January 24, 2020

Colorado Division Of Wildlife Considering Opening One License For Big Horn Sheep

Colorado Division of Wildlife officials want to learn more about why the population of desert big horn sheep in the game management unit south of the Colorado National Monument has gone stagnant. It has been this way for about ten years and the estimated sheep population is 70. Officials have been studying the herd and still don’t have any definitive answers. The thought is to issue one hunting license to take a ram. The license holder has to agree to allow biologists to take samples. With this they hope to gain better knowledge as to what is going on.

But there is opposition to the proposal as some feel that it isn’t necessary to kill one animal to conduct studies. Randy Hampton, a spokesman for DOW says the samples are needed.

He says allowing a hunter to harvest one ram would give the division information about the size and location of the herd. The hunter would be required to allow the division take biological samples from the animal to test for various diseases.

The idea is facing opposition from some wildlife conservationists who say there are better ways to study the herd than gathering information from hunters.

Hampton says hunting-license fees paid to relocate sheep to the area in 1979. The state issued two ram licenses for the area each year from 1988 to 1996, but stopped the practice in the late 1990s as the herd’s population began to decline.

I would agree that if it was hunting license fees that paid to relocate the sheep, then hunters should be given the chance to assist in the study, Even if it is only one license.

Desert big horn sheep

Tom Remington


Moose Moving To Colorado

Once again Utah has too many moose in an area north of Salt Lake City. Officials are capturing 20 mature cows and 5 calves and giving them a free ride to Grand Mesa, Colorado. Before being released biologists will inspect the animals, give them a shot of antibiotics and equip them with either a radio collar or ear transmitter.

Last year Colorado began a program to bolster the moose herd in the Grand Mesa area by transporting five moose to the area. There are now an estimated 70 moose. Long range goals will call for limited moose hunts once population levels reach solid sustainable levels – perhaps 300-400.

The planned release into Grand Mesa is scheduled for this coming Saturday.

Tom Remington


South Dakota Wants To Know, "How Was Your Hunting?"

It’s a new year and a time to reflect back and look ahead. Once again this year South Dakota Fish, Game and Parks Department wants to know from hunters how their season went regardless of success.

Harvest survey cards are being mailed from the department, asking hunters to please complete and return the survey. GFP wants hunters to return the surveys whether or not they hunted and regardless of whether they were successful or unsuccessful at harvesting a game animal.

A statistical procedure is used to randomly select a limited number of hunters to receive a survey card. The surveys are based on achieving high response rates and if the first survey card is not returned in a timely manner, hunters will get a second or even third survey card.

This information sent in by hunters is used in conjunction with other data to better derive management strategies.

Hunters will also be able to complete the survey online but they must use information sent to them on the card that will come in the mail.

In addition to the usual mail-back option, hunters can respond through a Web site where they can record their hunting activities for any of the hunting seasons, according to Huxoll. However, hunters still need information from their survey card in order to enter the Web site and answer questions specific to their license.

“Hunters who respond through the Web site will answer the same general questions such as number of animals harvested, animal species and sex, how long they hunted, along with their general hunting satisfaction, just like on the regular survey cards,” Huxoll said. “The advantage to this system is the convenience to the hunters, cost savings, and quicker receipt of harvest information for the department. It not only saves return mail costs, but also the time it takes to sort the returned cards and enter the information into the computer.”

Do your part and help out the fish and game personnel. This is valuable information that will ultimately make your hunting experience better.

Tom Remington


The Science Of Deer Management We All Love To Hate

Hunters know more about good deer management than any wildlife biologist! Or so many of us would like to think and what’s even worse, we like to spout off about it. After all what would there be to talk about at the coffee shop if it wasn’t griping and complaining about the whitetail deer management tactics used by our state fish and game departments.

The griping is directly proportional to the lack of deer seen by a hunter. The more a hunter beats the bramble and sees no deer, the more the complaining. That complaining drops off drastically once a nice buck is bagged.

Sometimes hunters have legitimate complaints but mostly the lack of deer sightings is the result of their own hunting tactics. Deer a very adaptive animals. Hunters aren’t. Hunters tend to choose the same tree stand, hunt the same patch of woods and approach it the same way every trip in, especially if they have been successful in the past. Deer could care less. They migrate to where there is food, cover and little harassment.

Deer will remain in an area time and again unless circumstances force them someplace else. Usually the two biggest forces they have to adjust to are lack of food and lost of cover. If deer population in your favorite hunting spot gets too large, the deer will eat up all the food forcing them to move to another location to eat. Logging operations will have the same negative affect often because of the reduction of food and lack a good cover.

So when the hunter returns to his old stomping grounds and finds things have changed in any or all of the above mentioned, they translate that into a state-wide event. This of course is not the case but it is good fodder for an intense session of moaning and groaning at the local greasy spoon.

Let’s not kid ourselves either. Deer management is science – it’s supposed to be but we all know that politics plays a role and this is further reason to crucify the fish and game during the same debate at the same coffee shop. Some hunters actually believe that each year wildlife biologists put on their packs and pick up a clipboard and head out into the bush to count deer. The same uninformed think that airplanes are used each year to count deer.

A more accurate description is these methods are used rarely because they are expensive. That isn’t to say the biologists don’t go out into the woods to conduct studies and look at trends. There are far more hunters than biologists and a half-million hunters spread out across the state during hunting season can’t cover every patch of woods how could a handful of scientists do this?

In basic terms, mainly because I don’t completely understand the formulas that are used, biologists use data they collect each year from several resources. All this data is plugged into a “formula” and an estimate of the state’s deer population is derived. Included in those calculations is an educated guess as to what the buck to doe ratios might be. With all this information, biologists make a recommendation to fish and game commissions as to how many permits should be issued for what sexes of deer in order to achieve desired population numbers and ratios.

Is it perfect? No. Is it exact? No, but once a fish and game department puts together a working scientific formula, they stick with it for relatively long periods of time mostly because of cost restraints. There are some flaws to this method but overall the results are pretty good when looking at a management district and the state in general. This might mean your favorite hunting spot doesn’t fall into the same “norms” as the rest of the district your once-honey-spot is located.

Unfortunately for you and me, our favorite wildlife biologist doesn’t personally manage our favorite hunting spots. Contrary to what has been brought up in previous coffee shop discussions, the biologists down at the fish and game office don’t have a personal vendetta against you. Chances are they don’t even know who you are or where you hunt. I have suspected for a long time the my local game warden goes into my favorite spot and chases the deer out before I get there. It has to be. Where else would the deer go?

In an ideal world with a bottomless money resource, biologists would be flying in planes and helicopters counting deer each year, maybe even several times a year. They would be doing more and better studies finding the best methods for deer management not restricted by costs. But what would that do for us when we got to the local yokel diner? What would we have to complain about?

Does this mean we should shut up and leave the fish and game alone? Of course not! That would be un-American. No institution should be given complete autonomy to do as the please with public funds. No, I would suppose that one value we get from our license fees, is bad coffee and a good gripe session.

Tom Remington


The Polar Bear Will Remain In Danger While The Media Works To Get Bush To Admit To Global Warming

Last night on The News Hour on PBS, Gwen Ifill interviewed U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne about the plight of the polar bear. The Bush administration is looking into the possibility of placing the polar bear in Alaska on the threatened list as part of the Endangered Species Act. The most disturbing part of the interview centered around Gwen Ifill’s attempt at getting Secretary Kempthorne to admit that there is such a thing as global warming. I wondered if any threat to the polar bear was of any importance.

In the first part of the interview, Ifill hits Kempthorne with the first question about global warming.

When you say “that trend is now taking place,” are you acknowledging that there is, indeed, global warming which is causing this to happen?

Shortly after listening to Kempthorne’s response to what the process will be to examine the needs of the polar bear, Ifill makes another less direct attempt at addressing global warming.

How do you decide what can and should be done if you don’t know the causes for the melting or you don’t examine the causes for the melting or the warming itself?

Kempthorne addresses her question with this response.

We have to look at modeling and the trend lines. Geologists would say that, in recent history — but, of course, geologists have a different frame of reference on time. But we’ve been through five different ice ages. We’ve been through five different phases where there was warming. Are we now in that again? Man is a contributing factor to that, but to what extent? And, again, that’s beyond the realm of what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be able to determine in this 12-month period. But what about the animal itself? How adaptive is it to that sort of environment where there may be changes to it. It is a very adaptive animal. What impacts might it have on other species? So all of this will be taken into account as we move forward and make a determination of what finally should be done 12 months from now.

Not being able to thoughtfully process the information Kempthorne was giving her and realizing that the USFWS has prior to this time, made the examination of the five factors for listing the bear, she pounds away one more time with the global warming question.

So it’s not beyond the realm — it is beyond the realm of you to decide exactly what it is that’s causing the warming, but it’s not beyond the realm of you to decide that it was not oil and gas exploration. How did you reach that determination?

During the interview, Kempthorne explained that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service went through a process to get to the point where it wanted to consider listing the polar bear as threatened. He explains it this way.

When the Fish and Wildlife Service went through the process of the Endangered Species Act, they’re required to look at five different factors. And there was only one factor, and that was the habitat, that is being diminished, and that is because of melting sea ice.

They specifically looked at a variety of other things — for example, the harvest of the polar bear by native Alaskans. That was not a threat. They looked at oil and gas, energy development in the North Slope in Alaska. That was not a threat. It is one single issue, and that is melting ice, acknowledging that that trend is now taking place.

I find it intriguing that the media gets so bent on getting people like Kempthorne to say that global warming is going to kill us all. This is very similar to when the same media was determined to get President Bush or any of his Cabinet to say there was civil war in Iraq. The focus is on terminology and none of it is on finding a cure.

The Al Gore followers of the world want to have us all dying in a few years if we don’t jump on the global warming band wagon. I know of very few people who wouldn’t agree that at this moment in our time we are going through a climate change. We all know weather goes in cycles and as Kempthorne pointed out, we’ve been through five ice ages and five warming eras.

The one reason that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave for consideration of listing the polar bear was lost of habitat. Their habitat is ice and it is shrinking. Whether the polar bear gets protection or not, we need to address the reasons why our sea ice is disappearing. It is just as irresponsible to claim that carbon dioxide alone is melting the ice as it is to admit nothing is happening. Man is influencing our climate. The question that nobody has seriously been able to answer, despite the media and some scientists claims, is how much is man’s influence and how much is natural climate fluctuations?

The unfortunate thing for the innocent polar bear is that politics will play a role in determining what should be done to protect it. The media will continue its onslaught of trying to trick the Bush administration into saying there is such a thing as global warming. Once they have succeeded in doing that, the polar bear will be forgotten.

Tom Remington


Do As I Say And Not As I Do

The hypocrisy continues in Wyoming. Officials there continue the practice of supplemental feeding of wild elk while at the same time the government bans ranchers from raising elk on farms saying it is unnatural to pen up elk and it causes disease and threatens the wild elk. Give me a break!

According to this morning’s Casper Star-Tribune, a new study shows, once again, that the rate of brucellosis rose considerably in areas where there were feedlots.

A new report shows the level of brucellosis exposure in Buffalo Valley elk has jumped during a period when emergency feeding of the animals has taken place.

The new report examining abortion and birth rates in the brucellosis-endemic area of Wyoming said seroprevalence rates jumped significantly for elk in the Buffalo Valley. Seroprevalence shows an animal has been exposed to the brucellosis bacteria but does not necessarily have the disease, which can cause ungulates to abort.

Officials are saying that the supplemental feeding in Buffalo Valley was a temporary thing and won’t happen again, well, unless of course the elk begin starving to death. But what about other places like Jackson Hole? Are officials going to keep feeding the elk there?

There are two things wrong here. The first is that if the carrying capacity of the land is such that it can’t support the number of elk in existence then numbers should be reduced. Hunting proves to be the most humane way of dealing with it. Other methods are to transfer elk to other parts of the state or other states in need of elk.

The second is the double standard the state exemplifies by “farming” elk to maintain artificially high numbers. It is my understanding this is done for three reasons – to keep the animal rights groups happy, to keep the tourists happy and to keep the hunters happy. Where’s the science?

Wyoming and Montana banned elk farming because they considered the practice a threat to the future of the wild elk in their states. If this is true, then why is the state practicing farming themselves. Authorities say that elk farming runs the risk of the spread of disease, brucellosis and chronic wasting disease are the two major ones. Time and time again, studies show that when elk are fed at feedlots, the risk of spreading the disease increases significantly. This is the same reason elk farming was banned.

So why does Wyoming keep feeding its elk and prohibiting individuals to farm elk? One can only conclude that it must be the government wanting a monopoly on the elk business while at the same time the money is too good coming from the tourists who want to view wild elk and hunters willing to pay to hunt the animals. Certainly science plays no role at all in this equation.

I hunt. I promote hunting and I think that the future of hunting depends on good sound wildlife management that does not rely on artificial means to sustain it. This is nothing more than put and take hunting. It’s time for Wyoming to practice what it preaches and finds better ways of managing its elk herds.

*Previous Posts*

Wyoming “Brucellosis-Free”
Rex Rammell Arrested, Again….Cow Elk Tests Positive For Red Deer Genes
Fanning The Flames
Idaho’s Escaped Elk Test Negative – Elk Ranchers Face Banning Advocates
Idaho Governor Calls Off Elk Depredation Hunt…..Sort Of
In Response To Malnourished Elk
Rex Rammell’s Letter To The Editor
Has Government Gone Too Far? More Escaped Elk Shot
What Do Malnurished Elk Look Like?
Idaho Elk Breeders Association Opens New Website
Bull Elk Shot Inside Rex Rammell’s Ranch
Wyoming Governor Asks Idaho Governor To Ban Game Farms
Escaped Idaho Elk Shot In Wyoming
Rex Rammell Arrested
Governor Jim Risch Defends His Decision To Shoot Escaped Elk
Idaho Gubernatorial Candidates Have A Say About Elk Farming
Rammell For Governor, Ranch Sold, Elk Still Being Hunted
Wyoming Governor Freudenthal Says Interior Department Not Doing Enough About Escaped Elk
Idaho’s Escaped Elk Now Getting National Attention
Idaho Elk Farmer Says All His Elk Accounted For
Idaho Governor Expands Hunt For Escaped Elk
More Elk Killed In Idaho – Some By Hunters
Idaho Elk Farmer Plans To Sue The State
Scientists Will Test Killed Idaho Elk For Disease And Genetic Make-up
A Helicopter, A Plane And 25 Agents Can’t Find 160 Domestic Elk
Escaped Idaho Elk Being Slaughtered. Wyoming Ordered To Kill Elk Also
Domestic Elk Crash The Gate – Escape!

Tom Remington


Delaware Will Change Its Deer Hunting Tactics

Now that I realize that Delaware is decades behind many states in developing good deer management tactics, let’s move on to the good stuff.

Delaware Department of Natural Resources has just completed a study that will help them discover where the deer are, how many deer are in those areas and develop a hunting season based on solid data rather than just a season open everywhere for the same amount of time. Their previous method of formulating a deer hunting season was never based on any good data. Well, now they have some.

To give you an example, which probably doesn’t surprise that many people, officials discovered that in eastern Sussex Country, the deer density is about 20 per square mile – mind you this is the lowest density in the state. On the flip side, New Castle County has a density greater than 145 per square mile. Yup, I think it’s time for some changes in Delaware.

Read more about it in Michael Short’s article in the Sussex Post.

Tom Remington


Improving Elk Habitat

I believe it is far better to spend energy and money to improve elk habitat than to provide supplemental feeding. Supplemental feeding during the winter months is a short-term cure for a long-term problem. Improving the habitat for elk has to be done in ways that does not run contrary to the habitat of other wildlife simply for the sake of the elk.
In Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation granted the Aspen/Sopris Ranger District $6,000 and the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Habitat Partnership Program kicked in $2,500 toward improving elk habitat in that area for about 200 elk. The problem there is not necessarily one of too many elk but more of a problem of an invasive weed that is not native to the area and is killing the natural vegetation necessary to feed not only elk but many other species as well.

The thistle, an invasive species that hopped a ride to this continent from Eurasia, is less nutritious than native plants and the elk generally won’t eat them, said Wayne Ives, a Forest Service range technician who is helping coordinate the project. The plant is a prolific seed producer and tends to spread fast, sucking up the available moisture and crowding out more palatable native species.

Wildlife managers are worried the thistle will colonize thousands of surrounding acres of critical winter and transitional elk habitat in the popular hunting area. Mule deer, wild turkeys, and countless other animals also rely on native forage around Red Canyon to help them through the winter.

Plumeless Thistle
With the funds available, crews went to work spraying and pulling to rid the area of the invasive plants. This summer about 40-50 acres, perhaps less than half, got treated. The treatment is not a one-time deal. It will become an ongoing maintenance to rid the area of that weed.

I believe under the circumstances of having a non-native plant destroying elk and other specie habitat, the efforts and dollars spent here are well worthwhile. This kind of wildlife management far exceeds the results of supplemental feeding at feedlots.

Tom Remington


Managing Elk Herds

For whatever the reasons, elk are a valuable commodity to Americans. I think because of its size and majesty, especially seeing a large bull sporting a massive set of antlers, large body mass and graceful movements. Hunters have become very protective of the creature which in some cases is creating some very interesting bedfellows, i.e. hunting groups and animals rights groups.

Hunting groups are working closely with wildlife managers to help feed hungry elk to ensure the continued growth of the herd. Animal rights groups are essentially doing the same thing. But are we doing the right thing?

Mother Nature can be harsh. Most of us never witness the sometimes shocking truth about what happens to animals under the complete control of Mother Nature. We as compassionate humans don’t want to see this cruelty so we find ways of ending it, such as feeding our wildlife. This is the case with our elk herds.

As much as we try to control natural events, we sometimes create a worse case situation. In the case of elk, a herd will grow in size and numbers when there is enough food to support the herd. If for example, an area has several years in a row of conditions that favor natural growth that benefits elk feeding, the health of the herd improves which in turn allows for more calves to be born. If predation remains constant, we would realize an upswing in population. Obviously, the reverse of that would cause a downturn in numbers.

Mother Nature has a lot to say sometimes about this. Take for example around the Mt. St. Helens area in Washington. When the mountain erupted, it leveled the forest creating vast areas of open land. In time, the area began its regrowth. This new growth was exactly what the elk could thrive on and so the herd flourished. As the growth matured, it began shutting out the younger, smaller growth that elk mostly like to eat. Elk began starving. This is a natural process controlled by Mother Nature.

People didn’t want to see the elk starve so they began to feed the animals in the winter months, trying to maintain artificially high numbers, numbers that could not be sustained without supplemental feeding. There are other complications involving the spread of disease, etc. that come from feeding the elk this way.

Last year the elk herd around the Mt. St. Helens area got a fair amount of attention because of what appeared to be a larger than normal number of elk that starved to death. This brought in the animals rights groups, hunters, media and wildlife managers all wanting to find ways to stop the hunger, usually resulting in the furthering of feed lots.

According to an article in the Mercury News by Chester Allen, supplemental feeding is not the answer to helping the elk herd.

I’ve gotten calls from anti-hunting activists – they never leave their names – saying that humans should just feed the starving elk.

I get the same kind of calls from hunters, which is interesting.

You’ll see fish and wildlife departments set up feeding stations when large numbers of animals begin starving and our state Fish and Wildlife department is no different.

But feeding stations are not the solution to elk and deer overpopulation.

I’m not a big-game hunter, but I realize that it’s up to humans to make sure animals don’t overpopulate the land and begin dying of starvation and disease.

Ware [David Ware, Fish and Game manager] told me that winter feeding can save a few animals, but it also concentrates animals in small areas, where diseases quickly spread.

Elk die in feedlots every winter, Ware said.

What’s more, feeding animals in winter is not a solution to elk overpopulation. Winter feeding keeps the population artificially high and then puts the animals out on the already shrinking range during the summer.

Winter always comes again, and you’ve got even more elk to feed. And so on.

“Very few managers support winter feeding,” Ware said.

Winter feeding often happens when the public sees a lot of starving animals or when winter conditions are unusually harsh, Ware said.

The solution is simple – we humans have to reduce the size of the elk herd.

The Washington Fish and Game is proposing a new plan to reduce the herd at Mt. St. Helens. An estimated 12,500 elk make up that herd and officials want to see it reduced to around 10,000 in five years. Their plan utilizes the one method that is always turned to over and over again, hunting.

Animal rights groups don’t want to use hunting to reduce the herd. They believe that we should just keep feeding the elk whatever it takes. Some hunting groups, believe it or not, are also opposing the use of hunting because they want to see an overblown population of elk so that in the long run more and more hunters will have a chance at elk hunting and up their chances of bagging an elk in the future.

Man created wildlife management for two basic reasons. One is out of compassion for animals and the other out of necessity. Our options are simple really and we need to decide what is scientifically the best way to handle it. We can either leave well enough alone and let the herd grow and shrink on its own according to what Mother Nature decides. We can continue with the establishment of feed stations and deal with the spread of disease. We can institute hunting as a means of herd reduction to levels within the local carrying capacity or we can combine any or all of these methods along with different forestry practices that would grow vegetation for more food for the elk.

You pick one. It doesn’t matter which method gets chosen, someone will not agree. If we could eliminate the politics, I’d put my money on good sound science.

Tom Remington


Feds Will Begin Delisting Process For Wolves In Idaho, Montana. Not Wyoming

The Washington Post this morning is reporting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will begin lifting the ban that has protected the gray wolf in Idaho and Montana but not Wyoming. Wyoming is still tied up in a court battle over a wolf management plan.

The Defenders of Wildlife are protesting the move saying it is illegal to de-list state by state.

Read more from the Washington Post.

*Update* 10:11 a.m. Wednesday

The Billings Gazette has the latest updates on the status of the Wyoming wolf management plan after meeting with federal authorities on Monday.

Tom Remington