County Commission calls for grizzly delisting

By RANIA AMPNTEL CHAFINT/Montana State News

The Gallatin County Commission announced support to delist grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act during their meeting on Tuesday, after hearing a presentation from HAVEN, a domestic violence victims advocacy group.

The grizzly bear population has grown in recent years to where it no longer needs to be listed as endangered. “The recovery of grizzly bears is a conservation success story that we all really need to proud of,” a representative from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said.

Delisting the animal would allow the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to come up with a conservation strategy and implement hunting season regulations to manage the number of bears, according to the representative.

The County Commission agreed to sign a letter of support to delist the animal. “We now have a pretty good understanding of the current population and the sustainability of that population,” one commissioner said. Continue reading “County Commission calls for grizzly delisting”

Panel endorses opposition to elk feeding

By JORDAN SPARR/Montana State News

The state Senate Fish and Game Commitee last month approved a resolution opposing the Wyoming practice of feeding elk in winter.

Senate Joint Resolution 8 was passed unanimously to formally address Wyoming on the matters of wild elk feeding grounds. Fish Wildlife and Game of Wyoming has been feeding herds of wild elk, which has caused the spread of brucellosis and wasting disease among the 20,000 elk that feed artificially on these public lands.

The joint resolution was made to formally address Wyoming on the matter of spreading these diseases to Montana elk populations. Two major points brought up to push the bill forward were that no other state is currently practicing this method of elk support, and that it is completely unnatural. Continue reading “Panel endorses opposition to elk feeding”

Return of wolves coincides with decline in elk

By MERRIT GEARY and ZACH COE/Montana State News

Yellowstone National Park, 3,500 square miles of wilderness, surrounded by geysers, lush rivers, alpine forests, vast canyons and volcanic hot spots. Covering parts of Montana, and Wyoming Yellowstone has become a tourist attraction unlike any other place.

Yellowstone is not only known for its physical elements but also the abundance of animals that inhabit the land, wolves being a species that have been reintroduced to Yellowstone and surrounding areas. While dangerous in their own right, are they necessary for the ecosystem?

According to Yellowstone Nation Park’s website, in 2013 there were 61 different mammal species in Yellowstone, 500 Grizzly bears live in the Yellowstone ecosystem. There are about 13 packs of wolves which make up about 370 total for the population of wolves.

There are seven ungulate species in Yellowstone National Park-elk, mule deer, bison, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and white tailed deer. Continue reading “Return of wolves coincides with decline in elk”

Zebra mussels threaten state hydro systems

By EMILY SCHABACKER and SAMANTHA SUNDLY/Montana State News

On the shores of Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs in northern Montana, adult zebra mussels threaten indigenous aquatic life as of Fall of 2016. Without any natural predators in the region, zebra mussels threaten aquatic ecosystems and cause damage to man made hydropower systems.

After the discovery of invasive mussel larvae, known as veligers, in Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs in November, Gov. Steve Bullock declared a natural resources emergency, according to the Billings Gazette. This order provides state access to $750,000 in emergency funds to begin the eradication process.

Zebra mussels found in North America, typically indigenous to European regions, survive in waters with unusually low calcium levels, according to the United States Geological Survey. The mussels require calcium in order to transform from veligers to shellfish.

Calcium concentration is a key factor in mussel distribution, according to Andrew N. Cohen and Anne Weinstein, authors of Zebra Mussel’s Calcium Threshold and Implications for its Potential Distribution in North America. Zebra mussels in North America have been known to initiate shell growth in 10 milligrams of calcium per liter. Continue reading “Zebra mussels threaten state hydro systems”

Opinions split on removing grizzly protections

By TIM STOVER/Montana State News

Grizzly bears are soon to be delisted from the Endangered Species List for the first time since 2007, according to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“The Yellowstone grizzly bear population has rebounded from as few as 136 bears in 1975 to an estimated 700 or more today,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A species is considered “endangered if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” and “it is considered threatened,” According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As of now, the Grizzly bears are listed as a “threatened species.” The new proposition by U.S Fish and Wildlife Service will remove protection from the bears entirely.

Since the bear population has seemingly “maxed” population possibilities in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, delisting aims to move the management of the species to the states. Continue reading “Opinions split on removing grizzly protections”

More bears is leading to more human conflicts

By VIRGINIA HOLST/Montana State News

In recent years, human encounters with grizzly bears have been on the rise. Since 2010, there have been seven fatal grizzly attacks in the Northern Rockies, according to the Washington Post.

“During the past two decades, the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has increased in numbers and expanded its range,” according to The Journal of Wildlife Management in 2010.

The increased number of grizzly bears is due to the Endangered Species Act, under which the species has been protected since 1975. The population within Yellowstone National Park has grown to nearly 700 from its original 136 at the time of their listing. This is beyond the original target population set by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which has been suggesting delisting grizzlies since 2005.

According to a journal by the University of British Columbia, “Bear attacks on people are on the increase. Many people do not agree with killing problem bears but the wildlife service lacks the ability to live-trap and transplant every problem bear.” Continue reading “More bears is leading to more human conflicts”

1,300 bison to be sent to slaughter

By EMILY SCHABACKER/Montana State News

Some 1,300 wild bison from the greater Yellowstone area were sentenced to slaughter in earlier this month due to a potential brucellosis outbreak and overpopulation of the species within the park.

Controversy surrounds the annual slaughter as cattle ranchers work to maintain the current containment of bison inside park boundaries, while conservationists work to allow wild bison to migrate beyond the park’s borders.

Cattle ranchers fear that free range bison will spread brucellosis to cattle populations, consequently losing Montana’s status as a brucellosis free state, according to the United States Agricultural Department.

Many ranchers fear free-roaming bison will also threaten grazing land that is currently used for livestock. However, many environmental conservationists and animal advocates protest the slaughter, as there has never been a recorded transmittal of the disease from bison to cattle, according to the Buffalo Field Campaign of West Yellowstone. Continue reading “1,300 bison to be sent to slaughter”

Federal agency plans to lift grizzly protections

By MIKAL OVERTURF/Montana State News

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially proposed to remove Yellowstone grizzly bears from the Federal Endangered Species list on March third of this year. The only grizzly bears affected by the delisting will be bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, all other U.S. grizzlies will remain on the list.

Since the mid 1990s, the Yellowstone bear population has grown 4  rcent per year, according to the Interagency Grizzly Bear website.

Yellowstone grizzly bears were previously delisted in 2007. In 2009, after concerns arose about their dwindling food supply, they were listed again. However, according to the Yellowstone National Park website, grizzly numbers in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem have grown from 136 in 1975 to about 700 today.

One issue garnering a lot of attention online is what type of hunting policies will be implemented. According to the National Park Service website, all hunting laws would be determined by state agencies. However, hunting Grizzly Bears will always remain illegal within Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

Continue reading “Federal agency plans to lift grizzly protections”

Bat disease could impact farming costs

By MEGAN AHERN and ALEXANDRA DUBIN/Montana State News

A deadly fungal disease that is easily communicable has scientists across the country stumped devising methods to prevent or slow its spread. Currently, their best efforts focus on tracking the disease to predict where it will strike next. Once signs of the disease become evident, it doesn’t take long for the victim to suffer an excruciating death by exhaustion or starvation. It may sound like the plot to a bad horror movie, but white-nose syndrome is all too real.

Though this disease isn’t communicable to humans, it remains a cause for concern.

White-nose syndrome is a disease that affects the bat population across North America and is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Since its arrival in Albany, New York in 2006, the United States Geological Survey, USGS, estimates that it has killed over 6 million bats in seven different hibernating species.

Brandi Skone, a Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife biologist who studies northern long-eared bats, has seen first-hand the damage white-nose syndrome can do. Northern long-eared bats, once considered one of the most prevalent bat species in North America, were recently listed as federally threatened due to population declines caused by the fungus.

Continue reading “Bat disease could impact farming costs”

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