26 June 2019

The elk calves that were present a month ago have all but disappeared from the lower basin. It is difficult to know whether the calves were killed or the cow elk-calf pairs moved to a different location. There are still herds of cow elk that range in size from 10 to over 25 in the lower basin, just no calves. 

Wildlife throughout the basin has been more evident as summer arrives and riding the USFS grazing permit area before the cattle arrived allowed me to observe animal sign before cattle made trails more difficult to read tracks. 

Trails used by cattle are also used by wildlife

Trails used by cattle are also used by wildlife

Tracking

One of the best tools I have for recording the location of tracks is a program used my many hunters called OnX. OnX is an affordable and fantastic smartphone app that transforms a smartphone into a functional tool for range riding work. OnX is the top GPS hunting app and for good reason. This tool provides information for 121 million private properties, 985 million acres of public land, 421 map overlays and over 400,000 miles of trails. These layers allow one to identify not just private property lines but also different forestry sections on a topographical, satellite, or combination hybrid map.  OnX allows maps to be saved so that cellular service is not necessary to use the program.

OnX can track the location of the app user and you can mark locations and setup way points. For example, I came across this black bear print: 

Black bear track

Black bear track

I then used OnX to mark the location so that I can start to understand the basic patterns of where sign of bears and wolves are commonly found. As a result, I was able to see that wolves leave tracks to and from the stock tank from both directions while a small black bear only accessed it from one direction. Here is an example of plotting a point for a bear track using OnX:

OnXexamplebeartrack.jpeg


Using tools such as OnX to record wildlife movement can help us to have a better idea which areas are in-use habitat spaces for grizzlies and wolves. Since these in-use areas will shift due to the spatiotemporal availability of food resources, this information will be useful for informing land and livestock managers that wish to avoid high amounts of livestock-predator cross habitat spillover. 

-Sabrina Bradford, Tom Miner Range Rider

It is clear that bear and wolf used these trails before cattle were moved to permit. Cattle also use these trails to access water and pocket meadows.

It is clear that bear and wolf used these trails before cattle were moved to permit. Cattle also use these trails to access water and pocket meadows.