After leaving Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, Lisa Stewart stopped when she saw a bunch of people by the river, thinking it might be a wolf sighting.
Instead, it was several tourists acting recklessly as they approached a herd of bison and caused a stampede.
Stewart told USA Today/For The Win Outdoors that for up to 10 minutes she witnessed bison grunting and stomping the ground and slowly moving down the hill.
“The people saw them and started walking closer and closer toward the bison,” Stewart explained. “They [the bison] kept getting more agitated by the minute. They walked farther down. Out of my sight, but I could still hear them grunting and blowing.
“You only see about four-to-six people on the video, but there were more in the same spot the bison come running from,” Stewart said. “The fishermen grabbed their stuff and ran, and then you see the bison running, and I felt relief the people didn’t get trampled.
“Then all the sudden you see the bison appear between the fishermen and tourists, then they turn and run toward the tourists. I was scared for a second, but the second wave of stampeding bison turned again and ran across the river to join the herd on the other side.”
Bystanders yelled at the tourists to get away from the bison and made it known how stupid they were for even being down there, much less walking toward them, Stewart told For The Win Outdoors.
Yellowstone warns visitors that animals in the park are wild and unpredictable, no matter how calm they appear to be. The park says the safest view of wildlife is from the inside of a car. It recommends remaining 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards away from all other animals, such as bison and elk. Clearly that wasn’t the case here.
“It was amazing that they didn’t heed the warning of grunting, snorting and stomping feet!” Stewart said. “I stopped filming cause I really thought that someone out of view had to have been hurt and was going to help if needed.
“I was actually shaking a tad, for I really thought the bison were going to run through those people.”
Afterward, the tourists made their way back to their vehicles, but they heard an earful from bystanders.
“I could feel the earth rumbling under my feet when it was happening,” Stewart told For The Win Outdoors. “It was one of those moments your stomach turns over at the split moment you think disaster is about to happen.
“Thank goodness nobody was hurt, and I hope they all learned a lesson. It reaffirmed the awesome power of such beautiful creatures in my eyes.”
A bear attacks a woman. She fights it off — with her laptopWhile bear attacks are rare, their behaviors can be unpredictable and an attack can lead to serious injuries or death, according to the NPS.To avoid an encounter with a bear, hike and travel in groups, do not allow bears access to your food and leave the area if you see a bear.If you are attacked by a brown or grizzly bear, leave your backpack on and play dead by laying flat on your stomach with your hands behind your neck and legs spread. If the bear continues to attack you, fight back by hitting the bear in the face.If you are being attacked by a black bear, do not play dead but instead try to escape to a secure place or if you can’t, fight back using any available object, according to NPS.
It was probably for the best that a woman who got way too close to a herd of bison tripped when one chased after her.
That’s because the woman reportedly said that she knew the best thing to do in that situation was to play-dead.
The video, at least in this instance, appeared to show that was a good strategy. The charging bison stopped, investigated the scene, and eventually left her alone.
The individual who shot the video said the incident occurred at Nez Perce Creek and and the woman was “a Montana local so she knew to play dead in that situation.”
Of course the best way to avoid that situation is not to get too close to the bison in the first place.
Reports are that the woman was not injured.
No word on the condition of the man, appropriately dressed in green shorts and sandals, who tried to pick up a tree branch (and failed) in an effort to look like he could actually do something against a 2,000 pound bison.
Tourists planning to visit Yellowstone National Park or elsewhere in bison country might want to store some AC/DC on their playlists.
The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office in Montana on Tuesday revealed that the heavy-metal band’s music has helped to clear the roadways of stubborn bison.
“When deputies respond to a bison on the road, they turn on lights and siren and encourage the animals to leave the road with an air horn,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote Tuesday on Facebook. “With a reluctant bison, they’ve been known to play ‘Hells Bells’ over the speakers – that usually seems to work.”
So-called bison jams are fairly common inside Yellowstone National Park, and can leave tourists stranded for 30 minutes or longer.
The iconic critters are encountered outside the park, too, and local motorists can attest that it’s sometimes difficult to persuade a 1,000- to 2,000-pound bison to let traffic pass.
It’s usually a job best left to sheriffs or park rangers.
Yellowstone guidelines call for tourists to remain inside their vehicles when in close proximity to bison, because the enormous animals are surprisingly fast and unpredictable.
But that does not always prevent scary encounters.
MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY – Two black bears have been killed in Yellowstone National Park this year and officials are looking for third habituated black bear – all three bears reportedly showed no fear around people after acquiring human food and becoming food-conditioned.
According to park officials, last month, a black bear bit into an occupied tent and bruised a woman’s thigh (the bite did not break the skin due to the tent fabric and thick sleeping bag)
That incident occurred at a backcountry campsite along Little Cottonwood Creek
Rangers suspect that this might have been a bear that gained access to human food in this same area in previous years. Over subsequent days, rangers set up cameras and a decoy tent at the campsite to determine if the bear would continue this behavior. With rangers present, the bear returned and aggressively tore up the decoy tent. The bear was killed on-site on June 11.
In early July, at a backcountry campsite along the Lamar River Trail, campers left food unattended while packing up gear allowing a black bear to eat approximately 10 pounds of human food. Campers who visited the same campsite the following evening had numerous encounters with the same bear. Their attempts to haze the bear away failed. Rangers relocated multiple campers from the area and the bear was killed on July 10. The incident is still under investigation.
Since July 18, at the front country Indian Creek Campground, a black bear has caused property damage to tents and vehicles in its search for human food. Park staff actively hazed the bear from the campground, but also set up cameras. If the bear returns, managers will take appropriate actions based on the current circumstances, including additional hazing or removal.
Park staff have had a busy summer responding to bears in campgrounds, backcountry campsites, and along roadsides. Visitors are reminded to stay at least 100 yards away from bears at all times and to store food and scented items properly.
Once a bear acquires human food, it loses its fear of people and may become dangerous. This process is called “habituation.” The park has killed two habituated black bears this year and is trying to capture a third. All three bears exhibited bold behaviors, showed no fear around people, and have demonstrated food-conditioned behavior.
Park officials say these incidents serve as unfortunate reminders that human carelessness doesn’t just endanger people; it can also result in a bear’s death. Allowing bears to obtain human food even once often leads to them becoming aggressive toward people. Learn more about what you can do at go.nps.gov/yellbearsafety [go.nps.gov].
According to officials, Yellowstone National Park does not typically relocate bears for three reasons: 1) there are no areas in the park to move the bear where it wouldn’t have the continued opportunity to potentially injure someone and damage property, 2) surrounding states do not want food-conditioned bears relocated into their jurisdictions, and 3) adult bears have large home ranges, good memories, and could easily return to the original area.
It is common for visitors to observe black bears in Yellowstone. About 50 percent are black in color, others are brown, blond, or cinnamon. Learn more about black bears [nps.gov].
Two weeks into a shutdown, and our national parks are getting the Bundy Family treatment. Dig a proper latrine and make sure it’s deep enough to hold all the stuff coming out of Mitch McConnell and the White House.
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a complex region, encompassing approximately 58,000 square miles and 14 mountain ranges. Weather varies greatly across steep elevational changes, bringing snowfall to some areas, and warm, dry conditions to others. This dynamic system has provoked the curiosity of researchers for a long time.
Across Space and Time
Space and time are critical to the evaluation of real-world data, and every study defines their parameters differently. This can make it difficult to get a sense of what is actually occurring. Climate summaries over longer periods of time and across larger areas tend to mask local extremes. Conversely, a continuously changing set of short-term reference averages (weather “normals”) could unintentionally obscure the long-term magnitude of change. It is important to look at climate information across many scales and to use available data and models to arrive at reasonable answers to our questions about how climate has changed, how those changes will affect the park, and what impacts we may be able to anticipate in the future.
Analyzing smaller areas within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), say in Yellowstone National Park or on the Northern Range, poses specific challenges. Small regions have fewer actual monitoring stations to feed data to computer models and gridded weather data is often used to fill in the gaps. As a consequence, small-area analyses may not be as accurate. Local field observations from stream gauge and weather stations can be used to verify some of the observed trends, and to describe local conditions to which the ecological system may be responding. This “ground-truthing” allows researchers to arrive at reasonable conclusions about ecological activity.
Temperature and Precipitation
Global temperature is the master force affecting climate. Everything else that climate affects—sea level rise, growing season, drought, glacial melt, extreme storms—is driven by changes in temperature. Weather stations have been maintained within the GYE since 1894, resulting in some of the longest running records of temperature and precipitation anywhere in the United States. These days, increasingly sophisticated satellite technology as well as data sets yielded by the science of climate modeling, also help climate experts and park managers assess the current situation in the GYE across several scales.
There is evidence that climate has changed in the past century and will continue to change in the future. Researchers looking at annual average temperatures report an increase of 0.31°F/decade within the GYE, consistent with the continuing upward trend in global temperatures. Recent studies show mean annual minimum and maximum temperatures have been increasing at the same rate of 0.3°F/decade for the GYE. Conditions are becoming significantly drier at elevations below 6,500 ft. In fact, the rise in minimum temperatures in the last decade exceeds those of the 1930s Dust Bowl Era.
Future Temperature and Precipitation
All global climate models predict that temperatures in the GYE will continue to increase. Projections of future precipitation vary based on differing scenarios that account for future levels of greenhouse gas emissions, which depend upon economic, policy, and institutional improvements, or lack thereof. Any potential increases in precipitation that may or may not occur will be overwhelmed by temperature increases. Considering the most recent trends in which warmer temperatures have been exacerbating drought conditions during the summers, a warmer, drier future for the GYE appears likely in the coming decades. By the latter part of the 21st century, the hot, dry conditions that led to the fires of 1988 will likely be the norm, representing a significant shift from past norms in the GYE toward the type of climate conditions we currently see in the southwestern United States.
Snowpack and Snow Cover
Snowmelt in the alpine areas of the Rocky Mountains is critical to both the quality and quantity of water throughout the region, providing 60–80 percent of streamflow in the West. Throughout the GYE, snow often lingers into early summer at high elevations. Each year, a large spike in water flow occurs when snow starts to melt at lower elevations, usually in late February and early March. Peak flow is reached when the deep snow fields at mid- and high elevations begin to melt more quickly, typically in June. Minimum flow occurs during winter when all the previous year’s snow has melted, temperatures have dropped, and precipitation comes down as snow instead of rain so only water flowing from underground sources can supply the streams. By contrast, the proportion of stream flow due to rain storms is significantly lower than the contributions of snow melt.
Climate change is expected to affect both snow accumulation and rate of spring melt. In some places, warmer temperatures will mean more moisture falling as rain during the cooler months and the snowpack melting earlier in the year. The reduction in snowpack is most pronounced in spring and summer, with an overall continued decline in snowfall projected for Yellowstone over the coming decades. The Yellowstone, Snake, and Green rivers all have their headwaters in Yellowstone. As major tributaries for the Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado rivers, they are important sources of water for drinking, agriculture, recreation, and energy production throughout the region. A decrease in Yellowstone’s snow will affect millions of people beyond the boundaries of the GYE who depend this critical source of water.
Future Snowpack and Snow Cover
The interaction between snowpack, temperature, and precipitation involves a complex interchange between heat and light. Warming temperatures increase evaporation; increased moisture in the air could lead to more snowfall and cloud cover. The increased cloud cover could block additional heat from reaching the surface of the earth resulting in cooler temperatures below. However, increased temperature could possibly limit snowfall instead—by converting it to rain or by melting snow rapidly once it falls, thereby driving snowlines further up the mountains. Recently modeling work indicates that snowpack will almost certainly decline in the long-term.
Changes in the area covered by snow are especially important as snow reflects more solar radiation out to space (albedo) than bare ground and tends to keep the surface cool. When land is exposed, sunlight is absorbed by the surface of the earth. This raises the overall surface temperature, which leads to more melting and less snowcover.
Stream Flow and Water Temperature
Glaciers, snowpack, and rainfall produce water that flows through streams, lakes and rivers, and these waterways are critical to life. Analyses of streams during 1950–2010 in the Central Rocky Mountains, including those in the GYE, show an 89% decline in stream discharge. Reduced flows were most pronounced during the summer months, especially in the Yellowstone River. In addition, stream temperatures have changed across the range of the Yellowstone, with a warming of 1.8°F (1°C) over the past century. Continued warming could have major implications to the management and preservation of the many aquatic resources we have today. Changes in volume and timing of spring runoff may disrupt native fish spawning and increase nonnative aquatic species expansion.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that overall forest growth in North America will likely increase 10–20% as a result of extended growing seasons and elevated CO2 during the next century but with important spatial and temporal variations. Forests in the Rocky Mountain/Columbia Basin region are expected to have less snow on the ground, a shorter snow season, a longer growing season due to an earlier spring start, earlier peak snowmelt, and about two months of additional drought. However, despite a longer growing season, Yellowstone forests will likely be less dense, more patchy, and have more diverse age structure. Experts project less tree cover in much of the park as well as potential migration of new species like Ponderosa pine. Complicating matters, increased drought stress and higher temperatures may increase the likelihood of widespread die-offs of some vegetation.
The integrated runoff response from the Yellowstone River has been toward earlier spring runoff peaks, which suggests that the majority of the park is experiencing shorter winters and longer summers as a result of snowpack changes. Changes in these seasonal patterns will likely disrupt vegetation growth and development, causing plants to bud, flower, fruit and die at different times of the year than they do now. Those changes, in turn, would alter or seriously disrupt wildlife migrations, one of the key resources for which Yellowstone National Park is globally treasured.
Extreme Events: Insect Activity
Although outbreak dynamics differ among species and forests, climate change appears to be driving current insect outbreaks. Western spruce budworm outbreaks were more widespread and lasted longer in the 20th century than in the 19th century primarily because of fire suppression and increasing fir populations. However, patterns of spruce budworm outbreaks have been tied to climate nationwide.
Summer and spring precipitation are positively correlated with increased frequency of outbreaks over regional scales and long time frames, but experimental evidence suggests that drought may promote infestations. Although bark beetle infestations are a force of natural change in forested ecosystems, several concurrent outbreaks across western North America are the largest and most severe in recorded history. From 2004 to 2008, the area of mountain pine beetle outbreaks increased across Wyoming from 1,000 to 100,000 acres. At the end of 2014, an estimated 30% of whitebark pine trees in the GYE had been killed as a result of mountain pine beetle, whitepine blister rust, wildland fire, and other factors. Since 1999, an eruption of mountain pine beetle events has been observed that exceed the frequencies, impacts, and ranges documented during the last 125 years. Aerial assessment of whitebark pine species populations within the GYE has indicated a 79% mortality rate of mature trees.
These changes may be early indicators of how GYE vegetation communities will shift due to climate change. These outbreaks of bark beetles in the West have coincided with increased temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns, suggesting a response to a changing climate. Warming temperatures and the loss of extreme cold days reduce winter overkills of insects, speed up life cycles, modify damage rates, and lead to range expansions, particularly in the north.
Future Insect Activity
Climate change, and particularly warming, will have a dramatic impact on pest insects, and the recent trends of increasing outbreaks are expected to worsen. The greatest increase in mountain pine beetle outbreaks is expected to occur at high elevations, where models predict warmer temperatures will increase winter survival. At low elevations, however, mountain pine beetle populations may decrease as warmer temperatures disrupt the insects’ seasonality. Climate change will also alter host susceptibility to infestation. Over the short-term, trees will likely increase in susceptibility to pests due to stress from fires, drought, and high temperatures; over the long-term, these stresses will cause tree ranges and distributions to change. Moreover, climate change and changes in CO2 and ozone may alter the conifers’ defensive mechanisms and susceptibility to beetles through their effects on the production of plant secondary compounds.
Insect infestations are damaging millions of acres of western forests and there is clear evidence that damage is increasing. Nonetheless, future predictions of the extent of infestations remain uncertain because our understanding of insect infestations is incomplete. Key uncertainties include the influence of drought and precipitation changes, how altered forest/host composition will alter outbreaks, the biochemical response of trees and evolution of defensive mechanisms, regional differences, and the interactive effects of fire, plant disease, and insect outbreaks.
Extreme Events: Fire Activity
The increasing frequency of warm spring and summer temperatures, reduced winter precipitation, and earlier snowmelt in the West during the last 20 years has led to an increase in the frequency of very large wildfires and total acres burned annually. The relative influence of climate on fire behavior varies regionally and by ecosystem type, but generally current-year drought, low winter precipitation, wind conditions, and high summer temperature are determining factors for area burned in the Rockies.
Fire dynamics have been altered by climate indirectly through its effects on insect infestations and forest health. By changing the forest environment, bark beetles can influence the probability, extent, and behavior of fire events, but despite the widely held belief that bark beetle outbreaks set the stage for severe wildfires, few scientifically and statistically sound studies have been published on this topic. That fire promotes beetle infestations is clearer; the fire-caused injury changes conifers’ volatile emissions, increasing their susceptibility to bark beetles.
Most evidence suggests that climate change will bring increases in the frequency, intensity, severity, and average annual extent of wildland fires. Models project that numerous aspects of fire behavior will change, including longer fire seasons, more days with high fire danger, increased natural ignition frequency and fire severity, more frequent large fires, and more episodes of extreme fire behavior. The best evidence is for increases in the average annual area burned. However, the charcoal in lake sediment cores is telling a different story in Yellowstone. These records extend back 17,000 years, and were taken from Cygnet Lake on the Central Plateau. Charcoal from 8,000 years ago, when temperature increases were equal to what we are now experiencing, shows more frequent but smaller fires than today.
Projecting the influences of climate change on future patterns of fire is extremely difficult. Fuels, along with fire weather, determine fire size and severity: the stand- replacing fires of today open up the forests where stands have been burned, limiting fuels for the next fire. As a result, areas with frequent fires also tend to have small fires. Other factors, such as increases in non-native, annual grass invasions, may alter fire dynamics, making predictions based on climate alone difficult.
Yellowstone National Park is an untamed wilderness area. Don’t pose too close to hazards… Ouch! Here are five bad locations to pose along with suggestions on how to take pain-free photos.
1. Right next to a geyser
Yes, Yellowstone’s most famous thermal features are amazing. Yes, a photo standing alongside one of the biggies—Grand Geyser, Steamboat Geyser, Old Faithful—would surely impress your friends back home. But when geysers erupt, superheated water powered by steam can blast hundreds of feet into the air, and there’s no telling exactly in which direction it will spray.
Better idea: Keep a safe distance from geysers by sticking to the boardwalks and trails. That way, your photo will capture a better sense of the geyser’s size and power.
2. In Yellowstone Lake
Those lapping waves, that deep blue water: North American’s largest highest-altitude lake definitely makes for a refreshing backdrop. But think twice before you dive into its depths for a photo: The water temperature usually hovers between 40°F and 50°F. That’s so cold that the survival time for someone immersed in the water is only about 20 minutes, and why many people have drowned in Yellowstone Lake.
Don’t even think about jumping into the deep water—if you can’t get back in your boat easily, your clock is ticking.
Better idea: Shoot from the shore, from the viewing platforms in front of Lake Hotel, or from the safety of a boat or kayak.
3. In a hot spring
Like the sound of a natural hot tub? What about a hot tub that exceeds 200°F? A dip in that kind of water can quickly scald a person to death; even if you’re pulled right back out, third-degree burns will likely finish the job.
All together now: Wildlife at Yellowstone is wild.
These large, unpredictable animals are not pets. They’re not domesticated. They can and will injure, maim, or kill you if you get too close. Sounds like common sense, but in just the summer of 2015, 5 different people were gored by bison—4 of them trying to take a selfie with one when the bison gave them its horns.
Better idea: You were lucky enough to spot one of Yellowstone’s incredible animals: Train your camera on it, not yourself! And know the rules about how far to stay away from wildlife.
A man finishes putting up an Alliance for the Wild Rockies billboard that reads, “Stop The Yellowstone Massacre!” and featuring drawn images of dead and bloodied Yellowstone bison Wednesday near Four Corner outside of Bozeman.
Drivers heading south from Four Corners on Highway 191 will now zip past a billboard with a gory scene and a simple message: dead bison, lying in a pool of blood underneath block letters asking people to call Montana’s governor and tell him to “Stop the Yellowstone Massacre.”
The billboard is one of two that the Alliance for the Wild Rockies bought, the other being in Helena. Steve Kelly, a board member for Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the artist who painted the picture, said they hope people will see the signs and pressure Montana Gov. Steve Bullock into blocking the annual shipping of Yellowstone bison to slaughter for the year.
“It’s a horrendous thing,” Kelly said. “He’s the one who has the power to stop it.”
The signs went up this week, arriving after hundreds of bison have already been sent to slaughterhouses and while another few hundred wait their turn. Alliance for the Wild Rockies is one of several environmental groups that oppose shipping bison to slaughter, a practice government officials consider necessary to meet population reduction goals each year.
“The National Park Service needs to address bison overpopulation in Yellowstone National Park,” said Bullock spokeswoman Ronja Abel in an emailed statement.
The culling of Yellowstone’s bison herd happens because of a 17-year-old management plan rooted in fears of the disease brucellosis. Brucellosis can cause animals to abort their calves, and the livestock industry worries that if bison are allowed to roam farther outside of the park that the disease might be spread to cattle herds, though no case of bison transmitting the disease to cattle has been documented in the wild.
Reducing the population is one way they try to curtail the risk of brucellosis transmission. The management plan calls for a population of about 3,000 bison in Yellowstone. About 5,500 bison live there now, and officials want to kill about 1,300 from the herd through public hunting and ship to slaughter this year.
State wildlife officials believe hunters from five tribal nations and those licensed through the state have taken roughly 400 so far. The most recent update from Yellowstone National Park said that 179 bison had been sent to slaughter.
There is precedent for a governor blocking the shipment of bison to slaughter. In 2011, then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer issued an executive order blocking the shipment of any bison to slaughterhouses in Montana, a move that prevented the slaughter of roughly 500 bison.
Using the same powers, Bullock delayed shipments to slaughter earlier this year over a group of 40 bison originally meant for establishing a quarantine program at the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
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A quarantine program would take in bison from Yellowstone and keep them in isolation until they can be certified brucellosis free — a certification that would allow the animals to be taken elsewhere. Yellowstone National Park proposed setting up the quarantine operation at Fort Peck in 2016, a political stalemate over transporting bison through Montana stalled those plans. The park had decided to send those 40 bison to slaughter.
Bullock’s action resulted in a deal to send some of those bison to U.S. Department of Agriculture corrals near Corwin Springs and for the governor to lift the shipping ban.
Abel said in her statement that the state “recognizes culling efforts are not everyone’s preferred approach, and will continue to work directly with the U.S. Department of Interior and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to look at future quarantine as an alternative to slaughter.”
Kelly said they want the governor to either revive the previous ban on shipments or write a new executive order. He said there is probably enough support for the action — aside from the state’s powerful agriculture lobby.
“Certainly there’s enough support,” Kelly said. “He’s just favoring the livestock lobby.”