T.R. Michels

T.R. Michels is a professional guide who specializes in trophy whitetail, turkey and bear hunts in Minnesota. He has guided in the Rocky Mountains for elk and mule deer, too. He publishes the Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com.

Posts about Environment

Animal Home Ranges and Territories

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: May 18, 2012 - 10:53 PM

Before I forget, I need to add some bird sightings to my "Backyard Bird Sightings" list. Today I saw my first hen Wood Duck on one of the ponds, and I heard House Wren, Gray Catbird and saw a gull, probably Ring-billed Gull.

And last month, my wife Diane saw a group of jake (one-year-old) turkeys, evident by their shorter outer tail feathers and a beard that sticks almost straight out from their chest. So add five birds to my last count.

 

Animal Home Ranges: An explanation of what they are and what to expect to find in them.  

After studying game animal home ranges since 1989 and songbird territories for the last few years. I've realized that most predatory and prey species, be they terrestrial or aquatic, have what scientists refer to as "home ranges".

We may call them Lifetime Home Range, Annual Home Range or Seasonal Home Range, but the fact is that many animals, (especially those we hunt and many birds) have home ranges, where they spend the majority of their time during their life, and during particular seasons of the year (those seasons being winter, spring, summer, fall). What determines if and when they use different seasonal home ranges is appropriate thermal cover and escape cover for the temperatures/windchills and predatory pressure of each season, available forage sources during those seasons and available water sources.

During cold winter months, the windchill factor makes animals seek cover that will give them protection form rain, wind and low windchill factors, usually wooded areas of large enough a. to reduce the windchill (or areas within timber on the downwind side of hill, where the animals can get out of the wind) b. to provide security cover for the animals, (which usually means ground cover dense enough that the animals cannot see into the open areas around the wooded areas), Obviously the thermal and security needs of larger animals means they utilize larger areas of woods or cover than smaller animals.

During warmer summer months, the animals may prefer more open areas, where they can get out of the heat using the shade of wooded areas (but without a lot of ground cover, thereby allowing the wind to create a lower Heat Index through its cooling effect), or areas open to the wind (so they can take advantage of its cooling effect), or damp/ wet areas, where they can take advantage o f the cooling properties of water. If animals use one areas during warm spells, they often prefer large one area, where they can see, hear or smell possible danger before it gets too close to them.

No matter what time of year it is, most terrestrial animals have to have access to water and forage.

Once the animals have found areas suitable to use for each season, they prefer to stay within boundaries of that area - meaning they sty within the area hat they are unfamiliar. If an animal leaves its known range for that time of the year, it may be entering areas where it does not know where the trails, thermal and escape cover, forge and water sources are - which leaves it vulnerable to predation.

What this boils down to is the by the time an animal is about 1 year old, due to its being shown around by its mother, and being curios enough to check unknown things out, most animals are intimately familiar with their home range, to the point that they may notice when even a small sapling or a few branches have been cut off of a larger tree. To give you an example: While I was hunting a property in Eagen a few years ago, a group of runners inadvertently ran down the lightly used nighttime trail that ran across a hayfield (grass) and right underneath my stand. After the deer smelled and saw this change, it took them 7 days to begin using that trail again.

So, when we alter the habitat for our purposes (such as the hunting season, or even ease of access) it may take the animals a few days to become accustomed to these changes. If you brush out shooting lanes, or put up a stand or a blind – let it sit several days before using it. Generally speaking, the animals will spook the first time they see or smell it. They may, turn around and go back the way they cam, or they may give it a wide birth. Or they may use that area earlier or later than normal, in an effort to avoid it. But, they probably won’t act normal for a few days. As I said, in order to be intimately familiar with their habitat, security measures demand that they get curious, and sooner or later check out this new thing in their area, or any vegetation that has been altered. And – if it offers no threat, they will begin using that area again.

One other thing we can expect to find in home ranges are preferred trails or travel routes to and from their bedding/rest areas to their forging area, and possibly other trails from the forage areas back to the bedding / rest areas.

If you are hunting one of these animals, two of the best things you can do are to 1. learn during what meteorological conditions the animals will move, and at what hours, and 2. Learn where the trails and travel routes are. Once you have done this you will be better prepared to setup in an area where you are likely to see it on a semi-regular basis, to simply observe, photograph or hunt the animals.

If you do not know the meteorological conditions when waterfowl, turkeys, white-tailed deer and elk will be active, you can p0urchse a copy of one of my books, or "Game Animal Activity Indexes", from the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog on our website at

www.TRMichels. If you have questions feel free to logon to the T.R.’ Tips Outdoor and Hunting Talk Forum, where I try to answer every question post there personally. And where you can get ideas and advice from the other people too. We have a great group of men women and youngsters on our Talk Forum.

Note: My wife always asks me to carry the milk, because she says it is too heavy for her, I think it is j ust because she can't hold on to it. I mean - have you ever tried to carry milk - it slips right throughg your fingers!!!

I’ll talk about the difference between home ranges and territories in Part 2 of this series

Enjoy God’s Great Outdoors, take a child, family member or friend along on an outdoor adventure, and may God bless you and your family and friends,

T.R.

Flocks of Large Migrating Birds in Minnesota

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: March 18, 2012 - 5:17 PM

Yesterday I hear the first Song Sparow, Ring-billed Gulls, Brown Thrasher,Red-winged Blackbirds, a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos (probably from Iowa) and Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeker of the spring. The Brown Thrasher and woodpeckers are normally here,through the winter, but I did not hear or see them this last winter. earlier in the week I saw about 8 pair of Mallards, only one pair of Canada Geese this year (so far) and one pair of Hooded Mergansers (dont' think they stayed around last year).  

Add that to our normal 4-6 Blue Jays, pair of Northern Cardinals, pair of Red-belliedWoodpeckers, pair of Downy Woodpecker (now Hairys) dozen or so Black-capped Chickadees,4-6 Gray squirrels, 2-4 Cotontail Rabbits, 1 Opossum, several White-tailed Deer,,family of 2-6 Coyotes (no Raccoons seen), and you have our normal year round fauna. My wife saw a pair of Bald Eagles and we saw a Red-tailed Hawk last week. So - we have a backyard bird conut of 12 so far this year.

Although we are right across from Inver Hills College, about 1/4 mile behind Inver Grove Library and 1/2 mile from Simley HIgh School, I have heard but not seen any House Finches, and have not seen a single European House Sparrow, which I consider very strange. I have not heard our Great-horned Owls this year either. But, we have heard coyote pups trying out their hight pitched howls behnd the house.  I'm hoping to see our Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Phoebees, Wood Ducks, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Green Heron again this year, plus the pair of Common Yellowthroats that were here last year too.  .     

Migrating Birds

I’ve had a lot of questions about those large flocks of large birds many birders and nature lover are seeing, Here are some notes form my book Duck and Goose Addict’s Manual that may prove to be interesting.

People all over the state have been seeing flocks of unexpected geese this spring,probably due to the fact that it has been so dry, that there is very little water on the ground or in lakes rivers and ponds out west, that many waterfowl species that normally migrate through the Dakotas, have had to move east, therefore migrarting through our great state with its over 10,000 lakes, and many more ponds and marshes - or sloughs as waterfowlers are apt to call them.

The Canads Goose (Branta canadensis) subspecies we see all year long is the of the Giant Canada Goose (B. c. maxima) which is the resident goose of Minnesota. Basically speaking, if it was hatched in Minnesota, it is probably a Giant Canada. The Giant Canada subspecies was deemed extinct until 1947, when Harold C. Hanson, a biologist of the Illinois Natural History Survey, re-discovered them on Silver Lake n downtown Rochester, MN. They breed from central Manitoba to the western edge of the Central Plains, south to Kansas, they often winter in the same areas, some migrating up to 600 miles south in one day, but still wintering within the normal subspecies range. The parvipes (Lesser) subspecies may also be seen in Minnesota, It breeds in the Canadian forest from central Alaska to the northwestern edge of Hudson Bay, and winters in Washington and Oregon. The interior subspecies may be seen in Minnesota on migration. It breeds from Ungava Bay to Hudson Bay to northern Manitoba to southern Baffin Island and southwestern Greenland, wintering in the Eastern United States

The Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) subspecies we are most likely to see on migration here in Minnesota, is the Richardsons’ Goose (B.C. hutchinsii) subspecies, which breeds from the Mckenzie Delta, NWT, east to western Baffin Island, south to Southhampon Island and the McConnell River, Hudson Bay and winters from New Mexico and Texas into the northern highlands of Mexico and coastal Texas to Louisiana south to Northern Vera Cruz, Mexico.

The subspecies of the Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) we are most likely to see on migration here in Minnesota is the Lesser Snow goose (Chen Caerulescens cerulescens ).

The White-fronted Goose (Anwer albifrons) (known as speckle bellies to hunters) we are most likely to see here in Minnesota on migration, is the large, pale, gambelli, which breeds from northern Alaska and northwestern Canada, and winters in Mexico and Texas.

We also see two species of san, our resident Trumpeter Swans, which bred in the Midwest and central Canada, and many f which winter on the Mississippi river in Monticello, Minnesota. Trumkpeters Swans were basically exterminated from Minnesota until the U of M and other organizations began to re-introduce them through transplants and the hatching of eggs form the Yellowstone ecosystem and Alaska. Tundra Swans migrate through the state in the spring and fall, with many as 20,000 stopping off on migration in the fall, before continuing on east to the wintering ground on the central east Atlantic coast. Many of them breeding Alaska and north central Canada And southwestern Hudson’s Bay. One way to distinguish them n flight is if there are more than ten birds in a flock, they are probably Tundra Swans, because Trumpeter swans often fly in pair and family relate flocks, not in huge migratory flocks of several dozen to hundreds of birds.

In addition we may see families and flocks of Sandhill Cranes. The subspecies we are most likely to see are the resident Greater Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis tabida) of which there may be 65,000 – 75,000 and the Canadian Sandhill Crane (G.c.rowani), with an estimated populatin of 450,000. We may also see the extremely rare white Whooping Crane (Grus americana) , which is now being transplanted and also recently naturally breeding in central Wisconsin. Last year two young Whooping Cranes were seen nar Dennison, Minnesota few miles east of Highway 52 south of the Twin Cities.

We may also see white American Pelicans (Pelicanus erythrorhynos), and their relative the Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalocrocorqx auritus).Cormorants nest all over the state, and often nest in old dead, large trees over water. Large populations of Pelicans may be seen on northwestern Minnesota in the summer. But, they often breed on western and Canadian waters.

You can get copies od all of my books by logging on to the Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com and clicking on theTrinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog link - under the Hunting Websites section of the Web Site Directory.

II dont; expect the waterfowl migration to last much longer, so get out there and enjoy it while you can..

God bless, and please stop smoking, if not for you - for your loved ones.  

T.R.

Oh- I'm 63 on the 19th. Getting old - er, or is that err!

Identifying Geese, Conservation Issues, Turkey Hunting

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: March 16, 2012 - 5:53 AM

Thoughts in General

Identifying Geese

As I and several others were watching the waterfowl at Lake Byllesby last weekend several people asked how to tell if approaching geese where dark colored blue phase snow geese or white-fronted geese (speckle bellies to some hunters). As a long time hunter I explained that you will rarely see an entire flock of dark bellied geese (over 10 in number) that are snow geese, because there will almost always be some white colored geese with them. Interestingly, the blue phase of the snow goose is predominant, and generally speaking, there are more blue phase geese from east to west within the lesser snow goose’s range. Another way to distinguish between species of geese is that Canada Geese have a low-pitched honk, or a two syllable "her–onk as a "social contact" call, Cackling geese use a higher pitch. Snow geese and Ross’s goose often sound like cow… cow; with Ross’s geese having a highter pitch. White-fronted geese generally string three individual notes together, in a cow cow cow… cow cow cow.

Conservation

With spring arriving, and these warm temperatures,, and the arrival of migrant birds and the appearance of wildflowers, comes the urge to get outside and enjoy nature, even if it only to take a walk. I know that conservation is not a hot topic among outdoor lovers, nonetheless the average person, but it should be. All you have to do if you are an outdoor lover is look around, almost anywhere, even the backcountry to see the impact of humane on the environment. There are roads where there didn’t used o be any - and developments along with them – which means the habitat was disturbed, if not destroyed.

It doesn’t take much of a disturbance to impact an ecosystem. A path or road can change the course of water runoff. Which may lead o erosion, and soil, along with possibly insecticides and herbicides, draining into watersheds where it never used to. The resultant pollution can affect the flora and fauna of an entire ecosystem, from the bottom up. From algae to microorganisms, which in turn can affect invertebrates and plant life that is eaten by larger animals, on up the food chain to birds and small animals, and eventually to raptors and predators; even humans.

I’ll get into more conservation issues as time goes on – in the hope that some people actually read about it, and do something about it, and care. You can help by asking your friends to check in here from time to time, to discuss conservation issues - because we really need to.

Pet Peeve

On an off note, trails and roads often lead to more human travel, which leads to more disturbance and erosion, and trash. It seems some people cannot go anywhere without leaving their unwanted trash behind them, I know that there really is not an outdoor lover who likes to see trash or any kind, from cigarette butts to food wrappers and styrofoam. So – every time you take a walk or even a car ride, why not take along a couple of easily transportable plastic bags, and pick up any trash you see along the way.

What can we do? First of all. Join an active conservation organization, that is involved in ecosystem preservation and wildlife and wild flora conservation, When it comes to walking or hiking try to stay on existing trails and roads as much as possible, so there is not more disturbance of the topsoil, which may be the only thing that keeps runoff from occurring. And remember – if you can pack it in, you can pack it out. Please do not leave trash behind you.

Turkey Behavior & Turkey Hunting

With turkey season fast approaching, I have a few pointers for turkey hunters. Toms will be gobbling now, so you can start early morning scouting to locate calling birds. Look or listen for them at known roosting sites and feeding / strutting areas. Usually I would warn against scouting too far in advance of the hunting season, because turkeys often migrate between winter and spring home ranges – due to forage availability and the need to find cover enough to protect them from cold and strong winds. So, when there is snow on the ground, in March, and you hunt in April, you may find the birds in one area in March, and a completely different are in April. But, that probably will not be true this year, because the snow has been gone for several weeks, and the birds may already be on their spring breeding ranges.

Personally I would start scouting now, and locate as many flocks as I can – so I have more than one tom or groups of tom to hunt when it comes time to hunt. If you have enough time, scout several days in a row, because if you are able to watch the birds, you may be able to discern their semi-regular daily patterns. Generally you will find that they have several preferred roosting and early morning feeding / strutting sites. And you might find the when they use a particular roosting sites, they generally have one or two feeding areas they go to within a a half hour of sunrise, where the toms will often show up after the hens,

Toms generally begin gobbling on the roost, to try and locate any hens in the area, and generally fly down after the hens, and gobble infrequently as they go to the hens or a feeding /strutting area. Once they are in sight of the hens, toms often stop gobbling and begin strutting and use a spit (a loud exhale of air form the air sacks in their chest) and boom (it is not drumming per se) as they let out air from their air sacks, creating a boom like a prairie chicken, which they are related too. If and when the hens leave the first feeding area, the toms may follow if the hens leave in mass, (often early in the season). If the hens leave individually to go off to nest, (later in the breeding season, often after mid April) the toms may stay at the feeding area and gobble for up to a half hour, before leaving to go to another feeding area, gobbling infrequently as they go. Once they are at the second feeding area, they will often gobble frequently at first, hoping a few hens show up, and gobble less frequently as time goes on. They generally stop after 20-30 minutes, and go to yet another feeding area, or begin to feed or groom themselves, or head of into the woods. You should locate as many of these morning feeding areas as you can, so you hve a chance to hunt all morning long, if you are not successful early.

 

If you areinterested inh a birding / nature tour of any kind, or outdoor photography trip, in MN,SD.ND Wi or CO, contact TRMichels@yahoo.com.  

Enjoy God's Great Outdoors

God bless,

T.R. Michels

 

 

Wolves of the Yellowstone Ecosystem

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: September 22, 2011 - 1:57 PM

I recently receivd an e-mail with a link to a video on the Wolves of the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Here were my thoughts on it:

I watchced this film - on the wolves of Yellowstone http://bowhunting.net/video/2011/09/crying-wolf-movie/ - with interest,but as it went on I had a number of questions about what was beind said. And I did some in-depth checking on it.

It is not an investigative piece, it is obviously a personal opinion/desire piece, designed to sway the watcher into taking the side of the video maker. It does not present a balanced look at both sides of the issue. There is nothing wrong with trying to sway people, even if you present only one sideof the issue - I do it all the time on my Mineapolis Star Tribune Blog, But, one should always check their "facts' to be sure that the are in deed - facts. I, as s Christian, could not prsent this issue, or any other one, without making darn sure I have the facts on my side, and this video producer does not have them. It is inexcusable.

This piece is filled with many misleading statements, half truths and "out and out" falsehoods.

On the video:

Someone mentioned that wolves had never been a part of the Yellowstone Ecosystem. That is false, most westerners know that wolves were found all around it, and records that show they were in it. Nothing kept them out.

Someone said wolves killed more buffalo then whites and Indians combined. During some years that may have been true. Over the period of the existence of the wolf - certainly, because they werre here long before the Native Americans or Europeans. But, during the days of Wild Bill Cody, Buffalo Bill etc. hunters killed far more buffalo in a week, the wolves did in a year.

Someone mentiond 10's of thousands of wolves. There were only 50,000-70,000 wolves in the 80's - in all of North America - not the US - as implied. Currently the US has about 9,000 wolves, with about 4,00 of those in my home sate of Minnesota. And we do not complain like westeners do, and we do have livestock loses - becasue we do not have the large elk and bison herds that the west does. We do have whitetals, .

Someone said that wildlfe increase is healthy. That could be, but it is no healthy for the ecosystem, because many native plants are either in danger or no longer in existence in many areas, due to overgrazing by both cattle and wildlife. I'll write more about this later.

Someone said that a single wolf can raise 20 pups in 3 years, That is only true if there are abundant prey species in the area - every year. The Alpha female of a pck of wolved can have up to 6 pups per year, but- she is the only one of the pack (which may contain an average of 4 other females and 1-2 males (her pups) that normally has pups, and up to 80% of the pups born each year may die. So, out of a group of 100 wolves, there may be only 40 females, of which only 10 are Alpha females, that may raise to adulthood 10 wolves every 3 years - not 40. And in aera werh teh wolf populatin has reache balanced predator pry spcied number, that are also in balance with the ecosystem carrying capacity - enough wolves will die each year, from disease, injury or malnutrition - the ther is no increasein wolf number over th long term.

Here are the 2001 Yellowstone wolf study results.

At the end of 2010, at least 97 wolves (11 packs and 6 loners) occupied Yellowstone National Park (YNP). This is nearly the same size population as in 2009 (96 wolves) and represents a stable population. Breeding pairs increased from six in 2009 to eight in 2010. The wolf population declined 43% from 2007 to 2010, primarily because of a smaller elk population, the main food of northern range wolves. The interior wolf population declined less, probably because they augment their diet with bison. The severity of mange declined in 2010 and there was no evidence of distemper being a mortality factor as it was in 1999, 2005, and 2008. Pack size ranged from 3 (Grayling Creek) to 16 (Mollie's) and averaged 8.3, slightly higher than in 2009 (7.1), but lower than the long-term average of 10 wolves per pack. Eight of the 11 packs reproduced (73%). The average number of pups per pack in early winter for packs that had at least one pup was 4.8, compared to the 2009 average of 3.8. A total of 38 pups in YNP survived to year end.

Wolf Project staff detected 268 wolf kills in 2010 (definite, probable, and possible combined), including 211 elk (79%), 25 bison (9%), 7 deer (3%), 4 wolves (1%), 2 moose (<1%), 2 pronghorn (<1%), 2 grizzly bears (< 1%), 4 coyotes (1%), 2 ravens (<1%), and 10 unknown species (4%). The composition of elk kills was 43% cows, 25% calves, 18% bulls, and 15% elk of unknown sex and/or age. Bison kills included 4 calves, 6 cows, 7 bulls, and 8 unknown sex adults. Intensive winter and summer studies of wolf predation continued.

 The pup ratio per 100 wolves was 38:100.

What wolf reintroduction to the Yellowsoten Ecosystem is about, is a balanced "predator/prey/prey forage base" system and the associated bird, insect, fish, reptile, amphibian, crustacean, mullosk, and invertebrate populations - meaning that we should take into account how the loss of one of those components - impacts the whole ecosystem balance. In this case, when wolves were not in the Yellowstone ecosystem, elk and bison number increases, which resulted in the loss of many native plant speceis, and the suppression of other species (shrubs and wildflowers) - mainly aspen, cottonwood and willow, which are a primary food source for elk and moose during the winter.

 Here is one example of how the increase in elk, beyond blanced predator/pray number can affect an ecosystem.

 ... if the Northern Range elk population does not continue to decline -- their numbers are 40 percent of what they were before wolves -- many of Yellowstone's aspen stands are unlikely to recover

I suggest you read this account of scientific findings; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031029064909.htm.
Hopefully it will help you see the other side of this issue. There are several other articles there, relating to this issue. It is much broader than just wolves, elk, bison and livestock.

What people around the world need to think about - if they want to continue to enjoy nature and its widllife - is total ecosystem based conservation - not just the wants, needs or desires of a few people - concerned for their own welfare.

 

God bless,

 

T.R.

 

Wolves of the Yellowstone Ecosystem

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: September 22, 2011 - 1:57 PM

I recently receivd an e-mail with a link to a video on the Wolves of the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Here were my thoughts on it:

I watchced this film - on the wolves of Yellowstone http://bowhunting.net/video/2011/09/crying-wolf-movie/ - with interest,but as it went on I had a number of questions about what was beind said. And I did some in-depth checking on it.

It is not an investigative piece, it is obviously a personal opinion/desire piece, designed to sway the watcher into taking the side of the video maker. It does not present a balanced look at both sides of the issue. There is nothing wrong with trying to sway people, even if you present only one sideof the issue - I do it all the time on my Mineapolis Star Tribune Blog, But, one should always check their "facts' to be sure that the are in deed - facts. I, as s Christian, could not prsent this issue, or any other one, without making darn sure I have the facts on my side, and this video producer does not have them. It is inexcusable.

This piece is filled with many misleading statements, half truths and "out and out" falsehoods.

On the video:

Someone mentioned that wolves had never been a part of the Yellowstone Ecosystem. That is false, most westerners know that wolves were found all around it, and records that show they were in it. Nothing kept them out.

Someone said wolves killed more buffalo then whites and Indians combined. During some years that may have been true. Over the period of the existence of the wolf - certainly, because they werre here long before the Native Americans or Europeans. But, during the days of Wild Bill Cody, Buffalo Bill etc. hunters killed far more buffalo in a week, the wolves did in a year.

Someone mentiond 10's of thousands of wolves. There were only 50,000-70,000 wolves in the 80's - in all of North America - not the US - as implied. Currently the US has about 9,000 wolves, with about 4,00 of those in my home sate of Minnesota. And we do not complain like westeners do, and we do have livestock loses - becasue we do not have the large elk and bison herds that the west does. We do have whitetals, .

Someone said that wildlfe increase is healthy. That could be, but it is no healthy for the ecosystem, because many native plants are either in danger or no longer in existence in many areas, due to overgrazing by both cattle and wildlife. I'll write more about this later.

Someone said that a single wolf can raise 20 pups in 3 years, That is only true if there are abundant prey species in the area - every year. The Alpha female of a pck of wolved can have up to 6 pups per year, but- she is the only one of the pack (which may contain an average of 4 other females and 1-2 males (her pups) that normally has pups, and up to 80% of the pups born each year may die. So, out of a group of 100 wolves, there may be only 40 females, of which only 10 are Alpha females, that may raise to adulthood 10 wolves every 3 years - not 40. And in aera werh teh wolf populatin has reache balanced predator pry spcied number, that are also in balance with the ecosystem carrying capacity - enough wolves will die each year, from disease, injury or malnutrition - the ther is no increasein wolf number over th long term.

Here are the 2001 Yellowstone wolf study results.

At the end of 2010, at least 97 wolves (11 packs and 6 loners) occupied Yellowstone National Park (YNP). This is nearly the same size population as in 2009 (96 wolves) and represents a stable population. Breeding pairs increased from six in 2009 to eight in 2010. The wolf population declined 43% from 2007 to 2010, primarily because of a smaller elk population, the main food of northern range wolves. The interior wolf population declined less, probably because they augment their diet with bison. The severity of mange declined in 2010 and there was no evidence of distemper being a mortality factor as it was in 1999, 2005, and 2008. Pack size ranged from 3 (Grayling Creek) to 16 (Mollie's) and averaged 8.3, slightly higher than in 2009 (7.1), but lower than the long-term average of 10 wolves per pack. Eight of the 11 packs reproduced (73%). The average number of pups per pack in early winter for packs that had at least one pup was 4.8, compared to the 2009 average of 3.8. A total of 38 pups in YNP survived to year end.

Wolf Project staff detected 268 wolf kills in 2010 (definite, probable, and possible combined), including 211 elk (79%), 25 bison (9%), 7 deer (3%), 4 wolves (1%), 2 moose (<1%), 2 pronghorn (<1%), 2 grizzly bears (< 1%), 4 coyotes (1%), 2 ravens (<1%), and 10 unknown species (4%). The composition of elk kills was 43% cows, 25% calves, 18% bulls, and 15% elk of unknown sex and/or age. Bison kills included 4 calves, 6 cows, 7 bulls, and 8 unknown sex adults. Intensive winter and summer studies of wolf predation continued.

 The pup ratio per 100 wolves was 38:100.

What wolf reintroduction to the Yellowsoten Ecosystem is about, is a balanced "predator/prey/prey forage base" system and the associated bird, insect, fish, reptile, amphibian, crustacean, mullosk, and invertebrate populations - meaning that we should take into account how the loss of one of those components - impacts the whole ecosystem balance. In this case, when wolves were not in the Yellowstone ecosystem, elk and bison number increases, which resulted in the loss of many native plant speceis, and the suppression of other species (shrubs and wildflowers) - mainly aspen, cottonwood and willow, which are a primary food source for elk and moose during the winter.

 Here is one example of how the increase in elk, beyond blanced predator/pray number can affect an ecosystem.

 ... if the Northern Range elk population does not continue to decline -- their numbers are 40 percent of what they were before wolves -- many of Yellowstone's aspen stands are unlikely to recover

I suggest you read this account of scientific findings; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031029064909.htm.
Hopefully it will help you see the other side of this issue. There are several other articles there, relating to this issue. It is much broader than just wolves, elk, bison and livestock.

What people around the world need to think about - if they want to continue to enjoy nature and its widllife - is total ecosystem based conservation - not just the wants, needs or desires of a few people - concerned for their own welfare.

 

God bless,

 

T.R.

 

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