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of the Continent and the


Yellowstone M A G A Z I N E


COVER: Clearing storm, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park Neal Herbert, NPS ABOVE: UM students Sally Henkel, Tara Clark and Claire McGowan scaling peaks on the Rocky Mountain Front | Rick and Susie Graetz

Seth Bodnar, President Scott Whittenburg, Vice-President for Research and Creative Scholarship Jerry Fetz, Initiative Co-Director, Professor and Dean Emeritus, College of Humanities and Sciences Rick Graetz, Initiative Co-Director, Geography Department Professor Susie Graetz, Managing Editor Rita Fitzsimmons, Designer, Designworks


Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone Initiative O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West University of Montana Missoula, Montana 59812 Email: crown.yellowstone@umontana.edu Web site: crown-yellowstone.umt.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this e-Magazine are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Montana. No part of this e-Magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher. This e-Magazine is distributed by the University of Montana and published by UM’s Office of Research and Creative Scholarship through the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West. The Center is a cross disciplinary regional studies and public education program.



Our mission is to inform the public about what is happening in the Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystems. We do this through our publication, with presentations in communities, and by holding classes on and off campus. Spring field class


Winter field class


Seeley Lake lecture




Field study class, the Boulder Batholith on the Greater Yellowstone’s northern border Rick and Susie Graetz

Skiing and for Science by Rob Chaney | Missoulian Dianna Cudworth


Wolverines don’t make themselves easy to study. In addition to being able to gnaw their way out of log-cabin-like traps, they’re shaped kind of like a traffic cone. Even if you catch one, the radio collar tends to slip off.

Snowmobiling So how do you study what snowmobiling and skiing do to wolverine habitat? Collar the humans.


Top: Wolverine investigates Trap I | Chris Klingler Bottom: Wolverine, Glacier National Park | Eric Petersen, NPS Right: Course students also investigate Trap I | Rick and Susie Graetz


“This was one of the biggest radiocollar projects with wolverines ever,” said University of Montana wildlife biologist Mark Hebblewhite, one of the study co-authors. “The part I didn’t think would work was collaring humans. A friend tried this in Canada, and he had a difficult time.” Not so with this study, skiers and snowmobilers alike willingly carried small GPS units to track their movements, all in the name of science. Their involvement was critical in helping gather vital information on this seldom-seen critter. Indeed, the amount and quality of data collected by the volunteer backcountry enthusiasts far exceeded the team’s wildest hopes. So much so, that the interagency study team wrote a separate paper on how people play in winter landscapes. But that’s another story. For now, focus on what happens when one of the most elusive and charismatic of Rocky Mountain mega fauna encounters growing numbers of backcountry recreationists. The question matters because wolverines are so hard to find that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has hedged on declaring them an endangered species due to lack of data. While we do know the amount of suitable wolverine habitat is shrinking, we can’t say the same about wolverine population numbers. They’re too tough to count.

The Wolverine-Winter Recreation Research Project Final Report released last December compiled six years of observations in the mountains of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. In addition to tracking 24 wolverines with GPS collars over 2.7 million acres, the team also recorded more than 5,500 people playing across 145,765 square miles of the mountains around West Yellowstone, McCall, Idaho, the Sawtooth Range and the Grand Tetons. The study has now been published in a peer-reviewed ecological journal, Ecosphere. “What’s valuable about this is it suggests that based on good science, there can be an effective balance between recreationists that are using public lands and wolverines,” said John Squires, a study co-author at the US Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula. That’s the kind of information Forest Service analysts and other land managers need when making winter travel plans, issuing permits for races or reviewing ski area expansions. And the answers differ by sex. Wolverines roam year-round; they don’t hibernate like grizzly bears. Males have more tolerance for human activity. Some have hypothesized they may even prowl backcountry road networks looking for hunters’ gut piles or easier snow travel, but there is no evidence to prove the theory. The study showed that females begin avoiding high quality habitats when confronted with low levels of winter recreation, and the avoidance escalates as the intensity of activity increases. Since females get bumped away much more easily, that may affect reproduction in a particularly slow-to-breed species like wolverines. Mothers den in February and March in deep snowfields that persist late into spring, which can put them in conflict with late-season backcountry recreationists.


So tracking the people to see what they really do was essential. Hebblewhite said past attempts relying on interviews or surveys yielded less-than-useful social science. People over- or under-estimated how far they went, where they went or how intensely they used an area. By passing out box loads of $100 GPS trackers to snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, and hybrid skiers (using snowmobiles to access backcountry downhill slopes), a whole new window opened up. “It quickly became a big data problem,” Hebblewhite said. “The wolverine collars gave us one spot every 20 minutes. The human trackers were sending in data at one spot per second.” “The impression of snowmobilers out there high-marking is actually quite rare,” Hebblewhite said. “Most of them just drive old Forest Service roads. But they’re the dominant form of activity. Snowmobilers tend to drive 50 miles a day. Backcountry skiers typically traveled 10 miles or less.” Incidentally, the research showed that the recreational footprint is much more extensive than most people, even land managers, realized. While the majority of snowmobilers tend to stick close to roads, more than we previously suspected are getting off-road and going deeper into rugged country. Skiers also are pushing themselves farther out and much higher than we thought—the map shows the GPS tracks of backcountry skiers, many going to the very tops of peaks in Teton National Park. The challenge will be finding a balance between keeping people loving and using our wild winter landscapes while still providing the security and solitude wolverines seem to need. Rob Chaney covers the outdoors, environment, and science for the Missoulian newspaper. This story was published in the Missoulian Feb. 27, 2018, and originally titled “Helping Wolverines by Tracking Humans.” It has been reprinted here with edits from Kimberly Heinemeyer. Backcountry skiers | Rick and Susie Graetz


From the Scientists’ Mouths‌The Study Conclusion—excerpted from the Final Report Outdoor recreation provides avenues for people to connect with nature and is an important economic and cultural component of the small communities that serve as gateways to some of our larger natural areas. Balancing the many positive benefits of encouraging outdoor recreation with the impacts it may have on these natural systems is a growing field of study. Our research into the potential effects of winter recreation on wolverines represents information at spatial and temporal scales rarely achieved in other disturbance research. Clearly, at some point, displacement from high quality habitats would affect the reproductive and survival fitness of animals. Given the low density and fragmented nature of wolverines in the contiguous United States, impacts to the relatively few reproductive females should be minimized. We found that the effects of winter recreation on wolverine habitat are dependent upon the relative intensity of recreation and that winter recreation patterns are highly variable at the scale of wolverine home ranges. Some animals may be exposed to important levels of indirect habitat loss due to avoidance of areas with winter recreation while adjacent animals have relatively little exposure. We recommend that additional research is needed to understand winter recreation distribution and relative intensity within potential wolverine habitats across the western United States and elsewhere where backcountry winter recreation activities are popular. Approaches to documenting and monitoring the extent and relative intensity of backcountry winter recreation in an efficient and effective manner needs additional development, and we suggest approaches that combine modeling the potential for recreation with field efforts to identify the realized extent of existing recreation, such as the standardized aerial surveys we undertook. Our results suggest that winter recreation should be considered when assessing wolverine habitat suitability, cumulative effects and conservation. Our research provides land managers with a more detailed understanding of important habitat characteristics used by wolverines within home ranges and should inform management of wolverine habitats across the large landscapes they require. Further, it shows that female wolverines are sensitive to dispersed winter recreation, which results in indirect habitat loss during the critical denning season. The functional responses to dispersed winter recreation provide insight into these negative effects, and suggest that lower levels of dispersed recreation will have less effect on wolverines than more widespread and intense recreation. We also found that recreation use of roads and groomed routes has low influence on male and female wolverine habitat use. Our research also shows that males are less sensitive to dispersed recreation, and therefore may be a lower management priority. While extremely challenging with a rare species residing in remote landscapes, research is needed that links population-level metrics to habitat and habitat conditions. These backcountry landscapes represent critical habitats for wolverines, important and highly valued areas for people to connect with nature, and are economic drivers for the small communities that surround them. Solutions to finding a balanced approach to sustaining the diverse values of these wild landscapes requires creative approaches and collaboration between land managers, stakeholders and wildlife professionals. Researchers: Kimberly Heinemeyer 1, John Squires 2, Mark Hebblewhite 3, Julia Smith 1, Joseph Holbrook 2, Jeffrey Copeland 2,4. 1. Round River Conservation Studies, Bozeman, MT 2. Rocky Mountain Research Station, USFS, Missoula, MT 3. Wildlife Biology Program, Dept. of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, University of Montana 4. The Wolverine Foundation, Tetonia, ID



Wolves and Yellowstone Stream Recovery In the first study of its kind, research by Oregon State University scientists shows that the return of large terrestrial carnivores can lead to improved stream structure and function. Holly Cannon

by Steve Lundeberg Science Daily

The findings, published in Ecohydrology, are important because they highlight the role big predators play in the health of aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Robert Beschta and William Ripple of the OSU College of Forestry looked at stream-bank willows over a 13-year period along two forks of a creek in Yellowstone National Park, first in 2004 and again in 2017. The study, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, began nine years after wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone and two decades after cougars had returned to the park. Gray wolves and cougars had been hunted to extirpation in Yellowstone by the early 1900s, allowing for an abundance of elk that ate so much willow as to erode stream banks and damage waterways the shrubs had historically protected. Beschta and Ripple examined willows along the west and east forks of Blacktail Deer Creek in the northern portion of the park. “In the 1990s, elk were still keeping the willows short, usually less than 2 feet tall, and that led to stream widening—oversized cross sections of channel and a drastically reduced frequency of overbank flows,” Beschta said. “But by 2017, willow heights greater than 6 feet were prevalent and canopy cover over the stream, which had essentially been absent in 1995, had increased to 43 percent and 93 percent along the west fork and east fork, respectively.” Increases in willow height, greater canopy cover, and stream-bank stabilizing courtesy of well-vegetated banks all point toward a recovering riparian/ aquatic ecosystem, he said. Beschta notes, however, that the healing is in its early stages and the recovery of stream channels may be slow in some areas.

Gardner River | Dianne Renkin

“The over-widened streams that resulted when elk were able to browse on willows as they did when wolves and cougar were absent, that’s a big change that’s taken place and may become a legacy effect,” he said. “In some areas these geomorphic changes to channels may not be quickly reversible and could be there for a long time.”


Blacktail Deer Creek Trail | Jacob W. Frank, NPS

Fig 2


Fig 4

Nevertheless, the ecosystem improvements that have already happened show the many positives of having a full guild of large carnivores present. “The cougars had been back for a while, and the bears have always been there, but they were unable to control the elk populations or at least their browsing,” Beschta said. “It wasn’t until wolves were returned that we got this reshuffle in what elk were doing and we began to see improvement in plant communities and streams. This is the first study showing improving stream morphology in Yellowstone’s northern elk range, or anywhere else in the U.S. as it relates to the return of a large predator.” With improvements in stream channels and to riparian vegetation, beavers are returning to parts of the

study area, their dam building adding its own unique set of ecosystem enhancements. “They reinforce and reconnect streams with floodplains in a way that only beavers do,” Beschta said. “They irrigate riparian areas in ways that won’t occur otherwise, and that’s not only good news for riparian vegetation but also a host of wildlife species, such as songbirds, waterfowl, amphibians, fish and others.” Story Source: Oregon State University. “Yellowstone streams recovering thanks to wolf reintroduction.” March 10, 2019, ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/18 1108134136.htm

Fig 2 Photo chronosequence for (a) 2004 and (b) 2017 shows increased riparian willow heights and cover on the historical floodplain of the East Fork of Blacktail Deer Creek over a 13-year period. After multiple decades of height suppression from intensive elk browsing, willows in 2004 were just beginning to fill out due to a reduction in browsing.* Fig 4 Photo chronosequence for (a) 2004 and (b) 2017 shows streambank conditions along the West Fork of Blacktail Deer Creek. In 2004, streambank erosion of the historical floodplain (HFP) was ongoing as indicated by bank collapse of the dark (organic rich) soil. In 2017, a nearly continuous cover of vegetation has developed along the edge of the channel, stabilizing the streambank and initiating an emerging inset floodplain (IFP).* Fig 6 Northern range counts of (a) wolves, elk, and (b) beaver colonies from 1995 t0 2017. Wolf and elk count data were provided by NPS; beaver colony counts were from Smith and Tyers (2012).* *Credit for figures 2, 4, 6: Beschta RL and WJ Ripple. 2019.  Can large carnivores change streams via a trophic cascade? Ecohydrology 12(1):e2048


The answer to a long-asked question:

How many elk do Yellowstone wolves eat? Doug Smith has been studying wolves in the park since they were transplanted there in 1995. Project leader for wolf restoration, he has been with the program since officials carried the first wolf into a holding pen that year. Alpha female, Canyon pack | Neal Herbert, NPS

by Angus M. Thuermer, Jr. WyoFile.com

Doug’s photograph of former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, the late US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Mollie Beattie, and former park Superintendent Michael Finley hefting a crate full of wolf across the snow is his most famous shot, he told an audience in Jackson. Since then he has been flying over Yellowstone regularly, catching and radio collaring dozens of wolves, mapping pack territories and examining wolf kills to create an unprecedented database. Intensive surveys each winter with a sizable crew, including volunteers, has made the investigation possible. Much of the work was done with private funds To answer the question of how many elk an average wolf eats in a year, Smith teased out a figure from seasonal estimates. In early winter, for example, he estimates a wolf will kill and consume 1.4 elk every 30 days. In late winter that number goes up to 2.2 elk per wolf every 30 days. Over the entire winter season, the average comes out to 1.8 elk per wolf in 30 days. But that rate doesn’t persist. In summer, wolves turn their attention to deer and even rodents, Smith said. Over the course of a year, an average wolf will kill—mostly with other pack members—and consume 16 to 22 elk a year, Smith said. “That’s a rough estimate.”

It takes a pack Elk hunting for wolves usually involves a pack working together, the biologist told his audience. He showed photographs of a pack in hot pursuit of several elk, pointing out the members in the lead. They invariably are younger wolves and females—members of the species that are lighter and faster than large males who typically are the pack leaders. But the big wolves are often the key to making a kill, Smith said. When they catch up, they latch onto an elk and seal its fate.


Bull elk and his harem | Rick and Susie Graetz


Pack sizes correlate to how big the dinner table is, Smith said, and how many wolves can be seated at it. A deer, for example, is large enough to feed a pack of four to six wolves. A dead elk will provide a setting for nine to 10 wolves — typical for pack sizes in Yellowstone. A dead moose will serve a pack of 15 wolves or more, Smith said. Bison, likewise, would sustain a larger pack. But large prey like bison are usually successfully hunted only by packs that have at least two big males. Wolves do not hunt bison in Yellowstone as frequently as one might think. “They don’t kill them in proportion to their availability,” Smith said. He noted the danger a large bison poses to wolves; “Why get your head bashed in?” he asked. A large wolf can hold up to about 20 pounds of meat in its stomach at a time, Smith said. But after 20 years of chasing wolves and measuring them with a scale, top weight for a big male was 148 pounds—with nothing in its stomach. Black bear sow and cubs challenge wolves over dinner | Jim Peaco, NPS

According to the Park, there were at least 98 wolves in 10 packs living primarily in Yellowstone in January 2016. At that time, there were some 528 wolves within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Using Smith’s figures, wolves residing primarily in Yellowstone kill between 1,568 and 2,156 elk annually. In the Greater Yellowstone region, wolves take 8,448 to 11,616 elk per year, Smith’s figures indicate. In Wyoming, humans reported killing 25,852 elk in 2016, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Smith also made a counterintuitive observation regarding the relationship of grizzly bears and wolves who fight over a carcass, including winter-killed bison. Grizzlies are frequently able to take over a dead animal, even one initially claimed or killed by a pack of wolves. That won’t necessarily send wolves off to kill a different animal, Smith said. Instead, they lurk on the fringes, waiting for a chance to steal in and grab a meal. “It actually decreases kill rates,” he said.

Montana’s initial wolf hunting seasons affected Yellowstone wolf packs because the state did not institute adequate hunting areas to limit the killing of members of a particular pack. As a result, some packs were significantly disrupted. In contrast, Wyoming’s wolf seasons, when they were in effect, included zones in which a limited number of wolves could be killed. That spread the impact among different packs, Smith said. Since wolves were introduced as an experimental population in Yellowstone, they were removed from the umbrella of federal protection and hunting was allowed in neighboring states outside the park. But Wyoming’s wolf plan was challenged in court and hunting stopped in the Equality State. A federal appeals court ruled that Wyoming’s wolf plan provides adequate protection for the species, returning control to the state. Smith said the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has a good handle on the hunting scheme. “They did it fine last time,” he said. But the state must be cautious because it manages for a wolf

population very close to the minimum required when the federal government first relinquished authority. There must be 10 packs and 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park, plus a buffer. Maintaining a buffer gives the state flexibility should a wolf or pack cause unacceptable damage to livestock, for example, and require killing. Because Wyoming would like to keep numbers down, “They are going to have to watch and be very careful,” not to go below the agreedto minimum, Smith said. If that happened it could result in a re-listing under the Endangered Species Act and protection for wolves outside Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge. Angus M. Thuermer, Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy. This article was published on March 28, 2017 at WyoFile.com.

by Leslie J. Quinn | Yellowstone Science


John Morrison

The nature of Yellowstone’s seasonal operation

For many of these former employees, part of their

dictates that most employees, irrespective of the

experience included “Savage Christmas,” currently

quality of their experience working here, will ulti-

celebrated by the “savages” (as Yellowstone

mately head elsewhere in search of career, family,

concessioner employees are historically known)

and fortune. Often, for the rest of their lives, some

on August 25.

chance lighting, sound, or smell may take them traveling back in time to a summer of bears, geysers, and lasting friendships made in

Yellowstone National Park.

In Yellowstone, it is a day on which you can find Christmas trees trimmed in the hotel lobbies, Christmas dinner served in the concessioner employee dining rooms, and Christmas services celebrated around the park.

But where did Savage Christmas come from? How did it come to be celebrated on August 25? 19

s the legend goes, it was shortly after the turn of the century that one August 24 found a freak blizzard descending upon the Old Faithful area. Visitors at the Old Faithful Inn, marooned by snows too heavy for their stagecoaches to brave, marveled at the weird weather and decided to make the best of their predicament by celebrating rather than lamenting the inclemency. The winter-like aspect brought on by the snow gave someone the idea that it looked like Christmas time, and the celebration became one of caroling, stringing popcorn, and toasting a Merry Christmas to one’s fellow travelers.


The savages, many of whom returned to Yellowstone in successive summers but were far from one another at Yuletide, were inspired by this impromptu revelry, and so the tradition of Savage Christmas was born and celebrated in subsequent years up to the present. In yet another rendition, it was a wagon train that was imperiled by the storm.

Based on the information available, it seems to have evolved largely as a consequence of three unrelated influences: a “Christmas in July” tradition; a celebration called Savage Days that took place at Old Faithful and probably elsewhere in the park; and the launching of a Christian Ministry in the National Parks. Irrespective of the month of its observance, the tradition of a summer Christmas in Yellowstone appears to date from the 1930s. Gerry Pesman, who sandwiched a career as an engineer inside two jobs as a park bus driver/tour guide, reported that he heard nothing of a summer Christmas celebration during his first stint (1926 to 1940), but it was in full swing during his second (1967 to 1975).

Each year as August 25 approaches, flyers are distributed at hotels around the park relating the quaint and charming tale. However, the historical record, while somewhat scant on the subject, does not support the occurrence of such an event. One long-term concession manager claimed that the story was made up to conceal the actual origin of the holiday, as I’ll explain later.

of each year had snowfall and how much was present on the ground were kept beginning in 1904, the year Old Faithful Inn opened. Between 1887 and 1903, records show the total August days with snow on the ground as zero. Beginning in 1904 and through 1941, the only August snow depth of more than a trace during that period was recorded on August 30, 1932, when 1.8 inches of snow fell.

“Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful…”

From these scant facts alone, it seems that no snow accumulated during the stagecoach era that would have snowbound anyone anywhere in the park in August.

Weather records have been kept in Yellowstone Park since the 1880s, and details concerning which days

This theory is supported by a 1977 letter written by late park historian Aubrey L. Haines: I have checked my notes for references to the Yellowstone employee “Christmas” celebrations, but can find only one reference—a note from Jack Haynes in 1947, “O. F. [Old Faithful] Savages held annual celebration, 7/25.” The “Christmas” being just employee fun didn’t get much official notice. I think it goes away back before the War, as I seem to remember it the summer of 1939 when I was assistant DR [District Ranger] at Old Faithful; but we didn’t pay much attention so long as they stayed out of trouble. Photo: Yellowstone stagecoach after a summer snowstorm | YNP Archives


Savage Day—and A Savage Night

Hallelujahs in August

The celebration in question may not have been Christmas-related. According to the August 1, 1947, issue of Yellowstone’s Weekly News: The “savages” at Old Faithful held a gala affair on July 25 known as “Savage Day.” The day concluded with a large masquerade ball in the evening. The earliest reference to Savage Days in the archives appears in a July 18, 1948 letter from Yellowstone Park Company President Huntley Child, Jr., to the managers of Old Faithful Lodge, Old Faithful Cafeteria (a separate structure then), and Old Faithful Tourist Cabins (later to become the Snow Lodge): Because service to the guests comes first and because we were subject to severe criticism after the “Savage Day” performance of last year, such a performance must not happen again.

But how did Savage Days and Christmas in July become Savage Christmas in August? Once Savage Days came to an end, there was apparently an interest in changing the annual celebration from July 25 to August 25. For the first few years, the employee parties switched back and forth. But by 1959, the August 25 date won out and Savage Christmas has continued on that date ever since. A likely explanation for the change is that in the 1950s,Yellowstone’s visitor season was still basically from June through August. By moving the holiday to August 25, it could also serve as an “end of the sea-

If the employees want to have a parade during the afternoon, between three and five P.M., and a dance at night, provided it does not interfer (sic) with service to the guests, it will be all right. Costumes must not be worn during the time an employee is on duty and employees must wear their regular daily uniform. Other references indicate that Savage Days continued as an annual event until at least 1953. By then, according to the late Trevor Povah of Hamilton Stores, Inc., the festival (and its problems) appears to have become more parkwide, and Superintendent E. B. Rogers finally asked the managers of the three main concessions operations to put a stop to it. Mr. Povah said that he, Jack Haynes, and Huntley Child, Jr., created the Savage Christmas celebration as a replacement for Savage Days. Mr. Povah also suggested that the story of stagecoaches snowbound at Old Faithful was created at that time so as to tell visitors something better than the truth as to how the celebration came about. And it was wisdom to realize that altering the celebration rather than just stopping it was a more likely road to success. The last known reference to Savage Days is for 1953; the first mention in the Yellowstone Weekly News of Savage Christmas is in 1955.


son” celebration. But another organization created in Yellowstone in the 50s may have also contributed in delaying the event. On August 7, 1949, Warren W. Ost, a bellman at Old Faithful Inn and divinity student at Princeton conducted the Old Faithful Choral Society in a concert for park visitors. Ost saw a need for a ministry for the National Parks in the summer, a time of year when divinity students would be available to serve. He returned to Yellowstone in 1950 with fellow student Donald Bower and launched a “student ministry” that eventually became A Christian Ministry in the National Parks, of which Ost was the first director. Whatever other effects the divinity students may have had on Yellowstone, Delmar J. Sicard, III, linked their presence with his observation that the Christmas celebration “began to take on a more serious and formal aspect” in the early 1950s.

to prepare, an August date for the concert would have been more reasonable, and this may have been a factor in the July-to-August switch. While the park’s season has extended and interest in presenting the Messiah has waned, the Savage Christmas survives and is celebrated each year.

A Christmas on Any Other Date Would be as Merry So it appears that most of what is offered here is a little historical fact and some quasi-intelligent speculation to go with it. The evidence suggests that a tradition of “Savage Day” in July was replaced by a “Savage Christmas” in July, which was soon replaced by a Savage Christmas in August. It does seem relatively certain that the incident of visitors snowed in at Old Faithful never occurred, and that Savage Christmas owes much of its beginnings to the outrageous antics practiced by those celebrating Savage Days, with a little nudge from the Christian Ministry as well.

By 1951, choral groups at Mammoth, Old Faithful, Canyon, and Lake were “working up the Messiah,” according to the Weekly News. “Plans have now been completed for the presentation of this program in the Yellowstone Park Chapel on Friday, August 17. “This performance of Handel’s Messiah was to become an annual event, taking place each August until the late 1980s or early 1990s. If the celebration of Christmas in July had still been going strong in the early 1950s when the Messiah tradition began, it would have been logical to have the Messiah performance coincide with it. But with only a short season in which

But what’s really important here? For all the sad commercialization that is a part of the Christmas celebration at the turn of the twenty-first century, many people still consider it one of the best days of the year, whatever their religious faith. We may hang ornaments, string popcorn, and wrap gifts, but hopefully somewhere along the way we also feel humbled and inspired to try to be better people than we are. If Christmas days can do this for us, then we need more of them than we have now anyway. And in Yellowstone Park, we’re at least that much ahead of the game, as we celebrate Christmas twice as often as in most places. So, every August 25, have a merry Savage Christmas—surely, the best of times. Editor’s Note: Today, tourists are caught off-guard by the sight of a lodgepole pine decorated with tinsel and bright, colorful Christmas decorations incongruously growing up out of a huge boulder in the middle of the Fire Hole River. Known as Christmas Tree Rock, it is traditional for a group of park employees to defy the swift current and cold water in order to scale the boulder, decorate the tree, and declare the day Savage Christmas. Leslie J. Quinn was the Information Specialist for Amfac Parks & Resorts in Yellowstone National Park, and editor of their in-house publication, the Commentary Newsletter. Yellowstone Science is a periodical devoted to natural and cultural resources. The publication of Yellowstone Science is made possible, in part, by a generous grant to the Yellowstone Park Foundation from Canon USA, Inc. through the Eyes on Yellowstone program. This article appeared in Yellowstone Science Volume 9, Number 3.




As a native and lifelong resident of Montana, Monte Dolack’s appreciation for the landscapes and wildlife of the west are evident in the paintings he creates. The Renewal | Springtime on the Rocky Mountain Front


Firehole River | Paradise to Serious Fly-Fishermen


A love of art, history, and the natural world is evident when you scroll through the catalogs of what he puts on canvas and paper. Blending mythology, nature, and elements from our modern civilization, his work is often infused with a sense of humor and irony‌ a playfulness, you might say. Monte’s art is easy on the eyes; a merging of soft colors, changing light, and a respect for the beauty and wildness of the lands he paints brings one feelings of peace, joy, and wonder. Rainbow Rising | Worthy of an Olympic High Jump

Teton Autumn | Wearing Her Finest


Nationally and internationally known and recognized for his talent, Monte’s works are part of the collection of the Library of Congress and the American Association of Museums. He has been honored with exhibitions in Ireland, Japan, London, Geneva, Germany, and Beijing. These are just a few of the places his work has been shown. A keen interest in environmental issues has lead to commissions for the Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, and Trout Unlimited. Becoming One With Nature | There’s No Better Feeling

Pine Butte Swamp Preserve | Where Grizzlies Come Out on the Prairie

Restoring the Wolf | Howling at the Moon


Yellowstone Falls | Ain’t That Grand?


Hush of the Land | Scapegoat Wildreness...Where Man Can Restore His Soul

The Chief and the Moon | Sacred Mountain to Native Americans


After studying art at Montana State University and The University of Montana, Monte opened his first design and painting studio in 1974 and began his full time career as an artist. In the year 2000, the Missoulian and The Montana Century selected him as one of the 100 most influential Montanans of the twentieth century. In 2009 he was awarded the distinguished Fine Arts Alumni award from the University of Montana. And most recently, in 2018 he received the Montana Governors Award for the Arts.

Bearing Witness | First to Discover Old Faithful

Monte Dolack


Albino Lake, Madison Range | Rick and Susie Graetz



Volunteers Kirra Paulus and Gerrit Egnew kayak to their sample site on the Gallatin River in December 2015. Their efforts as citizen scientists will contribute data to an initiative by Adventure Scientists that studies the impact of microplastics in the Gallatin Watershed. | Louise Johns


On a still dark December morning in 2015, a red Ford Ranger jammed with kayaking gear left the lights of Bozeman, Montana, and headed south on Route 191, paralleling the Gallatin River. It drove toward the border of Yellowstone National Park, where the river’s headwaters rise. There, in one of the most intact, well-protected ecosystems in the United States, Gerrit Egnew, a Montana State University bioengineering student, and his citizen scientist partner Kira Paulus got ready to go to work… The temperature was 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stalking a Micro Invasion by Krista Langlois | High Country News

Wanting to put his kayaking skills to more altruistic purposes, Gerrit signed up to collect water samples for a Bozeman-based nonprofit called Adventure Scientists, which uses kayakers, skiers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts to gather environmental data from places too scattered, far-flung, or difficult for researchers to regularly reach. One of its biggest projects revolves around a material: plastic... more specifically, microplastics, pieces smaller than 5 millimeters in diameter.


SOME HAVE BROKEN DOWN from larger items like disintegrating tires, toys or plastic bags. Others are shed from synthetic clothing, or come from personal hygiene products with exfoliating “microbeads.” Some can be seen with the naked eye; others are so small that they’re nearly invisible, and so light they can float on currents of air. And they are everywhere, from Arctic sea ice to city drinking water. By the time Egnew began volunteering on the Gallatin in 2015, Adventure Scientists had already collected water samples from thousands of locations around the world. Ultimately, they found microplastics in 73 percent of them. While the threat that microplastics pose to the world’s oceans is well-established, there’s been comparatively little research on their impact to freshwater and inland environments. So Abby Barrows, principal investigator of Adventure Scientists’ microplastics initiatives and a marine researcher with College of the Atlantic, decided to investigate plastic pollution in Montana’s Gallatin River, which flows into the Missouri and then the Mississippi. If she could identify how microplastics entered the headwaters of one of the country’s biggest watersheds, it could help shed light on how the pollutants spread from streams to rivers to the fish we eat, the water we drink, and the fields where we grow our food.  Which is why Egnew and Paulus were slowly kayaking down the last ice-free section of the Gallatin, dunking their hands into the frigid water to fill labeled metal water bottles. As Barrows had instructed, they sampled from the left, right and center of the river, always upstream from their kayaks. They took photographs of their gear and clothing so Barrows could later make sure that no plastic bits came from the volunteers themselves. Everything was going well. Then, just before the river disappeared beneath the frozen landscape, a bottle slipped from Egnew’s hand. He pulled his sprayskirt and dove down to rescue it. Microplastics have been found in numerous other Western water bodies, but the upper Gallatin is one of the most pristine watersheds in the Lower 48—a playground


for fly fishermen, whitewater boaters, mountain bikers, and hikers. Much of the river flows through protected public lands. So where’s the plastic coming from? One source could be the outdoor recreation industry. Mixed in with the organic material floating in the river water, Barrows finds shreds of synthetic rubber like that used in mountain bike tires, the neoprene used in wetsuits, and the PVA used in fishing line. It’s intriguing, she says, “to have the materials from your study directly point to the land uses in a particular area.” Still, outdoor recreation isn’t wholly to blame. As the Gallatin flows downstream—past Bozeman, into the Missouri River, and through cities, wildlife refuges, and Native American reservations—plastics enter the watershed from a panoply of sources, including our own homes. To the extent most of us think about microplastics, we’re probably familiar with microbeads, the tiny plastic scrubbers that became common in face washes and toothpastes in the late 1990s. Following a surge in public awareness about the dangers microbeads pose when eaten by fish and other wildlife, Congress voted to ban them in personal care products beginning in 2017.

A BIGGER CULPRIT is plastic fibers. Fleece pullovers. Polypropylene leggings. Polyester hats. Globally, production of synthetic fibers—long, thin strands of plastics spun into threads—more than doubled from 2000 to 2017. Today, roughly 58 percent of clothing is woven with them. While these fabrics excel at keeping us warm and dry in the elements, they shed every time they’re washed: up to 250,000 plastic fibers per jacket, per wash cycle. Fleece pullover | Rick and Susie Graetz

Microplastic research samples | Doble-D

That means every time one of Bozeman’s 45,000 residents throws their synthetic base layers or fleece jacket in the wash after a sweaty day of skiing, they’re releasing microfibers into the city’s sewer system. From there, the plastic-laced water travels to Bozeman’s state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant, where it passes through a variety of filters and tanks before being discharged into the East Gallatin River. Although Bozeman’s plant meets some of the highest environmental standards in the United States, Garneau says wastewater treatment plants simply aren’t designed to pick up particulates as tiny as microplastics. A 2016 study she co-authored found that municipal wastewater plants release up to 23 billion plastic

particles into US waterways every day—a major point source of freshwater plastic pollution. Even plastics that are captured by treatment plants often end up back in the environment. They settle into the semi-solid residue, or sludge, produced by plants, which is then repurposed as fertilizer and sold or given to farmers. Scientists from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences estimate that because of such fertilizers, more plastics wind up in Europe and North America’s agricultural soils each year than currently exist in all the world’s oceans. Inevitably, untreated irrigation runoff sends some of them back into our rivers.


Sherri Mason, a chemistry professor at SUNY Fredonia, prepares to analyze the microplastic content of lake sediment samples l Erica Cirino

A petri dish filled with microplastic and other small particles found in Great Lakes sediment | Erica Cirino


Without additional research on the Gallatin-Missouri watershed, no one can say for sure how microplastic concentrations fluctuate as the rivers flow downstream, or to what extent they’ve contaminated wild and human communities. Still, studies from elsewhere in the country paint the basic picture. Some microplastics are flushed out to sea, where they contribute to marine plastic pollution. Scientists estimate that some 80 percent of plastic in the world’s oceans originates from inland sources. Other particles sink to the river bottom, where they may be eaten by benthic invertebrates like freshwater mussels. Still others bob along in the water column and are gobbled up by fish or birds. In the Northeast’s Lake Champlain, Garneau has found an average of 22.93 microplastic particles in the guts of each bird she surveyed, 6.49 in fish, and .61 in invertebrates. Off the coast of California, University of Toronto ecotoxicologist Chelsea Rochman found microplastics in 25 percent of fish and 33 percent of shellfish caught locally and sold for human consumption. In both studies, the majority of particles were fibers. Researchers have also found microplastics in craft beer, honey, salt and—in research headed by SUNY Fredonia chemist Sherri Mason—in 81 percent of tap water and 93 percent of bottled water from around the globe, including the United States. “We’re not going to get rid of plastic,” Rochman says. “It’s a really important material. But we can think about using safer types.” That could mean banning certain chemical compounds from plastic manufacturing, or perhaps engineering more environmentally friendly plant-derived plastics.

Like other plastic scientists I spoke with, Rochman is surprisingly optimistic. They believe the visibility of the problem makes it more likely to be tackled: Unlike climate change, plastic pollution is hard to deny. Environmental campaigns aimed at reducing plastic waste are encouraging some consumers to use steel straws, cloth shopping bags, and washing machine filters that capture microfibers, while the bipartisan cooperation on banning microbeads offers hope that other types of harmful plastics can also one day be regulated. Landlocked Western states are hardly immune from the effects of plastic pollution, especially in rural areas where people are more likely to catch and eat wild fish. Keeping plastics out of rivers like the Gallatin could help keep microplastics out of humans’ and animals’ food supplies, both in the intermountain West and farther downstream. The outdoor recreation industry may only be responsible for a fraction of the plastics, but as the number of mountain bikers, hikers, and anglers toting plastic into wild places grows, enthusiasts like Gerrit Egnew are starting to reckon with the footprint they leave behind. Like nearly everyone else in this country, Egnew depends on plastics. After he dove beneath the icy water of the Gallatin to retrieve his water sample on that December morning, the plastic-derived gaskets and fabrics in his dry suit protected him from hypothermia. That’s why he’s happy to have contributed to research identifying the outdoor recreation’s role in plastic pollution. “Outdoor industries are often touted as solutions to more extractive types of industry,” Egnew says. “I think that’s probably true. But without knowing the impact of the outdoor industry ecologically, we can’t really compare them.” Quantifying that impact, he adds, is the first step toward mitigating it.

Krista Langlois is a correspondent with High Country News. She writes from Durango, Colorado. This story was published at High Country News Sept 10, 2018 and was originally titled “Tiny Bits of Plastic Permeate our World.” www.hcn.org


Plastic Pollution in by Heather Fraley | Flathead Lake Biological Station


Flathead Lake postdoctoral researcher Xiong Xiong peers into a clear glass jar filled with water, plant matter and a thin, 3-inch-long piece of plastic. It looks like a bristle from a broom or maybe a piece of fishing line. Although Flathead Lake is well-known for its brilliantly clear, cold water, unseen


ants may lurk in the


pristine surface water. Xiong is spending a year at the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake? Biological Station (FLBS), working with Director Jim Elser to find out if tiny pieces of plastic are polluting the waters of Flathead Lake, and, if so, how concentrated they are. Above: Xiong Xiong collects water samples from Flathead Lake | Flathead Lake Biological Station Left: The dock at the University of Montana Biological Station on Flathead Lake | Rick and Susie Graetz


Natural processes break plastics into smaller and smaller pieces over the years without actually changing the structure. Broken-down plastic still floats around like suds in a bath tub decades after it went into the water. Most microplastic research is done on the ocean, but Xiong states, “…we want to find the situation in the freshwater inland because it may affect our daily life more directly than the ocean plastic.” Xiong’s most recent work includes testing highland freshwater lakes in the Tibetan Plateau. Although fewer people live on the plateau than in the big cities of China, Xiong found the lakes contained microplastics at concentrations high enough to cause concern. He wants to see if a lake in the sparsely populated Flathead Valley of Montana might carry the same kind of baggage. Microplastics may absorb toxins, which then can move up through the food chain and end up in fish. Even now, guidelines help regulate how much and what size fish should be eaten from Flathead Lake due to accumulated mercury. The suggested serving-size cards that state and tribal wildlife agencies pass out to anglers don’t factor in potential toxins from plastic. Xiong has gathered water samples from 12 locations around the lake. He tows a windsock-shaped sampling mesh net behind a boat, and it plucks up any particles in the water. Xiong will use hydrogen peroxide to digest any organic matter, leaving him with only the particles that are suspected plastics.

He will determine if the particles remaining are actually microplastics by testing them with Raman spectroscopy or Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. Both techniques use specific kinds of light that emit back a unique light pattern that can be used like a forensic examiner uses a fingerprint. This technique can identify the specific substance. “If we know what kind of plastics there are, it’s a way for us to find their source,” Xiong says. He also has piggy-backed on the long-term data sampling that has happened every few weeks in Flathead Lake and its tributaries since the 1970s, known as the Flathead Lake Monitoring Program (FMP). The FMP crew intercepts deposition samples—particles of what falls out of the air before it is deposited in the lake.

The tourism that the Flathead Valley relies on for economic stability could be a factor. Determining something about the source may help reduce the consumption of the most prevalent contributor. If Xiong finds mostly microfibers, the source could be laundry. If he finds particles, it might be bags or bottles. Regardless of what the findings show when he analyzes his samples, trash that goes into Flathead Lake still can and must be reduced. Decreasing washes of synthetic clothing, using tie downs or cargo nets to secure items in the back of vehicles or on top of cars, or even grabbing fewer plastic bags at the grocery store are all simple ways to help keep the lake blue and pristine into the future.

Heather Fraley is an environmental science and natural resource journalism intern. This story was published Nov. 2, 2018, by the Flathead Lake Bio Station and was originally titled “UM Bio Station Visiting Researcher Studies Plastic Pollution in Flathead Lake.”

Right: Plastic trash found in Flathead Lake | Flathead Lake Biological Station



The Howling by Matthew L. Miller The Nature Conservancy

Michael Mauro | USFWS


Coyote tracks in the Hayden Valley Hoodoos | Jacob W. Frank, NPS

I stepped outside last night to take some glass bottles to the recycling bin. The evening was clear, cold and seemingly silent. I hurried with my task, not wanting to linger in the chill. And then a howl rippled through the air. Coyote. The sound echoed through the neighborhood, carrying clearly from a nearby hillside. I stopped and enjoyed the vocalizations. The long howls were interspersed with sharp yips, sounding like multiple animals. It lasted for several minutes. I never tire of that sound, no matter how many times I hear it. And this time of year, I enjoy the coyote concert frequently. Coyotes are one of the most vocal mammals. And they’re also now found widely, so if you live in North America, there’s a good chance that you have some roaming near you. You can hear them at any time of year, but you may notice increased activity in February and March. And, if you’re like me, you’ll find the howling particularly resonant on a cold winter’s night. Here’s what’s going on.

The Pair Bond Quite simply, it’s breeding season. While the exact timing varies, depending on geography, coyote breeding season generally occurs between late January and March. Coyotes are generally monogamous, forming strong pair bonds for several years. Some researchers state that the coyotes will remain together until one of the pair dies. Coyotes are also territorial. The pair howls and yips to let other coyotes know that they have an established territory and not to intrude. Coyote researcher Brian Mitchell describes the sounds you’re likely to hear at this time of year: “Group yip-howls are produced by a mated and territorial pair of “alpha” coyotes, with the male howling while the female intersperses her yips, barks, and short howls. “Beta” coyotes (the children of the alpha pair from previous years) and current year pups may join in if they are nearby, or respond with howls of their own.” Coyote in the marsh | Tom Koerner, USFWS


Mitchell also notes that other nearby pairs may then respond, announcing their own territories. At such times, it can sound like a cascade of howls across the landscape. According to Mitchell, this is not the only time of year that coyotes establish their territorial boundaries. The pups are born later in spring, and will form a loose family group. A pack of coyotes howling is an iconic sound of the American West, and it likely serves dual functions. Mitchell writes: “The group yip howl is thought to have the dual purpose of promoting bonding within the family group while also serving as a territorial display. In other words, the coyotes are saying “we’re a happy family, and we own this turf so you better keep out.” In a sense, the group howls create an auditory fence around a territory, supplementing the physical scent marks left by the group.”

This actually may provide a benefit to coyotes. As they establish their territory, sounding like a big pack may deter other coyotes from entering the territory. I have often heard local hunters describe areas “absolutely overrun with coyotes,” based solely on the howling they’ve heard. Most likely, they were fooled by just a few animals.

A Flexible Lifestyle I suspect there is another reason for a lot of the contradictory information about coyotes and their behavior. It’s because coyotes behave differently depending on habitat, interactions with humans and other factors. Coyotes are one of the most adaptable predators. They are found in the Idaho wilderness near my home, but

Song Dog Howling may be the most recognizable coyote vocalization, but these canids actually have a wide repertoire of sounds. (One of the animal’s more endearing nicknames is “song dog”). Researchers generally identify 11 vocalizations that serve a variety of functions, from alarm to warning to socialization. There is much we don’t understand about the coyote’s calls. Their “language” is likely far more complex than we can comprehend. Researchers like Mitchell note that coyotes have accents that vary geographically and even among family groups, much like humans. And coyotes can recognize another coyote by its distinctive call.

Leaping coyote | Tom Koerner, USFWS

Even though coyotes are one of the most common and adaptable predators in the world, there is much we don’t understand. And there’s also a lot of contradictory information—and complete nonsense—written about coyotes. There are two reasons for this. Coyotes are relentlessly persecuted throughout their range. A lot of people kill or attempt to kill coyotes, and oftentimes they present their own opinions as fact. For instance, people often grossly overestimate the number of coyotes in an area. When a couple of coyotes begin calling, their sounds can vary rapidly in pitch and sequence, which can sound like a lot more coyotes than actually are there. Coyote howls often echo against hillsides, compounding the confusion.


Coyote pups | Lynn Bystrom

also can live in the midst of large cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. They live in farm country, in suburbs and in urban parks. The reason that they can thrive in so many different habitats is that they are very flexible and adaptable. They will change their diet and their habits to fit the environment. So a coyote’s territory and pack bonds are likely different on the public lands of the Rocky Mountains than they are in a suburban neighborhood. One of the differences some researchers have recognized is that urban coyotes likely vocalize less. I live in an area surrounded by a large wildlife management area and a river greenbelt. I hear coyotes regularly. If you live in a city, you may not hear coyotes as much—

but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. They have just found it easier to survive by being quiet. If you do happen to find yourself in some wide-open spaces this month, step outside in the night and have a listen. You may enjoy one of the great sound shows in nature, the chorus of yips and howls. The coyote survives and thrives despite us, and its howling serves as a reminder to the wildness still in the world.

Matthew L. Miller is director of science communications for The Nature Conservancy and editor of the Cool Green Science blog. You can find him at blog.nature.org. This story was published Feb 13, 2019, by the Nature Conservancy.

Coyote near Yellowstone Lake | Jacob W. Frank, NPS


Doug Peacock | Chuck Ireston

Keith Hammer | Kurt Wilson, Missoulian

Kate Kendall | Kurt Wilson, Missoulian

Chris Servheen | Kurt Wilson, Missoulian

Sam Beebe | Ecotrust

Grizzly, Glacier National Park | NPS

Chuck Jonkel just being Chuck | Frank Tyro



CHARACTERS Grizzly bears loom largest in the mind. Montana’s state mammal, the mascot of its first university, the foe in “Night of the Grizzlies,” rarely reveals itself to its infatuated fans. Even the close-knit contingent of people who’ve spent their entire careers tracking the grizzly’s 43-year trek from endangered species to potentially recovered predator meet the bear mostly on paper.

They both helped train Chris Servheen, who once exercised the golden eagles John Craighead kept at the base of Missoula’s Mount Sentinel. He in turn relied on the ursine instincts of people like Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Bear Manager Jamie Jonkel, Chuck’s son.

Grizzly Warriors


More grizzlies live in Montana than any other state in the Lower 48. The lot of them might fill all the beds in Eureka, population 1,037. Since 1970, grizzlies have killed approximately 20 humans in the continental United States. Since November 2017, at least 33 Montanans have died of influenza. Last year also saw grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem removed from Endangered Species Act protection. That move faces at least half a dozen legal challenges. The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem’s (NCDE) roughly 1,000 grizzlies could be taken off the endangered list before the end of 2018. Some see that as the crowning triumph of wildlife recovery. Others see cynical abandonment of a duty to defend a species too scary to tolerate. Read any of the dozens of books written about grizzly bears since they became an endangered species in 1975, and the same cast of characters repeatedly appears. Many studied under the wings of Dick Knight and Chuck Jonkel. Knight had picked up the pieces of grizzly research in 1975 from the rubble left after Yellowstone National Park officials abruptly shut down Frank and John Craighead’s 12-year grizzly study in 1969. Meanwhile, Jonkel launched the Border Grizzly Study west of Glacier National Park.

For four decades, this tiny band of grizzly bear recovery specialists has wrestled with an equally tight pack of critics. They include Keith Hammer, a logger-turned-wilderness advocate who consistently convinced courts to demand stronger protections for the grizzly than Servheen and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) proposed. A very different side of the wildlife conservation world argues the grizzly has long exceeded its recovery goals. Hunters like Missoula author Susan Reneau say it’s time to declare the effort a success and return grizzlies to state management. Behind them all lurks the presence of people like Doug Peacock, real-life inspiration of the Monkey Wrench Gang and chronicler of fearsome encounters with the grizzly on its own grounds. Anyone who’s witnessed a grizzly bear demonstrate its power never forgets that moment. In his book “The Essential Grizzly,” Peacock observed “those who weathered the encounters (with grizzly bears) came away complete in soul and utterly alive ... You ferreted out the bear to get something, and if you survived, you gained wisdom and power.” One of Kate Kendall’s first encounters with that power made her question the wisdom of her mission. She stayed on, though, and revolutionized the way we count grizzly bears in northwest Montana without ever touching one.


Kendall caught the grizzly wave as a young student in the 1970s, just as the grizzly kettle started to boil. After three years in the office of the National Park Service’s chief scientist in Washington, D.C., Kendall was transferred to Yellowstone to work on her doctorate in 1974. She also became the executive secretary for the new Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team that was seeking a solution to the population crash. And she witnessed grizzly power in action.  On an early-1970s vegetation plot study in the Tom Miner Basin north of Yellowstone Park, she and her field partner saw a sow grizzly and cub. “She ran away, and we were thinking, ‘Cool, we saw a bear,’ ” Kendall said. “But she was just stashing her cub. Then she charged. I was by a tree I could have climbed, but there was no time. She came within an inch of my partner’s toes, but didn’t touch him. Then she whirled around and came within about 10 feet of me, and then ran off. “I started thinking about looking for other jobs, thinking it would be OK if I didn’t study bears. Maybe I should study mice or something. But then I got the job in Glacier and I stayed with bears.” In the mid-‘90s, Kendall started hearing about a Canadian tactic called the hair corral. Stick some bait where a bear will find it, surround it with a ring of barbed wire, and let the visiting grizzlies leave furry calling cards.  Mid-’90s DNA analysis compares to current methods as a Macintosh desktop computer compares to an iPhoneX. On the other hand, mid-’90s grizzly monitoring required a truck, a culvert trap, a road, powerful drugs, expensive radio transmitters and experts trained in their use. A hair snare needed a hiker with a backpack of test tubes, a spool of wire and a bottle of bait. Breakthroughs in DNA analysis made the hair-snare study more than a census. It produced a highly accurate population count without ever handling a grizzly. And it unveiled ursine family trees, diets and movement patterns. “I was competing against myself to get sampling done,” Kendall said. “I swamped the lab. Nobody has tried running data sets as big as we have with the NCDE bears. We have such rich data, it takes months for each model to run. And we have dozens of models.”


Grizzly sow and cub | Jim Peaco, NPS

Kendall’s home overlooking the Flathead River sits barely a dozen miles away from Kamp Keith, where Keith Hammer has spent a second career arguing researchers like Kendall haven’t done enough. Hammer grew up around Bigfork. His father managed the Creston Fish Hatchery. The household was a regular meeting place for federal employees and field biologists. In college, he worked summers on U.S. Forest Service trail crews. “I realized I wasn’t going to climb the career ladder teaching kids to run chainsaws,” Hammer said. “A trail crew partner had a friend who owned a small logging company. So I went to work for him. We did all the small jobs the big companies wouldn’t touch, with a small bulldozer and draft horses.”

Grizzly paw print | Jim Peaco, NPS

He also grew to understand the kinds of places grizzly bears require for habitat. Hammer realized that protecting virgin timber from development helped grizzly bears, and protecting grizzly bears was a way to protect those virgin forests. He helped form the Swan View Coalition to fight for wild country and has been its president ever since. “My peers were tree planters and loggers,” Hammer said. “They didn’t have degrees in environmental studies or journalism like the activists today. They came from a different place. Most of the activists today don’t have first-hand experience in the woods working.”

nator is used to people being angry with him. “I thought I would preside over the demise of the bears,” Servheen said of his appointment to the job in 1981. “I was given an impossible task. Grizzlies are big, dangerous animals that require a lot of space and solitude. They compete with humans for prey. They attack livestock. They reproduce very slowly. We don’t really want them. There were all these conflicting feelings. And none of them were positive. I figured I’m going to be lucky to save maybe Yellowstone as a captive population.”

Rob Chaney covers the outdoors, environment, and science for the Missoulian newspaper.

Much of Hammer’s ire gets aimed at Chris Servheen. The recently retired FWS grizzly bear recovery coordi-



Wyoming Game and Fish Department: Stalking Bats With Transmitters October 18, 2018

Non-game Biologist Laura Beard and her crew began trapping bats in the Lander area this fall in an effort to determine where bats are overwintering. Most species of bats in Wyoming stay in the state over the winter, hibernating in caves, abandoned mines, and other structures that provide cool, humid, stable environment. However, biologists rarely find many bats during cave and mine surveys in the winter. Consequently, non-game biologists are putting transmitters on bats to try to follow them to their winter roosts to better understand what overwinter structures Wyoming’s bats are using. 

Wyoming Drivers Help Fund Highway Safety The statistics are big. According to the Wyoming Department of Transportation, there are about 6,000 big game vehicle collisions every year. One in fifteen Wyoming highway deaths that occurred in 2016 involved wildlife. From 2012 to 2017, 23,379 big game animal carcasses were removed from roads with mule deer accounting for 17,608 of those animals. With input from many organizations such as the Muley Fanatic Foundation, the Wyoming Wildlife

The crew has also deployed bat detectors at several locations in the Southern Wind River Range. The recording equipment only records bats echolocation calls at night and does not record other frequencies like human voices. If you spend time in the backcountry you may see one of these recording devices housed in a green plastic ammo can with a microphone on an aluminum pole. By 2018, White-nose syndrome had killed millions of bats in the United States and Canada, so with the recent detection of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome at Fort Laramie, locating, monitoring, and potentially protecting these wintering areas will be important to managing and conserving Wyoming’s bats.

Federation, the Nature Conservancy, and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and designed with wildlife conservationists in mind, last year, the Wyoming state Legislature passed the Wildlife Conservation License plate, House Bill 0039. the Wildlife Conservation/Connectivity specialty license plate bill. The initial $180 fee includes $150 for the conservation fund and $30 for the specialty plate. Subsequent years are a $50 fee for the plate. Proceeds from the plates will go into the Wildlife Conservation Fund to be used on projects such as highway signage in migration areas, animal under and overpass crossings, and highway game fencing. The Wyoming Department of Transportation reports that since January 1, 2019, more than 500 people have purchased the conservation license plates. The WGFD also reports that the state is home to approximately 425,000 Pronghorn, 409,000 Mule deer, 85,000 Whitetail deer, 105,000 Elk, and 4,000 Moose.

Early Adventure in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park. by John Fraley Published by Far Country Press Box 5630 Helena, Montana 59604 P: 1-800-821-3874 280 pages, 122 black and white historical photographs $14.95

The Crown of the Continent… “The Bob,” Glacier, the three forks of the Flathead. For those who love wilderness, this pristine geography has been a draw for solitude, chances to experience adventure, and the possibility to fulfill a desire to be a mountain woman or a mountain man. John Fraley in his recently published work, Rangers, Trappers, and Trailblazers, writes of early day folks whose stories played out in the pristine mountain country of these lands of the Crown, or as the Blackfeet called them “The Backbone of the World.” Through interviews and historical records, he introduces oldtime rangers, trailblazers, and wildland adventures. The book’s fifteen essays include the stories of Glacier Park Ranger Clyde Fauley and his young family using a cable bucket to reach their isolated cabin across the Middle Fork, Trapper Slim Link’s fateful meeting with a grizzly bear in the deep woods of the North Fork, and the life and times of Henry Thol “the ranger’s ranger,” who snowshoed hundreds of miles in deep snow and -40°F cold to patrol the South Fork Wilderness. Other recounts include a North Fork shootout, tangles with bears and packrats, a train wreck, and a missing airplane. Even though every chapter held a strong interest, my favorites were the pieces on Henry Thol, The Schafer Meadow’s Winter, and Backcountry Coal and Old-timer Tales. Purchase the book and, along with a map of this landscape, have many enjoyable nights reading and tracing your next journey. As you read and identify the sites, consider that nearly all of this topography, since the men and women portrayed here made their tracks, hasn’t changed much, if at all. Rick Graetz University of Montana Geographer Director UM Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone Initiative




Showing off the newest addition to the Crary Ranch, RMF | Rick and Susie Graetz



The High Price of a Paradise Lost The University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station Sunset in paradise, Yellow Bay, Flathead Lake | Rick and Susie Graetz


The arrival of invasive mussels could cost Montana more than $230 million in annual mitigation costs and lost revenue, according to a recent report by Flathead Lake Biological Station (FLBS) research scientist and environmental economist Nanette Nelson.


The report, which was commissioned by the Montana Invasive Species Council (MISC)*, provides an assessment of projected direct costs to affected stakeholders who depend on surface water resources in Montana. “With this information on-hand,” said Nelson, “they can better advocate for the continued funding of Montana’s aquatic invasive species prevention programs and boat inspection station resources.” Currently, Montana’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) funding is around $6.5 million annually, roughly three percent of the estimated $234 million annual costs for invasive mussel mitigation and lost direct revenue to affected stakeholders. Invasive mussels would likely affect agriculture, hydropower facilities, drinking water supplies, property values, and recreation. Nelson identifies four key economic sectors in her report—recreation, infrastructure, irrigation, and government revenue—that face the greatest potential impacts, accounting for 60 to 75 percent of the total potential damages statewide.   Recreation is important to Montanans’ quality of life and the local economy. It’s also the reason many visitors come to the state. Invasive mussels can devastate Montana’s premier fisheries—impacting tourism and recreational angling—and can damage boats, motors and other recreational equipment. Additionally, infestation can make recreation difficult, as mussels can establish on docks, beachlines, boat ramps, and watercraft. The direct impact of invasive mussels to recreation is estimated to be $122 million per year.


Agriculture is important to Montana’s economy and way of life. Montana has 2.5 million acres of irrigated land, which accounts for 96% of surface water withdrawals. Invasive mussels can infest canals and pipelines, clog irrigation pumps, screens and head gates, and reduce pumping capacity. The direct impact of invasive mussels to agriculture is estimated to be $5.75 per acre-foot or $61 million per year. Infrastructure associated with hydropower, thermoelectric power, industrial, water treatment plants, mining operations, and self-supply domestic are all susceptible to mussels. Water intake structures, such as pipes and screens, can become restricted and clogged and reduce the conveyance of water and impede or shut down operations. The direct impact of invasive mussels to infrastructure is estimated to be $47 million per year.

Young zebra mussels cling to an adult mussel | Ryan Hagerty, USFWS

Government revenue, especially local government, will be negatively affected by the presence of mussels. Lakefront property owners will likely see decreases in the value of their property from decreased lake aesthetics associated with mussels on the order of half a billion dollars. Revenue from property taxes will decline in direct proportion to declines in property values with annual losses estimated to be $4 million.

Zebra mussels on a sailboat propeller | Jeff Caughey



The numbers in Nelson’s report do not represent total economic impact to the state. Indirect costs such as ecological damages, lost jobs, and the loss of personal and cultural benefits from lakes and rivers are not included, and the total economic impact, which has yet to be determined, is assumed to be considerably higher than the $234 million per year reported. “Eradicating invasive mussels once they establish is difficult if not impossible,” said Thomas Woolf, MT Fish Wildlife, and Parks Aquatic Invasive Species bureau chief. “Prevention is our best bet at keeping them out of our waters and avoiding the costs associated with their impacts. Research continues on methods to prevent and manage mussels, so the longer we can keep them out, the better the chances we’ll see a solution to the problem.”   Recently, an investigative team consisting of several FLBS researchers received a grant from NASA that will support a new project that aims to increase early detection of aquatic invasive mussels. The project is a collaborative effort between FLBS, MT Fish Wildlife, and Parks, the United States Geological Survey, and the United States Forest Service, in addition to several other state and federal agencies.

Can you swim in a lake with mussels? … You, your kids and grandkids have all played in the sand on a beach, right? But add zebra mussels to a lake—they cut your feet and can cause dangerous infections. Even your dog will stay off the beach. Nor will you ever tie up a boat along your dock—because its bottom will look like barnacle-encrusted ships in the movies of Captain Jack Sparrow. So will your dock and boat lifts. Swimming will be in deep water only. The good news? There is none. Can’t kill this critter without killing the whole lake. Zebra mussels will likely starve out most life in a lake over time—and then partially die off themselves, leaving tons of razor sharp shells along your so-called “beach.”

— May 13, 2017 Minneapolis Star Tribune article by Jim Davidson titled, “Lakes with Zebra Mussels are

Goners. Lock the Trouble There.”

*The MISC is a statewide partnership working to protect Montana’s economy, natural resources, and public health through a coordinated approach to combat invasive species. For more information about MISC, visit misc. mt.gov. To read the full MISC report, go to: http//dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/cardd/docs/misac-docs/dnrc_ economic_cost_dreisseid_mussels_0119.pdf Carefree barefoot walks on the beach... only a memory if mussels invade our lakes | NPS


The Story Behind the Name Some of the most interesting history of Glacier National Park is connected with the origin of its place names. The majority of the park features were named in the early days when the first exploration and mapping were carried on, between 1880 and 1910. They were often named for some noted person or event that occurred at that place.


AHERN PASS (Creek, Glacier, Peak)—Named for Lieutenant George P. Ahern who, with a detachment of “Negro” soldiers from the 25th Infantry, crossed this pass in August 1890. This was the first known successful attempt to take pack stock over Ahern Pass. BELLY RIVER—According to the Glacier National Park Drivers Manual: “The origin of the name is in dispute even though the Belly River, the Gros Ventre Indians, and the Big Belly Buttes are connected. One belief is as follows: The Blackfeet people had a custom of apportioning the anatomy of Napi (the culture hero of the Blackfoot tribe) all over the landscape. They considered his elbow to be the Bow River at Calgary. His knees were the Teton Buttes. Midway lay his stomach, and what more appropriate than the aforementioned buttes, which to the Indians resembled the contorted manifold of a buffalo. Hence, they became Mokowanis, or Big Belly Buttes.

Cracker Lake | Jacob W. Frank, NPS

BLACKFOOT GLACIER (Mountain)—Named for the Blackfeet Indians by George Bird Grinnell on a trip to the head of the St. Mary Valley in 1891. This glacier was called “Old Man Ice,” by the Kootenai Indians, Red Eagle Glacier was “Old Woman Ice,” Sperry Glacier was “Son Ice,” and Pumpelly Glacier was “Daughter Ice.” CALF ROBE MOUNTAIN—As a legend from 1870 relates, Calf Robe, a Blackfeet Indian, was deserted by his fellow warriors in enemy country and left to die. He was soon rescued by a large grizzly bear, who brought him food and carried him to help near Fort Benton. CARCAJOU LAKE—Named for a mythical being of the Cree Indians, meaning “hungry,” or “eats a lot,” and from which the English word “carcajou,” for wolverine, is derived.

Belly River | Rick and Susie Graetz

The river that flowed at their base became Mokowanis River, and later, when Indians from Algonquin nations of the southeast drifted into the region, and established themselves along the river, they too, became Mokowanis or, simply translated into French, the ‘Gros Ventres.’ Another version has it that the Gros Ventres were so called because they ‘eat much and have big paunches.’ Certainly, their alternative name, Atsina, or Gut People, gives this interpretation support. The reconnaissance maps of the United States Northern Boundary Commission, 1872-76, labeled it Belly River, which has been officially adopted by both the United States and Canada.”

CHIEF MOUNTAIN—First noted on the Arrowsmith maps, published in 1795 or 1796, it was called “King Mountain.” In 1806, Captain Meriwether Lewis on his trip up the Marias called it “Tower Mountain.” James Doty, who explored the eastern front of the range in 1854, reports it as “The Chief or King Mountain,” possibly referring to it also by the Blackfeet name of “The Chief,” or “The Mountain-of-the-Chief.” The most popular legend is that of the young Flathead Indian brave who spent several days upon the top of the peak searching for his “medicine vision,” and using a bison skull for a pillow. When Henry L. Stimson, later Secretary of State, and his companions first climbed to the top in 1892, they found an ancient bison skull almost entirely decomposed, thus giving considerable authenticity to the legend.

Left: Chief Mountain | Rick and Susie Graetz


CRACKER LAKE—In 1897, two prospectors were following a mineral lead through the mountains and stopped on the shore of what was then known as “Blue Lake” for lunch. Resuming their journey, they put their crackers and cheese beneath some rocks, intending to pick them up later, which they never did. Thereafter, they referred to the mineral lead as the “lead where we left the crackers.” As this lead passed under the lake, it soon became known as “Cracker Lake.” CUT BANK CREEK (Pass)—Named for the banks of white clay cut along the creek east of Browning. The old Indian name means “Cuts-into-the-white-claybank-river.” GARDEN WALL—This long, knife-edged ridge, forming that section of the Continental Divide between Logan and Swiftcurrent passes, was so named by one of George Bird Grinnell’s parties, which was camped at Grinnell Lake in the late 1890s. One evening, around a campfire, they were singing the currently popular song, “Over the Garden Wall,” when one of the party remarked, “There is one wall we cannot get over,” and the name was immediately applied to the ridge.

Garden Wall | Jacob W. Frank, NPS

Going to the Sun Mountain | NPS

Jim Scott overlooks Grinnell Lake | Rick and Susie Graetz

GOING-TO-THE-SUN MOUNTAIN—James Willard Schultz claimed an old Indian legend in which Napi, the Old Man, came down from his home in the sun to help his people, the Blackfeet, out of their difficulties. When his work was done, he returned up the slopes of this mountain to the sun. The legend however, was probably invented by Schultz, who was not above flowering up his stories to make them have more reader appeal.

GRINNELL GLACIER (Falls, Lake, Mt., Point)—In 1887 George Bird Grinnell, who was primarily responsible for the creation of Glacier National Park, traveled up the Swiftcurrent Valley to what is now Swiftcurrent Lake, and camped. There he noted the immense glaciers at the heads of the valleys. Accompanied by Lt. J. H. Beacon and James Willard Schultz, the three were the first white men to set foot upon this immense body of ice; and while there, Beacon named the glacier for Grinnell.


used to hide his big meerschaum pipe, letting the smoke curl up through it in a very startling manner. JOSEPHINE LAKE—The lake evidently received its name from the Josephine Mine on the slopes of Grinnell Point immediately above the lake. In the early days, it was often referred to as “Lake Louise,” and James Willard Schultz states that the Blackfeet Indians called it “Jealous Woman’s Lake.” KINTLA LAKE (Creek, Glacier, Peak)—The only explanation for this name is found in a reported legend of the Kootenai Indians, to whom the word “Kintla” means “sack.” Oral stories told by elder Indians stated that in their hunting, camping and visiting trips they would cross the mountains near this point, but would never go near the water because legend had it that one of the Indians had gone to this lake, fallen in, and disappeared, meaning that he drowned and his body did not come back to the surface. They believed the lake was like a sack—after you got in you could not get out. LITTLE DOG MOUNTAIN—Named by G. B. Grinnell for “Little Dog,” the Blackfeet Indian Chief who, in

Gunsight Pass | Len Kopec

McDonald Lake | Rick and Susie Graetz

GUNSIGHT PASS (Mountain, Lake)—In 1891, G. B. Grinnell saw its remarkable resemblance to the rear sight of a rifle, with the peak of a distant mountain showing through it.

1853, told Isaac Stevens, the new Governor of the Washington Territory, of the existence of Marias Pass, and started the search for it that lasted until its exploration by John F. Stevens in 1889.

JEFFERSON PASS—Thomas “Uncle Jeff” Jefferson was an old character who drifted into the Lake McDonald region and did packing and other odd jobs. He was a big man, about 6’6” tall, with a long white beard which he

McDONALD LAKE (Creek, Falls)—In about 1878, Duncan McDonald, who had the job of freighting a large amount of supplies to Canada, had intended to go up the North Fork of the Flathead River, but started up the next adjacent valley paralleling it.


At the close of day, accompanied by a group of Flathead Indians, he came to the shores of this lake. In camp that evening, he carved his name upon the bark of a birch tree near the present village of Apgar. People who saw the name on the tree gradually began to call it “McDonald’s Lake.” PITAMAKAN PASS (Lake)—Named for Running Eagle (Pitamakan), the Blackfeet Joan of Arc. Running Eagle was a girl who led war parties on many highly successful raids and was the only woman in the Blackfeet tribe ever to do so or to be given a man’s name. RISING WOLF MOUNTAIN—The Indian name for Hugh Monroe, the first white man to live with the Blackfeet Indians. It is said to have

been suggested by Monroe’s habit of getting out of bed in the morning on his hands and knees. ST. MARY LAKE (Falls, River)—There is much controversy over the origin of this name. J. W. Schultz states that Father Pierre DeSmet, named the lakes, but there is no record he ever reached the lake. It is more probable that the name was given by Hugh Monroe in 1814. The Piegan Indians called these lakes the “Walledin Lakes,” while the Kootenais called them “Old Woman Lakes.” SCALPLOCK MOUNTAIN—Named for a small tuft of trees resembling an Indian’s scalplock (a long tuft of hair on the crown of an otherwise shaved head, especially of a warrior) that remained on its summit following the fire that destroyed the surrounding timber. SINOPAH MOUNTAIN—Sinopah, meaning “kit fox” in Blackfeet, was the Indian wife of Hugh Monroe (Rising Wolf) and daughter of Lone Walker, a powerful Blackfeet chief.

SNYDER CREEK (Ridge, Lake)—George Snyder, an early settler, built the first hotel in 1895 at the site of the present Lake McDonald Lodge. He also put the first power boat on the lake, a steamboat which he used to carry passengers to his hotel. SPERRY GLACIER—Named for Dr. Lyman B. Sperry of Oberlin College, Ohio, the “Gentleman Explorer,” who led the first party to reach the glacier in 1896, and who later was responsible for the building of the first trail to this glacier over approximately the same route as the present one. SWIFTCURRENT CREEK (Falls, Glacier, Lake, Mountain, Pass, Ridge)—This name was originally applied to the stream by G. B. Grinnell in 1885 or 1886 after the Indian name, “Swift Flowing River.” Swiftcurrent Pass was once known as Horsethief Pass, for the Blackfeet horses that were reported to have been driven over it after horse-stealing raids.

WALTON CREEK (Mountain)—Named for the patron saint of fishermen, Izaak Walton, because of the good fishing in the area. WINDMAKER LAKE—Wind Maker was a mythical being of Blackfeet mythology, whose home was in the waters of this lake at the head of the Swiftcurrent Valley, and who caused the wind to blow furiously from the mountains.

The above text has been edited to fit our format. To read the entire article, go to: www.nps.gov/ parkhistory/online_books/glac/appa.htm

Pitamakan Pass | Jacob W. Frank, NPS




of the Continent and the


Yellowstone M A G A Z I N E

Beartooth Highway wildflowers | Rick and Susie Graetz

UM Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone Magazine Issue 18  

Discover... How peaks, lakes, and glaciers in Glacier National Park got their names. Plastic pollution in Flathead lake and the Gallatin wat...

UM Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone Magazine Issue 18  

Discover... How peaks, lakes, and glaciers in Glacier National Park got their names. Plastic pollution in Flathead lake and the Gallatin wat...

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