Mountain High 

Old Man Winter rode the Hellgate winds into Missoula last week, dusting the valley with snow and priming schussers for a cold and early winter. Snowbowl skiers and snowboarders should note that NOW is the time to buy season passes—come Nov. 7, unlimited pass prices increase from $449 to $514; student passes from $406 to $471; and weekday-only tickets from $289 to $344. Got questions? Call the Snowbowl phonetree at 549-9777.

This year’s lackluster huckleberry crop has Montana’s bears hungry, leaving the relative safety of the mountains and dropping down into the populated valleys. According to one advocacy group, 24 bears have been killed in recent months throughout northwestern Montana, with five grizzlies and several black bears killed in the Swan Valley alone. This dramatically surpasses the number deemed “sustainable” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan and is raising the alarm among those paying attention.

Obviously, garbage cans provide quicker calories than digging up tubers or tracking down berries, and to help keep bears from knowing this, the Swan Ecosystem Center is fund raising to buy 12 bear-resistant trash bins to place throughout the valley. Interested parties can call 754-3137 to chip in.

Hunters using off-highway vehicles (OHVs) to scoot deeper into big bull country are reminded by the U.S. Forest Service that motorized cross-country travel on Montana’s national forests is illegal. Yes, even if you’ve shot The Big One way up high and are too fat or lazy to drag it back to your rig without crying like a baby, the law applies.

And while it might seem obvious, you can’t hunt in national parks! Glacier N.P. superintendent Mick Holm states that “Violators will be charged with federal felony and/or misdemeanor charges…and are subject to the confiscation of all equipment, including firearms [and] vehicles.” In-park poachers must dodge aerial surveillance, check stations, plain-clothes operatives and unsympathetic hikers seeking refuge from the season’s bullets. As always, anyone with information about illegal hunting activity in the park can score fat rewards for busting park poachers by calling 888-7800, or anywhere in Montana by calling (800) TIP-MONT.

Overwhelming comments have caused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reopen public comment on the National Bison Range’s draft Annual Funding Agreement for 15 days. Interested parties can e-mail their comments through Nov. 4 to: draftafapublic comments@fws.gov.

Rare is the person interested in trekking across Iceland and exploring Europe’s largest glacier and desert en route. Not rare, however, is the armchair trekker keen on checking out their fellow Montanan’s feats. Check out international trekmeister and adventure program director at Western Montana College Steve Mock for a slideshow of his arctic adventure at the Trailhead on Oct. 29 at 8 p.m. Call John (543-6966) for more info.

Missoula’s biggest new-and-used ski/snowboard sale takes place Oct. 30–31 at the annual SOS Sale at the University of Montana’s Adams Center. Drop off gear on Saturday from 9 to 5 and shop the next day. First-timers should note that this is a very popular sale—deal-savvy, coffee-wielding skiers line up hours before the gates open for first dibs on screaming deals.

Looking to get into the season’s first snows? Then join New Rocky Mountaineer Gerald Olbu on Halloween as he bags nearby Sweeney Peak on a trip he says might be better with snowshoes. Hike up then down for two trail-miles before the going gets good as you head off trail to the 9,161’ summit. Call 549-4769 for more information.

Rocky Mountaineer Steve Niday (721-3790) is hankering for three days of undetermined alpine fun on Glacier N.P.’s east side Oct. 29–31, and folks looking for this kind of Halloween experience should give him a call.

Gallatin County is going to bat for rock climbers by buying 2,000 acres of excellent and accessible rock on private land east of Bozeman known as Rocky Canyon. The deal’s not finalized yet, but it is intended to improve access and end the trespassing tradition long-established by spire-ogling climbers driving by on I-90. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on a tentative buffalo hunting season next to Yellowstone N.P. Currently, FWP intends to issue 25 bison-hunting licenses for use this winter, at a cost of $75 per tag ($750 for nonresidents). Several western states hold bison hunts, although Montana’s last hunt more than a decade ago was so unpopular, due (in part) to its lack of fair chase, that the Legislature shut it down. If you’ve got thoughts on this, mail them by Nov. 26 to: Bison Hunt Regulations, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 1400 S. 19th Ave., Bozeman, MT 59718. Regulations and supporting documents can be found online at http://fwp.state.mt.us/. Alternative perspectives can be found at www.buffalofieldcampaign.org, a website for the bison advocacy group Buffalo Field Campaign (B.F.C.)

The B.F.C. maintains that as long as bison are managed by the state Department of Livestock, they won’t share the habitat protections of other wildlife and should therefore not be treated as game animals. Their point was substantiated just last week when the livestock agency hazed and killed an adult male buffalo grazing 200 yards outside of the park boundary.

Before voting on Nov. 2, free-roaming bison sympathizers might note that Democratic candidate Brian Schweitzer has stated that bison will experience a greater level of tolerance if he’s elected to the state’s top spot. Republican candidate Bob Brown has called current bison management strategies as “effective” at keeping herd numbers low as it is at protecting Montana’s $850 million cattle industry.

Send your outdoor play schedules to: photo@missoulanews.com.

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