Sep 18, 2015

Video catches five bears roaming around North Fork cabin

Wildlife managers have been saying there’s a lot of bear activity up on the North Fork of the Shoshone River — and here's some convincing proof.

Kelly Christensen, a Powell doctor, recently shared a video taken by a surveillance camera at his North Fork cabin. The footage, captured in mid-August, shows no less than five bears scampering around Christensen's place.

Ok, we have enough bears addition to these 5 the camera at the cabin also recorded a lone boar and a black bear. 7 bears in one place in 3 weeks is enough already.

Posted by Kelly Christensen on Saturday, August 29, 2015

Christensen's cabin is a couple miles west of the Clearwater Campground. In addition to the five bears shown in the clip, the camera also recorded a grizzly boar and a black bear roaming around the cabin within a span of a few weeks.

A screenshot from the Christensen's video shows four of the bruins.
“Maybe it’s just me, but seven bears in one front yard in three weeks seems like a lot of bears,” Christensen said in a message, quipping, “Doesn’t really make you want to step outside for a quick bathroom break just before heading to bed.”

He added that the scene could have happened anywhere in that general area.

“I hunt deer on the North Fork in the fall and it’s nearly impossible to walk up a ridge or creek that time of year and not see fresh grizzly tracks,” Christensen said.

Sep 16, 2015

Yellowstone’s Spruce Fire benefitting park's forest, officials say

Though it has grown and it isn't being contained, the Spruce Fire in Yellowstone National Park is benefiting the forest in its isolated location, park officials say.

The lightning-ignited fire, approximately 10 miles west of Fishing Bridge and 2 miles south of Hayden Valley, grew to 2,594 acres by noon on Monday, but recent precipitation has slowed it down.

The Spruce Fire, as seen from the air on Monday. Photo courtesy Neal Herbert, National Park Service

“We got a lot of rain,” Yellowstone spokeswoman Julena Campbell said Tuesday. “About 1/2 inch of rain over the fire last (Monday) night.”

At this point, the fire would have to increase dramatically before fire managers would become concerned, Campbell said.

The National Weather Service predicted rain this week, with possible snow on Thursday evening, Campbell said. Fire managers are not expecting the precipitation to actually douse the fire, which is burning in 200- to 400-year-old lodgepole pine trees, but they do expect it to dampen the activity, Campbell said.

The Spruce Fire is in a remote location of the park. There are no structures or hiking trails in its vicinity. Still, park managers are watching the fire closely and have taken preemptive measures. That includes removing small vegetation around facilities in the Yellowstone Lake area and developing a fire fighting plan should the fire threaten structures or people, Campbell said.

They have also been developing a model to predict what the fire will do in the next seven days, Campbell said.

Fire managers did order some equipment — water pumps and hose — but they later canceled the order because of the rain. Fire suppression is costly, and firefighters and equipment are busy fighting fires in California and elsewhere, so canceling the order allowed the equipment to be put to better use where it's needed, Campbell said.

Data from the Northern Rockies Coordination Center says a little more than a dozen personnel have been involved in monitoring the fire, at a cost of around $67,781 as of Wednesday morning.


The Spruce Fire is in a remote area and is being allowed to burn. Photo courtesy Neal Herbert, National Park Service
Spruce Fire is a natural resource fire, meaning, unless the fire threatens structures or people, park officials will allow it to burn, while closely monitoring its progress, Campbell said.

It is promoting a healthy ecosystem by burning in a typical "mosaic" (checkerboard) pattern, leaving different levels of burn severity and pockets of unburned vegetation in the backcountry, according to the National Park Service.

Allowing the fire to take its natural course will remove fuels — standing and fallen dead timber.
If fire moves through an area every 100 years or so, then fuels can’t accumulate. With a limited amount of fuels, fires tend to remain smaller and burn less intensely, Campbell said.

“If we suppress all fires and do not allow them to burn through regularly, then in effect, we create a large amount of dead, downed, dried out fuel,” Campbell said.

Campbell compared a campfire-sized stack of wood to a bonfire-sized pile. If a human or lightning ignites the bonfire-sized stack, it has a lot more fuel, can spread more rapidly and can easily climb into live tree tops and sometimes scorch the soil so deeply it is actually sterilized.

Less intense fires may remain at ground level and are not as apt climb into the tops of trees, Campbell said.  If fire reaches tree tops, it can "crown." In fire terminology, crowning is when a fire moves through the crowns of trees or shrubs more or less independently of the fire burning along the ground fire.  

The Spruce Fire is burning in a fire-adapted lodgepole pine forest, according to the park service. Lodgepole pine trees grow serotinous cones, where resin covering the cones acts as a seal preventing them from releasing seeds. Fire melts the glue-like resin, thus distributing the seeds. The fire adds decomposing material to the soil and opens the canopy to give seedlings sunshine to grow.

“That’s how the forest rejuvenates itself,” Campbell said, adding that, “This is a very natural process that is happening.”

The decision on how to manage each fire in the park is based on a number of factors, including current and predicted conditions, as well as potential values at risk.

Managers decided to suppress two other park fires in the last week: a human-caused fire in Mammoth Hot Springs on Sept. 10 and a lightning-caused fire near Yellowstone's northwest boundary on Sept. 12.

To learn more about fire management in Yellowstone, visit

United Nations should support more Yellowstone area wilderness, international environmentalists say

A group of international environmentalists are calling on the United Nations to seek the protection of more wild places — including wildlife migration corridors around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The environmentalists’ paper — published in the journal “Conservation Letters” on Thursday — suggests the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) lobby for more protections for lands stretching from around Yellowstone National Park up the Rocky Mountains and into eastern Alaska.

The paper's authors included a map of this area between Yellowstone and the Yukon as an example of a possible "World Heritage Wilderness Complex." Courtesy graphic
UNESCO already plays a role in promoting the conservation of areas with exceptional cultural or natural qualities. It currently recognizes “World Heritage Sites” — areas like Yellowstone, Egypt’s pyramids or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef — deemed to have such outstanding value to humanity that they “belong to all peoples of the world.”

Such a designation can only be made at the request of the country that owns the site. Though UNESCO has a small amount of money available to aid World Heritage Sites, it’s effectively just a listing.

If UNESCO doesn’t like something going on in a World Heritage Site (such as proposed logging in Tasmania’s forests), they can list them as being “in danger” to try to bring international attention and pressure to the issue. However, countries have the final say on what happens at their sites — such as how the United States continues to have sole control of Yellowstone’s management.

The international conservation effort stems from a 1972 treaty known as the World Heritage Convention.

The new paper, titled “A Wilderness Approach under the World Heritage Convention,” says the UNESCO committee that oversees the convention should go beyond World Heritage Sites and create broader “World Heritage Wilderness Complexes.” The authors say the larger focus on areas “free from industrial infrastructure” would be be a logical extension of the World Heritage Committee’s current efforts and “show leadership in connectivity conservation practice.”
Antelope migration routes have shrunk around Yellowstone, the paper notes. Photo courtesy Jim Peaco, National Park Service

Among the paper’s authors are five experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the official advisor to UNESCO on World Heritage.

“The World Heritage Convention is a powerful international instrument and it can provide the leadership required for wilderness and large-landscape conservation,” said lead author Cyril Kormos, Vice Chair for IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, in a statement published on the IUCN website. “Protecting intact nature at large scales helps stabilize the climate and allow species to move and adapt to changes in the environment, so protecting them is a high-priority response to climate change.”

The paper lays out four possible examples of World Heritage Wilderness Complexes, one being a possible complex stretching from Lower Yellowstone to the Yukon area.

As an example of the need, the paper cites North America’s grizzly bears, which “require connectivity between protected areas to sustain viable populations.”

“The absence of large predators very often changes community composition, dynamics, and vegetation structure, eroding the site’s outstanding universal value,” the paper adds.

The authors go on to say migration routes are “often poorly or only partially protected by World Heritage and other conservation areas.” By way of example, it quotes prior research from the Wildlife Conservation Society finding that 75 percent of pronghorn antelope migration routes have been lost in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Yellowstone managers submit periodic reports to UNESCO about the park's status.
The paper suggests UNESCO could gradually expand or add buffers to existing World Heritage Sites and promote connectivity between them. Areas outside the heritage sites “would have specific protection policies to assure connectivity is maintained,” the group recommends.

The rough Yellowstone to Yukon “World Heritage Wilderness Complex” mapped out in the paper appears to draw in much of the Big Horn Basin, but the group warns that it’s a rough drawing.

Paper authors also include representatives from Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. The 11 writers hail from locales ranging from Berkeley, California, and Bozeman, Montana, to Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Canada and Brazil.

The authors wrote that their opinions don’t necessarily represent the views of the IUCN or the other organizations who made contributions.

The IUCN says it’s currently working on a compilation of possible new wilderness areas that should be added to the United Nations’ list.

The full paper is available at

Is your child's car seat properly installed? Find out Saturday

Safety experts are urging parents to make sure their children's car seats are properly installed, as a part of Child Passenger Safety Week.

Safe Kids Park County is offering free car seat inspections from nationally certified technicians on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Denny Menholt Chevrolet in Cody.

Safe Kids Worldwide is also encouraging parents to register their car seats or check them online for any possible recalls.

“The single best way for parents to learn about a recall is to register their car seat with the manufacturer. Unfortunately, this important first step doesn’t happen nearly enough,” Lillian Brazelton, Safe Kids Park County coordinator, said in a news release.

As an example, more than 6 million car seats were recalled last year because of safety problems, but fewer than half were brought in for repairs, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says.
Hoping to figure out why so few recalled car seats are repaired, Safe Kids Worldwide recently conducted a study that found only 42 percent of parents filled out and returned the registration card with their child's car seat.

“That means that on average, six out of 10 parents risk not hearing about a car seat recall in the most timely and dependable manner – directly from the manufacturer,” Safe Kids Worldwide said in a news release.

“During Child Passenger Safety week, we want to remind all parents to register their car seats and take action when a recall occurs. This is a cost-free remedy the manufacturer provides — and must provide — to protect your child,” Brazelton said.

In addition to filling out and mailing in the registration card that comes with the car seat, you can also register at and check to see if a seat's been recalled at

Powell kayakers rescued from Buffalo Bill Reservoir on Tuesday

A fast response from local search and rescue personnel may have saved the lives of a Powell couple on Tuesday, the Park County Sheriff's Office says.

The couple  Daniel P. Thomas, 34, and Jenny L. Thomas, 32  reportedly went into the Buffalo Bill Reservoir shortly before noon, when their kayaks overturned.

Witnesses later told the sheriff's office that Jenny Thomas flipped first and her kayak immediately sunk; the strong winds then toppled Daniel Thomas' craft, but it stayed afloat. The couple clung to the remaining kayak, but the wind pushed them south and further from the shore, Park County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lance Mathess wrote in a Tuesday evening news release.

The Buffalo Bill Reservoir, as seen from the dam. Cody News Co. file photo by Matt Naber
The Thomases had reportedly been kayaking about a half-mile west of the Buffalo Bill Dam and 200 yards from the reservoir's north shore.

"Both victims were dressed only in shorts and a t-shirt and neither was wearing a personal flotation device," Mathess said.

The sheriff's office was notified at 11:59 a.m. and search and rescue personnel, a deputy and a Buffalo Bill State Park Ranger were immediately dispatched.

"When rescue personnel arrived, both subjects had been in the water for over 20 minutes," Mathess said.

Members of the search and rescue team used an inflatable rescue craft to reach the Thomases around 12:40 p.m.

Once back on shore, they were treated for hypothermia at the scene by an ambulance crew from West Park Hospital.

"The deputy on scene stated that he believes the victims would have most certainly succumbed to hypothermia if it weren’t for the quick and immediate actions of the search and rescue personnel," Mathess wrote
Sheriff Scott Steward said recreationists should always wear flotation devices while on the water.

"The deputy on scene stated that he believes the victims would have most certainly succumbed to hypothermia if it weren’t for the quick and immediate actions of the search and rescue personnel," said Lance Mathess, a spokesman for the sheriff's office

The sheriff's office highlighted data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicating that, of the hundreds of people who die in boating accidents each year, around 90 percent were not wearing a personal flotation device.

"They are an essential safety measure regardless of your swimming abilities,” Steward said in the release.

Sep 13, 2015

Yellowstone's Spruce Fire swells to more than 1,100 acres

A wildfire burning in Yellowstone National Park's backcountry swelled from less than an acre to more than 1,160 acres between Wednesday and Saturday evening.

The lightning-caused Spruce Fire is about 10 miles west of Fishing Bridge and two miles south of Hayden Valley in a remote, central portion of the park, the National Park Service says.

The Spruce Fire, as seen Saturday from Dunraven Pass. Photo courtesy Neal Herbert, National Park Service
When park service personnel discovered the fire on Wednesday, they described it as about a tenth-of-an-acre and "creeping" through a wooded area.

However, warmer temperatures and lower humidity allowed the fire to grow to roughly 425 acres by 11 a.m. Saturday and those conditions plus some westerly winds helped it nearly triple to an estimated 1,164 acres some seven hours later, the park service said.

With conditions remaining dry, park officials expected the Spruce Fire to remain active, keep growing and to put out "a very visible smoke column" on Sunday.

"Although smoke from the fire is visible throughout the park and surrounding communities, no park facilities, structures, trails, or roads are threatened and there are no closures in place," the park service said in a Sunday morning news release.

The park service said the Spruce Fire "continues to play its natural role in the ecosystem and is being managed for its benefits to park resources."

Crews monitoring the fire by helicopter reported a typical mosaic pattern of burning in the lodgepole pine forest, with patchy burning inside the fire’s perimeter, isolated torching of single trees, and only a small amount of crowning when fire activity picked up on Saturday afternoon, the release said.

The fire can be seen from a webcam at the Mount Washburn Fire Lookout:

A wider angle view of the Spruce Fire from Dunraven Pass. Photo courtesy Neal Herbert, National Park Service

A much smaller fire, the 5L4 Fire on the Promontory Peninsula at the south end of Yellowstone Lake, was reported on Aug. 24, is currently 16 acres and not very active. Crews are also managing this fire for its benefits to park resources, the Park Service said. Backcountry campsites 5L3, 5L4, and 6A1 continue to be closed.

 The fire danger in Yellowstone National Park is currently listed as high. There are no fire restrictions in place, but campfires are only allowed in designated grills in park campgrounds, some picnic areas, and specific backcountry campsites.

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