Showing posts with label Yellowstone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yellowstone. Show all posts

March 28, 2017

A Colorado Moment and a New Book on Yellowstone Death, Nature, & Science

So I sold a pair of World War 2-vintage snowshoes on eBay and used the money to buy hemp oil (CBD) for my dog.

A Colorado moment, circa 2017.

I probably could have asked more if I could definitely have linked those 1943 snowshoes to the 10th Mountain Division — Dad did acquire them in Colorado in the 1960s — but that was just a "maybe."

What I want to read:
Jordon Fisher Smith, whose Nature Noir: A Park Ranger's Patrol in the Sierra is one of my favorite reads, has a new book out, Engineering Eden: The True Story of a Violent Death, a Trial, and the Fight over Controlling Nature.
"Harry Walker had come to Yellowstone in 1972 in search of himself. Instead, he became a tragic symbol of poor wildlife management and the killer grizzly bear. Walker’s death prompted a fierce debate over the human role in engineering nature, with some of the biggest names in wildlife biology at the time on either side.

"While a tempest of people, places and ideas rage within the pages of Engineering Eden the author is a calm voice in the storm, letting the reader take it all in and form an opinion of their own."
In this interview with a Florida NPR station, he says,  "“I wanted the artistic form of this narrative nonfiction work to resemble the endless interconnection of nature itself. Instead of saying to my reader, ‘Okay, now watch this. I’m gonna try to really make this complex web of relationships right in front of you,’ I just did it.”

(I really dislike the phrase "find yourself" or "in search of himself," etc. You don't just find yourself out there lying on the ground out in the woods; you build yourself by what you do day to day.)

October 30, 2016

Smoked Links with Seal Meat

This is "good" smoke, coming from a fire-line burnout
on the Junkins Fire three days ago.
I am still catching up after the evacuation, the firefighting, the meetings, and the general nervousness of having Chinook and Skycrane helicopters thumping over the house hour after hour.  So here are some quick nature-blogging links.

¶ Talk about going against the narrative an Inuit filmmaker creates a pro-seal hunt video.
Alethea Arnaquq-Baril: I'm Inuit, so I grew up in the Arctic. I grew up hunting and eating seal meat with my family, and as an Inuk, you just grow up hearing people complain [about] and criticize seal hunters. It's just kind of always been an issue for me, and I knew that when I became a filmmaker that I was eventually going to have to cover this issue. 
¶  When trekking poles became popular a few years ago, I had a sort of snobbish reaction. "Who needs two poles?" I thought. "They turn you into a beast of burden. Maybe if you are carrying a very heavy pack on rocky ground . . . "

Other people put a positive spin on "beast," saying that the poles make them feel like a sure-footed quadruped.

I am all for sparing your knees on long downhill trails, but I hate to have two hands occupied with poles. When I broke one of my old bamboo x-c ski poles a few years back, I cut them both down to walking-stick length and added rubber tips. But usually I carry only one, because the other hands needs to be free for a tool, a leashed dog, or whatever.

But here is Randy Newberg, one of the few makers of hunting videos that I can stand to watch, making the case for them — with a video too.
“You can laugh at me all you want,” says Newberg. ” But there’s a reason why this 51-year-old, gray haired fart, who drives a desk for a living a good portion of the year, can go and hunt the mountains: trekking poles.”
Another video: Put a camera on bears in Yellowstone and let them wander — and see what happens when they encounters wolves.

April 21, 2016

Volcanos and the End of Our Civilization

Well, no, not quite yet.

Popocatepatl erupted last month. You probably did not hear about that in the American news media.

But that is nothing. You want lying-awake-at-night material, think about the Yellowstone caldera.

If that blows, I will post one last message saying, "Thanks for all the fish."

This about all the End of Civilization as We Know It material That I can handle at one time. I promise no more for a while.

Unless, of course. . . . Yellowstone.

February 08, 2015

How Not To Become Prey

Bears biting backpackers. Mountain lions munching mountain bikers.

Every time that some carnivorous critter bites or kills a human, there will be voices proclaiming, "They were here first. We live on their territory."

That is true in a long historical view —  and it is also true that human populations have lived alongside big carnivores throughout history — but Wyoming writer Cat Urbigkit's new book, When Man Becomes Prey: Fatal Encounters with America's Most Feared Predators, adds some nuance and some new information.

Her book is divided into species-specific chapters
  • Black bears
  • Coyotes
  • Gray wolves
  • Mountain lions
  • Grizzly nightmares
  • Greater Yellowstone grizzlies
plus two more, "Habituation and Alaska Attacks" and "Learning to Coexist with Predators."

Each chapter begins with some narratives, the kind that you want to read in the daytime with a clear view of your surroundings. They then cover relevant scientific research and practical ways to avoid conflict with bears, mountain lions, or whatever. "For some hikers [in coyote habitat] rocks-in-pockets becomes a routine at the start of every hike."

For instance, I was raised to believe that while they were a threat to dogs and cats, coyotes left adult-size humans alone. Urbigkit leads with the 2009 killing of Taylor Mitchell in Cape Breton Highlands National Park by a small pack of three coyotes — all healthy. "Wildlife officials suspected that these coyotes had become habituated to humans during the tourist season, and this may have involved the animals receiving food rewards from humans." (There have been other attacks on children and adults , but she was the only recorded adult human fatality.)

Attacks on pets, even leashed dogs with people, are also increasing. Geographically, coyote attacks seem most common in parks, where no hunting is allowed, and into urban areas, again without hunting and with a variety of food resources.

A certain degree of hunting, she suggests, does encourage predators to stay away from people. Yet with mountain lions, for instance, "wildlife managers believe that when heavy localized hunting results in the harvest of older mature males, more young mountain lions are likely to disperse into those areas, creating an increase in [lion-human] conflicts."

Some other take-aways:

• While people think that black bear sows with cubs are the most dangerous, "the majority of the fatal attacks on humans involved male bears, and most attacks took place during the daylight hours." While most black bears are shy, some do prey on humans deliberately. Also, "no one killed in a black bear attack carried bear spray."

• Urbigkit, who lives on a sheep ranch south of Grand Teton National Park, believes in bear spray: "You don't have to be an excellent shot to be effective with a can of bear spray — a cloud of spray between you and a charging bear should be enough for your immediate retreat from the area."

She also offers a case where bear spray stopped an attacking mountain lion. I myself have used it only on aggressive dogs, where it worked well, so I suspect that it would work just as well on a wolf or coyote.

• There are no documented cases of black bears attacking humans in defense of a carcass, but as Northern Rockies hunters are learning, grizzlies, where present have done that a number of times.

• The old idea, from books like Jim Corbett's Man-Eaters of Kumaon (1944), is that the predators who attack humans are usually elderly, crippled, or wounded. With grizzly bears, that is sometimes true, Urbigkit writes. But there also more North American predators than there used to be, thanks to recovery programs and more-regulated hunting. In addition, we have created such predator-friendly places as parks and food-rich subdivisions.

Consequently, they become habituated to us — and we become habituated to them, sometimes forgetting that they "are not loveable toys to be enjoyed when convenient [Yellowstone wolf tours?] and then discarded or destroyed when they reveal their true natures.

"Predators should be treated with a realistic acknowledgment that they are animals that kill prey to survive, and should be respected for the wild creatures that they are."

Any backcountry hiker or hunter, anyone who visits parks like Yellowstone or Great Smokies, and anyone who sees bears, coyotes, or deer in their neighborhoods — where there are deer, there are lions — ought to read When Man Becomes Prey.

It is available from the publisher, Lyons Press, or from the usual online source.

August 20, 2013

Blog Stew in the Petroglyph Bowl

¶ An article on the possibly oldest petroglyphs in North America associates them chronologically with a set of human remains known as Spirit Cave Man. The interesting thing is that Spirit Cave Man (like Kennewick Man) does not appear to be an American Indian but looked more Caucasoid, perhaps like the Ainu of Japan and Far Eastern Russia.

¶ An update on the "North(ern) Colorado" secession movement. It's going to the voters in some counties.

¶ A recent spate of bear attacks. Bear spray was used in Yellowstone, but maybe not quickly enough?

Couple in Divide successfully start a goat cheese business. The site is the former Alpine Lakes Resort north of town.
"We did not intend to make it on this level," Bob McMillan said. "It started as a harmless retirement thing that got out of control."

July 06, 2013

Mange, Distemper Hit Yellowstone Wolves

An online Scientific American article says that both canine distemper and sarcoptic mange are affecting wolf populations in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas.

I could not help but think of the unlucky coyote pup we transported last Wednesday. It seems likely that the distemper caused him to fall behind, be abandoned, and be discovered by a person who wanted to help him.

September 22, 2011

Traces of Yellowstone Grizzly Bears

Wapiti Lake access blocked (MSNBC, July 2011).
On Monday, Sept. 12, which was a rainy day, M. and I car-toured the eastern side of Yellowstone National Park. (I had never seen some of its famous sights, such as the view of the falls from Artist's Point.)

When we passed the turn-off to the Wapiti Lake Trail, it was blocked every kind of barricade and tape in the Park Service warehouse.

Electric signs on the main road warned drivers not to stop and to stay in their vehicles. (And what about the many bicyclists? Are they just bear bait?)

Why? Because of the grizzly bear attack that killed a California hiker, Brian Matayoshi.

At the time, the bear that killed Matayoshi was not hunted down, but treated as a sow with cub exercising a legitimate right of (perceived) self-defense.

Now the Powers That Be are blaming Matayoshi and his wife for running and triggering the bear's predatory instincts.  
Authorities concluded that the couple's reaction - running, yelling and screaming upon the bear's approach - might have escalated the severity of the attack, according to reports.
Bear safety experts recommend people talk in a low, calm tone and stand their ground when encountering grizzlies. They say bears will sometimes "bluff charge" toward a perceived threat.
 Well, that settles it. 

In August, a visitor from Michigan, John Wallace, was killed on the Mary Mountain Trail, which we noticed was also barricaded at both ends.
"We recommend people carry bear pepper sprays," wildlife biologist Kerry Gunther told ABC. "It gives people a lot of the confidence to stand their ground." 
Yes, we carried  bear spray. On our one backcountry hike, we encountered an excited Canadian couple coming the other way who said that they had seen a sow grizz and a cub.

(I think they were Canadians because the guy used "half a mile" and "200 meters" in the same sentence.)

They were wearing bear bells. Personally, I don't think that bear bells do any good unless you chant Om Mani Padme Hum as well. Then if a bear eats you, you have a beneficial rebirth.

A German (?) man was walking out the trail behind them calling "Bär bär!" at intervals.

I decided just to fish a little more where we were, because the brookies were hitting a bead-head nymph pretty regularly.

Eventually we hiked in to the lake and back out again. I carried the bear spray canister in one hand. Saw nothing. I noticed that the older hikers tended to have bear spray, while the younger ones did not. Make what you will of that.

It's always interesting being in the (possible) presence of a superior predator. Sharpens your senses. But the truth is that although I have had many black bear encounters, I have never seen a grizzly bear in the wild (unless I did on my childhood trip to Yellowstone—can't recall).  That comes of living in the Southern rather than the Northern Rockies. Ours were eliminated a century ago, except for the puzzling grizz killed in 1979 in the Southern San Juans.

UNRELATED POSTSCRIPT: Amazon warrior on a big Percheron-cross horse saves boy from grizzly attack in Montana.

September 19, 2011

The Best Shower in Yellowstone

Gables at the Old Faithful Inn, completed in 1904, Yellowstone National Park
OK, you have been camping for a few nights. Maybe someone wants to wash her hair. But most of the campgrounds do not have showers. And the rivers (except the Firehole) are pretty cold.

Go to the Old Faithful Inn. You could go to the hotel in Mammoth too, but let's face it, the Old Faithful Inn is the most tradition-soaked, parkitecture-perfect building in Yellowstone.

Bring a bag with a towel, soap, shampoo, etc., unless you want to pay extra.

Walk up to the registration desk and tell the clerk that you wish to take a shower. The clerk will collect $3.45 and direct you up the creaking stairs to a restroom with shower stalls in the back.

The stalls are clean, tiled, and have windows that open to views like the one above. The shower is an old-style pierced disk high overhead. It feels wonderful.

Once clean and dry, stop at the Mezzanine Bar for a Snake River Lager, then carry it outside to one of the benches facing the Old Faithful Geyser and watch for it to erupt.

September 18, 2011

At Yellowstone: Why Close So Many Campgrounds in Early September?

At Madison CG, Yellowstone National Park
On Friday we arrived at the big Madison Campground at Yellowstone. Like all park lodging and most of the bigger campgrounds, it is operated by a concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

At this time of year, campgrounds are closing—too fast, I think. Madison (85 sites) was full every night of the four that we stayed there. Norris Campground (100 sites) was full too.

My old favorite, Slough Creek, has become impossible since the advent of the wolf cult.

Canyon CG was already closed, although the weather was warm, and the Canyon lodge-restaurant-visitor center area was swarming with people. It seems to me like they could make money keeping it open—I would have preferred to stay on the east side of the park.

One thing M. and I had anticipated was being spared all the news media navel-gazing over the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But right across from our campsite someone had draped their motorhome with the banners pictured. Like we needed their help to "never forget." Sheesh.

September 14, 2011

Biking Across the Country

M. and I are on our way home from Yellowstone National Park, and I will have a few more posts about that soon.

This is another version of the logo.
While reading a historical marker, we encountered Missourian Brian McEntire, who is bicycling across the country on what I still think of as the 1976 Bicentennial route. He seemed surprised when I told him that there was still one of the old green-and-white "bike-centennial" signs on Colorado 96 outside of Pueblo.

He has been keeping a log in blog form.

November 08, 2010

A Grizzly Bear in Hot Pursuit

Alex Wypyszinski, a retired professor and amateur photographer, shot this amazing series of photos of a grizzly bear chasing down an injured bison when he stopped to take photos of geysers in Yellowstone National Park in May.
I have two days to get ready for a short elk hunt*, so I leave you with a series of photos (if you have not already seen them elsewhere) of a grizzly bear's pursuit of an injured bison right down a highway in Yellowstone National Park, courtesy of Field & Stream.
Something that makes these photos even more remarkable is that [Alex] Wypyszinski didn’t use a high-end camera and lens to shoot the series.

“It was just a (digital) point-and-shoot, but it had a 15x zoom lens on it. The professionals are always out there with their 800mm lenses and run around in a group when they hear about something like this…”
As the man (possibly Weegee) said, "f/8 and be there." Today, it's more like "fresh batteries and be there."

* The elk are regular-size. The hunting period is only five days.

August 10, 2010

Blog Stew on the Yellowstone

• Yellowstone visitors reach an all-time high in July. You may connect that to the economy however you like. M. and I visited in September 2008 as the stock market plunged, but we saw no newspapers and had no internet access except for one morning in a Cody, Wyo., coffee shop. We called it "camping like it's 1929."

• At Querencia, Steve Bodio heralds the publication of John Vaillant's The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival.

Its protagonists are a single huge tiger, a ragged bunch of drunken poachers, and a patrol of anti-poaching rangers dedicated to protecting tigers over a huge area, with no money and inadequate tools. The beginning, as an unnamed hunter and his dog approach a dark cabin on a freezing evening, is a masterpiece of tension and quiet terror; the ending is utterly cinematic but real (the book is based on over 200 interviews).
• More Southern Rockies bloggers are reporting a great mushroom year--Peculiar even channels Chaucer.

• The Atomic Nerds buy dead critters from their dog. I had to do something similar yesterday with Fisher. 

• After a black bear sow smacked one of my scout cameras in June, I sent the damaged camera to camera-trapping biologist  Chris Wemmer in northern California, whose students conducted a proper postmortem on it.

April 05, 2010

Big Brother in the Backcountry

News about the National Park Service putting remote-controlled cameras in the Yellowstone National Park back country.

Well, maybe not yet, but the legal language is there "for flexibility," say the parkies.

National Parks Traveler asks the obvious question:

Has poaching, resource damage, or backcountry crime become such high-profile matters that the National Park Service feels the best way to respond to them and combat them is through the use of webcams? And really, if you're heading into the backcountry for nefarious reasons and not merely to enjoy the setting and experience, how likely is it that you're going to travel well-established trails that might one day be lined with webcams?

Spending the money on actual human rangers, who can think independently, help people, and so forth seems like a better idea.

And imagine the poor NPS employee who signed up for an "outdoor job" and ends up sitting on his/her butt in an office watching camera feeds.

March 28, 2010

Weather, Wildfire Forecast for Northern Rockies

Preliminary Fire Season 2010 Outlook for the Northern Rockies currently forecasts a dry summer.

Although the narrated slide show is focused on the Rockies from Grand Teton NP north to the Canadian border, you can also pick up some Southern Rockies information from the slides as well.

El Niño
has been good to the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico, and pretty good to us in southern Colorado. At my house in the foothills, March brought at least three feet of snow, interrupted by melts, with April still to go.

Via the Wildfire Today blog, which also points out that the massive stands of beetle-killed pine in the Rockies are less likely to support catastrophic crown fires than are living trees.

While it may seem intuitive that dead trees will lead to more fires, there is little scientific evidence to support the contention that beetle-killed trees substantially increase risk of large blazes. In fact, there is evidence to suggest otherwise.
That was the "Katrina of the West," prediction, you may recall.

November 05, 2009

The Ecological Value of Top Predators

More evidence on top predators and overall health of the land, this time from Isle Royal National Park. Research at Yellowstone NP showed similar conclusions.

More broadly, losing top predators means more "meso-predators," which different, more negative effects on the ecosystem.

Some findings:
  • Primary or apex predators can actually benefit prey populations by suppressing smaller predators, and failure to consider this mechanism has triggered collapses of entire ecosystems.
  • Cascading negative effects of surging mesopredator populations have been documented for birds, sea turtles, lizards, rodents, marsupials, rabbits, fish, scallops, insects and ungulates. 
  • The economic cost of controlling mesopredators may be very high, and sometimes could be accomplished more effectively at less cost by returning apex predators to the ecosystem.

January 18, 2008

Blog Stew with Lynx

¶ A Colorado lynx apparently walked to Yellowstone. (Hat tip: The Goat.) Or maybe you thought I was referring to an early Web browser.

¶ The Evening Grosbeak is back. No, not the bird, the bar in Cañon City. In the 1980s, we called its similar previous incarnation a "fern bar." Now it is a "martini bar." Social historians, please note. Whatever it is, Cañon finally has one, again.

¶ Conclusion: it was a Northern pygmy-owl. (Apparently it rates a hyphen, for some dark reason known only to the American Ornithologists' Union.)

¶ Another visitor today was a Clark's nutcracker. It was a little out of place too, but only by altitude. I have never seen one down this low (6,600) feet, but there is no reason it could not come down from the higher ridges, which are 9,000-plus feet in elevation.