
“Before there was a park, there was a tribe,” Nez Perce Chairman Silas Whitman said. [but for 100,000 years before there were tribes, bison roamed free of human hunting.] “Some of our members already feel we have the right to hunt in the park, but it hasn’t been exercised because we feel it would be remiss in going forward that way.”
After asserting hunting rights tied to historic treaties in recent years, the Nez Perce and three other tribes already hunt those bison that follow ancient migration routes outside the park and into Montana in search of winter range.
The Nez Perce have not yet formally requested hunting rights inside the park. Such a request would require extensive federal review, major changes to Yellowstone policies, and congressional action to modify a founding law that banned hunting or killing of buffalo and other wildlife there.
The prospect of hunting any of the 4,000 buffalo within Yellowstone boundaries is strongly opposed by animal advocates, who decry an existing culling program that allows hundreds of bison to be hunted and shipped to slaughter annually.
“Yellowstone is against any proposal to hunt in the park,” said David Hallac, chief of the Yellowstone Center for Resources, the park’s science and research branch.
BISON MANAGEMENT CONTROVERSY
Whitman said the tribe would not force the issue by violating any of the park’s regulations but may seek to broach the topic with the U.S. Interior Department, which oversees the national park system, or perhaps lobby Congress “to request those changes be made”.
Management of Yellowstone bison has stirred controversy for decades. Killing of animals that wander into Montana in winter in search of food aims to keep in check a herd population whose size is determined by social tolerance rather than the ecosystem’s carrying capacity, Yellowstone officials said.
That could put into jeopardy Montana’s brucellosis-free status, which allows ranchers to ship livestock across state lines without testing.
Marty Zaluski, Montana state veterinarian and member of a state, federal and tribal team that manages bison in and around Yellowstone, is a proponent of hunting in the park and told Reuters in February it needed to be “looked at more seriously as a possible solution”.
He said it would bring the herd closer to a population target of 3,000 to 3,500 and lessen the public outcry tied to slaughter of wayward buffalo.
But Yellowstone’s Hallac contends that hunting in the park, which draws 3 million visitors a year because of tourist attractions such as the Old Faithful geyser and the bison, would further complicate matters.
“Even a proposal to hunt in the park causes more problems than the dilemma it intends to solve,” he said. “These are America’s wildlife and a crucial part of our national heritage. To propose to hunt in a place established specifically to prevent animals from being hunted is bizarre.”
March 12, 2014
Helena, MT — The Montana Supreme Court affirmed the decision of a lower court today, allowing wild bison room to roam outside the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park. The ruling upholds a February 2012 decision by state agencies to allow bison seasonal access to important winter and early spring habitat outside the north boundary of the park in the Gardiner Basin area until May 1 of each year.
The ruling rebuffs demands by some livestock producers and their allies to require aggressive hazing and slaughtering of bison that enter the Gardiner Basin area from Yellowstone National Park in the winter and early spring in search of the forage they need to survive.
“Today’s state Supreme Court ruling represents a victory for all those who want to see wild bison as a living part of the Montana landscape,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who defended the bison policy in the case on behalf of the Bear Creek Council (BCC), Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC), and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Now that the Court has rejected claims requiring bison to be slaughtered at the park’s boundaries, we can move forward to secure room for wild bison to roam outside of Yellowstone National Park over the long term.”
In two lawsuits filed in May 2011, the Park County Stockgrowers Association, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, and Park County, Montana, sought to block implementation of the new policy and require state officials to adhere to outdated plans for bison hazing and slaughter. Although the plaintiffs in the cases raised concerns about the potential for bison to infect cattle with brucellosis, the only two cattle ranchers operating year-round in the Gardiner Basin did not join the legal challenge.
Bison are the only native wildlife species still unnaturally confined to the political boundaries of Yellowstone National Park for any part of the year. As recently as 2008, more than 1,400 bison—about one-third of the current size of Yellowstone’s bison population—were captured and slaughtered by government agencies while leaving Yellowstone in search of food.
Jenny Harbine, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699 , ext. 1923
Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098
March 18, 2014
National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
Yellowstone National Park
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2014 14-012
Al Nash or Dan Hottle
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK NEWS RELEASE
Yellowstone Seeks Information on Illegal Bison Shootings
Yellowstone National Park is asking for the public’s help in identifying who was responsible for illegally shooting and killing three bison inside the park last week.
Park rangers determined the bison were likely shot between the evening of March 13 and morning of March15 alongside the road in the Blacktail Plateau area of northern Yellowstone.
A reward of up to $5,000 is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the crime. Anyone with information is requested to call the Yellowstone National Park Tip Line at 307-344-2132 .
The Lacey Act and the Code of Federal Regulations strictly prohibit the killing or removal of any animal from inside Yellowstone. This includes animals shot legally outside the park that cross into and die within the park boundary. Taking and removing any animal parts, including shed antlers, is also prohibited.
Violators are investigated and aggressively prosecuted, and are subject to penalties including fines, restitution, and the forfeiture of vehicles, equipment and personal property associated with the violations.
Predators are supposed to exert strong control over ecosystems, but nature doesn’t always play by the rules.
by Emma Marris 07 March 2014
The return of grey wolves to the western United States has sparked debate over their role in structuring ecosystems.
In 2008, Kristin Marshall was driving through Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Marshall, a graduate student at the time, had come to the park to study willow shrubs — specifically, how much they were being eaten by elk.
She pulled to the side of the road and was preparing to hike to one of her study plots when she ran into two sisters from the Midwest, who were touring the park. The women asked what Marshall was doing and she said, “I am a researcher. I am working in that willow patch down there.”
The tourists gushed: “We watched all about the willows on this nature documentary. We hear that all the willows are doing so much better now because the wolves are back in the ecosystem.” That stopped Marshall short. “I didn’t want to say, ‘No, you are wrong, they aren’t actually doing that well.’”
Instead, she said: “The story is a probably a little more complicated than what you saw on the nature documentary.” That was the end of the conversation; the tourists seemed uninterested in the more-complicated story of how beavers and changes in hydrology might be more important than wolves for willow recovery. “I can’t say I blame them,” says Marshall, now an ecologist with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, Washington. “What you see on TV is captivating.”
On television and in scientific journals, the story of how carnivores influence ecosystems has seized imaginations. From wolves in North America to lions in Africa and dingoes in Australia, top predators are thought to exert tight control over the populations and behaviours of other animals, shaping the entire food web down to the vegetation through a ‘trophic cascade’. This story is popular in part because it supports calls to conserve large carnivores as ‘keystone species’ for whole ecosystems. It also offers the promise of a robust rule within ecology, a field in which researchers have yearned for more predictive power.
But several studies in recent years have raised questions about the top-predator rule in the high-profile cases of the wolf and the dingo. That has led some scientists to suggest that the field’s fascination with top predators stems not from their relative importance, but rather from society’s interest in the big, the dangerous and the vulnerable. “Predators can be important,” says Oswald Schmitz, an ecologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, “but they aren’t a panacea.”
Predators on top
In the early years of ecology, predators did not get so much respect. Instead, researchers thought that plants were the dominant forces in ecosystems. The theory was that photosynthesis from these primary producers determined how much energy was available in an area, and what could live there. Bottom-up control was all the rage.
Interest in top-down trophic cascades emerged in 1963, when ecologist Robert Paine of the University of Washington in Seattle started to exclude predators from study plots at his coastal research site. He pried predatory starfish off intertidal rocks and hurled them into deeper waters. Without the starfish to control their numbers, mussels eventually carpeted the plots and kept limpets and algae from taking hold in the region. A new ecosystem emerged (see Nature 493, 286–289; 2013).
After this and other aquatic studies, the conventional wisdom in the field was that top-down trophic cascades happened only in rivers, lakes and the sea. An influential 1992 paper1 by Donald Strong at the University of California, Davis, asked: “Are trophic cascades all wet?” As if in answer, ecologists began looking for similar carnivore stories on land.
SOURCE: 1 & 2: Ref. 5; 3: Ref. 7
They soon found them. In 2000, a review2 tallied 41 terrestrial studies on trophic cascades, most of which showed that predation had significant effects on the number of herbivores in an area, or on plant damage, biomass or reproductive output. These studies were all on small plots involving small predators: birds, lizards, spiders and lots of ants.
Research on terrestrial trophic cascades moved to much larger scales with the work of John Terborgh and William Ripple. In 2001, Terborgh, an ecologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, reported3 on dramatic ecosystem changes that came after a dam was built in Venezuela. Flooding from the dam created islands that were too small to support big predators such as jaguars and harpy eagles. The population densities of their prey — rodents, howler monkeys, iguanas and leaf-cutter ants — boomed to 10–100 times those on the mainland. Seedlings and saplings were devastated.
In the same year, Ripple, an ecologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, published a key paper4 on the most famous, and probably the best-studied, example of a terrestrial carnivore structuring an ecosystem: Yellowstone’s wolves. The ecosystem offered a natural experiment because the US National Park Service had the park’s exterminated wolves (Canis lupus) by 1926 and then reinstated them in the 1990s, after public sentiment and ecological theory had shifted. In 1995, 14 wolves from Alberta, Canada, were introduced into the park. Seventeen from British Columbia followed in 1996. By 2009, there were almost 100 wolves in 14 packs in the Yellowstone area. (That number is now down to 83 in 10 packs.)
During the years when there were no wolves, ecologists grew increasingly worried about the aspen trees (Populus tremuloides) in the park. It seemed that intensive browsing by Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus) was preventing trees from reaching adult height, or ‘recruiting’. In the early twentieth century, aspen covered between 4% and 6% of the winter range of the northern Yellowstone herd of elk; by the end of the century, they accounted for only 1% (ref. 4).
“Predators can be important, but they aren’t a panacea.”
When Ripple and his co-authors checked aspen growth against the roaming behaviour of wolves in three packs, they found that aspen grew tallest in stream-side spots that saw high wolf traffic. That pattern hinted at an indirect behavioural cascade: rather than limiting browsing by reducing elk populations throughout the park, wolves apparently made elk more skittish and less likely to browse in the tightly confined stream valleys, where prey have limited escape routes (see ‘The tangled web’). A 2007 study5 by Ripple and Robert Beschta, also of Oregon State, seemed to strengthen the behavioural-cascade hypothesis. It found that the five tallest young aspen in stream-side stands where there were downed logs — a potential trip hazard for elk — were taller than the five tallest young aspen in stands away from streams or without downed logs.
Similar evidence of indirect wolf effects emerged from a study of willows. In 2004, Ripple and Beschta found6 that the shrubs were returning in narrow river valleys, where the researchers thought that the chances of wolves attacking elk were greatest.
More recently, Ripple has been documenting the regrowth of cottonwood trees. “When we look around western North America, we see a big decrease in tree recruitment after wolves were removed. And when wolves returned to Yellowstone, the trees started growing again. It is just wonderful to walk through that new cottonwood forest.”
Tales from trees
But some ecologists had their doubts. The first major study7 critical of the wolf effect appeared in 2010, led by Matthew Kauffman of the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit in Laramie. When researchers drilled boreholes into more than 200 trees in Yellowstone and analysed growth patterns, they found that the recruitment of aspen had not ended all at once. Some trees had reached adult size as late as 1960, long after the wolves had gone. And some stands had stopped growing new adults as early as 1892, well before the wolves left. The aspen petered out over decades, as elk populations slowly grew, suggesting that the major influence on the trees is the size of the elk population, rather than elk behaviour in response to wolves. And although wolves influence elk numbers, many other factors play a part, says Kauffman: grizzly bears are increasingly killing elk; droughts deplete elk populations; and humans hunt elk that migrate out of the park in winter.
When Kauffman and his colleagues studied7 aspen in areas where risk of attack by wolves was high or low, they obtained results different from Ripple’s. Rather than look at the five tallest aspen in each stand, as Ripple had done, they tallied the average tree height and used locations of elk kills to map the risk of wolf attacks. By these measures, they found no differences between trees in high- and low-risk areas.
Questions have also emerged about the well-publicized relationship between wolves and willows. Marshall and two colleagues investigated the controls on willow shrubs by examining ten years’ worth of data from open plots and plots surrounded by cages to keep the elk out. Her team found8 that the willows were not thriving in all the protected sites. The only plants that grew above 2 metres — beyond the reach of browsing elk — were those in areas where simulated beaver dams had raised the water table.
If beavers have a key role in helping willows to thrive, as Marshall’s study suggests, the shrubs face a tough future because the park’s beaver populations have dropped. Researchers speculate that the removal of wolves in the 1920s allowed elk to eat so much willow that there was none left for the beavers, causing an irreversible decline.
“The predator was gone for at least 70 years,” says Marshall. “Removing it has changed the ecosystem in fundamental ways.” This work suggests that wolves did meaningfully structure the Yellowstone ecosystem a century ago, but that reintroducing them cannot restore the old arrangement.
Arthur Middleton, a Yale ecologist who works on Yellowstone elk, says that such studies have disproved the simple version of the trophic cascade story. The wolves, elk and vegetation exist in an ecosystem with hundreds of other factors, many of which seem to be important, he says.
Another classic example of a trophic cascade has come under attack in Australia. … More: http://www.nature.com/news/rethinking-predators-legend-of-the-wolf-1.14841?WT.ec_id=NEWS-20140311
By Laura Zuckerman SALMON, Idaho Fri Mar 7, 2014
(Reuters) – Angered by the killing of pregnant bison outside Yellowstone National Park, a Native American tribal member tried to deliver a bloody bison heart to Montana’s governor this week, the latest skirmish over the management of the iconic animal.
James St. Goddard, a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana and former member of the tribe’s governing council, said he found the heart where hunters from another tribe discarded it after gutting a bison killed when many females are well along in their pregnancies. At another location, he said, he found several fully formed fetuses cut out of bison cows.
“These are atrocities. Why are they killing these babies? Are we all ignorant of our own Indian culture?” said St. Goddard, who was prevented by authorities from presenting the bison heart to Montana Governor Steve Bullock at his office in Helena.
St. Goddard’s protest, which was not sanctioned by the Blackfeet Nation, highlighted controversy over practices – which have divided some tribal members – in which bison that stray out of Yellowstone have been killed in extended tribal hunting seasons.
The protest against the actions of other tribes came amid broader tensions about the management of the nation’s last band of wild, purebred bison, or buffalo, over concerns by Montana ranchers that the animals could transmit the cattle disease brucellosis to cows that graze near Yellowstone.
The buffalo at Yellowstone, which cuts through parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, are all that remain of the herds that roamed vast grasslands west of the Mississippi until systematic hunting drove them to the edge of extinction in the 19th century. There are more than 4,000 bison at the park, Yellowstone figures show.
Yellowstone’s bison are prized by visitors as a symbol of the American West and by tribes whose religious, cultural and dietary traditions are centered on the animals.
Tribes have asserted hunting rights granted in 19th century treaties for animals that migrate to traditional hunting grounds, and they largely set their own rules on the timing of their seasons. Some tribal hunting seasons extend into March, ahead of a birthing season that can begin in April.
Yet within the tribes, some members have taken issue with the hunts.
The Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho defended its late season hunting as an ancient custom halted over a century ago by the U.S. government amid Western settlement, near-elimination of the herds and forced relocation of tribes to reservations.
Nez Perce Chairman Silas Whitman faulted St. Goddard, whose own tribal government has not opposed the hunts, for criticizing the exercise of off-reservation hunting rights gained by treaty.
“He’s creating controversy where there is no cause. He’s talking as an old enemy, and we’re not going to bend to the will of our enemies,” he said.
Ervin Carlson, the Blackfeet’s buffalo project manager and a member of a federal, state and tribal team that oversees Yellowstone bison, said St. Goddard’s sentiment did not represent the tribe.
“Those tribes have their treaty hunting rights. We wouldn’t step into their concerns,” he said.
FEARS OF CATTLE DISEASE
Licensed hunting of bison that leave Yellowstone’s snow-covered high country to seek food in lower Montana elevations was sanctioned in 1985, then banned after public outcry as hunters lined up outside the park to shoot bison.
Regulated hunts were reinstituted with “fair chase” provisions in 2005 to help keep a burgeoning buffalo population in check. Four tribes have since asserted their own independent hunting rights spelled out in historic treaties.
Montana currently offers limited licenses, decided by lottery, in a season that ends in mid-February, partly to protect heavily pregnant bison, said Pat Flowers, a regional supervisor at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The hunts and a program that sends wandering buffalo to slaughter are in part a response to worries by Montana ranchers that bison will infect nearby cattle with brucellosis, which can cause stillbirths in cows.
About half of Yellowstone’s bison have been exposed to brucellosis, and roughly 300 animals that strayed from the park this winter were sent to slaughterhouses or to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for reproductive experiments. An additional 263 animals have been killed by hunters, most of them tribal hunters, in Montana.
Conflicts over the way bison are managed escalated further on Thursday with the arrest of a man who protested their killing by blocking a road to a park facility where wayward bison are penned, Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said.
The protest by a man who anchored himself to a 55-gallon drum was celebrated by Buffalo Field Campaign, which opposes the hunts and slaughter, and sends members into Yellowstone to monitor the wintering herd.
In a sign that not all tribal members agree with their governments, James Holt, a Nez Perce member who sits on the Buffalo Field Campaign board, said it was disheartening to see tribes support the activities.
“Buffalo were made wild and free and should remain so. It is painful to watch these tribal entities take such an approach to what should be the strongest advocacy and voice of protection,” Holt said in a statement.
Among tribes with hunting rights, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana restricts its season to the end of January to avoid killing pregnant bison cows, which calve in spring, Tom McDonald, the tribes’ wildlife agency manager, said.
“Our regulation is based on the votes of the people, who don’t want big-game animals harvested past the end of January because they’re pregnant. But we don’t point fingers at other tribes for their regulations,” he said.
Carl Scheeler, wildlife program manager for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, said the reality of gutting a two-ton animal means fetuses may be discarded from pregnant bison killed in a tribal hunting season that stretches to mid-March.
“There’s a certain level of public sensitivity to viewing large and persistent gut piles, and hunters are directed to move them out of view to the extent that’s possible,” he said.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Douglas Royalty)
>snip< Varley and his wife run Yellowstone Wolf Tracker wildlife tours, one of a dozen or so guiding operations sanctioned by park officials. These kinds of services are at the heart of a thriving wolf watching tourism that a University of Montana study found pumps millions of dollars into counties surrounding the park each year.
That economic argument is just one used by wolf advocates critical of growing hunter and trapper wolf harvests in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Some are like Varley, who has no gripe with wolf hunting elsewhere but wants a kill-free buffer around Yellowstone. [The old, "not in my back yard" mentality] Others, often from outside the Rocky Mountain West, want to halt all lethal action on an animal that was classified as federally endangered just a few years ago.
On the flip side are those who demand that Montana kill more wolves, which they say harm ranchers’ bottom line and deplete elk and deer herds. “We’d like the state to take much more aggressive measures in certain areas to bring these predator numbers down to a more tolerable ratio with prey populations,” says Rob Arnaud, president of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association. “We’ve got hunting outfitters around Yellowstone going out of business because of wolves.”
What a tragedy – Yellowstone National Park plans to slaughter 800 bison!
According to Yellowstone National Park’s spokesman Al Nash, the park is seeking “opportunities to capture any animals that move outside the park’s boundaries.” This means hundreds of America’s last wild bison are being brutally hazed into traps and sent to slaughter.
This atrocity has already started. It began in the early morning hours of February 7, when Yellowstone officials captured 20 bison and shipped the terrified animals to a slaughterhouse in Ronan, Montana. Other bison are currently being held in traps inside the park; forced to await their tragic fate.
This bison slaughter is happening because of an Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) developed by the US Forest Service, USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, Montana Department of Livestock, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks, and the National Park Service/Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone’s bison are being murdered because of Montana’s livestock industry.
The IBMP plan is archaic, politically motivated, and represents only the interests of the Montana livestock industry, which has zero tolerance for wild animals like wolves and bison, who occasionally leave the park. They use false threats of bison allegedly posing a risk of brucellosis transfer to cattle as justification for the murders of hundreds of bison, although this has never been documented
Please speak up for America’s last wild bison population. Tell Montana’s Governor, Steve Bullock, and the agencies involved in the bison massacre that you will not visit Yellowstone National Park, so long as the park’s bison are being killed at the request of the livestock industry. Demand a new Bison Management Plan.
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