A cloudy, snowy, cold Mother’s Day. I like to head into the park on Mother’s Day and try to see babies. I’m so close to the Lamar Valley, just one hour to the Buffalo Ranch, that I usually don’t get much further, and don’t need too. All photos below are from today.
A few Mother’s Days ago there was so much activity in the valley–wolves on wolves competing with bears, coyotes and bison babies, you-name-it. Today was a different Mother’s Day. The Lamar activity has calmed down in general. With few wolves, there is just less activity. But spring is always an excellent time to see bears and today was no exception.
I saw a total of 5 grizzlies in the Lamar–a mom with 2 yearlings, and two boars. The boars had a brief face off for a few tense moments, but the bigger one just went his way. Bighorn sheep rams stood by the roadside; a coyote was on a bison calf carcass, and the bison babies and moms were all along the road. I watched a wonderful scene of a young frisky bison calf jump around, then come back and nuzzle his mom. The mom and him butted and rubbed their heads, then he was off romping again.
What strikes a person traveling through the Park is how many people LOVE to visit this area, and some many times a year. I spoke with a fellow who travels here at least 4 times a year from Rhode Island. He comes in winter to Jackson to photograph elk on the refuge. Then he returns for the antler auction, trying to match up his photos with a matched set of antlers (75% goes to the Refuge, 25% to the local boy scout troop who do the collecting of the antlers). He comes other times just for wildlife watching. Many of the people I spoke with come out every May, staying outside the Park at the gateway communities. Some people come from as far away as England. Some have even bought second homes here. And what are people looking for when they come–they all want to watch predators! “I want to see a bear” one person told me. They’d like to see wolves, bears, foxes. It’s easy to see elk, bison, and antelope. But predators are exciting for people to watch.
And the predator that is now obviously ‘missing’ in the Lamar viewing experience is the wolf. Although there is a pair there who have pups, two grown wolves are hard to spot, as compared to over a dozen in the pack just a few years ago.
From where I sit in my valley, the wolf hunt has hit the Lamar hard as these wolves travel back and forth in the winter time following the migratory Lamar elk herd outside the Park. The Wyoming Game and Fish has proposed an increase in the 2014 wolf hunt numbers. Most areas would have an increased quota–my area 2 would be increased from 4 last year to 5 this fall. In 2013 5 wolves were killed, one above the quota. There is a confirmed pack of 6 wolves here. Why is the quota most of the adult pack?
Please take a look at this sane proposal below from Brushback Guide Services. They propose Tourist and Science zones next to the Park with either 1. no harvests, depredation only or 2. extremely low quotas with a buffer of 10-15 miles around the Park, thereby tightening the areas or 3. very limited shortened seasons in these special zones.
This proposal would protect the tourist economy as well as balance with those who want to hunt wolves. A continued increase in the wolf hunt will only have continuous impacts on the Park and the wolf population and pack structures in the Greater Yellowstone area.
Wolves, and all predators, should be appreciated for their necessary impacts on ecosystems. They are needed in the ‘web’. They manage the meso-predators, they foster healthy landscapes, they provide food for other large predators such as bears, and for thousands of years ungulates have been evolutionarily healthier because of their presence.
Yet the reality today is economics and dollars drive the argument and the management policies. So here is what Brushback Guide Services proposes that I think works. Proposal #1 is what I prefer:
Proposal 1- Science & Tourism Units
Units that are important to wildlife viewing would be considered “Science & Tourism Units” to allow scientists a chance to keep ongoing wolf studies without having so many wolves taken mid-life before their full potential data is reached. The other purpose for these units is tourism. Tour companies can show people wolves in areas where they are not hunted better than areas where they are hunted. These units have good road systems for tourism and border national parks for ongoing studies. Scientifically, these units allow us to know how to manage wolves in areas where they do get hunted because we know how it should be when they are not hunted or very limited hunting is allowed.
Proposal: Science & Tourism Units- Unit 2, 6, 8, & 9
Depredation only OR extremely low quotas of 1 or 2 wolves
Depredation only is preferred in “Science & Tourism Units”.
Proposal 2- Cut Units In Half Along Park Borders
Give units bordering the national parks an approximate 15-20 mile “wolf hunt free zone”. Delegate these by nearest large landmark such as creeks. For example: Creek No Name is 15 miles from east side of Grand Teton National Park border, hunters can hunt the east side, but not the west side of No Name Creek. Another option would be to START the hunt unit 15-20 miles away from the park designated by large, easy to use and not mistake landmarks/roads.
Proposal: Start wolf hunt units 15-20 miles from park border
Keep original quotas as Game & Fish has designated
Park wolves will be less affected helping science and tourism.
Depredation still in place.
Proposal 3- Keep The Current Plan/Units, Lower Quotas & Shorter Season
I’m going to focus again on national park border units. This approach gives “Science & Tourism” people a chance to have a better experience by showing and recording wolves. This will also allow hunters a chance to hunt units away from the national park keeping hunters happy. Quotas that would have less impact to us would look like this:
Unit 1- 3 Wolves October 1- December 31st
Unit 2- 2 Wolves November 1st – November 30th (Science & Tourism Unit)
Unit 3- 7 Wolves October 1st- December 31st
Unit 4- 4 Wolves October 1st- December 31st
Unit 5- 6 Wolves October 1st- December 31st
Unit 6- 2 Wolves November 1st – November 30th (Science & Tourism Unit)
Unit 7- 1 Wolf October 1st- December 31st
Unit 8- Depredation Only (Science & Tourism Unit)
Unit 9- Depredation Only (Science & Tourism Unit)
Unit 10- 3 wolves October 1st- December 31st
Unit 11- 2 Wolves October 1st- December 31st
Unit 12- 1 Wolf October 15th- December 31st
Please get your comments into Wyoming Game and Fish regarding the proposed hunt by May 30th.