Update November 10 – 11: YWP Patrols through the Storm

“The polar vortex hasn’t kept the hunters away, so we can’t let it stop us.”

Freezing temps

Sunday evening, an arctic storm blew in, dropping temperatures below 0 with wind chills down to a frigid -45 degrees. Despite this, we’re committed to patrolling areas of high hunting activity in the Gardiner area.

(Warning: Graphic photos)

On the morning of the 10th, after spotting a herd of elk roaming the top of a ridge, we heard the unmistakable sound of gunshots. After a half dozen rounds were discharged into the crowd, one elk had been fatally hit, and a figure in blaze orange emerged from the nearby forest to claim his kill. We monitored the area for hours afterward, watching the hunter gut and process his trophy. After the guts were removed from the body cavity, the hunter made the convenient decision to kick the remaining carcass down the ridge, tumbling and falling hundreds of feet, to provide a more comfortable weight for his descent down the mountain. The gut pile left intact to rot, we believed it imperative to have eyes on the top of that ridge as long as needed, to be sure no wolves or other predators would be baited into an early death at the hands of a hunter seeing an advantage.

Hunter gutting elk

Hunter gutting elk

As night grew closer, team members attempted to ascend the mountain, only to prematurely abort due to falling darkness, extreme temperatures, and the prospect of predators. The following morning, however, we successfully completed our trek, and reached the gut pile with plenty of daylight for better observation. Upon reaching the peak and coming in contact with the remains of the elk left behind by the hunter, we noticed the tell-tale footprints of predators and scavenging birds; we suspect magpies or grey jays. The view from the top was nothing less than surreal, and we remained invigorated to defend this homeland of the wild & majestic grizzlies, wolves, and others to which we feel innately connected.

Despite the frigid temperatures, we’ve remained committed to monitoring numerous areas of high hunting activity, and to continue seeking out areas we’ve recognized as suitable for locals to dump carcasses in their attempts to bait predators. We are actively watching regions where Yellowstone wolves have been killed in the past two weeks, including just over the boundary, where elk continue to migrate in search of suitable winter habitat. While Wolf Management Unit (WMU) 313 has been closed due to a filled quota, we remain vigilant & on the ground in WMU 316, where one wolf stands in the way of yet another filled quota, and other WMUs in the surrounding area, where quotas remain non-existent.

The top of this ridge is where we found the gut pile.

The top of this ridge is where we found the gut pile.

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