Local bear sanctuary celebrates 12 years

By MEGAN AHERN/Montana State News

Montana Grizzly Encounter a Bozeman bear sanctuary and public education center, commemorated 12th successful year on Jan. 17. Co-owner and founder Ami Testa had two reasons to celebrate. Not only did it signify the sanctuary’s continued success, Testa added that the day also marked the birthday of the first bear adopted by the sanctuary, Brutus.

Brutus, now 14, was rescued from an unethical breeding program when he was just weeks old, according to Testa. He lived in the Testa household with her, her husband Bill Testa, and their black lab, Jett, until the sanctuary was completed in 2004, according to Ami Testa. Since its completion, it has served as both a sanctuary for grizzly bears and a center for public education, she said.

The educational aspect is a key component of MGE, and intern Morgan Kimball says, something that can prevent bear and human fatalities every year. The lectures presented at the sanctuary aim to teach visitors that fear of grizzly bears is unnecessary when one is armed with the knowledge to prevent, minimalize, or inhibit a wild encounter, Kimball said.

Ami Testa said, “People do not protect what they fear, they fight for and protect what they love. Grizzly bears need protection.”

Continue reading “Local bear sanctuary celebrates 12 years”

Watercourse has kids doing adult science

By DANIELLE MARTIN/Montana State News

Stephanie McGinnis has a large, faded blue folder on her desk. It is held together with a rubber band and stuffed with an assortment of papers, CDs and packets.

Students in the Swan Valley take water samples for a Montana Watercourse project (photo courtesy of Diann Ericson.
Students in the Swan Valley take water samples for a Montana Watercourse project (photo courtesy of Diann Ericson.

As insignificant as it looks, this folder represents ten years of water quality data for the Swan Valley, one of the largest and most continuous collections in the state. Even more interesting, the data was collected entirely by elementary and middle school students.

McGinnis is the education and outreach coordinator for Montana Watercourse in Bozeman. This grant-funded nonprofit coordinates the Volunteer Water Monitoring program (VWM), a program that trains participants to routinely perform water quality testing in their area. According to the training manual, this is so that “they may make informed decisions regarding local water quality issues.”

“It’s really important for these young students to get out there and collect the data, [and to] understand what water quality is, [and] why water quality is important,” said McGinnis.           Continue reading “Watercourse has kids doing adult science”

Agency seeks peace between wolves, humans

By REBECCA MARSTON/ Montana State News

Within a region, populations of wildlife cannot exist in isolation; changes that occur in one population will affect all of the others. This has proven especially true over the decades for Montana’s gray wolves.

That’s where state agencies like the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks come into play: One of their main goals is to preserve and manage the animal populations that reside within Montana. With a state full of large, elusive and sometimes dangerous mammals, this is not always an easy task.

According to their website, the FWP’s “wolf team” consists of a group of experts with over 35 years of combined experience dealing with wolves. They work throughout the state, “monitoring the wolf population, investigating wolf reports, working with landowners, and doing public outreach.” Continue reading “Agency seeks peace between wolves, humans”

Howler’s Inn a haven for wolves and people

By CODIE WYERS/Montana State News

When looking to purchase a bed and breakfast, finding one for sale that comes with a wolf pack is anything but ordinary, but this is just what happened to Montana State University professor Chris Bahn.

“We were looking for a bed and breakfast and just happened to fall in love with one that had a wolf sanctuary,” he responded when asked how his wolf sanctuary came about.

Until he and his wife purchased the bed and breakfast, Bahn claims he didn’t know much about wolves. He said, “When we first purchased the inn, we were immediately taking care of seven adult wolves. I have since become very educated about the animals and have raised five from puppyhood to adults.”

Wolves are now a large part of Bahn’s life, and it seems as if he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Very few people get to interact with wolves. Plus, they are very expressive with affection. My alpha female likes to sit on my lap and suck on my thumb,” Bahn laughs. “They also interact differently than a dog because of their intelligence. It’s a difference that’s hard to explain.” Continue reading “Howler’s Inn a haven for wolves and people”

Lawmakers expand Montana wolf hunt

By CODIE WYERS/Montana State News

The Legislature passed and Gov. Steve Bullock has signed into a law a measure to expand wolf hunting in Montana.

House Bill 73 allows an individual hunter to hunt more wolves during the given wolf season (dates for the 2013 season are still pending). This bill allows hunters to use electronic calls to entice wolves in and does not require hunters to wear orange like they do during the regular elk and deer hunting season.

This bill also prevents the state wildlife agency from banning wolf hunts in areas around national parks such as Yellowstone; these changes will take effect in the upcoming wolf hunting season for 2013.

Gov. Steve Bullock said this bill was backed by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks saying, “The department did support it, and at the end of the day we need to base these decisions on science, not on politics, and allowing more than one, three wolves to be taken, it fits with the science.” Continue reading “Lawmakers expand Montana wolf hunt”

Couple enlists citizens in wildlife mapping effort

By REBECCA MARSTON/Montana State News

Sporting an oversized beard and worn-in outdoor clothing, Steve Gehman looks like the iconic Montana mountain man – someone who could start a fire with sticks or catch a fish with his bare hands. However, this Pennsylvania-born college graduate came to the western wilderness to pursue biology, specifically, wildlife tracking.

“There’s a feeling here when you’re in the backcountry, that you don’t get in other places – places that don’t have grizzly bears, or don’t have wolverines, or don’t have wolves,” Gehman said. “That wildness I’ve really connected with and value as a part of my experiences here.”

For the past two decades, Gehman and his wife, Betsy Robinson, have been studying elusive carnivorous species in the Northern Rockies, primarily wolverines, lynx and fishers. Continue reading “Couple enlists citizens in wildlife mapping effort”

Public invited to track rare species

By REBECCA MARSTON/ Montana State News

Wildlife biologists plan to once again collaborate with the public this winter to track rare carnivores in the Gallatin Range.

Wild Things Unlimited, a nonprofit organization started by biologists Steve Gehman and Betsy Robinson, has been raising public awareness for almost 16 years about the movement of rare mammals – such as wolverines, fishers and lynx – throughout the Rocky Mountains.

This is the second year that the public has been recruited to help professionals track these animals through the Citizen Science program. More eyes on the ground lead to more accurate and complete data for the organization, according to program organizers. Continue reading “Public invited to track rare species”

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