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Wolves targets of legislation, bullets, traps, rumors

PREDATORS – Here’s a lengthy update on gray wolf news, issues and activities in the region, including bills being considered this week:

WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE 

Still alive in Olympia is a bill that could let landowners kill wolves caught in the act of attacking pets or livestock.

Senate Bill 5187, introduced by Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday morning (March 20).

While some conservation groups oppose most measures that involve killing wolves, which are listed as endangered in Washington, state Fish and Wildlife officials tend to support the bill.

Wyoming, Montana and Idaho had similar laws in place between 1995 and 2003, and only three wolves were shot by landowners during those years, said Nate Pamplin, the state’s wildlife division director.  

“There are some positive aspects of this bill,” he told the Seattle Times. While the impact to wolf populations would be negligible, “It can help reduce animosity between ranchers and the government because people will feel like they can protect their property.”

Senate Bill 5193, also introduced by Smith and supported by WDFW, would designate up to $50,000 a year in department funding to compensate ranchers for livestock losses from wolves and tap special license plates receipts for some of the funds.

IDAHO LEGISLATURE

A bill that could tap a sportsman-funded Idaho Fish and Game Department account and raise money to compensate ranchers and help control wolf damage has been sent to the House floor with a “do-pass” recommendation from the Agricultural Affairs Committee.

House Bill 278 was introduced by Rep. Judy Boyle, a Republican rancher from Midvale.

WOLF SIGHTINGS

Among the many wolf sightings reported in the region, some are more credible than others, including the black wolf wearing a collar and running with another wolf west of St. John, Wash., in recent months. The collar was not attached in Washington. It could be from Idaho, but the collar apparently is no longer transmitting so there’s been no confirmation.

The responses I received from Washington and Idaho wildlife biologists offer a little insight into the vaguery of research tools.

“The wolf could be from either Idaho or Montana (or even B.C. I guess),” said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Panhandle Regional wildlife manager.

“All of us have plenty of collars that have gone off the air, or dispersed.”

Wolves get around, he said, noting a collared wolf seen in Washington could have originated from Idaho, Oregon, Montana or even British Columbia.

“I did get a call several weeks ago now from a Washington bio about this wolf.  We have not collared any black wolves in this region, but a couple days prior we had reports of two wolf tracks near Windy Bay, on the west side of Lake CDA, so that lends credence to the theory that those two wolves came from/through Idaho. 

“We have four collars active in the Panhandle, three south of I90 and one north of the corridor.”

Glen Hickey, Idaho Fish and Game in Lewiston, emphasized Hayden’s point about wolves getting around.

 “One wolf collared in a study in Unit 10 north of Orofino and was killed by a hunter in unit 39 south of Lowman – third of the wat acorss the state, he said. “Another one collared in the same study area was harvested in Montana near Helena. Given that backdrop, it’s anyone’s guess where that wolf in Washington came from.”

Wolf OR7 came back to Oregon on March 12. The wolf, born and fixed with a GPS collar in Oregon, crossed into California on Dec. 28, 2011.  It was a rock star as the only known wolf in the state.  Back home after more than 14 months, it joins at least 53 other wolves documented in Oregon.

WOLF MEETINGS

The potential impact of wolves on northeastern Washington game species such as deer and elk will be discussed in a public meeting set by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on Wednesday (March 27) in Colville.

The meeting is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Colville Ag Trade Center, 317 West Astor Ave.

WOLF TRAPPING

The Idaho Clearwater Region’s last wolf trapper education course of the season will be held March 30 in Lewiston. 

Fires planned to boost wildlife habitat

WILDLIFE — Starting as early as Monday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to ignite controlled burns on parts of two wildlife areas in northeast Washington to reduce wildfire risks and enhance wildlife habitat.

Depending on weather conditions, controlled burns are set for parts of state's Sherman Creek Wildlife Area on the west side of Lake Roosevelt in Ferry County and at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County.
The controlled burns – planned for March, April and May – will cover about 600 acres, and will be conducted on parcels ranging from 15 acres to several hundred acres, said Dale Swedberg, manager of WDFW’s Sinlahekin Wildlife Area. Additional burns are planned for next fall and the spring of 2014.
Swedberg said the burns in both wildlife areas were delayed from last fall, when burn bans followed by heavy rain prompted WDFW to wait until this year, he said.
Read on for more details.

39-year-old black bear ready to emerge from den

WILDLIFE — Minnesota wildlife biologists have a long history with the oldest wild black bear known to be roaming free in the woods (videoed in her den, above).

Tagged No. 56 by researchers in 1981, the the 39-year-old sow is still in her winter den in the Chippewa National Forest.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, No. 56 has outlived virtually all of the 550 black bears the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources collared and tracked in the past four decades.

In addition to the research data, she's also produced about 28 cubs in her lifetime, with her last litter at the twilight age of 25. Nowadays, the old girl is no longer in the mood for parenting or exhaustive courtships, researchers say.

In the summer before denning this winter, No.56 mostly meandered around the forest and took a lot of long naps.  Although she had recently lost some weight and a few teeth, biologists say she’s still in pretty good health.

March is the month bears normally begin emerging from their dens In the Rocky Mountains. Males generally are the first to come out. Sows with cubs usually emerge weeks later.

Video: Take a moment to relax with wildlife

WILDLIFE — Before you launch into another week, pause for a soothing couple of minutes with wintering wildlife accompanied by Kenny G's tenor sax: Courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

IFG offers rules, tips for “shed” hunters

WILDLIFE — It's the shed antler-horn scavenging season.  I hope people who are out hunting for them realize this is a stressful time for wildlife. Moving big game off their wintering areas this time of year can be as deadly as giving them a slow-acting poison.

Some wildlife areas have special access restrictions during late winter and spring.

Here's a shed-hunting Q & A from Idaho Fish and Game:

Q. I want to collect shed antlers, what sort of license do I need and what sort of restrictions are there?

A. You don’t need a license, and the only restrictions are on access and travel on the land. Horn hunters, like other outdoor recreationists, must secure permission to cross or look for antlers on private land, and they must abide by transportation restrictions on federal and state public lands.

Horn hunting typically starts in early spring. Deer, elk and moose shed their antlers over the winter, following the mating seasons.

Pronghorn is the only species with horns to annually shed its horn sheath. Just after mating season, the pronghorn sheds its horns and only the permanent core remains. The horns of bighorn sheep that have died of natural causes also may be recovered but may not be sold, bartered or transferred to another person without a permit from Fish and Game.

Bighorn sheep horns must be permanently marked with a metal pin at an Idaho Fish and Game regional office within 30 days of recovery.

Horn hunters are asked to avoid disturbing animals during winter while they are conserving their resources trying to make it through to spring.

Elk near Fairfield being chased by dog

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Wolves and cougars aren't the only critters posing a threat to the region's elk herds.

Tom and Jane Smith of Spokane Valley were driving southbound on Highway 27 toward Fairfield Tueday around 1 p.m. when Tom reports, “I saw the largest herd of elk I've ever sighted.” 

Just north of the Elder Road turnoff, we saw a herd of between 20 and 30 animals—several bulls—being chased by a dog.  They were headed east toward Highway 27 then turned back west.  We lost them in the hills. 

Great to see (not the dog, but the elk).

Wash. lawmakers pass wolf bills out of committee

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two of several gray wolf-related bills being considered in the 2013 Washington Legislature have passed out of committee and could be considred by the Senate.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman has this update on the status of the bills.

Washington wolf packs detailed

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Although Idaho won't be releasing its 2012 year-end gray wolf surveys report until March, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department released its federally required report last week, as we reported.

The details are posted on the agency's gray wolf webpage, but Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine has compiled this easy-to-read rundown of all the known wolf packs in Washington with updated info.

Animal tracks topic at sportsman’s breakfast

Idaho Fish and Game Department

COEUR d’ALENE SPORTSMEN’S

 BREAKFAST

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2013

Breakfast, $7.50 includes tax and gratuity

Lake City Senior Center, 1916 N. Lakewood Dr.

Coeur d’Alene, ID ~ Time – 6:30 AM

Beth Paragamian, Wildlife Education Specialist, will give a presentation on animal tracks.

Stop in for breakfast, have a cup of coffee, and visit with IDFG staff and other sportsmen.

Questions?  Nancy @ 769-1414

Wolf numbers doubled in 2012, Washington report confirms

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Although the unofficial estimates have been out for weeks, the Washington Fish and Wildlife today confirmed that the number of confirmed gray wolves and wolf packs in the state nearly doubled during the past year.

Based on field reports and aerial monitoring for the annual report, the 2012 survey confirms the presence of at least 51 wolves in nine wolf packs with a total of five successful breeding pairs. The previous year’s survey documented 27 wolves, five wolf packs and three breeding pairs.

A wolf pack is defined as two or more wolves traveling together. A successful breeding pair is defined as an adult male and female with at least two pups that survive until the end of the calendar year.

“The survey shows that our state’s wolf population is growing quickly,” said Nate Pamplin, WDFW wildlife program director. “That growth appears to be the result of both natural reproduction and the continuing in-migration of wolves from Canada and neighboring states.”

Pamplin said the actual number of wolves in Washington state is likely much higher than the number confirmed by the survey, noting that field biologists currently suspect the existence of two additional packs.

In addition, lone wolves often go uncounted and those that range into Washington but den in other states are not included in WDFW’s survey, he said.

Considering those factors, and applying an estimate of the average pack size in other western states, there could easily be as many as 100 wolves in Washington, Pamplin said.

“The survey is the baseline we use to monitor wolves’ progress toward recovery,” he said. “While we’ve stepped up our monitoring efforts significantly over the past year, we recognize that it does not account for every wolf within our state’s borders.”

One of the nine packs represented in the survey is the Wedge pack, which now has two confirmed members in northeastern Washington. Last summer, WDFW eliminated seven members of the pack to end a series of attacks on an area rancher’s cattle that left six calves dead and 10 other animals injured. 

Pamplin said wildlife biologists do not know whether the two wolves living near the U.S.-Canada border in Stevens County are members of the original Wedge pack or whether they are new arrivals from inside or outside the state.

“Either way, we were confident that wolves would repopulate that area,” he said. “We really hope to prevent the kind of situation we faced with the Wedge pack last summer by working with ranchers to use non-lethal methods to protect their livestock.”

The gray wolf is currently listed by the state as an endangered species throughout Washington and is federally listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of the state. Once common, wolves were essentially eliminated in most western states during the past century because they preyed on livestock.

Under the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, wolves can be removed from the state’s endangered species list once 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among three designated wolf-recovery regions. Four pairs are required in Eastern Washington, four pairs in the North Cascades, four pairs in South Cascades/Northwest Coast and three pairs in any recovery region.

Reports of possible wolf sightings can be made to WDFW’s wildlife reporting line, (877) 933-9847.

Idaho research helicopter targets elk, moose, wolves

WILDLIFE — Helicopters are getting ready to fly for a wide-ranging wildlife research effort in Idaho's Clearwater region.

Idaho Fish and Game Department wildlife biologists are gearing up for helicopter surveys and radio collaring elk, moose and wolves in Big Game Management Unit 10. In the next week or two, they are planning to place collars on 20 calves and 15 adult elk; 20 calves and 7 adult moose; and 10-15 wolves.
 
This effort is part of a continuing research project on causes and consequences of ungulate mortality. Results from this study will be used to make wildlife management decisions related to wolf-ungulate populations in Idaho, said Jen Bruns, IFG spokeswoman in Lewiston.

Wildlife enthusiast to tell birders why he’s a hunter

HUNTING – “I hunt therefore I am (what)?”

Everyone might have a different word to fill in the blank in that phrase: condemnable, capable, cold-hearted, complete….

Fill in he blank as you see fit, but not before you give me a shot at explaining why an animal lover and wildlife conservationist would chose to be a hunter.

I’ll be giving a program on the topic Wednesday (Feb. 13) for the Spokane Audubon Society’s open meeting, 7:30 p.m., at Riverview Retirement Community, Village Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

  • Click here for directions to the meeting location.

Sportsmen are among the most ardent year-round wildlife watchers and they contribute generously to wildlife conservation.

Moreover, animals are delicious.

But those are just a few of many reasons I hunt.

Requiem for Bam Bam, park’s head-butting bighorn

WILDLIFE — Bam Bam, the bighorn sheep whose penchant for butting cars made him an international star, died of natural causes in Wyoming last week.  He was believed to be 12.

Bam Bam was the last of the Wheatland-area Sinks Canyon State Park bighorn herd, surviving a plague of pneumonia that wiped out the park’s sheep population in the middle of the last decade. Friends said he loved a scratch on the ear, Doritos and a good head butt.

I don't post this to support anyone's notion that feeding wildlife is a good idea.  It's lucky no one was hurt by this ram.  But I like the rest of the story as described nicely here by Benjamin Storrow in the Star-Tribune.

Bobcat finds backyard squirrels appetizing

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A Newcastle, Wash., man got a rare daylight view of a bobcat and her kitten in action this week — through his kitchen window.

J.D. Hammerly was able to snap photos of the bobcat squirrel hunting spree in his backyard.

Newcastle is in Western Washington bettween Issaquah and Mercer Island.

Wide-ranging wolverine opened researchers’ eyes

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to list the wolverine as a threatened species is generating more insight into the elusive carnivore.  Even in modern times, wildlife biologists are just documenting the life-history suggested in this quote of the day:

“We put a GPS collar on him and released him there in the Tetons, and he just disappeared. Eventually, he came back to the Tetons and dropped his collar, and we found it. He went down to Pocatello, Idaho, and back to the Tetons in three weeks. It really opened our eyes to how these animals can travel unbelievable distances in a short amount of time.”

—Bob Inman,a carnivore biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, about the travels of a male wolverine radio-collared during a decadelong study of the species in Wyoming and Montana.
- Jackson Hole News & Guide

Mountain lions keep wildlife police busy

PREDATORS — Along with citizen complaints about moose, coyotes and other creatures, Washington Fish and Wildlife police were busy responding to a number of cougar-related issues last week. Here are just a few examples from the weekly Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Spokane Region report:

— A cougar roamed Ione during daylight hours, with no fear of people or passing cars. The responding officer called a houndsman who dispatched the cougar, which was examined. It was extremely thing and appeared to be blind. The carcass is at WSU for necropsy.

—Another cougar was sighted near Tiger. The officer called in houndsmen who chased the cougar away from homes in the area. It appeared to be healthy.

— Two officers responded to a complaint and confirmed a cougar had killed a goat. Again a houndsman was called to assist with killing the cougar.

— A reported wolf attack on livestock guard dogs in Whitman County was more likely the work of a cougar, officers said. But the report was a week after the attacks and evidence was inconclusive

Here's the best one — poachers trying to get their cougar mounted as a trophy.

An officer making a routine check on the books of an area taxidermist's ledger grew suspicious of the entry by a man who brought in a large tom. The cougar had been shot in Columbia County in November. On a hunch, the officer wrote down the name of the hunter and decided to look into the details of his hunt.

He verified the cougar was harvested on the same day the cougar tag was bought. Two officers then contacted the subject and got a load of baloney for a while. The man held to his story that he was just a lucky guy to have bought his cougar tag and then shot a cougar just 20 minutes or so later!

But pretty the officers were chiseling away to the truth. The subject later confessed to killing the cougar before he bought his tag, using his friend’s rifle. The subject later stated his friend was paying for the taxidermy work on the cougar because he wanted the cougar in his house.

The officers smelled more problems.

The dug a little more and were able to learn that the original subject friend who shot the cougar without a tag — and he was from Oregon. So he got the original subject to go by a tag and illegally put it on the dead cougar.

The officers bagged a two-fer by pursuing this case.

Video: humorous commercial bears viewing

WILDLIFE — Bear with me on this….

The ability of computer generated animation to mix fantasy with reality is a bit alarming, but also quite humorous in the case of this creative Canadian ad for a clothes washing machine reveals.

Researcher not surprised that grizzly checked out Missoula

WILDLIFE — New kid on the block in Montana …

Data from radio collar tracks Montana grizzly's trek near Missoula

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear manager Jamie Jonkel said he wasn't surprised to learn that a female grizzly bear had traveled on the fringe of Missoula in the fall of 2011, as his department has been predicting the big bruins would be expanding into the area for years. — Missoulian

Skijorers back their dogs at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS —  Learn to ski with dog power in a skijoring clinic Sunday (Jan. 27), 2 p.m., at Mount Spokane State Park.

The Mt. Spokane Skijor Group will teach basic skills and etiquette for the trails that are open to skijorers at designated times twice a week.

Cost: $10, due by Thursday (Jan. 24).

Preregister: Diana Roberts, email dianaroberts21@comcast.net or call (509)570-8242.

Idaho tax checkoff supports non-game wildlife

WILDLIFE  – Idaho residents have a rare chance to support the state’s wildlife when they file state income tax returns.

Check the square to donate any amount of your refund to the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. State wildlife management for fish and animals is funded by license sales to hunters and anglers. No general taxes go to wildlife programs for fish, game or nongame.

The only two ways to support animals that are not hunted, fished or trapped is by donating on your Idaho income tax form or buying an Idaho wildlife license plate.

Photographer details golden eagle at mealtime

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson came across the king of the Big Skies feasting on roadkill this week.  He has some keen observations:

Did a really nice hike today. We ran into this guy along the way. This is a Golden Eagle. Goldies are often confused with young Bald Eagles.

When young, Bald eagles are also brownish. Two easy ways to determine a Golden Eagle (other than size – Goldens are larger) is the Donald Trump hairdo (notice on the neck) and the long pants.

Goldies have feathers right down to their toes. Bald Eagles wear Capri pants (shins are showing).

Another fun thing with these guys, when they gorge themselves (like this one did), they actually eat too much and can't fly. When disturbed, they scamper along the ground until they find a log or stump to sit on.

Montana debates trapping of threatened wolverines

THREATENED SPECIES — Montana is taking a controversial stand on trapping of wolverines.

Montana FWP says it will oppose federal protection of wolverines

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to propose listing the wolverine as a threatened species next week, a decision that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said they'll oppose because the state has a healthy population of the elusive member of the weasel family.

Court upholds Montana allowing bison to roam free outside Yellowstone

WILDLIFE — Montana's decision to let migrating bison roam freely across 70,000 acres outside Yellowstone National Park was upheld by a court ruling Monday that dismissed a pair of lawsuits filed by ranchers to challenge the policy.

The judge sided with state officials and conservation groups that have sought to ease restrictions on bison movements.

Thousands of bison flood out of Yellowstone during severe winters. In the past, the animals were subject to mass slaughters over fears they could spread the disease brucellosis to livestock.

The slaughters were blocked by former Gov. Brian Schweitzer. But when hundreds of bison were allowed to return to the Gardiner Basin, local officials said they posed a threat to safety and destroyed private property.

In his ruling, Phillips acknowledged the plaintiffs' struggles with bison, but said those were an unavoidable consequence of living in Montana with its abundant wildlife.

Best things about hunting dogs revisited

BIRD DOGGING — A Facebook friend recently sent me several poignant quotations regarding dogs, which made me think fondly back over the German shorthairs, Brittanys and English setters I've been privileged to own, know, love and hunt.

But honestly, I couldn't help but make a few reality checks after thinking about these Dog Wisdoms for a moment.  I've added my two cents from decades of experience in bold face.

*Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful. Indeed, the tail wagging may be a devious attempt to delay you from discovering the chewed up bamboo fly rod.  - Ann Landers

*If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went, unless it's into the barnyard to roll in cow pies.  - Will Rogers


*There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face, and that's a good thing because a psychiatrist is much more likely than a puppy to have been licking something icky before it licked you. - Ben Williams


*A neutered dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. - Robert Benchley

*If your dog is fat, you aren't getting enough exercise and you clearly aren't a chukar hunter. - Unknown

Volunteers to be trained for wolverine research

WILDLIFE — A training workshop will be held Saturday in Sandpoint for volunteers planning to help wildlife researchers monitor wolverines, lynx and fishers in North Idaho this winter.

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, the Idaho Conservation League and Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education (SOLE) once again are forming the core of the effort to put up bait, tend motion-activated cameras and harvest hair left by visiting critters for DNA sampling.

More than 140 volunteers helped last year in the effort overseen by Idaho Fish and Game Department researchers.

On Saturday, volunteers will be trained in some new proceedures from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Forest Service Sandpoint Ranger District, 1602 Ontario St.

Since much of the work requires volunteers to ski or shoeshoe into the backcountry, an optional avalanche awareness presentation is included.

Info: (208) 265-9565

Kent man attacked by coyotes in his backyard

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Predators can be a problem in suburban areas, especially if they are encouraged to be bold by people who leave out pet food or purposely feed them.  The consequences of trying to “tame” wildlife can impact everyone in the neighborhood. 

For example, check out this KOMO TV report from Western Washington:

Kent man attacked by coyotes in his own backyard

Furthermore:

Biologist says wolves likely killed deer within Montana town's limits

A Confederated Salish Kootenai tribal biologist said the report of two wolves in Polson was likely correct after measuring tracks he found around a partially eaten mule deer carcass near the sightings in the Montana community. — Missoulian

Burned bear cub recovering, may be released

WILDLIFE — An orphaned black bear cub burned in a wildfire last summer is recovering and may be released in June, an Idaho wildlife sanctuary official said.

The 4-month-old bear nicknamed “Boo Boo” was discovered by a fisherman in a tree along the Salmon River in August days after the 312-square-mile Mustang wildfire complex passed through the area.

The cub had second-degree burns on all four paws and was malnourished when U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Fish and Game workers rescued him.

After spending a few weeks at the Idaho Humane Society, the cub has been rehabilitating since September in the Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary near McCall. He lives in a 2-acre forested enclosure with five other orphaned cubs.

Snowdon board member Diane Evans-Mack said Boo Boo is on the road to a full recovery, according to the Ravalli Republic.

“You wouldn’t even be able to notice that his paws were ever burnt now,” she said. “We don’t see him every day, but even when we saw him in September, two weeks after the fire, we noticed just looking at the paws that they were much better. They were still a little bit sensitive, but he was climbing trees and running around.”

The sanctuary tracks the bears’ activity with cameras. Some of the pictures on the sanctuary’s website show Boo Boo and another of the bears playfully wrestling with each other at night.

Evans-Mack said the plan is to release Boo Boo into the wild in June, and he may be collared so the sanctuary can keep track of him.

“We are going to end up holding Boo Boo through the winter, and we’ll wait until the spring bear hunting season is over because he would be a little too naive to be out there,” she said.

The cub’s diet consists of fruit, greens and dry dog food.

“Dog food is actually something that helps him put on a lot of weight,” Evans-Mack explained. “We have interns that go in and use dry dog food, and that puts a lot of fat on the bears. We get donations from local markets of fruits and some greenery that they would discard anyway. We give them salmon sometimes. ”

Get it on for endangered wildlife with free condoms

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Center for Biological Diversity is distributing 50,000 free Endangered Species Condoms for holiday and New Year’s Eve celebrations around the country.

More than 600 volunteer distributors are handing out the condoms at events in all 50 states.

The condoms are part of the Center’s 7 Billion and Counting campaign focusing on the effects of rapid human population growth on rare plants and animals.

Fence hangs up elk, briefly, at highway crossing

WILDLIFE — This video of a huge herd of wintering elk crossing a highway near Helena, Mont., has several interesting elements.

First, it's awesome to see so many wild elk after hunting so hard for them during the elk seasons and concluding that most of the elk in North America had vanished.

But after nursing my English Setter, Scout, through two gory run-ins with barbed wire during this year's bird hunting seasons (the latest is pictured at left), I was especially interested in seeing the elk hanging up in the barbed-wire fence before they could cross the highway. This is especially noticeable toward the end of the video.

I always hear that elk are hard on fences.

But it's pretty safe to say that the millions of miles of fences — especially barbed wire — stretched across our Western landscape are pretty darned hard on wildlife, too.