New Heathens
28Jun/10Off

Where The Wild Things Are

Friends, as you know I like to keep tabs on fish and game news, particularly around my home state of Montana. There's been some interesting stuff recently.

BEARS

Lead off with the tragic story of a griz that killed a hiker just east of Yellowstone National Park two weeks ago. It was the first fatal griz mauling in that area in a quarter-century. The big boar griz had just woken up after being tranquilized by researchers. A 70-year-old Illinois man ignored both verbal warnings and posted signs alerting him that there was a grumpy griz in the area, and he went out hiking without pepper spray. Not only did he get killed but, per Fish & Wildlife policy, the griz was killed too.

Then another story out of Wyoming about a man convicted of illegally killing a griz though he claimed self-defense. The man came upon a griz feeding on a moose carcass and shot it, even though the bear did not charge him. The jury said that's not self-defense. Experts hope this will help set a precedent encouraging people to make better judgments as to when they are actually in imminent bear danger, rather than just in a literal and figurative hairy situation.

Then this gnarly story about a man who woke up in the middle of the night with a black bear gnawing his ear through his tent. The bear was lured to the campsite near St. Regis, Montana by trash left by another camper, and some poor Washington flyfisherman awoke to a bruin ear piercing. The bear got scared and ran off when the man woke up but again, Fish & Wildlife agents killed the bear.

Moral of the stories here: dumb people = dead bears (sometimes dead people too). Clean up your trash, only shoot if a bear charges (preferably with spray, unless you're positive you can hit a moving target when you're petrified) and for the sake of your life and the bear's life, if you see a sign that says there's a mean griz around, hike somewhere else.

Probably best to keep your distance...

On the bright side, there was this great story in New West about griz repopulating land they once roamed east of the Continental Divide and elsewhere in Montana. Also this Indy Article.

WESTSLOPE CUTTHROAT TROUT

Neat story in the Missoula Independent about steps biologists are taking to raise genetically pure Westslope Cutthroat Trout in a hatchery to help ensure the fish's longterm survival in the South Fork of the Flathead Drainage.

South Fork Cutt

BULL TROUT

Good news: the feds reversed a Bush-era decision, determined to be based on industry-influenced "science," and protected five times more bull trout habitat. (Check out the one I just caught & released in Montana here.)

STURGEON

Things look a little more dire for the Kootenai River White Sturgeon, despite efforts to raise them in a hatchery and spill more water over the dam in Libby, MT to encourage them to spawn.

WOLVES

The wolf-hunter is the new drama queen.

BUFFALO

Thought it was interesting that a New York Times article fact-checking Obama's claim that the Gulf oil spill is the worst environmental disaster in United States history made the point that the near eradication of the American Bison could be comparable, or worse. I also thought it was interesting that another Times article, about a herd of Yellowstone Bison going to live on Ted Turner's ranch rather than face slaughter, noted competition for grass on federal lands along with possible disease transmission as the reasons cattle associations oppose bison leaving Yellowstone Park. This is a small but important elevation in the grass issue, which never got the attention the disease issue, which is cattle ranchers fearing bison could give brucellosis to their stock (which has never happened). It's a big deal that cattlemen expect their cows to graze on federal lands with no competition. An important discussion to have is why cattlemen get the monopoly that land. Why can't some land be used to support a free ranging wild bison herd that, like elk, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn antelope, black bears, mountain lions, moose, coyotes and now wolves, could be both enjoyed by wildlife watchers AND hunted by sportsmen?

To that end, the most exciting bison news continues to come from the reserve run by the American Prairie Foundation in north central Montana. The APF is using private donations to buy up swaths of land, secure conservation easements from area ranchers and work with the community to protect the prairie and bring back bison. Can't wait to see it one day.

Speaking of can't wait to see, the new buffalo documentary "Facing the Storm" from the Montana based film company High Plains Films looks really cool. See the trailer here.

(Does this wildlife rap count as a soap-box? I feel kinda' like Jackson Browne, minus the success and good looks.)

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