Mountain High 

Reporting about Yellowstone’s bison can feel remarkably like beating, um, a dead horse. Regularly throughout the winter and spring, government agents engage in tragic and/or bizarre “hazing” activities—yelling at grazing bulls, herding pregnant cows with ATVs through deep snow into capture facilities and obstructing critters from following their ancestral migration patterns.

But since these actions are in legal keeping with the haze, harass and slaughter policy laid out in the Interagency Bison Management Plan, and are the same techniques regularly employed to, ostensibly, prevent the return of brucellosis to cattle, reporters often lack the news hook to justify a story. Couple that with the fact that the events are often reported solely through highly emotional press releases from the watchdogs at the Buffalo Field Campaign and it can be difficult not to come across as shrill or biased when covering what nearly all involved parties consider to be a less-than-ideal management strategy.

The Indy has reported that bison are the state’s sole wildlife species managed by the Department of Livestock (DOL) and are therefore (not suprisingly) administered as a “species in need of disease management.” We’ve reported that tax dollars fund helicopter hazing and bison butchering, that cattle first introduced brucellosis to bison, that no cattle graze within 100 miles of the hazing games, that bison have never transmitted the disease to cattle, and that the government’s brucellosis testing methods are wildly inaccurate.

So reporting that the DOL is implementing the plan—as of press time, 18 bison have been slaughtered this year, 22 are quarantined and “about 20” are currently being hazed—might sound to anyone paying attention like a broken record.

Those looking to get their information from BFC veterans can go the Missoula Public Library at 7 p.m. on April 18. Bison activists Dan Brister and Stephany Seay will discuss at length a new plan to quarantine brucellosis-free bison for reintroduction and other current bison issues. Log on to www.buffalofieldcampaign.org or call Ted Fellman at 542-7343 to learn more.

This week’s Deal of the Week is the UM Outdoor Program’s “Birding and Beginning Canoeing Overnight” trip April 16-17, a Flathead River adventure led by master adventurer Dudley Improta and wildlife biologist Lee Metzger. These guys know more than they should about birding and boating, so anyone interested in either should secure a tribal rec. permit and drop an easy $20 for this opportunity. Call 243-5172 for the scoop.

The Five Valleys Audubon Society is hosting an intermediate birder workshop, a two-classroom, two-fieldtrip foray beginning at 7 p.m. on April 15. Under the tutelage of master birders Dick Hutto and Kate Davis (she’s bringing a bunch of her birds), you’ll bolster your identification skills and learn about eagles, owls, woodpeckers, warblers and more. Enrollment in the $20 course is limited, so call Anita Magee at 728-6464 to get in the game.

The Bitterroot Audubon is hosting a beginning birder class with two evening classroom sessions and two fieldtrips beginning April 21. Identification, optics, behavior, habitat, songs and migration are covered, and the whole thing goes down at the birding hotspot of Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Cost runs $25 or $20 for Audubon Society members, but registration is required, so call Leslie Nyce at 961-3808.

The Rocky Mountaineers are heading up Trail 99 in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area April 17 for a 12-mile roundtrip to Beeskove Creek. Leader Fred Schwanemann says there’s very little elevation gain, but call him at 542-7372 for more details.

Folks looking for a mellow footrace should hit the UM pharmacy school’s gASPing for AIR at 9 a.m. on April 16. Log on to www.runmt.com for more info.

The Kim Williams Trail Run, a 5K run/walk or 1-mile walk takes place at 6 p.m. on April 21, and for $13 you get a fine stroll and a killer T-shirt. Register early and save $2; call 243-2804 to learn more.

UM’s Outdoor Program is leading a Whitewater Technician Course April 29-May 1, an-all abilities course that will teach safety, self-rescue, boat-based rescues and more, all on the Alberton Gorge’s excellent whitewater. For $275 you’ll get a manual, a test, a patch(!), an ID card and certification, so call 243-5172 and get your ducks in a row before you hit the river.

Flyfisher folk should head to the April 20 meeting of the Lolo Watershed Group for a presentation on fly-fishing Lolo Creek and a free showing of the fly-fishing movie Feeding Time at the Lolo Community Center. The creek’s finer holes—and which fly patterns are effective—will be discussed. Call John Zelazny at 544-7430 for more info.

Cyclists looking for half-day rides should join the pedal-powered posse Missoulians on Bicycles for one of two trips this weekend. On April 16 you can join Lech Szumera (543-4889) and ride the fine 50-mile long two-lane between Plains and Thompson Falls, carpooling from the Grant Creek Starbucks at 8 a.m. Or, on April 17 meet up with Tom and Susan Roy (728-8262) at the Eastgate parking lot for a 60-mile paver from Missoula to Lurbrecht Forest—and back.

Send your outdoor schedule to photo@missoulanews.com.

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