August 22, 2019

Discovering Those Unusual And Unexplained Things In The Woods

God only knows how many miles I have walked in the woods in my lifetime or how many acres I’ve covered from state to state. During those times I have always found things that amazed me. It could be something as simple as watching a squirrel get a drink of water from a fast moving stream to sitting for several minutes observing a mother deer teaching her young about survival techniques. But sometimes I find something that sends me exiting the woods scratching my head.

It was perhaps as long as twenty-some years ago now, I was hunting in an area where I was familiar with the overall layout of the land but not very familiar with the specifics. In other words, I hadn’t hunted in these particular woods before.

I tell you. The reason I went there to hunt was threefold. One, I always saw deer crossing the road and entering into these woods. Two, I had come to the conclusion that not very many, if any at all, hunters worked these woods and three, I was working not too far from here so I could go there early in the mornings and maybe even get a short hunt in just before dark.

I woke one Saturday morning to a surprising 4-inch snowfall. I bailed out of bed, geared up and headed out to this area for the first time.

I quietly poked around getting a sense of terrain, growth and I also was looking for game trails, scrapes and pawings.

The snow made it quiet that’s for sure but the higher in the sky the sun moved, the warmer it became. The snow was softening and getting sticky, making a crunchy sound under foot.

As I traversed from one area to another, often crossing my own footsteps, I noticed two things. The snow had now become very wet as it melted and the area was completely trampled with deer tracks.

I was in an area that had a mixture of young softwood trees, mostly pine and fir, and white birch. I have found these areas many times in the woods and for me they have always been fruitful.

The area I was in with this kind of growth and cover, was perhaps only one to two acres in size and right smack dab in the middle of this was a large knoll that rose up maybe 10 feet above the surrounding terrain. Again, I repeat. The ground was trampled with almost no area free of deer tracks.

When I spotted the knoll, I moved stealthfully toward it – one painstaking step at a time. What surprised me first was when I reached the top. It was wide open covering an area of about 50 feet by 50 feet.

But what shocked me was what I saw in this opening. I’ll the best I can to describe what I saw. Around the perimeter of this opening where somewhere in the vicinity of 20 deer beds. Their imprints showed clearly in the compressed snow.

There also were several areas where the snow was turned up almost as if someone had gone in there with a rototiller. To help clarify, I have seen many, many times where deer will paw in the snow and turn over the leaves etc., in search of food. This was not that. I have also seen areas where two bucks have squared off sparring in the snow. Again, this wasn’t the same. My only conclusion at the time was I had happened onto a seen where an orgy had taken place.

But the oddest of all things that I had never seen before and haven’t again was the discolorations in the snow. The entire open area was nearly covered with snow that was colored anywhere from bright red, to pinkish, to greenish shades, brown and yellow.

I realized right away that whatever had been dropped into the snow being as saturated as the snow was at that time, would diffuse and enlarge the area that I was seeing. What I didn’t know is what had made what I was seeing.

My only conclusions were that one or more bucks had happened onto a scene where several does had been bedded and were now up and about. In areas where it was plain to see where a deer had urinated in the snow, the snow was discolored sometimes very red, brownish red and it looked mucousy, if that is a word.

Is this part of a normal discharge made by a doe in estrous? Did this occur before or after the mating? How many does did that buck have?

My conclusions may be all wrong. I really don’t know and I am left with more unanswered questions that answered. This all may be normal behaviour and it just so happened on the kind of snow that not only made it visible to me for the first time but also amplified what was happening.

I sure wish I had had my little digital camera at that time that I carry now. My question to my readers is this. Have any of you seen anything like this? If so would you be willing to share it with us? Does anyone have another explanation?

This to me is one of those unusual and/or unexplained things I find in the woods that fascinates me and draws me back in search for more.

Tom Remington

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Domestic Elk Crash The Gate – Escape!

The Chief Joseph private elk reserve in eastern Idaho was the scene of the great escape. Around 160 elk, being described as domesticated, appeared to have herded together and crashed the fence knocking it down allowing them to escape.

This group of escapee-elk are threatening to mix in with the elk herd that is part of the Yellowstone gang and this is worrying officials in both Wyoming and Idaho.

What has made matters worse is the owner of the Chief Joseph ranch didn’t report the breech of the fence.

Elk hunting season with bow and arrow has begun in that region and hunters are being asked to make every attempt to recognize the domesticated elk. The elk are supposed to by wearing an orange tag visible from as far away as 150 yards but officials think the owner hasn’t properly tagged his animals.

Today, the governor of Idaho, Jim Risch, has signed an emergency declaration to have the 160 elk killed. The order provides for fish and game officials as well as any licensed elk hunter or private land owner, to kill the elk.

According to officials, the elk can pose a risk to the wild elk in several ways. One way is through the spread of disease – chronic wasting disease, brucellosis or other sicknesses like liver flukes and tuberculosis. Another is through interbreeding. It will weaken the wild elk gene, so some scientists say.

One report yesterday said that the owner of the ranch had refused Idaho officials to test his trophy bull elk for chronic wasting disease. Evidently the owner, Rex Rammell a veterinarian, hasn’t been the model game ranch owner and has had previous clashes with fish and game authorities.

I have to ask if this reaction has gone too far? We should at least raise the question particularly when there are differing opinions about the so-called “genetic purity” of the elk and new studies that show that how we are handling diseases such as chronic wasting disease and brucellosis may not be correct.

Debra Lawrence, chief of animal health and livestock with the Idaho Agriculture Department, says the idea of protecting genetic purity in the elk is overblown.

But, Lawrence, of the agriculture department, said the so-called dumbing-down of the gene pool is an overblown worry.

“They’re the same species,” she said. “The traits for surviving in the wild are the same. An elk will not come out different colors if they breed.”

In an article written in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, a study just completed and printed in the Frontiers in Ecology journal, says the methods being used to test and slaughter are not only ineffective but may be promoting the spread of disease.

As for test-and-slaughter, Bienen says that current efforts to reduce brucellosis in elk herds actually encourage brucellosis rather than stem the disease.

The current test-and-slaughter program at the Muddy Creek feed ground removes roughly 10 percent of the population. But the removal of these brucellosis-positive animals includes some animals that have developed a natural resistance to the bacterial infection, leaving only naive elk – those that haven’t been exposed to the disease – in the herd.

Keeping these resistant animals alive acts in a similar way to vaccination. Killing these animals, and leaving only naive elk, can actually increase disease transmission, according to the study.

For bison, the most recent test-and-slaughter models suggest that eliminating brucellosis would take 50 years and would require killing almost all the animals in the herd. In Montana, a long-standing test-and-slaughter program actually increased brucellosis prevalence from 40 percent to between 45 and 50 percent.

Suggestions for test-and-slaughter programs include an experiment comparing the Muddy Creek test-and-slaughter program with a Gros Ventre feed ground phase-out to see which method yields the lowest brucellosis prevalence over a five-year period.

I should also point out that this same report condemns the use of feed stations of elk and other wild animals saying it is unnatural and is the reason for disease spread.

Maybe ordering the slaughter of these 160 elk is the right thing to do and maybe it isn’t but we must face one reality. We have come to this place because we have created everything that led up to this. Point a finger at anyone you wish but start first by pointing it at yourself.

Greed in one form or another has brought us to a point where disease is rampant among many species of wild game. It it is clear that creating feed stations for animals has become deadly for them, yet we still do it.

It is so simple really but we as humans insist that we have to go against what is natural because we think we can make it better. When you group people together in large masses, especially in enclosed areas, it doesn’t take long before one person’s sneezing, achy, stuffy-head, fever passes on to the next. We think wild animals are different?

The elk farmer wants to raise elk and charge $6,000 a head to have hunters come and hunt them. I know nothing about the ranch and will not sit in judgement as to whether his preserve meets my own standards of a bonafide hunt preserve. The bottom line is the driving force behind the ranch is the $6,000 a head.

The state of Idaho, caved in to pressure put on them by the owner of the Chief Joseph ranch to get what he wanted. Why was it necessary to do that? Was it tax dollars or local increased revenue? Was it good ole politics?

Tourists and wildlife gawkers from their luxury cars demand that they can have drive-up wildlife viewing and not pay for it.

Animal rights groups are striving toward leaving wild animals to fend for themselves with overgrown populations, spreading disease and starving to death.

Hunters want to sit in their comfy, high-tech tree stands and look down on their feed beds waiting for the trophy to appear at the same time condemning the elk farmer.

Scientists insist that animals be brought into areas that were never natural habitat for them, insisting they can make it work. Why? Job security? Because they’re scientists?

Why do we insist that we know better? We grow our own fish, dump them into waters so greedy fishermen can catch them all out – it’s called put and take and everything we are doing now is leading toward put and take hunting. Oh, hell why not?

We are stocking the woods like we stock the rivers, lakes and streams. Man can’t replicate what God did but we keep on trying, spreading disease and threatening what’s left of the real thing.

When will we ever learn……when will we ever learn?

*All posts on the topic:
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

Tom Remington

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How Important Is The Rut To Deer Hunters?

That may be best answered on an individual hunter basis. For some, they pay little attention to the rut while others won’t make a move without first knowing at what stage of the rut they think the buck is in.

The stories abound when it comes to the rut. For those who may not know, the rut is a cyclical time during the fall of the year when a buck deer goes looking for doe deer to mate with.

For as many stories as there are, there are just about as many theories used to support them. Many swear that the rut is brought on by cold weather. Others think it doesn’t occur until the doe comes into estrous causing the male deer to do strange things. Is it the current phase of the moon? Does it happen just before, during or after a full moon in November? Is it set off when the deer begin eating certain foods?

According to Matt Knox, a deer biologist with the Department of Game and Fish in Virginia, the rut happens just about the same time every year. It varies but ever so slightly and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t last very long either.

Knox says that the rut is triggered by the change of light in the fall of the year. This change lets the buck deer’s pituitary glands know something is up. At this time the pituitary stimulates the release of testosterone, a male sex hormone produced in the testes.

But I know you want to say that back in 1948 I remember the rut happened……or in 2002 it came real late and it was a warm fall. Can this be true? Perhaps….er, uh, maybe somewhat.

There are some things that can influence the start time but these influences generally are local to a specific area. What can have an influence is the health of the bucks in a given area or the overall age. A group of good healthy bucks will be ready to go immediately. A mature healthy buck can begin a bit earlier and experience an intense rut.

In reality, based on scientific studies, the rut will happen in your area just about the same time every year. Of course differences in the light change within time zones I would assume reflects a slightly different onset of the rut.

Matt Knox says in Virginia it is at its peak about mid-November. He claims that if you study the results of when big bucks are shot, it will reveal that year after year, it happens at the same time – at the peak of the rut.

When is the rut where you live and do you pay close or little attention to it?

Tom Remington

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New Study On Elk Suggest Changes Needed

A new study on elk and brucellosis suggests that feed grounds got to go and current methods used of killing exposed elk is counterproductive. The Jackson Hole News has the complete story.

Tom Remington

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Too Scared To Eat!

I remember a long time ago when I was just a young lad of perhaps 8 or 9 and very gullible, I heard the pastor of our church tell a story about which pigs made the best bacon. The story goes that it is the pigs that live next to the ocean. It seems that there are lots of fine nutrients that pigs love to eat during low tides. This makes them very fat. When the tide rushes in, the pigs, not liking to get wet, run for high ground. This makes them lean. It is this continuous action of following the tides that give bacon a fine layer of meat, followed by a fine layer of fat and so on.

You probably think I’ve lost my mind but never fear this story is going somewhere.

Farmers in the northern Rockies states are losing more money because of wolves. This isn’t the usual story you hear about the wolf eating up sheep and cattle. This is a more indirect loss for the farmers.

It seems that the livestock are too scared to eat. That’s right. Cattle and sheep are running (figuratively) scared of the wolves and aren’t eating contentedly like they should. Farmers are saying that often entire flocks of sheep will huddle up in the middle of the pastures and refuse to eat out of fear of the predators.

According to this article in the Wisconsin AG Connection, a couple pounds here and couple pounds there can add up to big bucks (dollars).

Tom Remington

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How Far Is Too Far?

Put and take seems to be the rage these days. It used to be just for fishing where biologists opted to farm their own fish and put it into bodies of water and let fishermen take it out. This has since run over into other game species like elk, big horn sheep, antelope, pheasant and many other species.

We all have our opinions on this kind of wildlife science but at what point are we taking this kind of semi-wild, semi-farm-raised management too far?

In Wyoming for instance, there are places where the aspen trees are dying off and becoming overrun with conifers. Aspen is forage for elk and big horn sheep. When the aspen is gone and there are too many animals devouring the forage, starvation and disease sets in making for a not so pretty sight.

Nature also has a way of regenerating itself and evolving. Often times when wildlife devour the young aspen plants, this provides opportunity for the conifer trees to take root and take over aspen groves. In order to help counter this event, nearly a quarter million dollars is going to be spent in efforts to regenerate aspen growth for the wildlife. Much of this effort involves prescribed burns that will kill off the conifer and allow for new growth aspen to replace it, as well as harvesting of conifers and creating clearings.

My question is how far is too far? How far do we go to maintain our put and take wildlife? It’s not just hunters that are demanding the opportunity to hunt species like elk and big horn sheep. Recreationist of every kind want to see these animals too and obviously are willing to spend the money to make sure they can.

We will need to redefine wildlife. In how many years will there not be by definition, wild life in the forests. We are working toward becoming a very large semi-enclosed game farm by putting animals here and there and providing feed stations, etc. When there gets to be too many we move them to another location and start again. We now are manipulating the forests for the animals.

In the Rocky Mountain National Forest, there are too many elk. Officials there plan to slaughter thousands of the animals over the course of years because the elk are eating up everything in its path, even forcing other wild animals to go elsewhere for food and habitat.

The driving force behind all this doesn’t come from hunters because hunting is banned in Rocky Mountain National Park. The driving force comes from tourists demanding that they see elk and other wildlife while driving around in their hi-tech vehicles riding in comfort. This isn’t wildife. This is drive through zoos.

Where will it end or will it? The struggle to co-exist treads on some thin areas. Is what we are doing in our management plans for wildlife generated through guilt because we keep encroaching on the habit of these creatures? Or is it that we want our cake and eat it too?

Mother Nature is losing control and doesn’t have a lot to say these days except when she rains down her fury.

Tom Remington

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New Hampshire Turkeys Come Up Clean

A collaborative effort in New Hampshire to test turkey droppings for salmonella has once again come up clean.

CONCORD, N.H.—Specimens from a second year of monitoring wild turkey droppings collected on New Hampshire dairy farms have once again all tested negative for the presence of Salmonella bacteria. That’s good news for wildlife managers and farmers in New Hampshire, who are concerned about possible transmission of Salmonella from wild turkeys to dairy livestock. The screening was part of a continuing collaborative effort between New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and the University of New Hampshire to better understand the impacts of winter turkey congregations on dairy farms in New Hampshire.
In 2005, 139 samples of turkey droppings, systematically collected from 12 New Hampshire dairy farms, all tested negative for Salmonella. In 2006, 16 dairy farms located in the Connecticut River Valley were included in the study. An effort was made to collect 5 samples per month per farm for the period January-March, 2006. The lack of snow during 2006 discouraged turkey activity at some farms, with the result being that only 5 northern farms and 7 southern farms were sampled. A total of 131 samples, representing 393 turkeys, were collected. All samples tested negative for Salmonella.
“Dairy farms play a critical role in the ecology of wild turkeys in northern New England. We’re delighted to be able to report that based on two years of intensive sampling, there is no evidence to indicate that wild turkeys are a source of Salmonella on New Hampshire dairy farms, even in those locations where large winter congregations of turkeys gather,” said Mark Ellingwood, a wildlife biologist with the Fish and Game Department. “Because dairy farms are so important to the distribution and abundance of turkeys in northern New England, all turkey enthusiasts owe dairy farmers our gratitude for their willingness to accommodate turkeys in and around their farms. We had an obligation to address their concerns.”
Ellingwood noted that over the past 30 years (since they were successfully reintroduced into New Hampshire by the Fish and Game Department), the wild turkey population has grown from 25 birds transplanted from New York in 1975, to approximately 30,000 birds today.

Tom Remington

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Now Here's A Bunch of Crap!

This morning USA Today is running a story that is so bad, so biased and full of crap. Please excuse my intelligent use of the English language but crap pretty much is the best descriptive word for what is written.

The article is about a new study just released that supposedly shows that hunting mountain lions has no effect on human-mountain lion encounters. This study might indicate that there is nothing to support such a claim. On the other hand, the study may not show that hunting mountain lions increases human-lion encounters.

The problem with the story is it has its agenda which doesn’t include publishing all the facts or giving anyone a chance to find out information themselves. This is not an opinion piece. It is being published as news. It is stories like this that thousands perhaps millions of people read and are lead to draw conclusions based on incomplete data or data that is manipulated for personal gains.

The article first admits that the study is being done because human-cougar encounters are on the rise. They do let us know who sponsored the study – the Mountain Lion Foundation. The Foundation opposes sport hunting of mountain lions the article says. It isn’t clear whether they support wildlife officials from killing the animals but based on information I have gathered about them, I would seriously doubt it.

The study compared data from 10 states that permit lion hunting with California that doesn’t. Of course we don’t know what the data was that they compared in this article. What did they compare? How was it actually relevent to hunting, populations of both humans and animals and a host of other factors?

When you read this item you are left with one of two choices. You can believe everything that was written including this quote:

“Any state that claims sport hunting is anything more than recreation will have to prove it, because evidence just isn’t there,” foundation President Lynn Sadler says.

At the end of the article the author slips in this quote from a game official in Oregon, a state that allows hunting cougars.

…….Tom Thornton, a state game manager. “Sport hunting slows the rate of population increase, and by having fewer cougars you would expect fewer encounters,” he says.

Your choice is whether to believe what is written in this article as truth. That a study done by a conservation group closely associated with every animal rights, anti-hunting and anti-anything groups, whose main mission is to stop all forms of hunting is non-biased or believe what a person says whose job it is to manage wildlife through science. You decide.

In the meantime, I’ll try to help you out here with some facts so you can decide for yourselves. First, you may visit the Mountain Lion Foundation and read all about their programs, missions and who they support and are associated with. This is important to gain a better understanding of who conducted this study and why.

If you look around you’ll find a press release in pdf about the study. There were two things in this press release that got omitted from the USA Today story. Here’s the first one.

While the study’s author and mountain lion conservation advocates acknowledge this study cannot absolutely “prove” that sport hunting is not an effective conflict-reduction strategy, they argue the evidence certainly forces wildlife agencies to look for proven strategies.

You see this statement, surprisingly taken from a press release written by the Mountain Lion Foundation, doesn’t find its way into the article at USA Today. I guess the author must not consider it to be important.

The other little tidbit that I found interesting was a different quote from what was put in USA Today. In the press release this is what Lynn Sadler, president of MLF, said,

“From this point forward,” says Lynn Sadler, President of the Mountain Lion Foundation, “any state agency that claims sport hunting is anything more than the random shooting of mountain lions for fun will have to prove it.”

The USA Today quote read “recreation” instead of “random shooting of mountain lions for fun”. Why they chose to quote it that way is unexplained unless they got that quote directly from her in an interview. That may very well have happened but nowhere in the article does it state that an interview was conducted.

What is important in this quote is that it reflects highly on the bias and unprofessional press releases being put out by MLF. This is a further indication of the extremism of this organization and their bent on stopping hunting. Did the author of the USA Today article not want to share that bias with its readers?

At least in the press release issued by MLF, they tell you where you can go to get the complete study. It is located at a website called Puma Conservation. It appears that this site is a domain name being used by MLF as a spot to place the study. Could this be an attempt to make readers believe that the Puma Conservation organization is a seperate entity from MLF in hopes of adding more credibility to the study? Perhaps!

If you choose to go there and look at the complete study, you will find that the information being spewed via MLF press releases and the story in USA Today, doesn’t paint the rosy picture they would like you to think it does. I’m not a scientist but I easily could tell that the study does not in anyway prove anything. There are way too many variables not included in the study to prove or disprove whether hunting mountain lions has an effect. Us ignorant lay people only assume that fewer cats would translate into fewer attacks by cats on humans. What do I know?

The other point to be made here is what difference does it make? Yes, some states have used the argument that reducing numbers reduces attacks. Who cares? All states have cougar management plans approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services at one time that are used to manage a specific population range that scientists believe the habitat can support. When numbers exceed those goals, management reduction plans are put in place. One of those plans involves sport hunting. Another involves wildlife officials killing them.

I really don’t understand the reasoning behind the MLF in wasting their money on such a study. Mountain lions are no different than other wild species. There are human-wild animal encounters all the time. The reason for this is varied but the biggest is probably due to man continuing to expand and develop into wild animal habitat. Animals get hungry and they go looking for food. Food is food and once a wild animal discovers an easy meal they will keep coming back.

Whether we like it or not, it is the reality of what we are dealing with. Some animals are going to have to be killed so that the two species can co-exist.

My point is simple. Wildlife experts manage game animals based on the best science available to them. I’m not so naive to think that politics doesn’t play a roll but overall, it is science. States have obligations to provide hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities to its citizens. Whether some group thinks hunting does or doesn’t slow down game encounters I don’t really care. I’ll spend my money elsewhere.

Tom Remington

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That'll Teach 'Em To Go Messing With Gall Bladders

A couple in Canada got caught with two gall bladders taken from two bears. No, they didn’t extract the bladders from live bears. They killed them first and then did it. But, they got caught and now are paying for it – $6,000 and their hunting gear.

They were following their doctors orders.

Kwang Ho Yoon and his wife, Myung Soon Yoon, killed two bears and removed their gall bladders as instructed by a doctor in Korea.

So what’s the big deal about bear gall bladders anyway?

The Korean doctor said the organs would be good for the woman’s ailments.
Traditional Chinese medicine claims bear gall bladders are good for the treatment of cancer, burns, eye pain, liver damage and sagging libido.

A sagging what??

Tom Remington

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New Study Shows Cub Bear's Chances Of Survival Improve In Areas Hunted By Men

Can this be true? In a recent study conducted by the University of Alberta in Canada, where two areas were picked to study, results show this to be true. One area was where bear hunting is prohibited and the other where hunting is allowed. Both regions were similar in habitat, etc. 290 bears were studied over a 4-year period of time.

The head researcher for the project is Sophie Czetwertynski, a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta. Here is the theory that has been used for some time about bear reproduction and infanticide (the mortality of baby bear cubs).

Some biologists argue that hunting forces adult male bears to move from their accustomed ranges. That disrupts the social structure and brings males into contact with females they wouldn’t normally meet.

The theory is that if the female has cubs, the new male will kill them and breed with her himself _ what biologists call sexually selected infanticide. As well, rampaging males cause sows to drift toward poorer habitat to avoid them, leaving herself and her cubs with fewer resources.

The conclusion is that hunting hits bears with a triple whammy: the shot bears, the cubs they kill before being shot and the poorer reproductive success of the females who try to dodge them.

The study seems to indicate that that theory may be flawed.

She monitored 290 bears over four years in the Cold Lake Weapons Testing Range on the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, which does not allow hunting, and the adjacent area around Conklin, Alta., which does.

She found 83 per cent of cubs survived in the hunted area while the comparable figure in the non-hunted area was 66 per cent. As well, females in the hunted area began reproducing earlier.

So what does this mean? What it doesn’t prove is that adult male bears aren’t killing baby bear cubs. What it shows is that even though it is probably occuring, it doesn’t have that big an effect on infant mortality.

She suggests the Cold Lake bears do more poorly because their population density is almost too much for the land to support.

“The effect of (density) seems to overpower the effect of (infanticide).”

Often times, as is the case in this part of Alberta, hunting of bear has been stopped because bear population is shrinking. Bear hunting was banned in Alberta for the spring grizzly hunt because officials felt the numbers had shrunk.

If this study proves accurate and gets its notoriety, wildlife biologists will have to take another look at their bear management plans. This could mean more and improved bear hunting opportunities for hunters. I’m sure this is not what animal rights groups want to hear.

Tom Remington

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