Yellowstone reports 1st bear sighting of the season

http://billingsgazette.com/lifestyles/recreation/yellowstone-reports-st-bear-sighting-of-the-season/article_f8926876-9d70-5a7a-a745-8a01b287b8dc.html

At least three grizzly bears have awoken from hibernation, according to a Yellowstone National Park press release.

Early Wednesday morning a park employee observed a grizzly bear between Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt. It was the first confirmed bear sighting this year, although bear tracks have been observed since Feb. 22. Later in the morning, park staff saw two more grizzly bears scavenging carcasses in the northern part of the park.

This is a little later than the first reported bear sightings have been in recent years. In 2016, the first bear in the park was reported on Feb. 23. In 2015, the first sighting was Feb. 9. In 2014, bears were spotted on March 4.

When bears emerge from hibernation they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter. Sometimes bears will act aggressively while feeding on carcasses.

All of Yellowstone National Park is bear country. To stay safe in bear country follow these guidelines:

  • Prepare for a bear encounter.
  • Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and make sure it’s accessible.
  • Stay alert.
  • Hike or ski in groups of three or more.
  • Stay on maintained trails and make noise.
  • Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn, or at night.
  • Do not run if you encounter a bear.
  • Stay 100 yards away from black and grizzly bears.
  • Use binoculars, a telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look.
  • Store food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes.
  • Learn more about bear safety.

“Yellowstone visitors care deeply about preserving bears and observing them in the wild,” said Kerry Gunther, the park’s Bear Management specialist. “Carrying bear spray is the best way for them to participate in bear conservation because reducing potential conflicts protects people and bears.”

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations.

The park restricts certain activities in locations where there is a high density of elk and bison carcasses and lots of bears. Restrictions began in some bear management areas on March 10.

Visitors are asked to report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately.

Meanwhile: Bison cull in Yellowstone nearing 1,000 on the year

Hooves plodded through an alleyway toward the trailer. A park ranger standing on a catwalk above the alleyway counted the individual units of Yellowstone’s population of the country’s national mammal as each entered the trailer. When the trailer filled, a representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service placed locks on the trailer doors, a legal requirement and symbol that the trucks could travel on Montana’s roads.

This routine played out three times, and when the final trailer was loaded and sealed, the trucks took off. Another 45 Yellowstone bison off to slaughterhouses, where they’ll become meat for various Native American tribes. But that wasn’t the end of the day for the workers here — there were another 60 or so to prepare for shipment.

It was just another day at the park’s Stephens Creek Capture Facility, where bison are caught for slaughter each year. Park officials brought a group of bison advocates here Wednesday to watch. This season has been busier than the last, as harsh winter conditions have pushed more bison downhill from Mammoth Hot Springs than in recent years. The number of bison killed is approaching 1,000.

“And the winter’s not over,” said Rick Wallen, a Yellowstone bison biologist.

This all happens because of an agreement between the state of Montana and the park that calls for a population of 3,000 bison in the Yellowstone area. About 5,500 live there now. Officials want to remove as many as 1,400 from the population this year.

They cull the herd through public hunting and shipping bison to slaughter. Whether enough bison can be killed to reach the goal depends on how many bison migrate into the Gardiner basin — where the trap is and one place where they can be legally hunted.

Both hunters and the slaughter operation have reaped the benefits of this year’s large migration. Andrea Jones, a spokeswoman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said hunters from five tribal nations and some licensed through the state have confirmed the take of 417 bison this winter.

Wallen said roughly 650 bison have been caught for slaughter so far and about 400 have been shipped, an average of roughly 100 per week since the beginning of February. That means they are approaching the goal, and since more shipments are scheduled and capture for slaughter is scheduled to run through March, they may reach a point where the work can stop.

“We’re going to have to make some hard decisions,” Wallen said.

Shipping bison to slaughter has long been controversial, and some of the most outspoken critics of the practice watched it happen Wednesday. Once the trucks full of bison left, the spectators were back on the tour bus. They watched from inside the bus as a vintage Chevrolet Blazer and four rangers on horseback lined up behind a corral full of bison.

“They call this domestication before assassination,” said Mike Mease, of the Buffalo Field Campaign.

The SUV and the men on horseback chased the bison into the narrow alleyways of the facility and into a holding pen. One-by-one, the bison entered a hydraulic squeeze chute.

Before operations began this year, park officials stamped parts of the chute with “2016-2017” in white lettering. They put that there so photos from the operations correlate with the correct year. That grew out of displeasure with old photos of bison wearing nose tongs surfacing online. Nose tongs haven’t been used here since the mid-2000s, park spokeswoman Morgan Warthin said.

Cattle producers worry bison could lead to transmit the disease to their herds, and even the perception of disease risk near their herds could subject ranchers to increased testing to ensure meat from infected animals doesn’t end up in grocery stores.

The disease is passed primarily through afterbirth. About half of Yellowstone bison are believed to have been exposed to the disease, though exposure doesn’t mean infection. Elk have transmitted the disease, but there has never been a documented case of bison transmitting the disease to livestock.

“A very small number of animals are truly threatening,” Wallen said.

After the blood sample is taken, the machine weighs the animal. Then, the animal is sorted into a pen based on weight and sex. Some come in bloodied, missing a horn or with a gash in their side.

Suspended above them is a ring of aluminum beer cans — Rainier in one pen, Pabst Blue Ribbon in another. Each ring is connected to a rope stretched across the pen. When it’s time to move bison out, park employees will use the rope and beer can halo to chase them. Until then, the bison wait their turn to board trailers some cold morning.

Bull Bison Brutally Stabbed by Hunters

(Warning: Contains Graphic Images)

On February 21, 2017 Crow, Cindy and I were on patrol in the afternoon heading up Jardine Road when we came upon two bull bison grazing beside the road. We stopped for a few moments to admire them. We also had severe reservations on their safety.

We continued to drive up Jardine Road to one of the lookout points and were checking on recent remains of bison kills. We heard five gunshots and our hearts sank.

It took about ten minutes to drive down Jardine Road and discover what we had feared. There were no hunting vehicles present, but we saw three teenagers and one younger boy situated about 50 yards up an incline from the road. They were busy gutting one of the bulls.

 

Bison Slaughter 1

 

We then spotted the other bull only 15 yards from the road. Cindy thought it was still breathing and Crow confirmed. Crow and Cindy immediately walked up to the teenagers to tell them this bull was still alive.

 

Bison Slaughter 2

 

The teenagers came down to the suffering bull with knives in their hands and immediately proceeded to stab him in the neck. The bull immediately jumped to his knees and everyone scattered. The bull fell down, but was actively moving its legs and head.

 

Bison Slaughter 3

 

The teenagers once again proceeded to stab him in the neck several more times.

 

Bison Slaughter 4
Bison Slaughter 5

 

He fought for his life as they stabbed him, raising his legs and hindquarters toward the sky in a desperate attempt to get away from his attackers.

 

Bison Slaughter 6
Bison Slaughter 8

 

The teenagers were giving up.

Then the adult hunters arrived. One of the hunters walked up to the struggling bull and shot it.

 

Bison Slaughter 9

 

The three of us are incredibly distraught at having to witness such a horrendous scene. I am certain that we will never forget the experience.

These two magnificent bulls had spent their lives living within Yellowstone. They lived their lives grazing and strolling along the rivers and roads of the park. They had become immune to vehicles and people. They lacked a fear mechanism that would allow them to avoid or defend themselves from such a brutal attack. When these two magnificent bison migrated across the park boundary, they were just strolling along a road and grazing like they always did. Hunters then pulled-up in a truck and shot them from a few yards away. This murder continued with the brutal stabbing and final slaughter of one of them. There is no skill to this type of “hunting,” which is really nothing more than a slaughter.

Witnessing this brutality makes me wonder how many other bison have succumbed to a similar death.

With the Buffalo,

Larry A. Lyons
BFC Volunteer

MONTANA RESIDENTS ANGERED OVER TRIBAL ELK HUNTING IN YELLOWSTONE

https://www.gohunt.com/read/news/montana-residents-angered-over-tribal-elk-hunting-in-yellowstone#gs.4zNYYlI

Two elk in field
Photo credits: Shutterstock

Fewer elk reside within Yellowstone National Park, but that doesn’t mean tribal hunters can’t hunt them, especially if fewer bison migrate outside of park boundaries. While this is legal under tribal law, many Montana residents – and elk hunters – think it’s unfair, considering that fewer elk mean fewer tags and opportunity for those who hunt within the established elk hunting seasons.

Local resident Bill Hoppe told The Bozeman Daily Chronicle that “allowing the tribal hunters to kill elk outside of Montana’s regular elk season is unfair to regular Montana hunters” though, legally, the state cannot intervene with established tribal regulations.

“The state of Montana has no authority over the rights of tribal governments to take wildlife negotiated under treaties with the U.S. government,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) spokeswoman Andrea Jones told The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, adding that MFWP works closely with local tribal leadership on other law enforcement issues, but cannot enforce which big game animals tribal members can hunt.

While five tribal nations (the Shoshone Bannock Tribes, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Yakama Nation and the Nez Perce Tribe) all hunt within the area, following the rights provided to them based upon treaties signed by the federal government over a century ago, the tribe that seems to be under fire is the Nez Perce Tribe – for hunting 25 elk instead of the overabundant bison.

This is an issue because, according to The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the current elk tally counted roughly 5,300 animals – down from 19,000 animals in the mid-1990s. Bison, on the other hand, are plentiful – so much so that there’s an annual cull and capture-for-slaughter to keep numbers manageable. Tribal sustenance hunting helps keep bison numbers in check.

While this is clearly a concern within the state, Jones says that not much change has occurred despite Montana officials bringing up the elk hunting issue during the state and tribal officials weekly meeting. In fact, Jones says that it’s not really about hunting; instead, “this is about how a sovereign nation is exercising those rights.”

Montana activists ramp up campaign against culling Yellowstone bison

https://www.rawstory.com/2017/03/montana-activists-ramp-up-campaign-against-culling-yellowstone-bison/

Wildlife advocates are ramping up their campaign against the annual culling of bison that roam onto state lands in Montana each winter from Yellowstone National Park, erecting dramatic billboards showing buffalo bleeding in the snow.

The billboards are the latest effort in an ongoing campaign by opponents of a years-long practice aimed at reducing the number of Yellowstone’s bison to protect against disease transmission and lessen the damage to land in and around the park, which spans parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. This year, wildlife managers aim to reduce the herd by up to 1,300 animals, the largest amount in nearly a decade.

“We’re fine with bison being hunted,” Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Montana-based conservation group behind the billboard campaign, said in a telephone interview on Friday. “But this is mass slaughter.”

His group is urging the state’s Democratic governor, Steve Bullock, to stop bison destined for slaughter from being trucked through the state.

The outsized road signs, painted by a Montana artist and bison activist, depict fallen bison with blood drenching snow and the words, in capital letters, “Stop the Yellowstone massacre!” Two billboards went up this week and two more are slated to go up later this month.

Wildlife advocates have also held rallies and a candlelight vigil against the severe cull.

The bison targeted for hunting and slaughter are among those that migrate into Montana each winter from Yellowstone. This year, the herd, the last remaining wild purebred bison in the United States, has swelled to 5,500, much higher than the target of 3,000 sought by wildlife managers.

When the herd gets too big, wildlife managers say, it can damage land through over-grazing. And Montana ranchers fear bison will transmit to cows a disease that causes them to miscarry.

In December, federal, state and tribal agencies responsible for managing the herd said they would cull between 900 and 1,300 bison, one of the largest amounts in the history of the park.

Jay Bodner, natural resource director for the Montana Stockgrowers Association, said the push to cull the herd is linked to the impacts on the landscape by too many animals.

“There needs to be management protocols in place to make sure bison aren’t over-utilizing and destroying the range,” Bodner said.

Bullock spokeswoman Ronja Abel described bison management as “a difficult and challenging issue.” She added: “The state recognizes culling efforts are not everyone’s preferred approach.”

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Matthew Lewis)

Wildlife Photography©Jim Robertson

The Coming Plague: Chronic Wasting Disease, Cousin to Mad Cow, Is Bearing Down On Yellowstone National Park and America’s Most Famous Elk Herd

https://thebullseye.media/coming-plague-chronic-wasting-disease-cousin-mad-cow-bearing-yellowstone-national-park-americas-famous-elk-herd/

43 minutes (10859 words)

Senior Biologist With National Elk Refuge Says Deadly Pathogen’s Arrival In Greater Yellowstone Wildlife “Inevitable” and “Could Occur At Any Time”

State Senator In Montana Calls For Joint Resolution In Legislature To Condemn Wyoming’s Feeding Of Elk

By Todd Wilkinson

On a map, “Deer Hunt Area 17” is unlikely to ring any bells of recognition, even for most residents in the hunting-crazed Equality State. Located northwest of Gillette in the Powder River Basin—a sweep of mostly treeless geography best known as the largest coal-producing region in America—Hunt Area 17 on Monday, December 19, 2016 became one of the latest in Wyoming to have publicly-confirmed cases of Chronic Wasting Disease.

“If you see a deer, elk or moose that appears to be sick or not acting in a normal manner, please contact your local game warden, wildlife biologist or Game and Fish office immediately,” Scott Edberg, deputy chief of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s wildlife division said in a press release. Game and Fish further added, “The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that people should not eat deer, elk or moose that test positive for CWD.”

CWD strikes members of the cervid (deer) family. Along with animals that test positive—a determination made most often after they are dead—some people won’t even eat big game animals coming out of an area that has been deemed “CWD endemic”; the endemic zone means a part of landscape where CWD is now believed to be present but where it was previously absent.  Today, the endemic zone covers nearly the entire state, save for a puzzle piece of Wyoming that is the most visited by tourists and globally renowned for its “wild” nature.

CWD has been described by epizoologists as “a slow-motion wildlife disaster” in the making; it involves an exotic plague—a cousin to dreaded “Mad Cow Disease— that, true to its name, “chronically” festers at first in wildlife populations and spreads between animals in dribbles and drabs, taking years to assert full impact. By many indications, the prevalence of CWD in the northern Rockies appears to be picking up speed.

An incurable, contagious, and always-fatal malady for deer family members, causing victims to become emaciated and turning their brains essentially to mush, CWD is now spreading inexorably across Wyoming, though it was first identified in the southeastern corner of the state decades ago. Today, the highest prevalence of CWD in mule deer there ranges between 20 and 40 percent in some hotspots. Most animals with CWD die within two years.  It is more common in bucks than does and prevalence oscillates differently though deer and elk herds. There are no vaccines for stopping CWD or medicine therapies that can be dispensed to hosts having it.

The exact origin of CWD is inexact and a matter of speculation. Some believe it is related to scrapie which afflicted domestic sheep and then jumped species.  Scrapie has been in European sheep for 300 years.  In 1967, CWD was identified in captive deer kept at a research facility near Fort Collins, Colorado and then it spread to wild elk and deer.

No cases of CWD in the wild have been diagnosed in Montana and Idaho yet; however, with regard to Montana, the disease is poised to cross its shared border with Wyoming and it is pressing southward in wildlife from two Canadian provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan. (see map, below)

More: https://thebullseye.media/coming-plague-chronic-wasting-disease-cousin-mad-cow-bearing-yellowstone-national-park-americas-famous-elk-herd/

Spike in Yellowstone grizzly deaths tied to conflicts with humans

By Laura Zuckerman | SALMON, IDAHO Dec. 1

U.S. wildlife managers at Yellowstone National Park are reporting an unusually high number of grizzly bear deaths, 55, linked to humans this year in a trend believed tied to a growing number of the bruins harming livestock or challenging hunters over freshly killed game.

The uptick in bear deaths comes as the Obama administration says the population of roughly 690 bears in and around Yellowstone has come back from the brink of extinction and should be stripped of U.S. Endangered Species Act protections.

The plan, proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year, opens the way for hunting in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, the Northern Rocky Mountain states that border the park.

The measure is strongly opposed by conservationists and Native American tribes but supported by sportsmen and ranchers who claim the number of conflicts will diminish by targeting bears that bounce hunters off freshly shot game or which harm livestock.

The carcasses of at least 55 Yellowstone area bears have been found so far this year, with most dying from human-related activities, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey. Nearly half the grizzlies were killed by government bear managers for preying on cattle, sheep and the like.

Wildlife advocates fear that the final tally for 2016 will exceed the 61 bears known or believed to have died in the Yellowstone area last year, a high in the decades since such moralities have been tracked.

That compares to 28 grizzlies known or likely dead in 2014 and 29 in 2013, according to government records.

Gregg Losinksi, member of a federal and state team that oversees Yellowstone grizzlies, said some bears running into conflicts are seeking to expand their range into areas already occupied by humans or other grizzlies.

“As far as we’re concerned, the population is maxed out based on the available habitat and we’re seeing more and more deaths because of this density,” he said.

Conservationists say they are alarmed by the number of Yellowstone area bears that have died in 2016, the third year the overall population has fallen.

“The mortalities keep escalating and the population keeps dropping. We don’t think now is the time to remove Endangered Species Act protections; we need more time to study these trends,” said the Sierra Club’s Bonnie Rice.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Sandra Maler)

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Yellowstone park looks at large bison cull to trim herds

Associated Press 22 hrs ago

Yellowstone National Park biologists say more than 900 wild bison would need to be killed or removed this winter to begin reducing the size of herds that spill into neighboring Montana.

The park has an estimated 5,500 bison, the highest number since at least 2000.

Park officials will meet Thursday with state, tribal and U.S. Agriculture Department representatives to discuss options for managing the animals.

More:

 http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/yellowstone-park-looks-at-large-bison-cull-to-trim-herds/article_a88991a3-5376-5960-825e-6156a24e1960.html
 Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Advocates say hunts, slaughter threaten Yellowstone bison

  • MATT VOLZ Associated Press
  • Updated 19 hrs ago
  • 2

HELENA – Wildlife advocacy groups are suing to force the U.S. government to look again at whether the hunting and slaughter of bison that wander outside of Yellowstone National Park threaten the survival of one of the last genetically pure populations of the national mammal.

Buffalo Field Campaign, Western Watersheds Project and Friends of Animals filed the lawsuit against the Interior Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Monday in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia. They are asking a judge to order federal wildlife officials to re-examine whether the Yellowstone bison should be listed as a threatened or endangered species.

Bison, which Congress designated as the national mammal earlier this year, were hunted to near extinction in the late 19th century. The estimated 4,900 Yellowstone bison are one of the last remaining populations in the U.S. that don’t have cattle genes in their DNA.

The Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year rejected two petitions seeking federal protections for Yellowstone bison that would prevent them from being hunted, rounded up for slaughter or hazed back into the park when they leave in search of food.

More: http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/advocates-say-hunts-slaughter-threaten-yellowstone-bison/article_92389e52-0d9d-536a-8d2b-90262a693d9b.html

Montana lawmakers push for tribal bison hunts in Yellowstone

BILLINGS, Mont. — A Montana legislative committee that wants to limit Yellowstone National Park’s growing herds of bison from leaving the park sent a recommendation Thursday to park officials for Native American tribes to be allowed to hunt bison inside the park.

The committee’s letter to Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk came a day after members voted 9-7 in favor of the plan — even though there are no requests by the tribes to hunt inside the park.

Tribal representatives said Thursday they already have enough opportunities to hunt the animals outside the park.

“The idea of gunning down animals in the Lamar Valley or near Old Faithful is nothing the tribes have proposed or are considering,” said John Harrison, an attorney for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Supporters of tribal bison hunts inside the park including Republican Sen. Theresa Manzella of Hamilton pitched the idea as a potential solution to the dilemma posed by bison leaving Yellowstone and getting onto private property.

Democrats objected, pointing out that no tribes have asked to hunt inside the park.

Yellowstone spokeswoman Morgan Warthin said longstanding policy prohibits hunting in national parks unless specifically authorized by Congress.

 Any tribes wanting to assert treaty rights to hunt in Yellowstone would have to submit the request to the U.S. Justice Department for consideration, she said.

Stephanie Adams with the National Parks Conservation Association said state officials had missed an opportunity to push for expanded habitat for bison outside the park. Under a program in place since 2000, thousands of the animals have been captured and sent to slaughter after they enter Montana.

Several tribes with longstanding treaty rights hold annual bison hunts just outside Yellowstone’s boundary.

Those hunts have stirred controversy — with bison often shot immediately after stepping beyond the park boundary — while failing to reduce the size of Yellowstone’s herds. Yellowstone at last count had roughly 5,000 bison, a near-record level for the modern era.

Many Yellowstone bison carry a disease, brucellosis, that can be harmful to livestock and cause pregnant animals to prematurely abort their young. However, no bison-to-cattle transmissions of the disease brucellosis have been recorded.

Yellowstone rejected requests from former Gov. Brian Schweitzer to allow public hunting inside the park when the Democrat was still in office.