Showing posts from November, 2009

the First Necropsy

The horror that the elk calf must have felt, dodging in and out of thick dog-hair stands of young lodgepole pines.  Snow showering down upon her as she frantically runs through the small trees, looking for some sort of escape.  None would present itself; they were right on her heels, there was nothing she could do.

The only remains of the calf’s carcass were the hide, a front leg, and the frozen rumen contents of mulched grass.  It had been picked clean, and there was not even a curious raven in the area.  The previous day, I had spied an abnormally large amount eagles (golden and bald) and ravens in the young forest near Harlequin Lake; this was a sure sign of wolf activity indicating a recent kill.  We had known the wolves were in the area that day.  A collared wolf from the Cougar pack had testified to their presence.  By that evening, the kill had been made.  Booming signals from the collared wolf could be heard and scavenger activity was high.  The next day, after assuring that th…
"If you're running from an elk, just make sure you're not running into a thermal pool."  Such was the wisdom provided by Claire Gower, a biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks who completed her PhD on this same research project 2 years prior.  With 10 years of experience working on the project, we listened intently to every word she said.

We had arrived in Yellowstone late last Friday night.  The darkness made the drive up the Madison River unfamiliar (even though I had driven that section dozens of times), but I could feel the excitement rising within me as we continued on.  The locals (i.e. the maintenance folks) at Madison Junction had turned the heat on prior to our arrival, making the unpacking and settling-in process quite comfortable.  There was much to do over the next two days; Claire had sacrificed her weekend to train this season's two person research crew (Megan and myself), which otherwise would have had no training and, concurrently, no id…

The Silent Encroachment of Winter

Winter is coming, but it is hard to tell.  Bozeman nearly reached the 60's today, and I played frisbee golf comfortably with a T-shirt on.  But I am wary, for soon, the cold winter days and nights will be forcibly made real in my life.  In approximately 10 days, I will be entering Yellowstone National Park, not as a casual observer, but as a research technician.  I suspect that my entry into the park will have the familiar feelings of arriving "home," for I have spent much time within the park and am quite familiar with it.  But it will be quite different as well.  As clearly stated in the research manual, "doing research in the world’s first national park is by no means a right, rather it is an incredible privilege—one that could quickly be revoked.  We are dealing with extremely high-profile, controversial, and sensitive resource issues with a variety of stakeholders, and thus we are held to much higher standards of conduct than researchers might be elsewhere.&quo…