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Mountain News: Grenades still flying, but wolves are here



JACKSON, Wyo. — Wolves in Jackson Hole last week were doing what wolves do best: chasing bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and elk.

In other words, wolves are doing well on this, the 20th anniversary of their reintroduction of wolves into what, in the United States, is called the Northern Rockies.

The reintroductions began in January 1995 when 14 wolves from Canada were released in Yellowstone National Park's Lamar Valley. They were supplemented by later releases in Yellowstone and also central Idaho.

From those first few dozen the population grew to 1,749 wolves in 2011, although the total has now fallen back to 1,592, reports Jackson Hole News&Guide's Mike Koshmrl.

Koshmrl talked with Ed Bangs, now retired, who oversaw the wolf reintroduction for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He described them as big, bold, adaptable, and resilient predators.

"Once you turned them loose in really good habitat, they did really, really well," Bangs said. "It's not like we were really smart."

The 1995 releases came with great controversy. Renee Askins, director of the Wolf Fund, an advocacy group, said that even after the federal government put out a plan for "nonessential experimental populations" in Yellowstone and Idaho, prospects looked grim.

"Western agriculture had been in control of the politics of the West for so long that no one thought there was a chance in hell it would ever fly," said Askins.

"Inch by inch by inch," she said, "it did fly. Both politically and logistically, it took that. It was about changing the culture. It was about changing the national public in a way that empowered them to want to achieve something."

Bangs thinks the controversy has generally died down. "I think the average person is kind of over it," he said.

But extremists on both ends have kept the dispute noisy. "It takes two to maintain a dysfunctional relationship," Bangs told the News&Guide. "You've got the wolf lovers and wolf haters still lobbing grenades."

Grizzly cubs rarely survive their youth

BANFF, Alberta — Last spring, two sow grizzlies emerged from hibernation in Banff National Park, one of them from a den that had forced Lake Louise to close a portion of the ski mountain.

The two sows each had two sets of cubs. None of the cubs survived. All are believed to have been killed by large male grizzlies.

Wildlife experts tell the Rocky Mountain Outlook that the numbers illustrate just how hard it is for bears to survive to breeding age.

"There's a reason they stay with their mothers for three or four years," said Mike Gibeau, a grizzly bear expert. "It's too much to hope for that routinely cubs of the year will survive. All odds are stacked against them, though some pull it off."

If older male grizzlies don't get the cubs, trains, and sometimes cars also do. Several grizzlies were killed by each type of transportation in Banff during recent years.

Robert Craig's interesting life

KEYSTONE, Colo. — From war to high mountains to peaceful negotiation, what a life Bob Craig had.

Craig, who died recently at age 90, had grown up partly in Seattle and was on the first naval ship to arrive in Nagasaki, Japan, after the atomic bomb was dropped. From 1953 to 1965, he was the first executive director and chief operating officer of the Aspen Institute. And while in Aspen, he was co-founder of the Aspen Center for Physics.

He owned and operated a ranch near Aspen and then, after the Keystone ski area opened in the early 1970s, he moved to Summit County to found the Keystone Center.

And along the way he climbed mountains. He led the first attempted American ascent of K2 in 1953 and his book, Storm and Sorrow, about a harrowing expedition in the Pamir Mountains of Asia, remains a staple of mountaineering literature. He also spent a decade in the industrial design industry.

At the Keystone Center, which Craig founded in 1975, the goal was to address complex environmental and public policy issues by applying the discipline of science and bringing all relevant stakeholders to the table.

Among the issues the Keystone Center addressed were nuclear waste, biotechnology, AIDS research, and a myriad of natural resource topics.

The Summit Daily News talked with mountaineer Tom Hornbein, one of the first Americans on Everest. Now living in Estes Park, Colo., Hornbein said that Craig was "a consummate mountaineer. He was a caring catalyst with a patient ear and an uncanny ability to guide you without your ever knowing you were being steered."

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