Note the article below is wrong about the opening date of most of the Park’s interior roads. It is not March 2, but April 20.

I am at Yellowstone Park right now. It is April 11, and the snow on the Park’s northern range is deeper than I have ever seen it by far, even in late February. The bison and elk are dropping over. Most of the elk have fled the Park and are doing fine on public and private ground near Paradise Valley. The bison leave the Park and are quickly loaded up by Montana DOL and hauled off to slaughter.

Finally, on Saturday the first real warming is predicted. A little bit of grass is starting to grow on some of the Park road edges. North of Mammoth on the Park’s only winter true range, all the vegetation that can be eaten is gone. The snow is mostly gone though too. The grass is coming up everywhere, but it is perhaps 1/8 of an inch high. Pronghorn, which seem to be doing OK, are everywhere eating it as well as elk and a few bison who luckily have not crossed into Montana’s “kill all bison quick zone.”

The snow in the Lamar is so deep you can’t photograph over many of the plowed banks. Elk are hanging on by standing on south-facing slopes where the wind thinned the snowpack, and has now melted.

The few remaining bison (100 or so?) lie in the snow too weak to eat or stagger down the road looking for the occasional blade of new grass.

Amazingly we saw two whitetail deer at the Yellowstone River bridge just past Tower Junction! How did they get there and survive?

Heavy snow breaking plows in Yellowstone. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

16 Responses to Heavy snow breaking plows in Yellowstone

  1. avatar todd says:

    Ralph,

    If you have them, a couple of pictures of the snow in Lamar Valley would be very much appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Todd

  2. I’ll do it when it get home. I just tried to insert my SDHC card into my laptop, but it only recognizes SD flash cards.

  3. It’s very high.

    This was a few weeks ago, but it’s not much lower. See http://www.yellowstonemagic.com/picturesofweek/lamarvalley0308.jpg .

    The bison look terrible, and they do keep moving north. I saw this and had several other friends independently confirm this.

    At least 500 buffalo have died during the winter that have not died from being killed by hunters or the government. I’m scared to know what the next buffalo count will be.

  4. I’d say it’s even deeper now. Those bushes are covered!

  5. avatar JEFF E says:

    A comment from another blog
    ” By Glenn Hockett, 4-11-08
    I and a friend just returned from the Gardiner area. As we were driving south of Livingston this morning we passed a caravan of stock trailers and police-type government vehicles heading north, apparently full of captured bison heading for slaughter plants at undisclosed locations. Unfortunately, as we neared Yellowstone National Park we witnessed another needless bison hazing operation by Park Service and Department of Livestock (DOL) personnel. As elk, antelope, mule deer, bighorn sheep and other wildlife all moved freely to winter ranges north of Yellowstone Park, the bison were forced back south by government agents at tax payer expense to areas of little forage and/or the federal Stephens Creek Capture Compound and Wild Bison Feedlot.

    Furthermore, a number of migrating bison were shot today by government agents sometime before noon this morning. These Montana bison had nearly made it to the wildlife-friendly winter ranges on the 5,000 acre Dome Mountain Ranch just below Yankee Jim Canyon. I was told the owner and manager would not have let the DOL trespass on their property to harass or kill Montana bison. As the manager put it, these Montana bison were 300 yards from making history.

    Again, we saw vast herds of elk, mule deer, antelope and other wildlife that depend on this habitat provided by both wildlife friendly private and public landowners in the area. This is all part of a critical corridor to the 4,789 acre Dome Mountain Wildlife Management Area which was purchased with sportsmen’s dollars where hundreds if not thousands of elk are already wintering. All this critical winter range is for some unknown reason mapped as a drop dead zone for Montana bison under the existing and failed interagency bison management plan. What a shame and thoughtless waste.

    The private and public property rights of those who truly cherish wild Montana bison are being arrogantly stomped on here by both State and Federal politicians and government agents. This is ridiculous. The Montana governor and Congressional delegation needs to hear from all of us.

    Let the bison be. There is a vast public and private landscape here where Montana bison would be welcome if we would just let them be. Where we need to, let’s protect a few cattle and the private property owners who have yet to make a little room for wild Montana bison in their hearts.”

  6. Yes, I saw this this morning. The late afternoon before I watched them file out of the Park.

    When I got to Yankee Jim Canyon this morning, Montana DOL was herding the last five toward a trailer.

    DOL has gotten very efficient. No fuss, just a public service.

    Soon folks will be eating them as buffalo burgers. Maybe they could market them . . . “a delicious part of America’s national treasure in each bite.”

  7. It just keeps snowing. Every time I go to the park it snows. The bison are going to start dropping calves any day now, and if they are not allowed outside of the park to do it what chance are those little calves going to have in all that snow?
    They keep talking 3,000 bison left. I wonder what the real count is going to be after all is said and done? There are carcasses all over the place out there. They fall and get covered up with snow. I remember a conversation I had with a hunter friend a couple of years ago about the whole predator/prey/ecosystem thing. He was insisting that there is no such thing as Winter kill! Yeh, right! Another example of how little some “outdoorsmen” know about the outdoors.
    Those white tails have been near the Tower bridge for about three weeks! I have no idea what they are finding to eat. Maybe some grass down near Calcite?

  8. avatar kim kaiser says:

    jsut for reference, if you are familiar with the lamar valley, there is NO evidence of sage brush, the snow is still that deep, the bison and elk have yet to track it up looking for food along the river. It is completely smooth, like an underlying lake.

    acutally, Bozeman activist it is higher, there have been several good snows…the south facing slopes of lamar are beginning to show and we are expecting 50+ temps tomorrow so hopefully, some will get off the grass and they can get some relief.

    ON A SIDE NOTE<, i am not real familiar with the bull elk and there timing of dropping there antlers…. many around mammoth and lava creek droppped weeks ago, however, the at least two winter killed bulls and several other bulls are still carrying there full weaponry.. and i am not talking bout the little rag horns,,,could someone enlighten me on why they havent dropped them yet.

  9. avatar kim kaiser says:

    correction and clarification,, the bulls in the lamar have not dropped there racks

  10. avatar Save bears says:

    Amazing, simply amazing…I am at a loss to what to say…

  11. avatar Save bears says:

    By the way Ralph, the interior roads start opening on the 18th of April this year..

  12. avatar vicki says:

    Does anyone have an idea of how this much snow will effect the auquatic life in the park?

  13. avatar Save bears says:

    Vicki,

    In what way? This has been as close to a normal snowfall season in Yellowstone as we have had in the last ten years, so I am kind of confused by your question, I would suspect it will actually benefit the aquatic life in the park.

  14. avatar vicki says:

    I am asking, since there has been so little precipitation in lthe last decade, should this help the cutthroat? I wonder if it will help by bringing water levels outward, towards vegetation, in some areas?Maybe therefore helping trout?
    I remember in 1996, there was an overflow of water onto the road through the Hayden Valley. I also remember seeing more bison there that year than I have in so long.

  15. avatar Save bears says:

    I don’t know, that would be a good question for the fish biologists in the park..I don’t know if increased water levels actually effect the current situation by the lake trout vs. cutthroats, it would be interesting to see…

  16. avatar vicki says:

    I would assume that lakers will try to follow the cutthroat, but probably require cooler, deeper water. So one would hope that they cutthroat might have a small reprieve, perhpas being able to reach a bit farther out onto a shallower shore line. It would be a good question for biologists.
    I also wonder what it will do for bears. I wonder if the moisture will effect the moth population? Will it keep bears higher? Will they look for fish in shallower waters? Will it help with plants that they eat? Will it keep more elk at lower elevations, or push the elk higher? How will the wolves be effected? I am sure it will have a big impact, I just have to wonder for how long?

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