A nine-year study of cougars in the Yellowstone National Park has found that nearly half of the big cats they tracked were infected with the plague-carrying bacteria Yersinia pestis at some point, according to a paper published last month in Environmental Conservation.
The Y. pestis bacteria is behind the Black Death, the mid-1300s epidemic of bubonic plague that in five years killed over 20 million people in Europe. These days, only about seven people catch Y. pestis each year in the United States. The bacteria lives in the soil, gets picked up by fleas living on rodents, and infects other creatures on its way up the food chain. The new evidence in cougars, also known as pumas and mountain lions, shows how flexible and dangerous the pathogen is in different hosts.
The study was conducted on cougars in the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, specifically in Jackson Hole, the valley east of the Grand Teton mountain range and south of Yellowstone National Park. â€œYou start to get a clear picture of how hard it is to be a mountain lion in Jackson Hole,â€ biologist and co-author Howard Quiqley tells Mike Koshmrl of Wyoming News. â€œIf you get to be an adult mountain lion in Jackson Hole, youâ€™re a survivor.â€
According to witnesses, a group of approximately 50 people were within 5-10 feet of the bison for at least 20 minutes before eventually causing the bison to charge the group. https://t.co/ThjGGamn7m via @billingsgazette
A 62-year-old Australian man who ventured to within 3 to 5 feet of one bison was seriously injured Tuesday when the animal charged and tossed him into the air several times, park officials said in a statement.
This is the second such incident within weeks.
A 16-year-old Taiwanese exchange student was gored by a bison on May 15 while posing for a photo.
Jezebel joins the New York Times in mourning the untimely death, this Wyoming hunting season, of fashionista Wolf 832F, widely admired for her successful career as wildlife runway model, her spectacular fur coat, her $4000 tracking collar, and her world-wide fan club.
[T]he New York Times reports that 832F, the very photogenic alpha female of the park’s semi-famous Lamar Canyon, was shot and killed on Thursday beyond the park’s boundaries thanks to state-sanctioned wolf hunts in Wyoming.
The wolf had been fitted with a $4,000 GPS collar as part of the park’s wolf-tracking program. Based on data gathered from the collar, researchers knew that the pack rarely ventured outside the park boundaries, and when they did leave Yellowstone, it was only for very short periods of time. 832F was considered among scientists and photographers to be something akin to a “rock star” in the lupine world (a photo of 832F snapped by wildlife photog Jimmy Jones appears in the current issue of American Scientist), and her sudden death has further stoked a debate about the wisdom of state- and federally-sanctioned wolf hunts in the northern Rockies.
Jezebel aptly proposes commemorating her death by watching CJ on West Wing discuss a similar case (3:10 video). Apparently it was just not possible in time to arrange for Elton John to sing Goodbye, Yellowstone Rose!
The female grizzly bear, referred to as the Wapiti sow, killed Brian Matayoshi on July 6, 2011 and then killed John Wallace on August 27, 2011, after officials declined to hunt the bear responsible. The Wapiti sow was finally trapped in late September and euthanized October 2nd after four days of forensic analysis and chin stroking.
Jessica Grose, in Slate, describes how the swift and hearty justice dealt out to man-killing grizzlies in simpler and less-grovelly-toward-Nature times has been replaced by a new intensely ethically conscientious regime that will only kill bears which are deemed to have behaved with “unnatural aggression” or which have been found to have eaten people.
In the bad old days, they knew what to do with man-killing bruins.
The first extensively documented death by grizzly within Yellowstone Parkâ€™s borders was the fatal mauling of 61-year-old government laborer Frank Welch in 1916. And the park’s first extensively documented judicial execution of a grizzly soon followed. Some historians suspect the bear that killed Welch was abnormally ill-tempered because his toes had been ripped off when he escaped from a trap in 1912. Whatever the bearâ€™s motives, though, Welchâ€™s fellow laborers decided that â€œOld Two Toesâ€ deserved to die for his crimes. Men from the road camp where Welch had been working placed some edible garbage in front of a barrel filled with dynamite. When the bear began to eat, they blew it to smithereens.
That was how grizzlies were treated if they injured humans in the early days of Yellowstone: They were killed.
Not today. Today, when Ephraim or Ephraimina takes out a tax paying citizen, there is the equivalent of a judicial procedure. There are major exculpatory loopholes. And even totally guilty bears are put down reluctantly, as big, salty tears pour down the faces of the responsible officials.
Every bear is pwecious, you see.
The euthanization of the bear known as â€œthe Wapiti sowâ€ was the culmination of a series of horrifying events that had gripped Yellowstone for months, and alarmed rangers, visitors, and the conservation biologists tasked with keeping grizzly bears safe. In separate incidents in July and August, grizzlies had killed hikers in Yellowstone, prompting a months-long investigation replete with crime scene reconstructions and DNA analysis, and a furious race to capture the prime suspect. The execution of the Wapiti sow opens a window on a special criminal justice system designed to protect endangered bears and the humans who share their land. It also demonstrates the difficulty of judging animals for crimes against us. The government bear biologists who enforce grizzly law and order grapple with the impossibility of the task every day. In the most painful cases, the people who protect these sublime, endangered animals must also put them to death.
Whenever a grizzly bear commits a crime in the continental United States, Chris Servheen gets a call at his office at the University of Montana in Missoula. Servheen has been the Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for three decades. …
Before Servheen, Gunther, and their bear management colleagues could decide what to do, theyâ€™d need a lot more information. Was a grizzly bear in fact responsible for this second death? If so, which bear did the mauling? And what were the circumstances that led up to attackâ€”was it provoked or had some hiker just been caught unaware? The answers to those questions would determine whether a precious animal would need to die. …
Wildlife biologists like Kerry Gunther help the park’s crime-scene investigators by speculating on a bear’s emotional state. Based on the evidence at hand, he tries to determine whether a given act of bear aggression might have been a natural behaviorâ€”the result of being startled while feeding on an elk carcass, for example, or seeing someone approaching her cubs. If a bear appears to have followed a hiker down the trail instead of backing off, or if it attacked campers while they were asleep, that would be more unusualâ€”the result, perhaps of a deranged grizzly mind.
If you blunder into a bear that is thought to have attacked and killed you out of natural aggression (you violated that bear’s space, dude!) or via an impulse of self defense, that’s just too bad for you. The bear goes free, as long as he refrains from dining on your pitiable remains.
The authorities in question reluctantly draw the line at actual predation, simply because they are afraid of the public response to tolerating man-eaters in National Parks.
The zero-tolerance policy for man-eating bears invites an obvious question, though. Once a bear kills someone, whether it’s out of some wild-animal psychopathy or a natural inclination to defend her young, why wouldn’t she eat the corpse? Everyone agrees that itâ€™s natural for grizzlies to eat carrionâ€”theyâ€™re scavengers, after all. When I ask Servheen whether grizzlies can get “a taste for human blood”â€”whether a grizzly that starts eating people-meat will desire it endlesslyâ€”he dismisses the idea. “Thatâ€™s for horror stories in movies,” he says. “Bears donâ€™t get a taste for human blood. Thereâ€™s no studies that show that.”
No studies show it, in part because every time a bear eats someone, they kill it. Not that itâ€™s something that would ever be studiedâ€”biologists would never want to take the risk of keeping a bear that had eaten a person in the greater bear population. “We donâ€™t want to test whether bears really get a taste for people,â€ Gunther explains. “The public wouldnâ€™t appreciate us using them as subjects.” That’s for horror movies, but it seems like even the bear biologists think there might be some truth to the campfire legends.
An amateur photographer with a habit of driving around inside Yellowstone National Park in his spare time taking shots of wildlife last month encountered a grizzly bear pursuing with intent an injured bison.
The photographs were taken around 7 AM at the Fountain Flats area, located between the Madison Junction and Old Faithful inside the Park.
The unfortunate bison had blundered into one of Yellowstone Park’s hot springs and was badly injured. As events unfolded, the bison managed to outrun the bear, but it was subsequently concluded to be too badly burned to recover and was put down by Park rangers. It seems a pity that the bear lost the race.
Hundreds of earthquakes have hit Yellowstone National Park, raising fears of a more powerful volcanic eruption.
The earthquake swarm, the biggest in more than 20 years, is being closely monitored by scientists and emergency authorities.
The series of small quakes included three last Friday which measured stronger than magnitude 3.0. The strongest since this latest swarm of quakes began on December 27 was 3.9.
No damage has yet been reported but scientists say this level of activity – there have been more than 500 tremors in the last week – is highly unusual.
“The earthquake sequence is the most intense in this area for some years,” said the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Some of the larger earthquakes have been felt by park employees and guests, according to the observatory.
The swarm is occurring beneath the northern part of Yellowstone Lake in the park. Yellowstone sits on the caldera of an ancient supervolcano and continuing geothermal activity can be seen in the picturesque geysers and steam holes, such as Old Faithful.
About 1,000 to 2,000 tremors a year have been recorded since 2004. …
Professor Robert B. Smith, a geophysicist at the University of Utah and one of the leading experts on earthquake and volcanic activity at Yellowstone, said that the swarm was significant.
“It’s not business as usual,” he said. “This is a large earthquake swarm, and we’ve recorded several hundred. We are paying careful attention. This is an important sequence.”
The last full-scale explosion of the Yellowstone Supervolcano, the Lava Creek eruption which happened approximately 640,000 years ago, ejected about 240 cubic miles of rock and dust into the sky.
Geologists have been closely monitoring the rise and fall of the Yellowstone Plateau as an indication of changes in magma chamber pressure.
The Yellowstone caldera floor has risen recently – almost 3in per year for the past three years – a rate more than three times greater than ever observed since such measurements began in 1923.
From mid-summer 2004 through to mid-summer 2008, the land surface within the caldera moved upwards as much as 8in at the White Lake GPS station. The last major earthquake swarm was in 1985 and lasted three months.