Dwindling Denali wolves raise tourism concerns

wolf population across the 6 million acre park and preserve declined from 143 in fall 2007 to just 55 in spring 2013

Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS Photo / Nathan Kostegian.

Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS/Nathan Kostegian.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — An arbitrary decision by the Alaska Board of Game to allow wolf hunting and trapping near Denali National Park has cut the regional wolf population by nearly two-thirds and significantly reduced opportunities for park visitors to see wolves in the wild — one of the main reasons people go to Denali in the first place.

This year, fewer than 5 percent of park visitors were able to see wolves, down from about 45 percent back in 2000, according to National Park Service statistics obtained by a federal government watchdog group.

“This precipitous decline in wildlife viewing success appears to be unprecedented in the history of the national park system,” said Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and a Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility board member. Continue reading

Putting up Christmas lights? Keep wildlife in mind

Antlered animals can get tangled in light strands

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We love our holiday lights, but take care to avoid wildlife entanglements. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

As the holiday season nears and decorations begin to adorn houses, yards and trees, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds the public to decorate with wildlife safety in mind. Outdoor holiday decorations and structures, like Christmas lights or trampolines, can cause problems for antlered animals.

“Deer, elk, and moose often find themselves tangled in material or stuck in pools, skate parks, etc.” said Jennifer Churchill, public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Although some may find these interactions cute or think that the animal is having fun, these situations can be very stressful to the animal. Coloradans should do all they can to prevent our wildlife from conflict with man-made obstructions.” Continue reading

Wildlife: Colorado Birding Trail expands to northwestern part of state with 13 new segments

New designations could help boost local economies

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Osprey have built nests in the top of beetle-killed lodgepole pines along the shore of Dillon Reservoir. bberwyn photo.

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Migrating grebes visit Dillon Reservoir in late fall and early winter. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —It’s not too late to do a little bird-watching in Colorado; in fact, it’s one of the best times of the year to catch a glimpse of some migratory wanderers making a last stop before heading to sunnier climes for the next few months.

It’s also a good time to get dialed in for the annual Christmas bird count, a nationwide event that helps wildlife biologists get an overall picture of bird populations across the country.

And just in time, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has unveiled the recently completed northwest section of the Colorado Birding Trail, covering popular recreation areas like Summit County. The latest addition includes a series of 13 trails-or driving loops-and 155 wildlife viewing sites to the previously established trails across the southeast and southwest areas of the state. Continue reading

Colorado wary of greater sage-grouse listing

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Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

State officials want to balance fossil fuel development with wildlife conservation

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite the fact fossil fuel development is devastating wildlife habitat in northwest Colorado, state officials are pressing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep greater sage-grouse off the endangered species list.

In a press release, Gov. John Hickenlooper‘s office described  oil and gas drilling as “vibrant economic activities,” and touted voluntary conservation activities shaped by local stakeholders as an alternative to a federal conservation plan.

“Given the unique landscapes and natural resources in Colorado, a Colorado-based solution is more practical that one handed down by the federal government,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement. “We hope the Bureau of Land Management will look at the public-private partnerships that have been so successful in Colorado as a model on how to get things done.” Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds extend comment period on controversial plan to take wolves off endangered species list

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Feds reschedule hearings on plan to take wolves off the Endangered Species List. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Public hearings rescheduled for November

*More Summit Voice wolf coverage is online here

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — There’s a little more time to comment on the controversial federal proposal to take gray wolves off the endangered species list, and boost protection for Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest.

Because of the partial federal government shutdown, the  the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rescheduled several public hearings on the plan, and the comment period has been extended through Dec. 17.

The hearings will be held. Nov. 19 in Denver, Nov. 20 in Albuquerque and Nov. 22 in Sacramento. Each hearing includes a short informational presentation. The Service has also added a public information meeting and hearing in Pinetop, Arizona, on Dec. 3. Continue reading

Summit County: Wildlife managers seek info on moose kill

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A moose cow and calves grazing near Berthoud Pass, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Failure to report an accidental kill can lead to fines, loss of license

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — State game managers are looking for information about the death of a bull moose near the Summit County shooting range and Frey Gulch Road. According to wildlife officials, the moose died from a gunshot wound and was not field dressed, leaving the meat to waste.

The moose was found during Colorado’s second rifle-hunting season but officials believe it was killed in early October, possibly during the first rifle season, Oct. 12 through 16.

Although details of the moose’s death are currently unknown, officials are investigating the incident as a possible mistaken or careless kill by an elk hunter.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges the public to provide any additional information that may lead to the person or persons responsible, including personal photos of any live bull moose seen in the area since early October.

“We understand that mistaken kills can happen while hunting, but we ask hunters to let us know right away,” said Summit County District Wildlife Manager Elissa Knox. “Killing an animal without a license, abandoning and wasting the meat and evading authorities can potentially lead to felony charges, substantial fines, prison time and a lifetime suspension of hunting privileges in Colorado as well as 38 other states.” Continue reading

Environment: Bat-killing fungus can live on almost anything

‘All in all the news for hibernating bats in the U.S. is pretty grim’

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A little brown bat with white-nose syndrome. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The deadly fungus that has killed millions of bats across the U.S. is a tough, opportunistic organism that can eat almost anything and survive in a wide range of conditions.

There seems to very little that might stop the Geomyces destructans from spreading further and persisting indefinitely in bat caves, according to University of Illinois scientists who recently studied the basic biology of the fungus responsible for white-nose syndrome. Continue reading

Wildlife officials say Colorado is ‘open for hunting’

A bull elk in Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE/MICHAEL SERAPHIN.

A bull elk in Colorado. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Michael Seraphin.

Federal government shutdown won’t have big impact on state’s big game season

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The partial federal government shutdown has put a crimp in some hunting plans, but state officials are emphasizing that the state’s big season won’t see a big impact from the political theater in Washington, D.C.

More than 23 million acres of federal land in the state are open for fall hunting, and early snowfall could help make it one of the better seasons in recent years, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife experts.

“It’s unfortunate that hunters are receiving mixed messages from the federal agencies,” said Steve Yamashita, acting director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “While all of the National Forests in Colorado are open, the shutdown has confused sportsmen across the country and we’re trying to make sure people get the right information. Colorado is open this hunting season.”  Continue reading

Global warming ‘closes cafeteria’ for migrating caribou

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Caribour browsing in Alaska. Photo courtesy USGS.

Melting sea ice leads to trophic mismatch

By Summit Voice

FRISCOAs scientists amass more long-term observational data on global warming impacts in the Arctic, it’s becoming increasingly clear that melting sea ice will affect nearby land areas. In one of the most recent studies, Penn State researchers concluded that melting sea ice may be related to fewer caribou calf births and higher calf mortality in Greenland.

As the sea ice melts, warmer air temperatures in the surrounding area are causing plants to start growing earlier. But because caribou aren’t breeding any earlier, the calving season is out of synch with food availability, according to Eric Post, a Penn State University professor of biology, and Jeffrey Kerby, a Penn State graduate student. Continue reading

Feds revise critical habitat proposal for lynx

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Proposed critical habitat for lynx in the northern Rockies, as mapped by the USFWS.

Colorado once again left out of critical habitat zone

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Working under a court order, federal biologists have finished a revision of a critical habitat designation for threatened lynx — but once again, Colorado was left out of the equation.

The latest critical habitat designation, subject to a 90-day comment period, would cover about  41,547 square miles within the boundaries of five critical habitat units in the states of Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming.

Colorado wasn’t included because the agency doesn’t believe that the state’s population is essential to the long-term conservation of the species, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Jim Zelenak.

“We looked at the historical record and the biological history of lynx in Colorado and it’s just not clear that Colorado ever supported a persistent population over time … We recognize the potential for lynx in the southern Rockies … but our approach has been to look at those places with persistent populations over time. We want to feel fairly certain that an area has the physical attributes needed to support lynx,” Zelenak said. Continue reading

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