The "Real" World

Seems like I've finally stepped on someone's toes. Although that is never my intent, I am not surprised. After all, it only takes a few moments in the 'real' world to learn everyone has an opinion and rarely do they agree. Thus, to find my recent post Me! Love Me Not! has hit a nerve with at least one reader comes as no surprise.

My response: I read. I read a LOT. However, I read widely - both sides, various authors, different opinions. Then I form my own opinion. In other words, I believe logical thinking and plain ole' common sense play 'key' roles in getting to the bottom of issues.

To respond to their accusations: I guess if you feel it is 'placating' the rancher to not let Bison run wild (I'd like to see how 'city dwellers' would deal with Bison in their front yard) then it's only fair to say we're 'placating' Bison lovers when ranchers keep their cattle contained! I enjoy Bison as much as the next guy. They are an amazing animal - no doubt about it. And, I would be just as upset if someone were attacking their right to live in the Park as any 'green' person. But, to say they belong roaming the prairies, is, quite logically, taking it too far. And, although my opponent appears to see the cattleman as the 'bad guy', I happen to think they've earned their place on the planet as well.

As to "begreen's" comments about the Montana FWP. What, exactly, do we have state government and state agencies for, if not to do 'their' jobs? If our founding fathers had intended the federal government to 'govern' every aspect within the boundaries of our country, they would not, in their wisdom, have allowed that land to be divided into 'states' (with 'rights' to govern and control the land within their boundaries). And, for the record, I do believe the Fish, Wildlife, and Parks employees earn their scientific degrees from the same colleges and universities which the federal employees earn theirs. My point was the scientific community NOT the judicial community should be making these decisions. No judge, no matter how good he or she is at their job, is qualified to be the final authority on interpreting science. Yet, I believe that is what we are requiring of them. That is wrong.

While I'm at it, I'd like to clarify (if it needs clarifying) I am NOT A WOLF HATER! Nor am I a WOLF LOVER! I believe it shows the extreme bias of both sides when a person must be one or the other (and for the record, I am not a BISON HATER or a BISON LOVER). That is if you define 'wolf hater'as someone who wants all wolves dead, and 'wolf lover' as someone who want no wolves dead. Like every other issue in life, there is a balance out there.

In fact, I was appalled at two things I read this week. One was a report in the Jackson Hole News and Guide of a recent illegal wolf killing. I find that appaling. And, to be quite frank, it only hurts the cause on both sides because it tends to fuel the fires - pro and con!

Worse, however, was Dick Marler's article in this week's Island Park News. (scroll down to article "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf"). According to Dick (whose weekly article, by the way, is usually a LOT of fun to read), their is a lot of anti-wolf sentiment out there. So, while I express frustration over making our judicial system the last say in scientific affairs, I feel extreme disgust at this over-reaction.

I see it this way. If there is a need to shoot a wolf, shoot it. It there isn't, leave it alone! The wolf ought to be allowed no more and no less rights than the humans who inhabit the planet with him. If a man is attacking my child with a knife in his hands, I would shoot him. However, that doesn't mean I'm going to shoot every male in sight! The same applies to the wolf. If he's attacking livestock or people or pets, he has become a danger. I'd shoot him. Again, that doesn't mean I need to shoot every wolf I see.

In other words - I do not hold to the statement, 'The only good wolf is a dead wolf.' And, quite frankly, I know a LOT of people, both in and out of the agriculture community, who don't hold to that standard either.

So, let's not lump people into piles and say, you're either pro or con. There are a few educated, reasonable people out there who would like to see us co-exist. I happen to be one of them.

All this 'contention' makes me glad I can look out my window and see things working 'right', albeit a bit slowly. In fact, green has become the color of the hour. Bird song the symphony. Warm breezes the caress. Sunlight dancing on water the entertainment. Hardy yet beautiful wildflowers the heros! Boy am I glad I can be the

Lady of the Lake


Going, Going, (almost) Gone!

Finally! After eight months with measurable snow on the ground (at least off and on at the beginning), we are about to see the end of the stuff (at least mostly - I've seen it snow July 4th) - for about four months! Looking at it that way is depressing so I'm not even going to go there!

Don't get me wrong. I love snow! I love the look. The feel. The sound (or lack of). I like to play in it. On it. With it. I don't dread winter. I really don't. But, I have also lived my life in places where spring follows winter. Seasons in their proper order and succession. This year has challenged that!

However, I am thankful to report (and to remind myself) this is not the norm. In fact, one old timer from Island Park, Idaho (just over the Continental Divide to the east) - a man who has lived all of his 80 plus years in the same house - says he has never seen pastures ungrazable into the middle of May. Eighty years! Sounds like global warming to me (okay, I digress).

I am thankful, truly I am, for the great water year. The record snow pack combined with the snow's strong moisture density provided a LOT of water for our thirsty ground. However, if we had experienced a quick warm spring melt, much of that water would have run off down the valley to - well, eventually to the Gulf of Mexico.

As it is, there is very little water 'running' anywhere. Oh, the streams are flowing nicely, but even they show little sign of run-off. I'm speaking more specifically of water traversing down roads, in ditches and divets, across ground surfaces which normally do not feel the tickle of running water.

This slow spring coming has allowed the ground to absorb the melt. As one man said (of the snow in his own yard), "It hardly seems to settle. It more like melts back from the edges." Although we've finally seen a lot of 'settling', I observed the same phenomenon in my own yard. Shrinking snow soaking the earth's sponge.

On the other hand, I wonder how hard this slow spring is afffecting wildlife. Take the birds. Many have returned to the valley - bringing with them their lively activities and their cheery voices. However, with the snow receeding slowly, I wonder if they don't feel hunger pangs?

Call me soft. Say I think too much. I purchased a bird feeder this weekend. I have avoided putting one up (dispite the pleasure I get from watching the feathery friends who visit my outdoor diner) because they are considered bear bait by some. This year I couldn't help myself. And, maybe I was right. In little more than 24 hours, various little birds (Juncos, Finches, Chickadees, and more) have nearly wiped out 5 pounds of bird seed. So, either they're gorging themselves, or I was right.

Of greater concern, however, are nesting issues. Without adequate food, the birds dare not nest (although I've seen eagles and ospreys hard at it). So, with a short season here in the mountains, will my flighty friends have time to reproduce? I wonder.

Maybe worse yet is the larger animal's plight. While reproduction may be a real issue for some birds this year, they migrate. So, logically one wouldn't expect them to out distance their food source. Larger animals, however, are 'trapped', to a degree, in an area. Although they move up the mountain as the snows melt and the grasses green up, I do wonder if the elk, pronghorn, and deer will make it to their typical calving and fawning grounds before their 'time' arrives. Will they be driven to seek that sheltered nursery regardless of the weather conditions? If so, will they find feed for their own needs and those of their new offspring?

I'm glad I can rest assured God will care for His creatures. Otherwise these little details would keep me awake at night. But, I believe He cares for them much more than I do. So, I'll put out some more bird seed and hit the sack with a clear conscience!

Lady of the Lake


Love Me! Love Me Not!

I hit a deer the other day. Only the second in many, many years of driving. It still haunts me.

Call me soft. I hate to see something suffer. Hate to see things die. Worse yet to be the cause.

So, all the hubbub about wolf de-listing has me wondering. Why do some people put one animal's value above another? Why are wolves worth more than deer?

Should you argue, they aren't, let me beg to differ. We have over 1,500 known wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. While that may not seem like much, consider how many deer, elk, moose, pronghorn, etc. it takes to feed that many hungry animals. Considering an average wolf outweighs even our largest dog breeds, that's a lot of meat.

Of course, it doesn't stop there. Say only one-third of these animals mate this year. We're talking 500 breeding pairs. That means 250 litters. Say each litter produces five viable pups. That's 1,250 MORE wolves by the end of 2008.

Figure in natural mortality at a generous half, we're still talking over 2,000 wolves in the tri-state area by the end of 2008! That's a lot of hungry mouths to feed!

Looking at the Bison issue in Yellowstone this winter, one can anticipate the future. Although I can't imagine anything cuter than a Bison calf (okay, I'm a sucker for a cute face), I can't imagine a more painful way to die than starvation. So, it makes me wonder, why would someone prefer to see an animal starve due to over-population than see them put humanely out of their misery? Again, the equation just doesn't make sense to me.

Back to the deer I hit. That doe had as much chance against my car as she would against a pack of wolves. The panic in her eyes was no less real because her attacker was steel and fiberglass. And, while we're on the subject, why aren't environmentalists parking their cars to show us their empathy for the hundreds of thousands of animals killed annually on our roadways?

But, I digress. While many surrounding areas are seeing moose numbers drop, the Centennial Valley had a decent population going into winter. In spite of a dryer than normal summer, I observed a cow with twins. A rare sight. Sadly, along with many other calves, I don't think they survived the winter.

Why? Wolves! A pack (or maybe two groups) spent quite a bit of the winter feasting on moose and elk here in the valley. Where are the mourners? The protestors? The lawsuit to protect the prey?

A wolf or two or even three aren't too bad. They kill an animal here and there. They tend to take down the weak and injured (someone said that was all any wolf did). Get six to eight hungry animals and dinner time takes on the look of wholesale slaughter. Where is the justice in that? For that matter, where did we get the idea there was 'justice' to be found?

Why are judges not scientists the final say in what is best for the environment? I can't imagine seeking help from a wildlife biologist when faced with a lawsuit. Why do we let the judicial system decide the fate of our wildlife? What kind of mixed up mess is that?

Emotionalism. Legaleze. Words. These define policy. With no moorings, no clear standard of right and wrong, no final authority, anything goes! That's why groups can 'sue' over wolf de-listing. That's why emotional 'words' elicit such a wholesale (and, it appears to me largely unthoughtout) response.

Take a recent posting on Ralph Maughan's blog. Although I've found many interesting and enlightening wildlife-related articles on this blog, his recent posting (complete with photos) on wolves killed not long ago in Wyoming is reflects the emotional sensationalism and one-sided viewpoint so prevelant these days.

Words like, "Warning. . .the photos might disturb you" imply something unusually aweful. The photos are sad. No doubt. Any dead animal is a sad sight. In a perfect world obviously everything (and everyone) would live in peace. News Flash: This isn't a perfect world! So, where's the picture of a buffalo walking on its own intestines which are being pulled from the gash in its gut - put there by a wolf? What about the cow moose still haunting a kill sight and sporting a large rip in her rump, most likely from the wolves which killed her calf? Or, the dozens of dead (and uneaten) sheep, the leavings from a killing frenzy?

Mr. Maughan credits the anti-wolf folks with seeing the issue as an "almost entirely cultural resentment and conflict." I differ. I love seeing wolves. I love hearing them. They are wild. They are beautiful. They are deadly! I think it's when people forget the balance, that they become part of the problem, not the solution. A LOT of wolves is a problem. Scientists recognize this. Will the judicial system?

Scientists have determined we have a lot of wolves. Montana wildlife biologists support wolf de-listing. But, according to some environmental groups, wildlife biologists aren't qualified to make this determination. The judicial system is the current expert. That's what they are telling us (as I mentioned in most posting entitled Rex Lex.

No one said it would be easy. No one said we'd all get along. Obviously this isn't a perfect world. But, I'm home - back at Elk Lake - and that's about a perfect as it gets! (Photo courtesy of Gary Pumplin)

Lady of the Lake


Slow Spring Coming!

Believe it or not, the photo above while taken early January, doesn't look much different than the view that greeted my eyes April 23rd when I finally made it back to the resort.

Not that I haven't wanted to go home. Wanted might not be a strong enough term. I'm craving the peace, quiet and complete relaxation which only comes from returning home.

But, like my title says, it's been a slow spring coming! A wetter than usual winter. A cooler than normal spring. A slower than normal road department. All this, and more, has denied us access to Elk Lake.

In spite of the challenges, however, we gained our objective yesterday, via snowmobile.

We took advantage of a brief window - a window created by 6 - 8 inch of new snow, a couple of cold days which firmed the surface of the existing snow, and a beautiful, sunny day!

In spite of the winter drapery, signs of spring are visible (and very welcome) at Elk Lake. Several meadowlarks watched our arrival from their roadside perches. Many south facing slopes have shrugged off their winter cape and are soaking in the sun with obvious pleasure.

Moose are leaving the valley floor - although slowly - seeking out fresh grazing and the freshly sprouting shrubbery. And, as an aside, it is a GOOD thing because the wolves have been wrecking havoc on our moose population. It sure proves a few old fashioned winters with the current wolf population could end up descimating our moose and elk population. After all, weak from low feed, limited in their movements by the heavy snow, and lacking fangs and claws for an even fight, prey are definitely at a disadvantage!

But, back on track - new openings are appearing in the lake's ice. The spring near the lodge is flowing with merry abandon. Wolves, coyotes, foxes and numerous other prey animals are expanding their territory - with their tracks appearing all over the place.

The hawks are changing color - from their white winter plumage to their darker summer colors. In fact, I have even seen my first bluebird, always a welcome sign of spring!

So, if Beaverhead County would get on the ball and open our road, I'd be back home 'with bells on'! I dare not say spring is my favorite time of year at Elk Lake (since I've said that about every season at least once), but I this year, my anticipation of spring and my anticipation of going home are equally intense!

Lady of the Lake