Wildlife: Montana man fined $30,000 for killing grizzlies

Grizzlies are roaming farther north and encroaching on Polar bear habitat, PHOTO COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

Grizzly bear poaching leads to $30,000 fine. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Poacher admits crime, ask investigators for hides

Staff Report

FRISCO — A Montana man recently convicted of illegally killing three grizzly bears apparently didn’t get the endangered species message.

Everett Skunkcap, 75, of Browning, Montana, admitted the poaching to wildlife investigators, then asked if he could have the hides After the investigation. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Skunkcap said he was going to “tan them and put them on the wall [as a] souvenir for what [he] did.” Continue reading

Wildlife: Annual bison slaughter starts in Yellowstone

Wildlife advocates seek wider restoration

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American bison, Black Hills of South Dakota. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite polls showing widespread public support for relocating Yellowstone bison to start herds in appropriate locations across the state, the National Park Service has once again started rounding up wild bison for slaughter.

The animals wander out of the park each winter searching for food at lower elevations. This year’s killing program is slated to be the largest in seven years to cap the bison population in the park at 3,500, part of a settlement with the state of Montana over now-discredited concerns about brucellosis and carrying capacity.

The late-December poll showed that 67 percent of Montanans support relocating Yellowstone bison rather than killing them. It also also found that 68 percent of Montanans view bison as wildlife and 72 percent believe bison should be managed like the state’s other wildlife species. Continue reading

Biodiversity: 20-year battle over Montana’s Arctic grayling headed back to court

An Arctic grayling in the Gulkana River, Paxson, Alaska. Photo courtesy USGS.

An Arctic grayling in the Gulkana River, Paxson, Alaska. Photo courtesy USGS.

Conservation groups say the river fish needs endangered species protection

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wrangling over the fate Montana’s Arctic grayling will continue in court, as conservation groups this week challenged a federal finding that the fish don’t need Endangered Species Act protection.

Graylings are part of the salmon family, native to cold freshwater streams and rivers across Canada and Alaska, with a genetically distinct population in Montana that was nearly wiped out by the 1970s. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Another win for bison restoration

Montana court says bison are not livestock

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A Yellowstone bison. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Montana district court judge this month rejected yet another attempt by ranchers to block the restoration of bison in the northern plains. The ranchers sought to have wild bison classified as livestock rather than wildlife, but Montana District Judge John McKeon ruled last week that wild bison are wildlife under state law — regardless of their confinement in quarantine.

A legal classification as livestock would have transferred jurisdiction over quarantined bison from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to the Montana Department of Livestock—a move that threatened to impede any future efforts to restore native bison as a wildlife species in appropriate portions of their historic habitat.

“This ruling rightly discredits what amounted to a stealth attack on future efforts to restore wild bison in Montana,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who represented Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation in opposing Citizens for Balanced Use’s argument. “Wild bison are classified as wildlife under Montana law. Now it is time to restore wild bison as wildlife on the Montana landscape.” Continue reading

Biodiversity: Yellowstone bison get more room to roam

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A bison grazes near a highway in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A long-running battle over Yellowstone bison was at least partly resolved this week, as a Montana judge upheld a state policy allowing the animals to roam outside Yellowstone National Park without facing harassment and death.

The state rules were challenged by ranchers opposed to allowing bison to graze in the Gardiner Basin, just north of the park, important habitat in the winter and early spring. Federal and state biologists decided last year to allow bison seasonal access until May 1 of each year, opening critical foraging lands when higher elevations in the park lack spring grasses for bison and other grazing animals.

“Today’s ruling represents a victory for all those who want to see wild bison as a living part of the Montana landscape,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who defended the bison policy in the case on behalf of the Bear Creek Council, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and Natural Resources Defense Council. “The Yellowstone region’s bison herds are the descendants of the last wild bison in the American West, and today they stand as some of the last genetically pure bison in the world.  The court rejected the idea that the law requires slaughtering these magnificent animals whenever they cross the park boundary.”   Continue reading

Search is on for missing hikers in Glacier National Park

Cutbank Valley in Glacier National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Wintry weather hampers rescue crews

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Winter-like weather in the northern Rockies has hampered the search for two missing hikers in Glacier National Park. The two men, 32-year-old Neal Peckens from Virginia and 32-year-old Jason Hiser from Maryland, were reported missing Oct. 12 when they missed their flight home.

National Park Service rangers believe the men  departed from the North Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine on Tuesday, October 9. According to their backcountry permit, the men planned to camp at the Oldman Backcountry Campground on Tuesday night and return to Two Medicine on Wednesday, October 10. Continue reading

Montana faces lawsuit over lynx impacts from trapping

A lynx in Colorado. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk, Colorado Division of Wildlife.

At least four lynx have been killed by traps intended for other species

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A ski area expansion like Peak 6 might displace one or two lynx, but that’s nothing compared to the direct mortality that has occurred from legal trapping in Montana.

At least nine lynx have been caught in traps since the species was listed in 2000 and four are known to have died — as a result, four conservation groups say they will sue the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission for permitting the trapping.

“Montana has failed to safeguard lynx from the cruel vicissitudes of traps and snares, and that has resulted in the death and impairment of several animals, which impedes lynx recovery,” said Wendy Keefover, carnivore protection program director for WildEarth Guardians. Continue reading

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