Helicopter gunners to kill Grand Teton park mountain goats

Because shotguns will be blasting from helicopters to kill mountain goats in Grand Teton National Park during the coming week, a temporary area closure for the public is being implemented in the central part of the park.

The closure is slated for Sunday through Jan. 12 and is bounded on the south by the South, Middle, Grand Teton, Mount Owen and Teewinot Mountain peaks; on the west by the park boundary; on the east by the western shores of Jackson, Leigh, String and Jenny lakes; and on the north by Rolling Thunder Mountain and Eagle Rest peaks.

“No public access will be allowed in the area during this time,” the park said in a news release. “Signs will be posted at main access locations.”

The park was given the green light to remove the non-native mountain goats from the Teton Range in November. The purpose is to protect the isolated native bighorn sheep in the range.

The park estimates that the bighorn sheep herd is at about 100 individuals.

The mountain goat numbers have grown to about the same size in the last few years and compete with bighorn sheep for food resources and can be a threat by transmitting disease.

“In order to aid in the conservation of a native and vulnerable population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Teton Range, the National Park Service is implementing a recently finalized management plan to remove nonnative mountain goats from the park via lethal and nonlethal means,” the news release said.

The park said “helicopter-based lethal removal efforts” will begin on Monday depending on the weather conditions and finding the animals. Qualified ground-based volunteers will not be used this winter, in order to expedite the operation, according to park spokesperson Denise Germann.

“Timing of the activities is planned when park visitation is low and will be concentrated in the area between Cascade and Snowshoe canyons where the majority of the mountain goats are located,” the park said.

The mountain goats migrated into the Teton Range from the nearby Snake River Range after they were transplanted there to provide hunting opportunities.

“The mountain goat population is currently at a size where complete removal is achievable in a short time. However, the growth rate of this population suggest that complete removal in the near future may become unattainable after a period of about three years,” the park said.

Denali wolf sightings hit record low

Denali wolf (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)

https://www.alaskapublic.org/2019/10/25/denali-wolf-sightings-hit-record-low/

Wolf sightings hit a record low along the road into Denali National Park this summer, and that’s driving wildlife advocates to push for a halt of wolf hunting and trapping on state lands along Denali’s northeastern boundary, where park road area wolves often roam, and are sometimes killed.

A report recently issued by the National Park Service, shows only 1 percent of agency wildlife survey trips along the road into Denali National Park this summer recorded wolf sightings.

Park biologist Bridget Borg says that’s the worst number since trained park observers began officially tracking wildlife sightings along the road into Denali in the mid-1990s. Viewing percentages previously ranged from as low as 3 percent and as high as 45 percent. Borg says the currently poor wolf sighting percentage is likely primarily representative of natural factors.

“Just there being a lot of variability in where wolves den, and the size of packs over the years,” she said. “Not to say there aren’t the potential for other things to influence that outside of the park.”

Biologist and wildlife advocate Rick Steiner has been trying unsuccessfully for years to get the state to close wolf hunting and trapping on state lands along Denali’s northeastern boundary. Steiner points to the damaging impact loss of an alpha wolf can have on a pack, and makes an economic argument for why the state should care, correlating recent poor wolf viewing opportunity with dips in Denali visitor numbers and spending.

“This is kind of the goose that laid the golden egg for Alaska — if we protect it and help restore it,” he said.

Half a million people visit Denali annually, but there’s state resistance to curtailing boundary area wolf harvest by a few hunters and trappers. Closure requests from Steiner and other Alaskans have been regularly turned down. Commissioner of Fish and Game Doug Vincent Lang recently rejected the second of 2 such petitions submitted since July. Commissioner’s spokesperson Rick Green explains why.

“Data from the Parks Service isn’t a very specified area, and when we manage we manage more of a habitat area — much larger scale — and haven’t seen the evidence to constitute an emergency on the wolf population,” he said.

Green says that means it’s an allocation issue and up to the game board, which has consistently failed to grant requests to re-establish a no wolf kill area, scrapped by the board in 2010. In a July interview, game board chair Ted Spraker pointed to wolves’ resilience, and the potential for wolf viewing to rebound.

“It could all change next year if one of these eastern packs dens close to the road,” he said.

But halting wolf hunting and trapping in the nearby northeast boundary area could also help, according to the Park Service’s Borg. She points to better wolf viewing during a decade long span when boundary area wolf harvest was closed.

“When the area adjacent to the park was closed to hunting and trapping, it was correlated with higher sightings, so we think that bears replication to see if there’s a similar effect,” she said.

The park service and wildlife advocates have submitted separate northeast park boundary no wolf kill buffer proposals to the game board for consideration at a March 2020 meeting, but any change would take place after the wolf trapping season.  Steiner is pushing for an emergency game board meeting prior to the November first start of trapping season.

Park Service looks to solve mystery deaths of Isle Royale wolves

https://www.duluthnewbune.com/news/science-and-nature/> SCIENCE AND
NATURE

Mark Romanski, division chief for natural resources at Isle Royale, said at
this point the Park Service doesn’t have many answers.

Written By: Evan James Carter / Detroit News | Oct 6th 2019 – 1pm.

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<https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/incoming/4675473-h3wd27-092419.N.DNT.isle
roiyalewolvesC1.jpg/alternates/BASE_LANDSCAPE/092419.N.DNT.isleroiyalewolves
C1.jpg>

A wolf from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is released on Isle Royale in
September 2019. The island now has 17 wolves, up from two a year ago. Photo
courtesy National Park Service.

ISLE ROYALE – One year into its effort to reestablish the wolf population on
Isle Royale, the National Park Service and its partners have a problem: Some
of the new wolves died and nobody knows why.

Since the Park Service began its relocation efforts in September 2018, 19
wolves have been transplanted from Minnesota, Ontario, Canada and Michigan’s
Upper Peninsula. Three of the wolves have died, the most recent on Sept. 15.
Another wolf left the island for mainland Ontario on an ice bridge in
January.

The number of wolves on the archipelago in Lake Superior is now 17: nine
males and eight females. Before the repopulation efforts began in fall 2018,
there were only two island-born wolves left roaming the island.

As the Park Service follows the progress of the newly relocated wolves, it
is also trying to ensure more wolves don’t die so soon after being
transported to the island.

Mark Romanski, division chief for natural resources at Isle Royale, said at
this point the Park Service doesn’t have many answers.

When dealing with wild animals, Romanski said it’s not unexpected that some
will die after being transported because the process of capturing and
relocating the animals can be stressful for them.

“And although we do everything we can to quickly handle the animal and get
them out to the island, of course, each animal is different,” Romanski said,
“and so they handle stress differently or maybe their capture event was
different or different combinations of circumstances.”

The Park Service has now changed its procedures so that the time between the
capture of a wolf and its release on the island is less than 24 hours,
instead of 36-48 hours when the effort began, Romanski said.

Dean Beyer, Wildlife Research Biologist with the Michigan Department of
Natural Resources, helps capture wolves that would make good candidates for
the move.

Beyer said that wildlife capture and relocation is something that scientists
can’t totally control and that death is sometimes part of the process. He
said it is important to minimize risk for animals when they’re captured and
handled by members of the DNR.

“We do everything we can do on the front end,” Beyer said. “So we develop
capture plans and all the people involved in the work have gone through
extensive training in terms of how to capture and handle animals and how to
chemically immobilize them.”

He also said that all the DNR’s plans are reviewed by wildlife
veterinarians.

One possible factor in the deaths may be a phenomenon called capture
myopathy, a complex physiological process that involves high levels of
stress resulting in damage to muscle tissues. The breakdown in the muscles
can release toxins in the bloodstream which may result in shock, or damage
to organs such as the kidneys.

Michelle Verant, a veterinarian for the National Park Service stationed out
of Fort Collins, was tasked with monitoring the wolves while they were
transported to Isle Royale.

She said that there wasn’t evidence of capture myopathy in the first wolf
that was tested by the Park Service, but said that doesn’t necessarily rule
it out.

“And then this final wolf, thankfully we were able to collect that carcass
pretty quickly and it is currently at the National Wildlife Health Center
getting a full necropsy,” Verant said. “And we may get some evidence there
to suggest whether capture myopathy was involved.”

Here’s what the National Park Service knows about the death of three wolves
transported to Isle Royale:

The first wolf, a male from northeast Minnesota, died in October 2018, about
one month after being transported to the island. The Park Service wasn’t
able to retrieve the carcass until a week after the wolf died because it
didn’t have personnel on the island.

The carcass of the wolf was sent to the National Wildlife Health Center in
Madison, Wis., where they performed a necropsy. The lab determined the wolf
died of pneumonia, but the Park Service doesn’t know how the wolf contracted
the illness.

The second wolf, a male from mainland Ontario, likely died in early April
2019, after being transported to Isle Royale in late February. The Park
Service wasn’t able to retrieve the carcass from the swamp it was in until
May, at which point the carcass was too far decomposed to send in for
necropsy.

Romanski said there wasn’t external evidence of the wolf getting into some
kind of fight, though the Park Service doesn’t ultimately know what happened
to him.

The third wolf, a female from the Upper Peninsula, likely died on Sept. 15
when a mortality signal was sent from its collar. It had been moved to the
island on Sept. 13 and was recovered by Park Service staff on Sept. 17.

The carcass was submitted to the National Wildlife Health Center for
necropsy Sept. 24.

https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/science-and-nature/4708502-Park-Servi
ce-looks-to-solve-mystery-deaths-of-Isle-Royale-wolves?fbclid=IwAR2RDbGEB3xx
5W2xLTTGPenupabWVYgkRCt2kmyojk2QrTn3puMv33tvl-o

National Park Hunting and Fishing Restrictions Under Fire

Rules to Stem Invasive Species, Lead Poisoning, and Gun Accidents at Risk

By
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility –
August 13, 2019, 09:56:59 AM

National Park Hunting and Fishing Restrictions Under Fire

Washington, DC August 13, 2019 – Under orders from the Trump Administration, the National Park Service is reviewing all hunting and fishing restrictions that are stricter than state game laws, according to documents obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Department of Interior, the parent organization for NPS, has ordered that all federal hunting and fishing restrictions on Interior lands not anchored in statute be rescinded.

While hunting is banned in most national parks, some 76 of the total 419 NPS units allow some form of recreational, subsistence, or tribal hunting. However, the park units that do allow hunting, the largest of which are in Alaska, cover more than 60% of the national park system. At the same time, more than 85% of park units with fish (213 in all) are open to fishing.

In response to a September 2018 order from then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, NPS and the other Interior agencies compiled their hunting and fishing rules that differ from state game laws.   The NPS compilation lists 19 parks with hunting rules more restrictive than state hunting provisions and 32 park units with more restrictive fishing rules.

“National parks should not be reduced to game farms,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, noting that state game rules are often designed to maximize state license revenue rather than protect wildlife populations.  “The emerging pattern is Trump keeping federal lands while divesting federal management of those lands.”

The restrictions recounted by NPS serve a variety of conservation interests, such as –

Averting gunshot accidents near visitor centers and other high visitation developed areas;
Preventing introduction or spread of invasive species, by restricting use of live bait; and
Protecting wildlife from unsporting or excessive practices, such as hunting with dog packs on islands, baiting of bears and other wildlife, and use of certain traps.
The NPS is still analyzing these rules and has yet to rescind any. Meanwhile, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is now touting as one of the key accomplishments of his tenure that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will open to hunting and fishing or lift restrictions on 89 of its units – 75 national wildlife refuges and 15 national fishing hatcheries – for the 2019-2020 season.

“All this talk about empowering the field and having decisions made on the ground is proving to be pure baloney,” Whitehouse added, noting that PEER is tracking impacts from these mass rule relaxations. “Unfortunately, the Trump administration has reduced wildlife management to an ideological reflex, abdicating any stewardship of federal wildlife.”

Read NPS memo summarizing hunting and fishing rules

See parks with hunting restrictions

View parks with fishing restrictions

Look at the Zinke order

Scan repeal of hunting and fishing rules in 89 refuges and hatcheries

Examine repeal of Alaska park and refuge protections

Banff bull bison relocated to Rocky Mountain House after wandering out of park

Parks Canada says a bison has been relocated to Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site after it wandered out of Banff National Park. Wild plains bison cross the Panther River in Banff National Park in this recent handout photo. DAN RAFLA / THE CANADIAN PRESS

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BANFF, Alta. — Parks Canada says a third bull bison has wandered out of Banff National Park.

A herd of wild plains bison has been free to roam a 1,200 square-kilometre area in the backcountry for the past year as part of a pilot project to determine whether they can be restored in the country’s first national park.

Blair Fyten, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with Parks Canada, said they got a report on Aug. 1 that one of the animals had left the park.

“On Aug. 2 and 3, Parks Canada resource conservation staff took immediate action to investigate the report using aerial searches, ground patrols and remote cameras,” he said during a conference call Friday afternoon.

Fyten said they received another report from a member of the public on Aug. 4 and kept searching.

“Parks Canada located the bison approximately 15 kilometres northwest of Sundre on Aug. 4,” he said. “This was approximately 44 kilometres east of the previous sighting.”

He said they don’t know how the five-year-old bison ended up there, but decided to immobilize and relocate the animal because of its proximity to agricultural areas and its continued eastward movement.

“We are pleased to report that the bison is safe and healthy, however, it will no longer be part of the Banff Bison Reintroduction Project and will not be returned to Banff National Park,” said Fyten, reading from a statement.

He said the bison will join a small herd of plains bison managed by Parks Canada at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, which has a 24-hectare fenced-in pasture.

It’s not the first time a bison has wandered out of Banff National Park since the herd was allowed to roam free.

Last August, two bison bulls were removed from the herd because they posed a safety risk to the public and to livestock. One of the bulls was killed by park wildlife staff, while the second was captured and relocated to Waterton Lakes National Park’s bison paddock.

The rest of the herd, which is 35 animals, remains within Banff National Park.

“The main group — it would be 33 animals — are currently in the northwest section of the park within the reintroduction zone,” said Saundi Stevens, acting lead on the bison project. “The remaining two bulls, at last known location, they were apart from that main group.

“Adult males do have a tendency to wander further.”

3 black bears hit and killed in Banff in span of a week

Parks Canada says ‘unfortunate circumstances’ at play but deaths a reminder to be aware of wildlife

A black bear eats weeds at the side of a highway in this file photo. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Three black bears have been hit and killed by vehicles in Banff National Park in the span of a week, in what a wildlife expert describes as a series of “unfortunate circumstances.”

Dan Rafla, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with Parks Canada, says the first death happened on July 29, when a sub-adult black bear was struck and killed on the CP Rail tracks near the Banff townsite.

Then on Aug. 1, a black bear cub was hit by a transit bus on Mountain Avenue in the town.

“That was later in the night, around 11 o’clock in the evening, so it was dark,” Rafla said.

And in the early morning of Aug. 5, a vehicle hit and killed an adult black bear on the Trans-Canada Highway, just west of the Town of Banff.

Rafla said the bear had likely climbed over the wildlife fence meant to keep animals off the highway.

“Black bears are quite adept at climbing, so we assume it climbed over and unfortunately got hit when it was crossing the Trans-Canada,” he said.

‘A lot of animals on the landscape’

Bear-human conflicts tend to be more common around this time of year, Rafla added.

“We have a lot of animals on the landscape and there’s a lot of movement right now. We’re in the berry season and bears are voraciously looking for food to feed on and to put on enough weight for the winter, and they’re maybe not as attentive,” he said.

“It was maybe a bit of unfortunate circumstances to have a flurry of collisions and mortalities all within a week.”

That said, Rafla added the deaths should serve as a reminder to obey speed limits through the national park.

“There’s a reason why it’s 90 km/h and you can have wildlife on the road, despite having a fence there,” he said.

“Slowing down allows for better detection of wildlife and also better reaction time.”

Pair of surviving Banff bathroom bears adapting to new wilderness home

Three black bear cubs found in a Vermilion Lakes washroom in April 2017 have been returned to Banff National Park. Photo by Parks Canada

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From the bathroom to the backcountry, two orphaned black bear cubs rescued from a public restroom two years ago seem to have successfully re-established themselves in Banff National Park, officials say.

The two sisters were among a trio of three-month-old bear cubs mysteriously abandoned in a public restroom at the Vermilion Lakes rest stop in April 2017, and were sent to the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Ontario in hopes they could successfully be reintroduced into the wild.

Last July, the yearling cubs were returned to the Banff wilds, though within weeks one was killed and eaten by a suspected grizzly bear.

The remaining two, however, managed to avoid a similar fate and hunkered down in dens to hibernate over the winter months.

Blair Fyten, human wildlife coexistence officer with Parks Canada, said there had been some initial concern in the spring that the now two-year-old adolescents had met with an untimely end.

“When they came out of their dens in the spring, one of the collars went into mortality mode,” he said, noting the tracking collars begin emitting the specialized signal when they are stationary for more than six hours.

“A couple of weeks later, mortality mode went on on the second one.”

Orphaned bear cubs pictured at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Ontario. ASPEN VALLEY WILDLIFE SANCTUARY FACEBOOK

While it took some time to get wildlife officers into the remote area, when they arrived they discovered the bears had managed to shrug off the collars and venture off, free from overt human monitoring.

The collars had initially been set to fall off on their own at the end of summer, but given the bruins were somewhat heavier than their wild counterparts due to their time in the sanctuary, it’s likely they slipped easily out of the tracking gear after losing weight while hibernating, Fyten said.

“We found the collars, but there were no signs of carcasses or predation,” he said.

“The good news is we think these bears are roaming around out there doing what bears do.”

The presumably surviving cubs remain tagged and officials hope they will eventually trip one of the many wildlife cameras that dot the national park to confirm the bears are indeed healthy and thriving.

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Fyten said despite the positive signs, the duo still face an uphill battle, as do all young bears who strike out from their mothers for the first time.

“It is an age where they are out on their own but they are still somewhat vulnerable at two years old,” he said.

“When you look in a natural setting, a female with three cubs, it’s pretty rare all will survive.”

Fyten said roughly 65 black bears are active in the lush valley bottoms in Banff National Park, where they spend much of their days foraging for berries, which have seen a bumper crop this year.

The optimal conditions for bear feeding has also resulted in a bump in black bear sightings by humans this year, he said.

“It’s been super busy with all kinds of bear activity,” he said, noting grizzly bears, which tend to dwell higher in the park’s mountain rangers, have been quieter than usual.

“Last year we had a very good berry crop, so we’ve seen a lot of cubs getting kicked out by their mothers and trying to find their way.”

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A teen was gored after walking between two fighting bison at a North Dakota national park

Officials remind park visitors to stay at least 25 feet from the mammals.

(CNN)A 17-year-old from Colorado was gored by a bison Saturday at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, officials said.

The teen was stabbed in the thigh and is in stable condition, park officials said Monday, declining to name the youth.
The visitor was walking along a trail in the park near a herd of bison; two bison had sparred earlier and stood on either side of the trail.
One of the bulls charged the teen from behind, goring them in the back of the right thigh and tossing them 6 feet into the air, officials said.
The teen was airlifted to a hospital in Bismarck.
“Park staff would like to remind visitors that bison are large, powerful and wild,” officials said. “They can turn quickly and easily outrun humans.”
It’s the second time a bison has charged a visitor in a national park this month. On July 22, a bison threw a 9-year-old girl several feet into the air at Yellowstone. The girl was taken to an onsite clinic and released, park officials said.
Bison have injured more people in Yellowstone National Park than any other animal, according to the National Park Service.
Officials remind park visitors to stay at least 25 feet from the mammals, which can charge at up to 35 mph.

A Surprising Idea About the Risks of Extinction

A wolf steps out of a metal crate on Isle Royale in 2018
A wolf is released on Isle Royale in 2018.NATIONAL PARK SERVICE / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Isle Royale is 200 square miles of land in the watery expanse of Lake Superior. One cold winter 70 years ago, wolves came over an ice bridge and settled into a largely isolated island existence. Unfortunately, island life has not been good for them.

By 2016, the number of wolves on Isle Royale declined from a peak of 50 to just two, a male and a female. As a result of inbreeding, they were half-siblings as well as father and daughter. They had a pup together that lived less than a year. Even before that, scientists were finding wolves on Isle Royale with crooked spines and extra ribs.

The wolves of Isle Royale inspired Chris Kyriazis and his colleagues at UCLA to simulate animal populations over hundreds of generations. Their findings were counterintuitive: What doomed the wolves is not just the small number that have lived on the island in modern times, but perhaps also the large number of wolves that lived thousands of years ago. Kyriazis presented his study at the Evolution 2019 conference, and the team posted a preprint of the article, which has not been peer reviewed yet, on bioRxiv.

A large ancestral population can lead more quickly to extinction, the authors argue, because harmful but recessive mutations are not purged over thousands of years. The chances of any one individual getting two copies of the mutation is low, so natural selection doesn’t get a chance to act on it. But if the breeding population then dramatically shrinks—as when the wolves of Isle Royale isolated themselves from wolves on the mainland—those harmful mutations start to come into play.

Now, if the ancestral population were smaller, the purging of harmful mutations could have taken place beforehand. Of course, a population too small to get rid of harmful mutations might simply go extinct. What the simulations find, Kyriazis says, is a “sweet spot” for population size.

“People usually just think about how small is the population now—and how small it’s been over the last 100 years,” Kyriazis says. These simulations suggest the deep history of a species even thousands of years ago can be relevant for conservation today.

The team next simulated what this finding might mean for the practice of genetic rescue, when individuals are brought in to diversify an inbred population. The Isle Royale wolves actually went through a natural genetic rescue when a lone male wolf arrived on this island and had 34 pups. But this “rescue” ultimately failed, ending with the two wolves left in 2016. In 2018, the National Park Service actually moved the first of 15 wolves to Isle Royale as part of a planned genetic rescue. The simulations suggest that rather than aiming to introduce the most genetically diverse wolves from the biggest populations, one might go for wolves from more moderately sized populations.

In practice, though, actually applying these findings will be easier said than done. “It can be a useful guide to help us to think about those deleterious, recessive mutations, but at the end of the day you have to do what you have to do because there’s only wolves in so many places that can be moved,” says Kristin Brzeski, a conservation geneticist at Michigan Technological University who studies the Isle Royale wolves. Eight of the recently relocated wolves came from Michipicoten Island in Canada, where caribou, their usual prey, had disappeared. The wolves were starving and had to be moved if they were going to survive.

Philip Hedrick, a population geneticist at Arizona State University who has studied the wolves at Isle Royale, says the simulations oversimplify a few things. Greater genetic variation also helps a population adapt, for example, especially as climate changes in the future. And often, having just one copy of a deleterious, recessive mutation can slightly decrease an individual’s fitness, he says, so the mutation’s frequency could be low even in large populations.

In the meantime, the genetic rescue at Isle Royale has hit a few unrelated snags. Two relocated wolves died and another left the island when an ice bridge formed during the polar vortex this winter. But scientists have been studying the wolves there for 50 years and will likely continue to for much longer. Isle Royale has one of the most well-studied wolf populations in the world, and it may well reveal how genetic rescue actually works.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Close encounters with the bear kind

The very places that attract visitors and newcomers for their proximity to wildlife grapple with a spike in bear-human incidents.


At the height of the tourist season at Rocky Mountain National Park in 2018, a plump black bear ambled into the lobby of the nearby Stanley Hotel. It climbed onto a large, cherry wood table, examined an antique couch, gave it a deliberate sniff and then sauntered back out the door it had come in.

Estes Park, Colorado, the gateway community to Rocky Mountain National Park, has what most would consider a problem. Overzealous bears regularly wander into unexpected and inappropriate human places: the warmly lit kitchens of residents, inviting alleyway garbage cans; they commonly thrash their way into tourist vehicles to investigate a scent.

As the population of Colorado’s Front Range swells, visitation to Rocky Mountain National Park, too, has spiked. That’s only meant more encounters with wildlife and increased reports of “problem” bears that have become highly accustomed to humans and consistently rummage for scraps.

But it’s the very possibility of encountering these animals that encourages so many people to move to places like Estes Park and to visit its surrounding wildish areas. As much as our proximity to wildlife confounds our natural resource managers, it continues to delight a great many humans.

In recent years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers have worked with the city of Estes Park to adopt practices to better cohabitate with our non-human neighbors. In 2015, the town passed a wildlife ordinance that’s lessened a hungry bear’s access to its greatest temptation: trash. Residents must use either a wild-resistant container or put trashcans outside only on pickup days. Beyond efforts among the residential streets, the city also replaced all of the public trash containers in 2016. And though it was an expensive project, a whopping $1,200 for each individual canister, the community pitched in through an innovative sponsorship program.

The city continues to educate newcomers and visitors through a regular “Bear Booth” at the weekly farmer’s market, and provides tip sheets for behavior to keep wildlife safe that are enclosed in city utility bills and newsletters. Residents are advised that all bird feeders must be suspended and out of reach of a clawing bear. Police department volunteer auxiliary officers help patrol garbage cans and dumpsters with weekly driving rounds and provide information to rule-breakers.

While the town has made progress, there are still challenges ahead. More people visited the area during the 2018 season — more than 4.5 million people — than ever before, a trend that is expected to continue, and many tourists are unaware of safe wildlife interaction practices. It’s also an ongoing challenge for wildlife managers and town officials to police the many new small-scale vacation rentals that pop up.

And while chubby black bears awkwardly navigating the ever-intruding human world are undeniably endearing —wildlife encounters frequently go viral online, after all —the best advice wildlife managers offer is painstaking simple: Ignore them and let them be wild.