Thursday, December 24, 2015

Do You Realize Now What You Have Done? (Wolves & Elk)

By Rena Wetherelt

I was there as a witness in the famous Montana Hunting District (HD) 313 standing above Deckard Flats, the first weekend of hunting season 2015, imagining the largest migrating elk herd in North America funneling en masse from their summer home in Yellowstone National Park, north to the alpine meadows of southern Montana, the winter range of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd.

I saw the vacant animal trails furrowing down the ridge from the horizon worn from the elk streaming single file in jagged rows, shrouded in a cloud of steam and spreading out across Deckard Flats like ants from a hill. My friend, Robert T. Fanning, Founder of Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, described how it was twenty years ago. Horsemen decked with orange riding in as the minute of pre-dawn came and the first shots of the season brought down the first bull elk of a hunting culture passed down since the earliest days of the western frontier. We were alone, except for a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MTFWP) Warden, there as a matter of bureaucratic habit to make sure no shots were fired before thirty minutes before sunrise-his presence unnecessary. There were no elk to harvest, no swarms of hunters to fire.

When MTFWP announced the closure of Deckard Flats to hunting a few days later, it was the most drastic bureaucratic admission yet of the failure of the experimental introduction a non-native species of wolf into the Northern Rocky Mountain ecosystem done by a public/private partnership twenty years ago. The recent question asked by Russian President Vladimir Putin crossed my mind. “Do you realize now what you have done?”

 The Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd numbered over 19,000 in 1995. 2990 Antlerless Permits were issued in HD 313 that year. The District was a General Tag area, home to moose, around 300 big horn sheep, abundant mule deer and antelope. People came from around the state to fill their freezer with wholesome, nutritious wild meat, crowding the roads and parking lots with horse trailers. Trophy hunters and adventurers from around the world converged on Gardiner and Jardine, Montana. Outfitters with pack mules and horses took paying visitors into the most beautiful backcountry, teeming with the wildlife nurtured there for more than a hundred years. The Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd was used to seed elk in areas all across the nation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As you read this realize it is about the tearing down of southwest rural New Mexico.
Little to no industries left, no lumber, no mining, no cattle, no hunting.
Ranches that once raised taxable cattle gone to non taxable bison and environmental extremists.
All about control by tax payer funded government jobs.
All the local and distant businesses loosing that depend on these.
Little to no county government services left that have been historically provided
such as affordable trash landfills or jails.
People self relocating themselves to more urban areas where it is easier to live.
, Wm.Nemesis