2014 A year to forget for wildlife

By on December 31, 2014
After a number of residential ‘field trips,’ Grizzly 760 was put down much to the dismay of many valley residents. PHOTO: THEHOLEPICTURE.COM

After a number of residential ‘field trips,’ Grizzly 760 was put down much to the dismay of many valley residents. PHOTO: THEHOLEPICTURE.COM

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – The year 2014 will be remembered as tough on wildlife. From an unfortunate moose fatality in the Gros Ventre to an elk bloodbath in the park to a high-profile grizzly removal, the passing year has been brutal on the valley’s most cherished assets.

It began with a bang from a Remington .223 at a private inholding within Grand Teton National Park when an unidentified person shot and killed a grey wolf that was allegedly harassing livestock. The investigation lasted nearly the entire year. A December report, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the News&Guide, revealed two violations were issued in the incident.

Wolves won a reprieve of sorts on September 23 when a court ruling nixed the upcoming lobo hunt just weeks before it was scheduled to commence and placed the hotly debated species back under federal protection.

Full-on carnage began in late September with news that a cow moose tripped over a picnic table and fell into a fire ring, injuring her severely enough that park rangers were called out to put her down in front of her calf. Initial reports varied on who was at fault. Some blamed aggressive photographers jockeying for position. Others say a bull moose in the area harassed the cow.

Jason Williams’s excellent piece, “What really happened at the Gros Ventre Campground?”– penned days after the incident provided to be the best eyewitness account and helped many find closure with the tragedy. Williams ascertained the cow’s poor condition – she was nearly blind from an eye infection – and the rutting bull moose that pestered her contributed more to the incident than crowding shutterbugs.

Anna Sullivan’s pictures and video support the claims that the cow moose was not unduly agitated by human presence in the campground. Rather, she seemed to be taking evasive action against the unsolicited lust advances of the bull.

Game and Fish guru Mark Gocke. PHOTO: WYOMING GAME & FISH

Game and Fish guru Mark Gocke. PHOTO: WYOMING GAME & FISH

In early October, Planet JH interviewed Game & Fish spokesperson Mark Gocke, who talked about bear problems. Despite a good berry crop, four black bears (a mother and her three cubs) were spotted on numerous occasions getting into trash in East Jackson. They were darted and relocated to Squirrel Meadows.

Grizzly 760, meanwhile, had spent most of the summer skirting trouble in the Aspens and the John Dodge subdivision on the West Bank. It was the beginning of the end for that notorious descendent of well-studied grizzlies 610 and 399. The four-year-old sub-adult of 610 was put down in late October after recurring urban interface conflicts in Clark, Wyoming, following relocation there in late summer. The killing sparked public outcry, culminating in nearly 119,000 online signatures and counting decrying the actions of heavy-handed officials.

News of random poaching and wanton destruction of elk and mule deer caused concern for Wyoming Game & Fish throughout the hunting season. All attention turned toward Jackson Hole in November when an estimated 30 hunters launched about two dozen bullets into a frenzied elk herd during Grand Teton’s elk reduction hunt. Local photographer Tom Mangelsen spearheaded a movement against the practice of what he called poor sportsmanship and “a display of totally barbaric hunting.” Eight to 10 elk were harvested in the massacre.

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Two of the three St. Bernards caught and killed in traps outside of Casper. PHOTO: WYOMING UNTRAPPED

Even domesticated animals were not exempt from inglorious headlines. The November 2013 incident in Red Top where a dog was caught in a fox/coyote trap was trumped late in 2014 after three dogs were trapped in snares at the base of Casper Mountain near Casper. None survived. By the end of 2014, Lisa Robertson’s Wyoming Untrapped announced it had made strides toward crafting county regulations that would significantly curtail fur trapping in Teton County.


About Jake Nichols

Jake is a work in progress.

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