Sunday Apr. 20, 2014
A blog focused on the outdoors
Life in the Ourdoors of MontanaLife in the Ourdoors of Montana

MISSOULA — The Boone and Crockett Club says any game scouted or taken with the help of drones or other unmanned aerial vehicles is ineligible for entry into its records program.

"Boone and Crockett likes to, as much as possible, set the standard for fair chase," said

Richard Hale is the chairman of the Missoula-based club's big game records committee.

Hale tells the Missoulian that Boone and Crockett likes to set the standard for fair chase as much as possible.

The club defines fair chase as the ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.

Hale noted several states have banned the use of drone-aided hunting.

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BILLINGS — A new home is being sought for a group of roughly 135 bison that came through an experimental program to see if animals from Yellowstone National Park can be used to establish herds in Montana or elsewhere.

After earlier attempts to move them ran into opposition, more than 80 bison captured from the park and their offspring have been held since 2010 on a ranch near Bozeman owned by philanthropist Ted Turner.

Under a deal hatched by former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Turner cared for the animals and gets to keep 75 percent of the offspring. That's expected to be more than 150 bison after spring calving.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wants to pass the remaining animals over to public agencies or organizations interested in starting "conservation herds."

Yellowstone bison are highly prized for their genetic purity.

Federal animal health officials tested the bison proposed for transfer twice annually since the first were captured in 2005 to make sure they don't have brucellosis. That's a disease that can cause pregnant animals to prematurely abort and is carried by about half of Yellowstone's bison.

Officials say proposals to take the bison on Turner's ranch are due by April 30. They could be moved by November when the state's agreement with Turner expires.

Wildlife officials said interested parties will have to show how they intend to manage the bison, including whether hunting will be allowed and future population size objectives.

Another group of bison that went through the disease testing program were transferred to the Montana's Fort Peck and Fort Belknap tribes in 2012.

The move came over intense opposition from livestock groups and some state lawmakers, who continue to worry about brucellosis and the potential for bison to compete with livestock and knock down fencing.

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Montana's Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet in Helena April 9-10 for a work session with the Parks and Recreation Board and for its regular business meeting.

On April 9, the commission will meet with the Parks and Recreation Board to informally discuss issues of mutual interest, including the new board's strategic plans and commercial use rules.

The work session, at which no official action will be taken by the F&W Commission or Park and Recreation Board, is set for 3-4:30 p.m. at Montana Wild, 2668 Broadwater Ave., next to Spring Meadow Lake State Park off Highway 12 West.

An official Parks and Recreation Board meeting will follow at 4:45 p.m., with a dinner for the commission and the board at 5:30 p.m.

The regular Fish & Wildlife Commission business meeting will be held April 10 at FWP Headquarters, 1420 E. Sixth Ave., beginning at 8:30 a.m.

At the meeting, the commission will take final action on Paddlefish Grant Committee membership; fishing access site rules; the Bitterroot mountain lion hunting season; a risk management plan to impede the transmission of brucellosis from elk to livestock in southwestern Montana's Paradise Valley; a limited peregrine falcon take for falconry for 2014-15; a 320-acre addition to the Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area west of Bynum; and grazing and farming leases associated with eight wildlife management areas.

Items proposed for public comment include commercial use rules on FWP lands; quota adjustments for the 2014 moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat seasons; 2014 mountain lion hunting season quotas; and a bighorn sheep exclusion area in northern Montana's Missouri Breaks to control potential transmission of diseases between domestic and wild sheep.

FWP will also seek the commission's endorsement to pursue a pine marten reintroduction plan in central Montana's Belt Mountains and hear a presentation on the agency’s fishing regulation-setting process.

For the full agenda and additional information, visit FWP's website. Click “For Commission Information."

FWP ensures its meetings are fully accessible to individuals with special needs. To request arrangements call FWP at 406-444-3186.

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JACKSON, Wyo. — Federal managers of the Yellowstone region's grizzly bears say their work on the Endangered Species Act delisting process may be done this fall.

Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator Chris Servheen says the work involves completing a threats analysis.

He tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide that when the analysis is complete, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may decide whether to propose delisting. That would begin another process of proposals and public comment that could go well into next year.

Members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee's Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee heard a report this past week in Jackson about the effort to change the protection status of the region's grizzly bears.

Committee members unanimously agreed in December to support ending Endangered Species Act protections.

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YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — Bicyclists will be able to travel on nearly 50 miles of roads accessible from the West Entrance into Yellowstone National Park starting on Thursday.

The roads into the park from West Yellowstone to Mammoth Hot Springs will open at 8 a.m. Thursday.

There is no bicycle access to Old Faithful or Canyon until the first interior park roads open to motorized vehicles on April 18. The road from the North Entrance at Gardiner, Mont., remains open all year as weather permits.

Park Service officials warn bicyclists heading into Yellowstone must be prepared for harsh weather. Snow and ice may still cover sections of road.

Bicyclists could encounter bears, bison, elk, wolves and other wildlife at any time. No services are available along the road.

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The public is invited to discuss the future of uphill travel at Whitefish Mountain Resort at an upcoming event hosted by the Flathead National Forest.

Due to a string of recent violations, including a close-call involving skiers traveling in an area where explosives were being used, the resort has announced it is considering changing the rule that allows skiers to hike up the mountain to make their turns.

The topic will be the subject of the next “Flathead Forest Friday” on March 21 at the Pin & Cue located at 6570 U.S. Highway 93 South in Whitefish. The no-host breakfast chat starts at 7 a.m. Attendees will learn about the efforts the FNF is taking to better enforce the policy and what is at risk with continued non-compliance. Leaders from the forest hope to hear from attendees their ideas on how to improve compliance and any other thoughts on the policy.

In 2010, Whitefish Mountain Resort and Flathead National Forest worked together to establish an uphill traffic policy and supporting Special Order to maintain access to public lands, reduce risk to uphill and downhill skiers and minimize disruption to resort employees and operations. Resort management has recently expressed concern about continued non-compliance with the uphill traffic policy. The Forest Service is working with WMR to find ways to maintain public access, increase compliance, improve public safety and reduce conflict with essential operations of a ski resort.

If you plan to attend or have any questions, please notify Public Affairs Officer Wade Muehlhof at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or (406) 758-5252.

RELATED: As Uphill Traffic Rapidly Increases, Skiers Reminded to Follow Rules

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The public is invited to the annual public meeting focused on the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex on Saturday, March 29 at the Choteau Library in Choteau. The event begins at 10 a.m.

Attendees will have an opportunity to meet with the wilderness managers and state wildlife staff, who will be focusing on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. All of the participants will be asked to share their connection to the wilderness. Updates will also be provided on specific activities and projects, and ongoing monitoring across the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. The monitoring and actions are a piece of the Limits of Acceptable change for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

The BMWC plan was developed by interested individuals, partners and agency representatives. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is comprised of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Great Bear Wilderness and Scapegoat Wilderness and jointly they are an area of more than 1.5 million acres. This is the third largest wilderness complex in the lower 48 states. The complex is managed by four national forests (Flathead, Lolo, Helena, and Lewis and Clark) and five ranger districts (Spotted Bear, Hungry Horse, Seeley Lake, Lincoln and Rocky Mountain).

Recently the Forest managers and Fish and Wildlife staff prepared the annual BMWC newsletter which is available on the Flathead National Forest website under Special Places.
This newsletter gives background and highlights of information that will be shared at the public meeting.

For additional information, contact the Spotted Bear Ranger District at (406) 387-3800.

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Two black bear cubs cling to a tree overlooking U.S. Highway 93 south of Whitefish in 2012. The cubs spent the afternoon lounging in the bare branches with their mother and two other cubs. File photo by Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon

Montana’s hibernating black bears and grizzly bears will soon be stirring.

Adult males usually emerge first from winter dens in mid-March. When bears emerge from their dens they are physically depleted and food is a priority.

Bears are often tempted to go where raccoons and domestic dogs are getting into garbage. If these animals are already causing problems near-by, consider it an early warning that food attractants are available and need to be removed.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ bear experts stress that conflict prevention steps can greatly reduce the chances of attracting black bears and grizzly bears.

FWP recommends bear resistant bins in communities and on ranches; electric fence systems to protect bee yards and sheep bedding grounds; random redistribution of livestock carcasses each spring; and educational programs in schools and communities.

FWP’s “Be Bear Aware” page online is an easy way for homeowners and landowners to assess what they need to do now to prevent bear conflicts. Go there for tips and tools on obtaining and using bear spray, safe camping and hiking, access to bear resistant products and a guide to other items that attract bears to a property.

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