Survival of bighorns in Tetons a mystery

This is from the Jackson Hole News and Guide. It’s about how 100 bighorn sheep struggle to survive in the heights of the Tetons. It is a marginal existence, but the destruction of the bighorns of the Snake River Range and other mountain chains to the south and southeast, which would provide better habitat is not due to human development like the article says.

It is sheep, domestic sheep, disease-spreading domestic sheep.

Story by Cory Hatch in the Guide.


  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I predict that there will be a die-off of the Bighorns starting with the capture and collaring of twenty of them. Bighorns are very tolerant of humans as long as they are not hunted or captured. This sounds like another study-them-to- death project.

  2. kt Avatar

    Larry –

    I was thinking the same thing. Maximum stress, maximally applied.

    Sort of like the sage grouse researchers that put radios on sage “grouse chicks and then the predators proceed to eat all the chicks … and so the study finds predation is a BIG BIG BIG problem.

    Steve Herman, an Evergreen College Biology Prof, wrote a wonderful journal article about the profligate use of radios to “study” wildlife.

    Here is the Abstract:


    I find considerable evidence that wildlife management has broken partially free of its roots and is showing signs of malnourishment. It also is beset with various ailments, including addiction to technology, lust for statistics, professional hubris, and the delusion that research and management are synonymous. The wildlife management discipline started as applied natural history, and most of its star practitioners were broad-based naturalists, intimate with the landscapes and organisms in their charge. There are reasons to believe that the wildlife profession would do well to regraft itself to those natural history roots, especially in view of the changing roles that will be manifest as this century comes of age.”

  3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    About 12 years ago, I remember a series of editorials by conservation biologist Reed Noss in the scientific journal Conservation Biology about the near disappearance of natural history as a scientific endeavor. He too decried “addiction to technology, lust for statistics, professional hubris, and the delusion that research and management are synonomous.”

    I have to agree. As a conservationist and a naturalist, not to mention a hunter, I too have become increasingly unhappy with the passion for manipulation of animals that characterizes wildlife and game management today. What ever happened to going into the field and becoming part of the landscape, the way Olaus and Adolph Murie did? These men–brothers–were giants of 20th century conservation partly because they were among the most accomplished naturalists of their day. Their studies of wolves, grizzly bears, coyotes, caribou, and elk–all of which were based upon years of field data personally collected–are still classics of natural history.

    Of late, E.O. Wilson stands out as one of the few remaining naturalists of note in the scientific profession. And he’s retired.

    Ditto for Jane Goodall, that extraordinary primate naturalist.

    As I get older, I find it necessary to focus more and more on natural history, which is a practice as well as a subject, as the wellspring of conservation as well as of my own physical and mental health.

    Operationally, we as conservationists must understand that our efforts must primarily be oriented toward the protection, creation, and expansion of wildlife habitat, particularly habitat dedicated to wildlife, where wildlife have the priority, not human beings. That policy doesn’t exclude humans, but it does recognize that human action must be oriented, as Aldo Leopold argued in his presentation of the Land Ethic, toward our becoming and being citizens of the natural world rather than its conquerors.

    Further, we need to start thinking of our public lands as refuges where conservation is the priority, with only compatible uses allowed. This approach, which is that of the U. S. National Wildlife Refuge System, ought to replace “multiple use,” which has proven to be a disaster for land and wildlife conservation.

    The practice of natural history in specific places is one way to learn to think about land in the right way. Leopold’s land ethic is more important now than it was sixty years ago; it has yet to be implemented as conservation policy. An expansion of the “refuge” concept, as described above, would help make the land ethic a reality.

    That’s what I’m working toward.

  4. JB Avatar

    I think a big reason why researchers have moved away from observational methods of research is that they feel they have reached the limits of what this type of research can tell them. To some extent this is inevitable, as science drives us to answer new questions, researchers find there are things they cannot learn simply by using their five senses. We have even seen this progression within researchers. For example, much of Dave Mech’s early work was observational, but more recent studies moved away from this method.

    The good news is that technology has provided another tool that *I think* is encouraging more observational studies: Cheap, remote controlled video cameras, especially those with infrared, are allowing researchers to collect data on species without even being onsite. In fact, now that I think about it, I believe Dave Mech was running a study on wolves in Yellowstone using remote cameras from Minneapolis. I don’t think they’ve published anything yet?

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    That’s most likely true, but the move to technology also involves a certain amount of forgetting that all the little things that scientists now study are integrated in reality. We know less about reality now than we did before the five senses were declared incompetent.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan