6/5/08: Our journey included a visit to West Yellowstone, and fortunately a visit to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in the town of West Yellowstone. The scenery I include here is also from the long drive it took to get here, including scenes from the Badlands in North Dakota, and the splendid Alpine views of Wyoming. I had mixed feelings about the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center: it was great to see the habitats and the bears and wolfs seemingly enjoying themselves. These animals, for the most part, had become too interested in humans and our food/garbage, or were discovered to be a potential danger to lifestock: so now are kept safe in the sanctuary. These animals will not be released into the wild, however they looked pretty relaxed and accepting of their enclosures. It was enjoyable seeing the bears find the hidden food, which is an activity that children can participate in (they hide the food for the bears, then get to see the bears come out and try to find where where it is hidden).
However, I also felt deeply saddened by the realization of what is going on worldwide regarding poaching to support the Chinese Medicine
trade & practice in Asia. I include some photos from the Discovery Center's own exhibits which do well at bringing light (once more) to what is going on with the bears across the world... mainly the harvesting of bear gallbladders, etc. For those who do not want to spend time with the thorough exhibits and reading the well-documented history of the bears and wolfs in America: you would no doubt find it enjoyable just spending some time watching the bears and wolfs being themselves. I did hear some negative comments from some parents who were herding their children about that there were not that many bears and wolfs to see. I felt that there were enough to see, and the educational value of the exhibits and presentations were certainly worth seeing. You will also see that I have included some scenes from our visit to the Yellowstone Park itself. There were a few close encounters with animals our first two days in the park (mainly buffalo and elk): we also took some great hikes into some alpine meadows (into bear country)... no bear sightings but (to be honest) I would rather see them safely from the car , than on
the hiking trail. :-)
I did want to mention a few things about what is going on with the wild wolf population in the U.S. Actually the following news article that came out on July 19th, 2008 describes things well and the exciting update that may have placed a positive twist to this potentially dire situation for the gray wolves of North America:
"Judge restores protection for Rockies Wolves
By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press Writer Sat Jul 19, 12:36 AM ET
- A federal judge has restored endangered species protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, derailing plans by three states to hold public wolf hunts this fall.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula granted a preliminary injunction late Friday restoring the protections for the wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Molloy will eventually decide whether the injunction should be permanent.
The region has an estimated 2,000 gray wolves. They were removed from the endangered species list in March, following a decade-long restoration effort.
Environmentalists sued to overturn the decision, arguing wolf numbers would plummet if hunting were allowed. They sought the injunction in the hopes of stopping the hunts
and allowing the wolf population to continue expanding.
"There were fall hunts scheduled that would call for perhaps as many as 500 wolves to be killed. We're delighted those wolves will be saved," said attorney Doug Honnold with Earthjustice, who had argued the case before Molloy on behalf of 12 environmental groups.
In his ruling, Molloy said the federal government had not met its standard for wolf recovery, including interbreeding of wolves between the three states to ensure healthy genetics.
"Genetic exchange has not taken place," Molloy wrote in the 40-page decision.
Molloy said hunting and state laws allowing the killing of wolves for livestock attacks would likely "eliminate any chance for genetic exchange to occur."
The federal biologist who led the wolf restoration program, Ed Bangs, defended the decision to delist wolves as "a very biologically sound package."
"The kind of hunting proposed by the states wouldn't threaten the wolf population," Bangs said Friday. "We felt the science was rock solid and that the delisting was warranted."
Bangs said government attorneys were reviewing Molloy's court order and would decide next week whether to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Federal and state officials had argued killing some wolves would not endanger the overall population — as long as numbers did not dip below 300 wolves. With increasing conflicts between wolves and livestock, they said public hunts were crucial to keeping the predators' population in check."
p.s. If you are touched regarding this blog entry about what is happening with the bears, there are many great charities out there trying to help them. I have mentioned and included a description in one of my blog entries of one that I have visited in India called "Wildlife SOS": they are helping primarily the Asian Sloth Bear, however have been involved in other rescue efforts for other animals (elephants, tigers, pythons, leopards, and the Sun Bear).
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