Quarterly Y ELLOWSTONE
Yellowstoneâ€™s Window into the Wolf World: Celebrating 25 Years Roosevelt Lodge Turns 100 Constructive Feedback: Summer Visitor Use Survey
Dear Yellowstone Forever Supporters, This issue of Yellowstone Quarterly celebrates a major milestone in the history of Yellowstone National Park: the 25th anniversary of the reintroduction of wolves. In 1995, this momentous undertaking to restore a top-level predator to an ecosystem where it had been absent for nearly 70 years attracted worldwide interest. In the years since it has been hailed as a model of ecological restoration, and Yellowstone has become the premier destination to view wolves in the wild. We have been proud to provide considerable annual financial support for the Yellowstone Wolf Project from the very beginning—first through our legacy organization the Yellowstone Park Foundation and now as Yellowstone Forever. Thanks to the generosity of donors, we help fund the ongoing monitoring of wolf packs, cutting-edge research, and visitor education on wolves. The Yellowstone Wolf Project is just one example of how our partnership with the park has had a profound impact. As this issue goes to press, we’re working closely with Superintendent Cam Sholly and his team to finalize our commitment for support to the park for the next year. This annual process begins in late summer and extends through the early spring, as you’ll read about in the article highlighting Jeff Augustin, Yellowstone Forever’s senior director of park projects. We look forward to sharing with you soon the initiative-level grants we’ll be funding in our current fiscal year. Our Institute team has spent the last several months planning a stellar line-up of summer 2020 educational programs—from backpacking trips to fully catered programs—designed to appeal to every interest, budget, and desired activity level. I’m delighted to share that we have many new programs, as well as some new program types, including Naturalist Day Trips and the all-inclusive Lamar Premier Packages. New Field Seminars making their debut include The Great American Bison, Advanced Wildlife Photography, Lunar Eclipse, and several more. I encourage you to browse the summer programs on our website to learn more. As we look ahead to summer, we’re planning a number of special events, with more details to share with you soon. This autumn, the third annual Yellowstone Plein Air Invitational is moving from Old Faithful to Mammoth Hot Springs, where we’ll have the fall elk rut as a backdrop. The Yellowstone Plein Air Invitational brings together some of the nation’s most talented artists to paint en plein air throughout the park, and culminates with a banquet, art auction, and public sale. I encourage you to save the dates—September 22–27, 2020—and I hope to see you here in Yellowstone. Sincerely,
John Walda, President & CEO YELLOWSTONE FORE VER
A lone wolf travels through Hayden Valley.
Yellowstone’s Window into the Wolf World: Celebrating 25 Years
flora & fauna | Bitterroot & Sandhill Crane
yf family | Jeff Augustin
experience | Spring Hiking on Yellowstone’s Northern Range
naturalist notes | Ravens and Wolves
nps interview | Doug Smith
Executive Team & Board Members
Roosevelt Lodge: Yellowstone’s Tribute to the Old West Turns 100
Constructive Feedback: Summer Visitor Use Survey
IMAGES | PAGES
Brad Bulin Stephen Camelio Wendie Carr Chelsea DeWeese Jenny Golding Barbara Lee Christine Gianas Weinheimer
Linda Carney | cover Lauren Beltramo | 10, 11 NPS/Jacob Frank | ii, 2, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17 NPS/Jim Peaco | 5 NPS/Jody Lyle | 7 Historic image courtesy of Yellowstone National Park, YELL#36511 | 7 David Smith | 11 Jim Futterer | 11 Matt Ludin | 11, 13, back cover Andy Austin | 11 Amanda Hagerty | 11 NPS/Neal Herbert | 14
Lauren Beltramo Wendie Carr Paula Degen Erin Fitzgerald Matt Ludin Christine Gianas Weinheimer
President & CEO
Vice President, Retail Operations
Vice President of Operations
Chief Marketing Officer
Chief Development Officer
Leslie Everett Chief of Staff
Vice President of Education
Vice President of Finance & Chief Financial Officer
Kay Yeager CHAIRMAN
Edna Johnson VICE CHAIRMAN
Joe Marushack TREASURER
Tom Detmer SECRETARY
Kevin Butt John Costello Lisa Evia Annie Graham Carolyn Heppel Charles Kaufmann III Susan Roeder Jacqueline Rooney Bob Rowe Doug Spencer John Walda Elizabeth Webb
Yellowstone’s Window into the Wolf World: Celebrating 25 Years BY J EN N Y G O LD I N G In the pre-dawn light of winter, you hear a low howl. Anticipation rises as you look through the spotting scope, hoping to get a glimpse in the dim light. The sun breaks through the clouds, making shafts of sunlight on the valley floor. You spot them! The entire pack is lined out single file across the valley. One…two…seven…twelve…. As they shift in and out of patches of light, you can see the wind fluttering through their guard hairs and the snow flying off their paws. They are heading straight towards a herd of elk. You hold your breath, but they keep going, topping a nearby ridge. You’re left with the prickly-numb feeling that comes from a brush with wildness—and questions: Why didn’t they chase the elk? Was that the alpha pair in the lead? Where are they going? In the winter of 1995, the first howl of a wild wolf pack in more than 70 years echoed in Yellowstone, the culmination of a long effort to reintroduce wolves after they were extirpated from the park in the 1920s. Between 1995 and 1997, 41 wolves were relocated from western Canada and northwestern Montana to Yellowstone, in one of the greatest wildlife restoration stories of our time. As of December 2019, 93 wolves in eight packs had territories in Yellowstone National Park.
The return of wolves to Yellowstone offered a new opportunity for people from across the globe to experience and study a wild, intact ecosystem. Members of Yellowstone's Canyon Pack
Yellowstone provided an unprecedented window into the lives of wolves, a second chance to understand and reevaluate our relationship with large carnivores, and the means to solve some of the mysteries of their kind. YQ | 3
Yellowstone’s large prey abundance enables more socially complex packs and more diverse age classes than other places, leading to new insights.
and territory, cooperatively raising pups, and surviving if a wolf is sick or infirm; but finding food for everyone is more difficult. Not all packs consist of a monogamous alpha pair leading a pack of non-breeding wolves; 25 percent of packs in Yellowstone have multiple females that breed each year. Blood samples have shown that diseases like canine distemper virus can reduce the wolf population up to 30 percent, and cause pup survival to plummet.
Would you have guessed that the color of a wolf’s coat could be linked to how many pups it has, or how long it lives? Or that the nesting site of a Wilson’s warbler could hinge upon the actions of wolves?
The Yellowstone Wolf Project is approaching a remarkable 25 years of research data, obtained from an annual winter behavior and monitoring study. That data, along with a long-term summer study that tracks wolf kills, and blood samples obtained from wolves, has afforded scientists new discoveries previously unattainable.
The project has busted some myths, too, like the idea that wolves are the perfect predator. Hunting elk and bison is a dangerous business. “Everything from their body design to their risk-averse behavior, to the challenges of walking up to an animal five times your size with just your mouth and pulling it down and killing it,” says Stahler, “are limitations to their success.”
To date, 85 scientific publications, 3 books, 22 book chapters, and 27 technical reports have been published by the Wolf Project staff. Add in works by other scientists, universities, popular publications, and filmmakers, and wolves in Yellowstone have inspired thousands of scientific and popular narratives.
Genetic research is another exciting frontier. Complex family trees and DNA studies help shed light on which traits influence survival, how wolves evolved, and even the origin of black coat color—a gene traced back to old-world domestic dogs that plays a role in disease resistance and longevity, among other things.
What have we learned about wolves? Doug Smith, Yellowstone’s senior wildlife biologist and Wolf Project leader, has been there from the beginning. He says foremost we’ve learned that restoration—even of a controversial species—can work. “You can take a disturbed ecosystem…and restore the original inhabitants and undergo ecological restoration,” he says.
These are just a few examples of the layers of new understanding about wild wolves.
Here Smith is referring to the idea of “trophic cascade,” where wolves indirectly impact the growth of vegetation by affecting the behavior of their plant-eating prey, creating a cascade of effects on plants, birds, and other species. He emphasizes that how exactly wolves contribute to those effects is an ongoing scientific debate.
What does the future hold? Knowing how a natural population behaves is important for understanding the impact of human actions in other places. Yellowstone is currently part of a study of several parks—including Denali, Grand Teton, and Yukon Charlie in Canada—to better understand the impacts of hunting and human management on wolf populations.
One of the main knowledge gaps Yellowstone has filled, says Dan Stahler, lead wolf biologist, is a better understanding of wolf social behavior. Yellowstone’s large prey abundance enables more socially complex packs and more diverse age classes than other places, leading to new insights. “We’ve been able to get to know individuals— knowing their genetic background, observing them doing major life history events, whether it’s breeding, raising offspring, hunting, fighting with other packs,” says Stahler. “It’s really unprecedented.”
Smith believes social science is key to fostering a positive future for wolves. The relationship between wolves and people is fraught with conflict. Wolves have been delisted and relisted as an endangered species multiple times in an ongoing debate about how to manage them outside the park. A robust wolf-watching community contributes significant economic benefit to local communities and provides a strong constituency for wolves. Outside the park, wolves still incite strong negative feelings in many whose livelihood depends on elk hunting or raising livestock. Social science is needed to better understand the human dimensions of wolf management.
Researchers have found that younger wolves (two- to three-year-olds) are the best hunters, but older, more experienced wolves are critical to surviving attacks from other packs. Larger packs are better for defending food
This is part of why the Yellowstone Wolf Project will remain committed to educational outreach, from in-park Wolf Project staff who interact with visitors, to public presentations (Smith provides around 50 programs annually). A new book, Yellowstone Wolves: Science and Discovery in the World’s First National Park, due out through the University of Chicago Press in 2020, will share what the park has learned with a broader audience. Equally important to the future of wolves is the funding to maintain these initiatives. The Yellowstone Wolf Project was the first program funded by the Yellowstone Park Foundation— one of Yellowstone Forever’s two legacy organizations—and today a significant portion of funding comes from Yellowstone Forever. “We wouldn’t have the highest profile wolf study in the world if it weren’t for Yellowstone Forever,” says Smith. Back in the park, the wolves have crossed the ridge out of view, ignoring the doings of humans. Yet wolves hold a critical place in the future of wild places. The opportunity Yellowstone provides to see and experience them as well as learn about their biology and behavior gives us new perspectives and pathways to coexistence—for the next 25 years and beyond. To learn more about the Yellowstone Wolf Project and how you can help, visit Yellowstone.org/wolf-project TOP The first wolf arrives in Yellowstone at the Crystal Bench Pen, 1995 CENTER Wolf #7 in shipping container at Rose Creek, 1995 BOTTOM Wolf leaving shipping container at Rose Creek, 1996
Jenny Golding is a former director of education for Yellowstone Forever. She currently runs the website A Yellowstone Life, and writes from her home in Gardiner, Montana, on the border of Yellowstone National Park.
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Roosevelt Lodge: Yellowstone’s Tribute to the Old West Turns 100 BY C H R IS TI N E G IANA S WEI N H EI M ER The great American tradition of vacationing in Yellowstone connects us to the generations that came before us to explore the park’s wonders. More than 900 historic buildings preserved in the park, including some hotels, contribute to our feeling of stepping back in time and experiencing different chapters of Yellowstone’s human history. Perhaps the facility that most evokes the “Old West” of our imaginations is Roosevelt Lodge & Cabins, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year.
Yellowstone National Park Historian Alicia Murphy explains that Wylie’s camps were situated approximately one day’s stagecoach ride apart. “Camp Roosevelt was the overnight stop for visitors traveling between Mammoth Hot Springs and Canyon,” says Murphy. “Wylie’s new type of camp offered a still-affordable alternative to the park’s existing camping options, which involved visitors, or ‘sagebrushers,’ setting up their own campsites by the roadside every night.”
Roosevelt Lodge, located near Tower Junction, offers rustic accommodations and dude-ranch ambiance. Constructed of unpeeled logs, the main building houses a restaurant with lobby bar, two stone fireplaces, and log furnishings. Guests overnight in cabins clustered around the lodge.
She says that at the time, Yellowstone’s hotels catered to members of the upper class, who would pay $50 for a six-day trip. In contrast, visitors staying at Wylie camps paid $35 for a seven-day trip. Murphy adds that while the camp was named after Theodore Roosevelt, he never stayed there. “The concessioners envisioned early on that the camp would be reminiscent of a dude ranch. The name was chosen to capitalize on the popularity of the president, who owned a cattle ranch and advocated for the strenuous life,” says Murphy. “Roosevelt had camped at a nearby site during his famous 1903 tour of the park, but he never visited Camp Roosevelt.”
Roosevelt Rendezvous Every September, Roosevelt Lodge hosts Roosevelt Rendezvous, a four-day, all-inclusive Lodging & Learning package offered through a partnership of Yellowstone Forever and Yellowstone National Park Lodges. Now in its 18th year, the popular Rendezvous is like a summer camp for adults. Each day, participants choose from several naturalist-led outings, such as wildlife watching and hiking. In the evenings, guests enjoy buffet-style meals and fireside camaraderie in the lodge. Learn more at Y E LLOWSTO N E .O RG/ E XPE RI E N C E
Leslie Quinn, interpretive specialist for modern-day lodging concessioner Yellowstone National Park Lodges, explains that Wylie’s camps developed a reputation for being both comfortable and entertaining. He says that in the evenings after guests ate dinner in large dining tents, they would gather around a bonfire. “The staff—comprised mainly of teachers and college students away from school for the summer—told stories about the history and science of the park and led singalongs accompanied by guitar,” says Quinn.
The lodge we know today evolved from a camp operated during the park’s early years of tourism. In 1906, the Wylie Permanent Camping Company built a tent camp on the site that became known as Camp Roosevelt. The word “permanent” referred to the canvas tents they erected on wooden platforms at the beginning of the summer and took down at the end of the season.
“Word got around that these bonfires were great fun, and some people would actually sneak away from their hotels at night to join the festivities.”
Roosevelt Lodge front porch
RIGHT A fence of elk antlers once bordered a grassy area in front of the lodge.
After the bonfire, guests would retire to their tents, which were equipped with beds and a wood stove. Quinn says that each morning the staff would come knocking to build fires in the stoves. After breakfast they gathered to “sing away” the guests as the visitors departed for their next destination. Camp Roosevelt not only hosted family vacations and fishing trips, but also some of the park’s earliest education and science programs. It served as a field laboratory where teachers, students, and scientists could conduct research. The National Park Service hired H.S. Conard as a resident naturalist to provide lectures and field trips for the guests and collect botanical specimens for the park museum. In 1916, Wylie’s company consolidated with a competitor and became Yellowstone Park Camping Company, which in 1920 built Yellowstone’s first lodge at Camp Roosevelt, followed by cabins to gradually replace the tents. The term “lodge” referred to a facility with a main building for dining and cabins for overnight accommodations. “There were no longer stagecoaches in Yellowstone. The era of the automobile had arrived,” explains Murphy. She says that the lodges were built to accommodate the increasing number of middle-class visitors arriving in their own vehicles who wanted something more than a tent but more affordable and laid-back than a hotel. “Lodges represent the heyday of rustic visitor accommodations,” says Murphy. “Since people could now visit the park without needing to be with tour companies, the park experience became more independent, and the option to have your own cabin was attractive.” In 1983, the Roosevelt Lodge Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Murphy says that it holds great significance to the State of Wyoming as an early tourist accommodation, and to the nation as a template for future national park lodges.
Today, Roosevelt Lodge looks largely the same as it did a century ago, with an unpaved road leading to the lodge and cabins that are tucked in among the trees. Guests choose from two lodging types: Frontier Cabins are equipped with a shower, toilet, and sink. Roughrider Cabins are without bathrooms—communal showers and bathrooms are located nearby—and, like those original tents, the cabins are heated with wood-burning stoves. “As the park’s most remote, and smallest, lodging facility,” says Quinn, “Roosevelt Lodge offers a more peaceful experience with great potential for seeing wildlife, including black bears.” The property’s large corral operation supports westernthemed activities including horseback rides, stagecoach tours, and the Old West Dinner Cookout—a trip in a covered wagon or on horseback that culminates in an outdoor steak dinner. For indoor diners, the lodge’s restaurant serves up western-themed dishes, like its signature ApplewoodSmoked Barbecue Ribs and house-recipe Roosevelt Baked Beans. Quinn says that the lodge’s expansive front porch might just be the best porch in the park for relaxing at the end of the day. “Rocking in one of those chairs while watching the evening come on is a superlative experience.” Roosevelt Lodge is open late May through early September. Cabins may be reserved at YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com
Christine Gianas Weinheimer is the director of communications at Yellowstone Forever. She lives in Bozeman, Montana, and has been writing about Yellowstone for 18 years. YQ | 7
Constructive Feedback Summer Visitor Use Survey
BY S TEPH EN C AM ELIO spend waiting for parking?’” For a second part of the study visitors were intercepted for in-person Q&As at high-, medium-, and low-use areas across the park.
For our national park system, the highest collective visitation totals have all happened in the last five years. In 2015, Yellowstone had more than 4 million visits for the first time, and the park has continued to hit that benchmark every year since.
“We wanted to know what visitors experience as they're driving down the road, as they're trying to find a parking place,” White states. “We also wanted to know how that varies across the season and across different parts of the park. Is the visitor experience in August the same as it is in May, June, July, and September?”
Since people who know parks are more likely to support them, high visitation numbers can be seen as a good thing. But that doesn’t stop many people from saying that overcrowding, more traffic, and increased pressure on employees and facilities negatively impact visitors’ overall experiences.
Overall, the survey found that 85 percent of people had a good or excellent experience while visiting the park. Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly credits the National Park Service team and park partners for this high satisfaction level. Parts of the park with the most infrastructure and services to accommodate large crowds, such as Old Faithful and Canyon Village, were rated by respondents as the least problematic.
“We wanted to understand if and how increasing visitation was impacting park visitors in real-time and across the whole season.”
“Back in 2015, some employees and individual visitors felt that increasing visitation was impacting the park visitor experience, but we didn't have anything empirical to back that up,” says Christina White, Yellowstone’s visitor use management coordinator. “So we wanted to understand if and how increasing visitation was impacting park visitors in real-time and across the whole season.”
Of the participants, 67 percent were first-time visitors to the park, and this segment identified seeing geysers and thermal features as “significantly more important to them.” Recent repeat visitors (people who have visited within the past three years) reported more issues with traffic congestion, facilities, crowds, and people acting unsafe. These visitors prioritized experiencing a wild place as more important to them than first-timers did.
Enter the Summer 2018 Visitor Use Survey, contracted by Yellowstone National Park and conducted by Otak, RRC Associates, and the University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research. Following a previous mail-back visitor survey that was conducted over a few days in early August of 2016, this most recent study was more expansive, lasting from May to September 2018. It also used immediate surveying of a random sampling of visitors who were handed GPS-enabled tablets to take with them in their vehicles for a passenger to use to respond to “in the moment” surveys as they entered attraction areas or passed through certain roadway segments.
Coming back to the idea that people who feel connected are more likely to want to protect Yellowstone, the results also show that the more days respondents spent in the park, the more likely they were to provide less favorable evaluations of visitor behavior, including people walking on the roads as well as acting unsafe around wildlife and geothermal features.
“As a visitor was driving past Old Faithful, for example, the tablet would pop up with a questionnaire about Old Faithful,” White explains. “It would say something like, ‘Did you stop at this attraction? If you couldn’t, what prevented you from visiting? How much time did you
The differing reaction between those two groups is not surprising, but the survey did provide results that weren’t 8
totally expected. “We tend to think that when visitors are stuck in traffic or delayed that they're probably really frustrated, because maybe that’s what you and I experience,” White says. “But we learned there’s actually no correlation between people’s travel speeds and their experience.” The data shows the road segment in the park with the lowest travel speeds is Lamar Valley. Yet this road segment had the highest visitor experience rating, probably because the visitors encounter lots of wildlife. “Those results are fascinating because they help us check our own biases and better understand the visitors,” White points out. Because of the real-time, site-by-site nature of this survey, it also lets the park’s staff pinpoint problem areas and correct issues, explains Yellowstone Superintendent Sholly. “This survey provides us with a considerable amount of actionable information related to visitor perceptions of issues at specific sites. We must also continue to focus on the broader range of impacts visitors have on the park and respond accordingly with meaningful actions.” said Sholly.
A volunteer surveys visitors during the summer of 2018.
This study also underscores that in the park people aren’t only interacting with other visitors but also the natural environment and the staff, which is why this survey is part of Yellowstone’s much larger visitor-use management strategy. “The park is actively working to understand how visitation impacts not only the visitor experience but also park resources, park staff and operations, and our partners and gateway communities,” White adds. While moving forward, there are plenty of takeaways from this survey for the park. White explains that visitors can also learn from this research project. “Planning your visit is becoming increasingly important. We have a variety of resources on our website and on the Yellowstone app featuring tools to help people plan their visit before they come and while in the park to make it the experience that they want,” she says. “Also, take a look at our Yellowstone Pledge to help understand your role as a steward and a responsible visitor when you arrive at the park.”
Stephen Camelio is a freelance writer living in Bozeman, Montana. His work has appeared in Men’s Journal, Runner’s World, Field & Stream, and Fly Rod & Reel.
Take the Yellowstone Pledge Visitors can help protect the park and themselves, and help others do the same, by taking the Yellowstone Pledge. It’s a personal promise you make to yourself and the park. It can be taken anywhere; it doesn’t need to be taken out loud or in front of anyone. Tag #YellowstonePledge and encourage others to do the same. “I pledge to protect Yellowstone National Park. I will act responsibly and safely, set a good example for others, and share my love of the park and all the things that make it special.” Learn more at G O. N P S .G OV/ Y E LLOWSTO N E PLE D G E YQ | 9
SHOP 3 5 2
1 She Wolf DVD
3 Mission Wolf Rescue
5 Wolf Hand Puppet
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For three years, filmmaker Bob Landis followed the alpha female of Yellowstone’s Lamar Canyon Pack, known as the '06 Female. This remarkable wolf left her home at the age of two years in search of a mate and territory and survived on her own for a year. She Wolf tells a dramatic story not usually associated with a female wolf. 55 minutes.
This National Geographic Kids issue is all about wild wolves and their conservation. With facts, maps, infographics, and incredible images, this publication provides young readers with fascinating information on packs, habitat, and more. Includes hands-on activities and challenges. For readers age 10 and up. Softcover. 128 pages. 8.6" x 10.9"
Let imaginations run wild with this full-body, gray wolf hand puppet. Wildlife Artists, Inc. is dedicated to making exceptional stuffed animals with realistic details and accurate features. This soft, plush hand puppet is just waiting for someone to bring it to life with its own voice and personality. 10"
2 The Killing of
4 Wolf Pin
Wolf Number Ten
SUPPORTER • $12.71 REGULAR • $14.95 | #32340 Thomas McNamee gives a detailed account of the return of wild wolves to Yellowstone National Park and the illegal killing of one wolf that nearly upended the reintroduction effort. With more than 50 photographs and a daily account of happenings, McNamee paints a portrait of what life was like for researchers and wolves alike. Softcover. 144 pages. 6" x 9"
SUPPORTER • $5.09 REGULAR • $5.99 | #30234 Seeing a wolf in the wild is an experience you’ll never forget! Celebrate the gray wolf—reintroduced to the Yellowstone ecosystem in 1995 and 1996—with this colorful pin by Eagle River Designs. It makes a great gift or souvenir for wolf enthusiasts and pin collectors alike. Approximately 1" x 1.25"
6 American Wolf: A
True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West
SUPPORTER • $13.60 REGULAR • $16.00 | #33586 With novelistic detail, author Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of Yellowstone wolf O-Six, a charismatic and uncommonly powerful alpha female. O-Six is a kind and merciful leader, a fiercely intelligent fighter, and a doting mother. But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six faces great challenges on all fronts. Softcover. 320 pages. 5.25" x 8"
To order, visit shop.yellowstone.org Our Park Stores are the #1 source of information on Yellowstone, and sale proceeds directly benefit park priority projects. 10
INSTITUTE FIELD SEMINARS 2020
Experience Yellowstone National Park like you never have before! Register now for a summer 2020 Field Seminar and choose from many exciting learning experiences ranging from one day to six days. Explore topics that interest you, such as photography, wildlife watching, backpacking, or fly fishing. Our seminar leaders are experts in their fields and combine fun field excursions with engaging classroom presentations. This year we’re adding two brand-new types of Field Seminars to our offerings:
NEW! NATUR ALIST DAY TRIPS
Led by highly experienced naturalists, these single-day programs depart from Gardiner, Montana, and feature a wide variety of subjects from geology to wildflowers to raptors.
NEW! L AMAR PREMIER PACK AGES
All-inclusive packages feature renowned instructors and include catered meals, a private cabin at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, and more!
To view a complete schedule of summer Field Seminars or to register, visit YELLOWSTONE .ORG/EXPERIENCE
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F L O R A & FAU N A
BITTERROOT & SANDHILL CRANE BY BARBARA LEE | ART LAUREN BELTRAMO
When bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva) explodes with vivid pink-to-lavender flowers, you’ll know that spring is returning to Yellowstone. Found in greatest number around Mammoth and the park’s North Entrance, this little perennial is more than a marker of winter’s retreat. American Indian tribes prized bitterroot as a source of food and medicine. Meriwether Lewis collected and preserved specimens and sampled the cooked root himself. Bitterroot’s scientific name Lewisia honors Lewis, and rediviva refers to the plant’s remarkable ability to regenerate from a dry, seemingly lifeless root.
The sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis), roughly 4 feet tall and boasting a 5-foot wingspan, is one of the oldest known bird species, a true “living fossil.” The Lewis and Clark Expedition encountered many of these handsome omnivores, and occasionally shot and ate some. Sandhill cranes that spend summers in Yellowstone arrive in March or April from wintering grounds in Mexico and New Mexico. Although difficult to spot, listen for the birds’ raucous calls in open, wet meadows and meadow edges.
Y F FA M I LY
Jeff Augustin SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PARK PROJECTS In Jeff Augustin’s earliest childhood memory of Yellowstone, he is staying with his family at Madison Campground during a fall fishing trip. At the time, he never imagined that as an adult, he would not only be pulling fish from those same waterways, but also dedicating his life to preserving Yellowstone for the next generation of children and their families. “I inherited a love of wild places from my parents,” says the Colorado native, now Yellowstone Forever’s senior director of park projects.
“I can catch a fish, listen to elk bugle, and watch bison all at the same time.” He recalls his family taking annual hunting and fishing trips to Montana or Wyoming. “I became fascinated that Yellowstone is a fully intact ecosystem, complete with predators. Every day is a reset; you never know what you are going to see.” After graduating from the University of Colorado–Boulder, Augustin landed a job in Denver but soon tired of big-city living and felt a natural pull toward Yellowstone. After making the move to Montana, he joined the Yellowstone Park Foundation—one of Yellowstone Forever’s predecessor organizations—as the director of finance. After six years in finance and administration, Augustin transitioned to a more philanthropy-focused role. Today, he manages the process of Yellowstone Forever’s funding of projects in the park. “I work directly with park staff to understand what their priorities are and where they most need financial support,” says Augustin. He explains that each fall, Yellowstone Forever invites project proposals from park staff. Yellowstone’s superintendent’s office reviews the proposals—80 to 100 in a typical year—and ranks them in priority order before submitting them to Yellowstone Forever. “There is some back and forth with the park as we gain a full understanding of the breadth of each project and why it’s important.” Yellowstone Forever staff narrow the number of proposals to 30–50 before the board of directors approves a final slate of projects, with new funds made available to the park in the spring.
Some of these projects are ongoing signature projects that receive annual support from Yellowstone Forever, such as the Youth Conservation Corps, Yellowstone Wolf Project, and Native Fish Conservation Program. “Without Yellowstone Forever, many of these long-term projects wouldn’t exist,” says Augustin, “which would create a significant gap in research and conservation efforts in the park.” Other projects, he says, are time-limited and set out to accomplish a specific goal, like the Canyon Overlooks and Trails Restoration Project—a current effort to restore the many viewpoints from which people enjoy the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, while enhancing safety and accessibility. “The Canyon is the second-most-visited area of the park, and that has taken a toll on infrastructure there. Inspiration Point and Uncle Tom’s Point were recently given the facelifts they deserve, and the investment speaks for itself when visitors see them.” Augustin says that private support is needed now, more than ever, to supplement the park’s budget. “The park’s budget has remained flat or decreased over time,” he says, “and during that same period Yellowstone has seen a dramatic increase in visitation. The park is asked to do more with less.” When Augustin’s not visiting a park project site or in Yellowstone Forever’s Bozeman office, there’s a good chance he’s hunting or exploring the outdoors with his two chocolate labs, Moxie and Roux. And one of his greatest joys is still fly fishing in Yellowstone. “I can catch a fish, listen to elk bugle, and watch bison all at the same time,” says Augustin. “I’m lucky to be able to do all the things I love in and around this special place, and be reminded every day that we need to protect it so future generations can have similar experiences.”
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SPRING HIKING ON YELLOWSTONE’S NORTHERN RANGE BY CHELSEA DEWEESE
Snow melts from the mountains, wildflowers bloom, and migrating songbirds serenade the arrival of spring in Yellowstone National Park. Green grass grows and bison calves roam the landscape. This emergence of life after winter, says Yellowstone Forever Naturalist Tyrene Riedl, makes spring among her favorite hiking seasons. Below she shares some of her favorite outings on the northern range:
BEST I N L AT E SPRING
BEAVER PONDS LOOP TRAIL LENGTH : 5-mile loop DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate TRAILHEAD : Liberty Cap, Mammoth Hot Springs From Liberty Cap parking lot, follow the trail behind the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces and cross the bridge over Clematis Creek. Stay right and ascend 400 feet through Douglas-fir forest to reach open sagebrush grasslands. This is a good location to look for elk and other migratory wildlife. Keep walking—looking for bitterroot and other wildflowers—to reach the trail’s namesake beaver-dammed ponds. “I love that this hike has such varying terrain,” Riedl says. Continue the loop to an old stagecoach road that leads to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel near the trailhead. • At the ponds, listen for blackbirds, sandhill cranes, mallards, and other waterfowl in this riparian wetland.
LOOK FOR WILDFLOWERS & WATERFOWL
SLOUGH CREEK TRAIL
GARNET HILL LOOP TRAIL
LENGTH : 11 miles
LENGTH : 7.9-mile loop
DIFFICULTY: Moderate to Difficult
TRAILHEAD : Slough Creek Campground
TRAILHEAD : Parking Lot at Tower Junction
Start at the trailhead near Slough Creek Campground and ascend 400 feet to stunning views of Cutoff Mountain. Proceed to a lush, wildflower-laden valley featuring Slough Creek, which supports a world-class population of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. A second ascent takes you to another breathtaking meadow. Look for wolves, moose, and pronghorn. Continue following an active stagecoach road toward the Silver Tip Ranch. Yellowstone Forever Society members hold events at the historic, privately owned ranch, located in Gallatin National Forest. At any point, turn around and return to the trailhead while looking for signs of spring along the way. “I like Slough Creek because it’s Yellowstone coming alive again,” Riedl says.
From the parking lot at Tower Junction, walk parallel to the Northeast Entrance Road (toward Cooke City) until you reach a trailhead sign on the left. Follow the trail—staying left at the junction—through sagebrush grassland toward Elk Creek. Look for deer, black bears, and bison. Contour right around Garnet Hill and through forest before emerging in Pleasant Valley. Take in views of the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River, running high with winter snowmelt. The area showcases ancient granite and more recent glacial activity. “It’s a wonderful example of the forces of nature,” Riedl says. “You can just see the canyonbuilding in action.”
• This hike is best saved for late spring when the snow has melted and the campground road is open.
• A half-mile spur trail midway through the hike takes you to a suspension bridge over the Yellowstone River.
V I E WS O F T H E B L AC K C A N YO N
On early-season hikes in Yellowstone, use caution around rivers, lakes, and streams. They are cold and fast, and people have died from hypothermia and drowning after accidentally falling into frigid water.
Freelance writer Chelsea DeWeese pens from her hometown of Gardiner, Montana, the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Her work appears in regional and national publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
Remember that Yellowstone is bear country, and bears typically start to emerge from hibernation as early as February. Always hike in groups, make noise, and avoid hiking at dawn and dusk. Carry bear spray and know how to use it. For information on using bear spray visit go.nps.gov/bearspray
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N AT U R A L I S T N OT E S
RAVENS AND WOLVES BY BRAD BULIN, SENIOR NATURALIST
Ravens and wolves have a special relationship. Called “wolf birds” by various cultures, ravens have important ties to wolves. Like many scavengers, the common raven (Corvus corax) is especially tied to large predators that serve as potential food providers. Wolves provide many Yellowstone species a year-round food not necessarily available prior to their re-establishment in the park: carrion. Bears, eagles, magpies, and several other species also benefit from this food source. Ravens begin eating carrion quickly, usually arriving not soon after a kill, but rather—because of their close association with wolves—being there when the kill is made. As many as 135 ravens have been seen on one carcass! Interestingly, these birds will not only eat some of the food, but cache (store) as much as possible. It is believed that in some cases the raven, not the wolf, will harvest the majority of a large animal carcass. Ravens are highly regarded for their social skills, a complicated communication system, and excellent visual recognition. These vocal birds make lots of noise when they find a dead animal, drawing attention to the carcass so that larger, more “tooled” scavengers can open up the hide and eventually provide food for the ravens. Those social skills have not gone unnoticed when observing wolf/raven interactions. Ravens have often been seen interacting with wolves, especially pups and yearlings. These intriguing birds have been known to grab sticks and play tug-of-war with wolf puppies, to fly over young wolves with sticks and tease the small canines into jumping up to grab the sticks, and even to boldly pull the tails of wolves to initiate a reaction. Some scientists have theorized that individual ravens may even develop special bonds with individual wolves within a pack. Perhaps we will soon know more about this fascinating animal relationship, as a new research study in Yellowstone hopes to shed light on many facets of raven life, including their relationship with wolves on the landscape.
NPS INTERVIE W
Doug Smith SENIOR WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST Doug Smith has been with the Yellowstone Wolf Project since its inception, and currently manages wolf, elk, and bird populations in the park. Here we talk about his current responsibilities, what his work entails, and what he finds most rewarding. What brought you to Yellowstone and the National Park Service? I also do a number of beaver studies in and around Yellowstone. I’ve been doing wolves and beavers all along.
I’ve been studying wolves for 41 years. Even though I did my PhD on beavers, I kept working for wolf biologists
“I love nature. I love learning about it, and I love helping it. I also really enjoy educating young people. Because of Yellowstone Forever and the fundraising that they’ve been able to do, I’ve hired more than 350 young people as paid technicians, volunteers, and interns.”
Every day is very unpredictable. Birds are really quiet in the winter, but summer is crazy because of the influx of migratory birds. In summer I’m supervising close to 20 people with wolves, elk, and birds combined. I’ve enjoyed flying throughout my entire career; I’ve continued to do flights to monitor wolves, elk, and birds. I grew up riding, and I try to do a few trips every year. I grew up skiing, and so I try to get on cross-country skis as much as possible. I still get up at 3:30 in the morning to meet the crew to do bird surveys. I’ll also help with loon capture, the swan survey, and golden eagle capture.
because I liked it. I worked with wolves in Indiana, Isle Royale National Park, and northeast Minnesota. I was hired in 1994 to reintroduce, manage, and study wolves in Yellowstone. Many are not aware that you manage more than wolves in the park. What does your job currently entail? I did nothing but wolves until 2008. That’s when the bird biologist retired. Birding is a lifelong passion of mine, so I took it on. And I’ve enjoyed it. Wolves are controversial and stressful and birds have been fun. In the summer we have nine staff working on birds, and several graduate students. We’re studying loons, golden eagles, songbirds, swans, and Clark’s nutcrackers. We’ve really expanded what we know about birds in Yellowstone and for me that’s been a pleasure to set the vision for. Also in 2008 my position was redesigned to include elk. Every wolf study that I've ever worked with included the wolves’ primary prey—so it made sense to link them together. We've amped up our elk work, keeping about a hundred cow elk radio-collared for long-term monitoring.
That’s a lot of diverse responsibilities. What does a day in the life of Doug Smith look like?
I spend a fair bit of time in the office, too. In the early years, I gave 70 to 80 talks a year, but now it’s about 40 to 50, and I turn down probably just as many requests as talks I give. I do it because wolves need it, and birds need it. You’ve got to get the word out. What do you find most rewarding about working in Yellowstone National Park? I love nature. I love learning about it, and I love helping it. I also really enjoy educating young people. Because of Yellowstone Forever and the fundraising that they’ve been able to do, I’ve hired more than 350 young people as paid technicians, volunteers, and interns. I really enjoy helping them grow and become biologists, teaching them about nature, and helping them be passionate in trying to advance conservation.
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PO Box 1110, Gardiner, MT 59030 406 | 848 | 2400
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Arrowleaf balsamroot near Dunraven Pass