Recent comments

  • Reader Participation Day: What "Must Have" Article Do You Pack for a National Park Visit?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Of course that would be my digital camera with a 12 zoom (for all of the animal shots!), brand new memory cards, and extra batteries!! Even if it's the same park we've been to a few times before, I can't help taking tons of pictures. And one of these days I'll have them all scrapbooked!

  • Refuge Watch, A Good Site To Bookmark on Your Browser   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Thanks, Kurt! The plug is much appreciated. Your site was a big inspiration in the creation of Refuge Watch.

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    To distill a whole bunch of research (google "ecology of fear" wolves sharks) into a couple of sentences:

    Wolves in Yellowstone don't kill large numbers of elk, but the presence of wolves makes the elk stay away from the stream beds where they are more vulnerable to wolves. The per elk impacts on riparian willows (and thus beavers & trout) are greatly reduced. [William Ripple and several others.]

    The same thing happens with sharks & dugongs, dolphins, seals, & maybe turtles in Shark Bay Australia: in seasons when the sharks are present, the dugongs & turtles stay away from the seagrass beds with the more nutritious seagrass species where they're vulnerable to sharks, and forage on the edges of beds near deeper water where they are safer but the seagrass is less nutritious. [Mike Heithaus & his students; I suspect there is some cool video on his website or maybe by searching Heithaus on youtube.]

    Because they've moved to lower quality habitat away from streams more elk die of starvation (directly and indirectly) and fewer elk are born, so the population size of elk is reduced from what it would have been without wolves. But, for population dynamics, the alternative is a much larger population of elk, large enough to again increase death from starvation and reduce fecundity, and greatly impact the vegetation and the rest of the ecosystem in the process.

    What I don't know about (and I think no one knows about) is what the elk response to wolves would be in Theodore Roosevelt NP: would the elk be chased out of the areas that are most sensitive to elk overgrazing & trampling, or do the areas where elk are most vulnerable to wolves not align with the most sensitive areas as they do in Yellowstone? Until we know that, introducing wolves might possibly make the elk impacts on the ecosystem worse instead of less.

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    As the author alluded, one of the options that has been considered to help balance the elk population of Rocky Mountain NP is the reintroduction of wolves. When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone some 14 years ago, the benefits to the park's environment were quickly seen: "Changes in elk grazing behavior have allowed streambed vegetation like willow and aspen to recover from years of overbrowsing, and these re-established trees provide habitat for native birds and fish, beaver, and other species." (Cite: Meanwhile, populations of elk and other species that wolves prey upon have continued to thrive.

    Of course, wolf reintroduction carries its own set of controversies. Not everyone is happy to find wolves in the wilderness, even in our national parks. But I, for one, would much rather see the "excess" elk become food for wolves and other predators than to see them picked off by sharpshooters. If we must manage our wilderness, let's use nature's tools instead of just our own.

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Thank you to everyone who has commented on the post - I like hearing your perspectives, and am glad that so much thought has been given to this topic.

    I want to second Kirby's point, that the ecosystems in which the elk live are important. I agree wholeheartedly. I intended for the post to convey that we should do something about the overpopulation, not that the elk should take over at the expense of the ecosystem or be allowed to multiply until they ate their way to starvation, in writing this:

    I understand that a strained ecosystem ultimately will result in pain for the elk and other species, and that we must address the issue.

    I also wanted to raise the question of whether the method of control proposed is in the best interest of the elk (in balance with the ecosystem) or simply the best solution for humans.

    For example, the Park Service proposed several alternatives in its draft Environmental Impact Statement, including relocation and birth control. I recognize that pursuing these options may or may not be possible at this time, and that shooting the elk may be the only answer, at least for now.

    But I believe that when we are looking at killing something as a long-term solution, it's important to ask the question of who benefits. In this way, we can move closest to making the best decisions for what lives in our parks.

  • So Beautiful, So Endangered   5 years 32 weeks ago


  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Other than that park, there is NOTHING to see except sunflowers.

    And some of the most critical migratory waterfowl habitat in North America - in potholes, reservoirs, and lakes across the state. North Dakota has a lot to offer if you're inclined to look at nature with ecology-tinted glasses. Which leads to this:

    I don’t have all the answers, but I think about those bulls, and I want us to make these decisions with the greatest thought and consideration for them.

    This is not how we need to approach natural resource management, conservation, or even preservation. On any level, we need to be focusing on ecosystems rather than species. The charismatic megafauna stir the emotions, as in Donna's experience, but we do a disservice to the very animals that inspire our love for nature if we start emotionally separating them from the ecological systems with which they are inseparable. An overpopulation of any grazing ungulate is disastrous for an ecosystem (reference whitetail deer here in Michigan) and the remedy has to be prescribed with the greatest thought and consideration for the health of the ecosystem, not the resident species of greatest popularity.

    These moments that define our connection with nature, our Biophilia, as E.O. Wilson calls it, are a treasure of being human. But they must be a catalyst for an intellectual approach to conservation of ecosystems.

    Like Donna, I don't have the answers, but I do think the proper questions are clear. "What is best for the badlands and grasslands of western North Dakota?" should trump "What is best for the elk?" The answer to the latter is simply, "See question #1"

  • National Parks Lost A Strong Advocate With the Passing of Art Allen   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I've been a participant in Art Allen's and listserves since 2003. His efforts in developing these listserves have brought many former National Park Service employees and managers in close contact with each other. He managed these two listserves as "free speech zones" but discouraged commentary that amounted to personal attacks.

    Over these years, I had the privledge to have had personal correspondence with Art. I found Art to be totally dedicated to the National Park idea. He was also concerned about the need to improve and maintain high professional standards amongst NPS managers and staff.

    A little-known fact few people knew about Art is that he was Edward Abbey's supervisor when Ed was stationed at Arches Natonal Monument during the early 1960's.

    Some years ago, PJ Ryan, editor of "Thunderbear," conducted an outstanding interview with Art. This article can be found at

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Search Under Way for Missing Hiker in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Thank you, Michele, and all of the East Rowan High School friends. It is comforting to know so many people are praying for us.


  • Too Many Deer in the Nation's Capital? Rock Creek Park Holds a Public Meeting on Wednesday   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Deer have become so tame in DC and MD. I was walking on my front yard and a fawn and mother stood 10 feet away. I finally shouted and stepped forward and they moved off. I was at a trap range and two deer stepped right onto the range and grazed. They do not care about the shots nearby. Obviously these deer are not hunted and too used to humans to have much fear.

    Rock Creek Park is denesly used park with bikers, hiker and cars. It is too small to allow hunting safely.
    The deer population has risen with dogs being leashed so they have less to worry about being chased by dogs. Lack of human hunting and landscaping and cleared land with strips of woods allow deer good grazing and access to the land.

    Really the only limit on deer are car crashes and starvation. Cars probably account for the largest deer killed than any other cause.

  • Mammoth Cave National Park Finds "Sister Parks" In China   5 years 32 weeks ago

    This is great! I live near the Stone Forest but am an expat from America. I'll have to visit the Mammoth Cave National Park next time I'm in the U.S.!

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Theodore Roosevelt National Park is not very big. I can see it becoming over-populated quite easily. Also, it's in North Dakota. Have you been there before? Other than that park, there is NOTHING to see except sunflowers. Let the good farmers of North Dakota enjoy the opportunity of putting 100% natural meat on their table, eh?

    The writer of this article is very idealistic and unrealistic at the same time. Welcome to the top of the food chain. Elk is tasty! You really ought to try it.

    We've learned a lot about how to control these populations, and I trust the Dept. of Fish and Game to take care of it.

    This comment was edited to remove a gratuitous comment.--ed.

  • By the Numbers: Death Valley Weather   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog often.


  • Search Under Way for Missing Hiker in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Several of us that were at East Rowan with Andrew are praying and checking for updates. I so wish that Andrew, you and your parents weren't going through this, we are all sending positive thoughts your way.

  • Search Under Way for Missing Hiker in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I am the Uncle of the missing hiker, Andrew Brunelli. Thank you for all the coverage.

    Just browsed thru the Missteps pages on your Website, I am an avid outdoorsman but still had no idea the # of folks that get into trouble in the Nat. Park system.


  • Search Under Way for Missing Hiker in Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 32 weeks ago

    All of us hope that your brother will be found safely. I've put out the word on the travel sites I know about - any information at all will help.

    Somebody has to have seen him on Grandview Trail or near Hance Creek.

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I live in western central ND and I can tell you that the ND Game and Fish already have hunting in the areas of the TRNP, north and south units, just not in the units. There are some natural predators, such as mountain lions, that live in the area as well, so much so that there's actually a hunting season for them as well. I am a conservationist, but I'm also a hunter. I see both sides. If a population is too large and there aren't enough natural predators, the only way for the animals to go, besides being killed by a hunter, is by a slow painful death caused either by low food supply and/or a harsh winter. Last winter was very bad, but amazingly it didn't effect deer numbers or elk numbers as bad as was originally thought. This coming winter, according to the Farmers Almanac, is supposed to be even worse.

    I see nothing wrong with the Dept. of Game and Fish either putting out more licenses or finding the weak and sick elk and removing them from the herd population. Knowing that they could die a slow rough death from starvation or killed by winters frosty grips is quite heartbreaking. I love wildlife, always have from a very young age, growing up n ND and in the cascade region of WA. I know that the reason most animals are in parks is to keep them safe from our growing numbers and cities and the danger that are posed by both, when it's because of us and our ancestors that they are there in the first place.

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Very interesting article and first comment. Both demonstrate the humanization of the wild, but not much knowledge of the ecological complexities that make the system work. I would like to ask Donna how many small Willows she noticed where the Bull Elk lay to rest. My guest would be not many. They are a favorite Elk food and have been desimated. Along with the Willows went the Beaver, Otter and the park water table. This is the reason the National Park Service recommended managing the Elk. On the other hand, Rocky Mountain Park is not the Ponderosa Ranch. Ranger/Cowboys shooting across the plains miss the lesser noticable Elk that are in the thickets. The rangers will only keep the Elk away from the Willows the small time they are there. The eco-damage is being done in the wetlands 24/7. I would highly recommend reading "Where the Wild Things Were" by William Stolzenburg. This comment borrowed greatly from his chapter on Yellowstone. In his book he documents the willows problem and a solution found in Yellowstone. I salute fellow naturalist and there help understanding the ecosystems.

  • What's Brewing in the U.S. Senate In Terms of National Park-Related Legislation?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    S. 1596 would place Gold Hill Ranch under BLM control, but as a historic site--an early Japanese immigrant settlement--it would seem NPS would be a more suitable overseer (assuming the site is considered worthy of federal management). The ranch might counterbalance the internment centers in the telling of the Japanese- or Asian-American experience.

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I was wondering how to explain, without it sounding trite, the magnificence of these animals, how to put into words the size of them, bigger than any horse I’ve ever ridden, and how it felt to interact with them for those few moments, across the boundaries of species and worlds. How it felt, most importantly, to touch their wildness.

    You did a great job of explaining. You are quite a writer.

    While I agree with your concern for the humane treatment of these elk, and I abhor shooting them, you must consider the alternative (that is presumed by this amateur as the reason for this proposed action): the torture and slow death of starvation. While we must work on better solutions, these will take time, too much time for the elk of today.

  • Too Many Deer in the Nation's Capital? Rock Creek Park Holds a Public Meeting on Wednesday   5 years 32 weeks ago

    No, please don't bring in local bow hunters -- or any kind of hunters whatsoever. Remember this is a thin little sliver of a park (not a forest by any definition) in which people live and use roads to commute. Children go to the planetarium and get pony rides at the horse center. Are you proposing to close down local roads such as Beach Drive for such a hunt? During rush hour or on the weekends?

    Birth control is the most sane choice. It won't pose any danger to the neighbors or our kids -- those of us who actually use Rock Creek Park.

  • Refuge Watch, A Good Site To Bookmark on Your Browser   5 years 32 weeks ago

    A good Website to explore

  • Too Many Deer in the Nation's Capital? Rock Creek Park Holds a Public Meeting on Wednesday   5 years 32 weeks ago

    ... but not simplistic to conclude that the hunt did not effectively reduce the moose population, which continues to grow.

  • Creature Feature: Invasives At Biscayne National Park Often Come By Sea   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Anonymously yours -

    An interesting solution. Sounds like it's a marketing challenge - and opportunity.

    Perhaps the key is to convince people these fish are the latest "in thing" for dining, and let the marketplace have at it.

    Anybody have a good contact at the Food Network?

  • What's the Best For Elk In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    The sentiments expressed in this article are very nice, poetic and idealistic. In reality, elk populations in our national parks are just a managed game animal, as cattle are on a big ranch. Elk just happens to attract big spending tourists who live in big cities perpetuating "what we call civilization". Management requires maintenance of a stable, healthy population in which all aspects of mortality are considered. Increased 'harvesting' happens to be a decent revenue gainer and far less complicated than wolves present in numbers large enough to make a difference. Not to mention what these predators would resort to when the elk population was reduced (predator populations have to be managed also, with human based solutions, i.e Alaskan wolves).
    So, wilderness means "a place much less comfortable than one's city abodes", but it no longer, and never will, mean " a place without human intervention". Be glad that these places exist to give people a respite from there civilized city dwelling and don't fret over how elk meet their end or romantic ideals of "wilderness" ethics.