Washington States ‘Dollar War’ Over Wolf And Cougar Research

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SEATTLE TIMES NEWS PAPER)

 

A WAR OVER WOLVES

Outspoken researcher says his university and lawmakers silenced and punished him.

Robert Wielgus, director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, lets out a howl last spring, hoping for an answer from deep in the territory of the Profanity Peak pack. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

By a slow slide of river deep in Washington’s wolf country, Robert Wielgus laughs at the tattoo on his arm of Four Claws, the grizzly that almost killed him.

“I would rather face charging grizzly bears trying to kill me than politicians and university administrators, because it is over quickly,” said Wielgus, director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University.

A Harley-riding, self-described adrenaline junkie at home in black motorcycle leathers with a Stetson and a .357 in the pickup, Wielgus, 60, is no tweed-jacket academic. For decades he has traveled North America wrangling bears, cougars and wolves to collar and study their behavior, including collaborations with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Wielgus now finds himself crosswise with ranchers, lawmakers and WSU administrators — and their lobbyists. He’s lost grant funding for his summer research, has been forbidden from talking to media in his professional role and has been reviewed — and cleared — for scientific misconduct.

To understand why involves a look at state policy concerning a menagerie of animals: cougars, sheep, cattle and wolves. And one more animal: homo sapiens.

A motion-triggered wildlife camera captures an image of members of the Profanity Peak pack July 30, 2016. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife killed six adults and a pup in the pack last summer. (Courtesy of WSU Wolf/Livestock Conflict Research program)

In Washington, it turns out, wolves and livestock are getting along better than the people who manage and study them.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a national nonprofit specializing in government scientist whistleblower protection, in April filed a 12-page complaint against WSU officials, alleging the university punished and silenced Wielgus to placate ranchers and state legislators who objected to his research. WSU officials declined to comment for this story, citing possible litigation.

The conflict started back in 2002, when Wielgus began publishing a series of influential papers that called into question the practice of hunting cougars to reduce livestock losses. His research led to a reversal by Gov. Jay Inslee in October 2015 of Fish and Wildlife Commission policy that would have allowed more hunting.

That was not long after Wielgus published a peer-reviewed paper that just as provocatively questioned killing wolves to protect livestock — a policy used by the WDFW by now to take aim at four wolf packs, including two members of the Smackout Pack killed so far this month.

His wolf study made national news with its finding that culling the predators can lead to more livestock kills, not fewer, because it destabilizes pack dynamics.

Normally for a university, national press for one of its researchers would be a point of pride. But the buzz over the paper alarmed lobbyists for WSU, hearing threats from state lawmakers that it was putting money for a new medical school and other pet projects in jeopardy.

Those legislators in turn were responding to ranchers and local officials seeking more lethal action from the department against wolves that harm livestock.

“ … Highly ranked senators have said that the medical school and wolves are linked. If wolves continue to go poorly, there won’t be a new medical school,” Dan Coyne, lobbyist for WSU, wrote his colleague, Jim Jesernig, another WSU lobbyist, two days after the paper’s publication, state records show.

Jesernig, a well-connected former director of the state Department of Agriculture, and former member of the state House and Senate, agreed with Coyne, his partner at the Coyne, Jesernig lobbying firm. “That’s my assessment as well,” Jesernig wrote in an email copied to WSU Director of State Relations Chris Mulick. “ … We are making the med school not doable.”

Replied Mulick, “We’re looking a wee bit like Sonny on the causeway here,” referring to a mob hit on a character in the movie “The Godfather.” “We’re getting in our own way on the med school enough as it is.”

A magazine story prepared by a writer for the university’s magazine and news service in advance of the wolf paper was spiked, Wielgus said. Just like a news release subsequently written, but never issued, on new cougar research out of Wielgus’ lab.

“WTF? What happened?” wrote Jon Keehner, co-author on that paper, to Wielgus.

Wielgus answered that the university was afraid of angering Republicans in the Legislature. He explained grant funds for his wolf work were now being funneled to his lab through another researcher, to take his name off the grant.

“That’s how bad it got,” John Pierce, chief scientist for WDFW’s wildlife program, said in an interview. Losing so-called principal-investigator status on a grant is a wound in academia, Pierce explained, where the ability to bring in grant money is a coin of the realm. Winning grants attracts top graduate students and helps researchers compete for more grants.

In particular, Wielgus had provoked Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, a former Mercer Island resident turned cougar hunter, elected to the Legislature to represent the 7th District in Northeastern Washington.

Rancher Joel Kretz, photographed at his ranch in 2001, displays a dead cougar head on a table while talking to a reporter. Kretz, also shown with his rifle, said cougars were hurting his livestock and that ranchers needed more liberal hunting laws to fight back. He was elected to the Legislature in 2004.(Kevin German / The Seattle Times)

Known for carrying the severed heads of cougars to public meetings — even plucking one for effect from his home freezer to sit, defrosting, on a table between himself and this reporter during an interview at his ranch — Kretz had butted heads with Wielgus from his first cougar papers that had thwarted Kretz’s efforts to increase cougar hunting in Northeastern Washington.

He attacked Wielgus’ wolf research, questioning its scientific validity to WSU officials, and opposed further funding for Wielgus.

Hans Dunshee, a former Snohomish Democrat and top budget writer, confirmed he cut a deal with Kretz in 2015 to sidestep Wielgus from the wolf research grant. “It was our way of sanitizing it while still keeping the money flowing,” said Dunshee, who retired from the Legislature last year. “I thought he was going to be OK.”

But he wasn’t.

2016 spending on wolves

Wolf management is expensive in Washington, costing $973,275 in 2016 alone. That includes $134,999 spent to kill seven wolves, including a pup in the Profanity Peak pack after the wolves killed or injured 15 cattle grazing in the Colville National Forest.

Source: Department of Fish and Wildlife
Emily M. Eng / The Seattle Times

Knocked off the grant, Wielgus lost his summer salary for two years — during the peak season for wolf research — and his travel budget.

In the end, money got tucked in for the medical school, in the same budget that sidestepped the funding for Wielgus. The school will begin its first classes this fall.

Jesernig, in an interview, recalled well the trouble wolves caused as he worked the medical-school issue for WSU.

“It’s not a great secret; it happens to any lobbyist, you have a bill you work and all of a sudden you are in trouble with leadership, same thing here,” Jerserig said. “At the end of the day the good thing about the legislative process is mostly the merits of the issue will win out on the thing you are working on, and that is what happened on the medical school.”

Outrage erupts

Already targeted for his wolf research, Wielgus poured gas on the fire last summer.

As the Profanity Peak pack started killing cows and the state launched a trapper and marksmen on the ground and in helicopters to protect the rancher’s cattle, Wielgus told The Seattle Times and other media outlets that Len McIrvin, a partner in the Diamond M, “chose to put his cattle on top of the den site.”

The implication that the rancher — whose livestock losses in 2012 also led to the state killing the Wedge pack — purposely put his animals in harm’s way to provoke the state’s ensuing kill of the Profanity Peak pack ignited a firestorm.

Thousands of angry emails and phone calls from wolf advocates poured into the offices of the WDFW and the Colville National Forest, home to many ranchers’ grazing allotments. Donny Martorello, the department’s wolf-policy lead, hid his wife in a motel. McIrvin’s family unplugged the phone at the ranch to escape death threats.

Kretz, incensed, demanded an apology from WSU just as public as the remarks Wielgus had made — and got it. The university quickly issued a news release disavowing Wielgus’s statements and asserting that Wielgus had admitted he had no basis in fact for making them.

In a letter of concern written into his personnel file, Wielgus was instructed by Ron Mittelhammer, the dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resource Sciences to have no further contact with the media without first clearing his statements with WSU. Wielgus duly went silent as the furor raged.

“He ought to be drawn and quartered and a chunk of him left everywhere in the district,” Kretz said in an interview then with The Seattle Times, saying Wielgus had a vendetta against McIrvin.

“I think he is agenda-driven; it’s incredible damage,” Kretz said. “This is not science, it is advocacy. I would say it’s beyond advocacy, it’s baldfaced lying to the public. I don’t want to see a nickel go through his hands.”

Wielgus says today that he could have been more diplomatic; his public remarks at the time included saying “go ahead and quote me: ‘Wherever McIrvin grazes … dead wolves follow.’ Quote me. He’ll be proud of it!”

Natural migration

Source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Emily M. Eng / The Seattle Times

Wolves are returning to the state on their own from Idaho and Canada, and have surged into Northeastern Washington, where most of the state’s 20 packs live. Diamond M operators had been warning the department about the Profanity pack since 2014, after three confirmed kills of its cattle by the pack. But what Diamond M ranchers and the department didn’t know as the ranchers loaded up their cattle for turnout in 2016 was the pack had moved much closer to the Diamond M’s operations on public grazing lands in the Colville National Forest.

Burned out by the Stickpin fire in 2015, the wolves had moved their den from the previous year to within 5 miles of the Diamond M’s usual turnout site for the C.C. Mountain grazing allotment, and a quarter-mile from the salt lick put out in the same spot every year to draw cows up from lowland pastures to the mountain.Where cattle and the Profanity Peak pack clashed

In 2016 ranchers turned out 8,868 cows and calves on 583,315 acres of the Colville National Forest. The forest is home to many of Washington’s wolf packs, yet overall, there was little conflict between cattle and wolves — except with one pack: the Profanity Peak pack. Those wolves killed five calves and a cow before the pack was killed off by the state to protect ranchers’ cattle.

One ranch in particular, the Diamond M — with nearly 400 cows and calves using their usual allotment and salt lick — suffered the most losses. Scroll down to see how it happened.

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State biologists collared wolves in the Profanity Peak pack on June 9 and 12, 2016. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife knew 11 grazing allotments overlapped the pack’s territory — not unusual or problematic in Washington, where wolves typically share the landscape with livestock without incident.

The McIrvin family and Diamond M Ranch have held their grazing permits in the Colville National Forest for 73 years. But what the ranchers and department did not know was the Profanity Peak pack, burned out of its territory in the 2015 Stickpin Fire, had moved its den in 2016 into the heart of one of the Diamond M allotments.

Shown in orange: Activity of the Profanity Peak wolf pack taken from GPS collars in June 2016

By the end of June, the department, using collar data, knew where the den site was: about 5 miles from where the Diamond M had turned out its cattle June 9, and only a quarter-mile from the salt lick placed to draw them to higher ground on C.C. Mountain.

The ranchers figured out the den site on their own at the same time as the department, because of all the wolf howling, tracks and scat they noticed while checking on their cattle. They also were informed of the den location by the department.

  •  Cattle turnout point
  •  Diamond M salt lick
  •  Profanity Peak pack den site

Wolves range over an average territory of 349 square miles, and the Diamond M cows were soon in the heart of the Profanity Peak pack’s core activity area.

Before long, the wolves were killing calves anywhere from 1 mile to more than 10 miles from the initial turnout location and den site.

  •  Confirmed kill
  •  Probable kill
  •  Confirmed injury

The department didn’t urge Diamond M operators to get more people out watching over their cattle until after the first calf was killed July 8. While the department initially assured the public that the Diamond M was following its recommended protocol of turning out calves at least 200 pounds or larger, it later revealed that some animals were smaller, so more vulnerable.

A range rider for the Diamond M moved the salt block Aug. 8 after being asked to by the department. But that just made the problem of cows hanging around the wolves’ core activity area worse. Cows milled around, looking for the salt that was supposed to be there and licking and pawing salt still in the ground.

  •  Diamond M salt lick
  •  Profanity Peak pack den site

The WDFW carried on most of the summer and into the fall killing wolves, eventually taking the lives of six adults and a pup in the pack. The department confirmed the pack killed five Diamond M calves and one cow from another ranch.

For all the controversy, Wielgus said he is still optimistic wolves will recover from local extinction in Washington. He doesn’t think the same for himself.

The news release disavowing his statements was never shown to him, Wielgus said, and misconstrued a short conversation by phone between him and Mittelhammer.

While he has since attained tenure, Wielgus said he no longer wants to work at the university. “They called me a liar and ruined my career.”

Robert Wielgus gets ready to listen for the radio collar on the sole surviving adult of the Profanity Peak pack, mostly killed off by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife last summer for killing ranchers’ cattle. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Confusing message

Wielgus’ conflicts with the university would continue, after he emailed a news release reporting the latest findings from his lab to the state’s Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) and others as the group debated wolf policy for 2017.

Wolf kills of livestock were exceedingly rare, Wielgus reported, occurring in fewer than 1 percent of the livestock tracked by his lab. Only in the case of the Profanity Peak pack, where cattle and a salt block to attract them were milling around the wolves’ activity area, had there been multiple calf kills, more than anywhere else surveyed, Wielgus reported.

Wielgus had sent the release to WSU communications staff and administrators and received preapproval by Mittelhammer before putting it out as his personal opinion and not on behalf of the university, as they requested. But that strategy, intended to create distance between Wielgus and WSU, just created confusion.

In an email to Mulick, the WSU state relations director, Tom Davis, of the Washington Farm Bureau and a WAG member, objected that Wielgus was sending out a press release about his publicly funded research findings but labeling them his personal opinion. He also said he wouldn’t attend the meeting if Wielgus was allowed to speak.

Mittelhammer went into response mode, personally meeting with Kretz and other lawmakers, then attending the advisory group meeting with several WSU officials. He followed up with a letter to lawmakers on April 12 reassuring them “while an irritant, the deliberations of the WAG were fortunately not significantly affected by Dr. Wielgus’ attempt to influence the group’s deliberations through the dissemination of his so-called “press release” document.

“That said, on a more individual and personal basis, it did also appear that Dr. Wielgus’ actions did negatively impact a number of individuals in the room who felt that the document reinvigorated negative feelings toward ranchers by wolf protectionists.”

He assured the lawmakers he had sent Wielgus a second “memo of concern,” and promised to follow up with investigations of whether Wielgus had broken state law by illegal lobbying and sending the press release on his state email account. He also promised an internal review of Wielgus’ 2014 wolf paper.

By May, WSU President Kirk Schulz informed Mittelhammer he was concerned WSU might be branded with an “anti-ranching sentiment.”

In other emails, the university president and Mittelhammer agreed they needed to address the school’s relationship with ranchers in future faculty hires. “I feel that they need an internal champion or person that they can work with,” Schulz wrote.

“No evidence of research misconduct”

By then, WSU had cleared Wielgus of any scientific wrongdoing. On May 29, Christopher Keane, the vice president for research at WSU, wrote Kretz and Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, thanking them for meeting with him in Olympia to express concern about Wielgus’ research.

However, the result of the subsequent independent review completed by a WSU statistician was clear: “There is no evidence of research misconduct in this matter,” Keane wrote.

But for faculty at WSU, the message nonetheless was clear, said Donna Potts, president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the nation’s oldest and largest advocacy group for academic freedom. “It was very disturbing; I had never seen anything like it,” Potts, a member of the English department, said of WSU’s treatment of a senior faculty member.

Robert Wielgus relaxes at his wolf camp, used when trapping and collaring wolves for his work studying the interactions of cattle and wolves. His studies have found most wolves don’t attack livestock and that killing wolves to protect cattle and sheep can be counterproductive, leading to more mayhem by socially destabilized wolf packs. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Cary Nelson, former national president of the AAUP, who spoke on the issue at WSU last spring, said pressure from industry and from lawmakers friendly to it is nothing unusual. “But it’s up to a university to protect its faculty.”

Actions by state lawmakers and WSU administrators such as those taken against Wielgus have a “chilling effect” on research that could be perceived as controversial, Nelson said.

Scientists who have worked with Wielgus said they are concerned by what they see.

“It’s not that Rob hasn’t stirred up the hornets’ nest — he can test the limits and some people think he is not very diplomatic,” said Gary Koehler, of Wenatchee, who collaborated with Wielgus on bear and cougar research before retiring from the department after 14 years. “But he is a straight shooter.

“Rob is without a doubt one of the top carnivore ecologists in North America. I think Rob has been thrown under the bus.”

A Leading Elephant Conservationist Has Been Murdered in Tanzania

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

A Leading Elephant Conservationist Has Been Murdered in Tanzania

5:18 AM ET

Police in Tanzania have launched an investigation into the murder of a leading elephant conservationist who was shot dead in Dar es Salaam. He had received numerous death threats in connection with his anti-poaching initiatives.

Wayne Lotter, 51, was killed by unknown gunmen in the Tanzanian capital as he travelled by taxi from the city’s airport to his hotel, the Guardian reports. The PAMS Foundation, the NGO Lotter co-founded, supports conservation and anti-poaching efforts in communities across Africa.

“Wayne devoted his life to Africa’s wildlife. From working as a ranger in his native South Africa as a young man to leading the charge against poaching in Tanzania, Wayne cared deeply about the people and animals that populate this world,” the PAMS Foundation team said in a statement posted to Facebook. “He died bravely fighting for the cause he was most passionate about.”

PAMS has protected 32,000 elephants and confiscated more than 1150 firearms, according to its website. It also funds and supports Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU), the body behind the arrest of “Queen of Ivory” Yang Feng Glan and several other high profile ivory poachers and traders.

African elephant populations shrunk by an estimated 30% between 2007 and 2014, according to the latest elephant census data. Lotter had previously said that the NTSCIU — which has arrested more than 2,000 poachers and traffickers since 2012 — had helped halve poaching rates in Tanzania.

Argentinian Hunter Trampled And Killed By Elephant In Namibia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES’)

 

Argentinian Hunter Trampled And Killed By Elephant In Namibia

An Argentinian man in Namibia was trampled and killed by an elephant Saturday, according to the Namibia Press Agency Monday. Jose Monzalvez, 46, was hunting in a group Saturday afternoon when he was trampled by an elephant in a private wildlife area 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the town of Kalkfeld.

He and four others were following a group of elephants on the farm. One of the elephants charged at the group before they could assemble to shoot it. Monzalvez, who worked for an oil company, was with three Namibians and another Argentine when he was killed, according to Otjozondjupa regional police spokesperson warrant officer Maureen Mbeha. Monzalvez had a hunting permit with him at the time of his death. All five members of the group were professional trophy hunters.

Monzalvez’s family was later informed of his death.

In May, a South African hunter was trampled and killed by an elephant another member of his hunting group shot. According to Netwerk24, someone in the group shot the elephant. As it fell, it crushed Theunis Botha. The 51-year-old Johannesburg man was a well-known trophy hunter. His death sparked support from his friends and fellow hunters but also led to backlash from critics of big game hunting.

According to ‘Elephant Rage,’ a 2005 National Geographic documentary, about 500 people are killed by elephants a year. Attacks increase each year.

“I do think that elephants are becoming more aggressive towards humans in very compressed areas where they are being shot at and harassed,” Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, a biologist at Stanford University, said to National Geographic in a June 2005 phone interview. “It is a difficult dilemma in areas where elephant habitat is shrinking and the human population is increasing such that poor farmers have little choice but to expand their farms to make ends meet.”

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported 1.3 million African elephants in 1970 but said that number shrank to 600,000 by 1989. Some areas of Africa took measures to preserve the elephant population, while other areas reduce elephant numbers with controlled hunts and other methods.

WWF listed Asian elephants as endangered and as requiring extreme preservation measures to control their population. WWF listed African elephants as being overall vulnerable, which is one step above being endangered. However, some African elephant populations are still endangered because of the now-illegal ivory trade, for which hunters would cut the tusks off elephants. National Geographic reported on its website the current population trend of African elephants as increasing.

african elephantAn African bush elephant at Masai Mara National Park in Kenya. Jose Monzalvez, the 46-year-old Argentinian trophy hunter, was trampled and killed by an elephant Saturday. He was hunting with four other trophy hunters when the elephant charged them before they could shoot it. Photo: Buena Vista Images

Lessons From Night of the Grizzlies: True Story From 1967

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE FLATHEAD BEACON NEWS)

 

Lessons From Night of the Grizzlies

The unthinkable tragedy that unfolded 50 years ago in Glacier National Park claimed the lives of two young women and at least five grizzly bears. It also dramatically reshaped the nation’s policies on wildlife and grizzly management.

Late on the night of Aug. 12, 1967, seasonal ranger Leonard Landa settled into bed after another long day working in Glacier National Park. A schoolteacher in Columbia Falls, Landa was in the midst of his third summer season in Glacier, stationed at the bustling Lake McDonald Ranger Station.

The summer of 1967 was an unusually busy one in the park. Visitation was rapidly increasing, with more than 900,000 people converging on Glacier the previous year. It was also an incredibly dry summer, and, after a series of lightning storms ripped through the park, raging wildfires depleted resources and cast a chalky pall over the Lake McDonald Valley.

Not long after Landa and his wife retired to bed at the ranger station on the north end of the lake, the emergency radio crackled to life. A panicked 22-year-old ranger-naturalist was on the line, reporting there had been a bear attack at the Granite Park Chalet. Landa had a hard time believing what he was hearing. Bear attacks were rare in Glacier National Park; since its creation in 1910, only 11 people had been reportedly injured by grizzlies in eight separate documented incidents.

No one had ever been killed, according to park records.

As a smoky half-moon hung over Lake McDonald, Landa and his wife listened to the drama unfold at Granite Park, tracking the sequence of unprecedented events occurring a dozen miles north of their cabin, culminating in a tragic ending. They eventually succumbed to exhaustion and fell asleep.

Early the next morning, Landa awoke to the frantic sound of people rapping on his cabin door. A group of four park lodge employees in their late teens and early 20s burst through the entrance. They were yelling over one another in chaos, and after a few moments, Landa stopped them, seeking order. He pointed to a young man, instructing him to explain what happened. The boy said a bear at Trout Lake had harassed their hiking party the night before, eventually attacking a girl and dragging her off.

Incredulous, Landa said they were mistaken, that the attack had occurred at Granite Park. The four young people persisted — no, they said, their friend at Trout Lake had been dragged away by a bear.

“I quickly pieced together that we were talking about a second incident,” Landa said in a recent interview.

The unthinkable had happened.

Two young women, at campsites nine miles apart from one another, situated on opposite sides of 9,000-foot Heavens Peak, had been mauled and killed by different grizzly bears on the same night. They were the first bear-related fatalities in park history.

The tragedy, indelibly etched into history as the “Night of the Grizzlies,” would forever change the lives of those involved, and it would transform the nation’s bear management policies.

Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park on August 7, 2014. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Granite Park Chalet

Twenty-two-year-old ranger-naturalist Joan Devereaux was barely out of college at Ohio State University, where she majored in botany, when she arrived for her seasonal post at the St. Mary Ranger Station on the morning of Aug. 12, a Saturday.

The day prior, a series of dry lightning strikes laid siege to the valley, and fire lookouts reported more than 100 ground strikes and at least 20 new starts. The emergency wildfire response quickly exhausted the park’s roster of male rangers, and while Devereaux hadn’t been scheduled to lead an overnight group hike — her first as an employee — she volunteered as a last-minute replacement for naturalist Fred Goodsell, who was dispatched to help with the fires.

Clad in her signature gray-and-green National Park Service uniform and armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of plants and wildflowers, Devereaux’s charge was to guide an interpretive tour along the Highline Trail and spend the night at Granite Park Chalet. With about two-dozen hikers in tow, the party arrived at their destination in the early afternoon of a hot and hazy day.

Describing the day’s events later, Devereaux recalled: “The whole trip in was one that was quite normal, no incidents, the usual marmots and flowers.”

Shortly after the group arrived at the chalet, 19-year-old Julie Helgeson, a University of Minnesota student working in the East Glacier Lodge laundry for the summer, and Roy Ducat, 18, a busboy at the lodge from Ohio, struck out for Logan Pass.

In black magic marker, they hastily scrawled “Glacier Park Employees Need Ride” on a pillowcase and began hitchhiking from East Glacier, arriving at the pass and the start of the Highline Trail around 3:30 p.m.

Along the stunning 7.6-mile hike to Granite Park, on an exposed bench-cut trail that tracks along the Garden Wall, Helgeson and Ducat encountered another group of chalet-bound hikers eating lunch — Helena residents Riley Johnson, his wife, Roberta, and their 9-month-old son, who was affixed to Riley’s back on a pack board. Also with them were friends Dan and Judy Regan.

“We were sitting having lunch when the boy and the girl came by and stopped and chatted with us,” Riley Johnson said. “They got up and moved along, and I didn’t see either of them again until the incident. But we did get to meet them.”

The scene at the chalet that evening was pleasant as guests basked in the sun and watched the smoke swirl around the fires flanking Lake McDonald Valley. Dinner conversation in the main chalet was punctuated with excited chatter about the summer’s most talked-about spectacle at Granite Park — the dusky arrival of grizzly bears who each night frequented the makeshift garbage dump about 100 yards below the chalet, where concessioner employees deposited ham bones and other dinner scraps to entice the bruins.

The food-habituated bears arrived right on schedule, interrupting a group sing-along of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” and the guests poured out of the chalet in droves to watch.

The scene below Granite Park Chalet, where concessioner employees would place garbage and food scraps in order to entice bears to feed, a popular spectacle for visitors. Courtesy National Park Service

“The chalet concession workers had a habit of separating their garbage in order to attract bears to the area … in a clearing where the bears could easily be seen when they came in to feed. I was kind of shocked by this,” Devereaux told park ranger Riley McClelland in an interview two days later.

The first bear to arrive was a large, dark-colored female grizzly, weighing 250 pounds, and the second was a silvertip sow, about 100 pounds larger than the blackish one.

“These were the only two bears we saw in the evening,” Devereaux said. “It was relayed to me by the young man who works up there that there is a third bear that comes in the morning and about midnight. This is a sow with a pair of cubs, and she is apparently quite bold and not frightened by much of anything.”

The 275-pound sow would arrive on schedule, too, but only after the guests were fast asleep.

By the time Helgeson and Ducat arrived at the chalet around 7 p.m., there were no rooms available inside, so they opted to sleep out al fresco in a primitive campground about one-quarter mile below the chalet.

On their way down the trail to camp, Helgeson and Ducat stopped and visited with a young couple named Robert and Janet Klein. Apprehensive about the bears, the Kleins opted to sleep closer to the chalet beside a trail-crew cabin; if a bear approached, they reasoned, they could climb atop its roof for safety.

Helgeson and Ducat carried on down the trail to the campground, spread their sleeping bags on the ground and watched the sunset before going to sleep.

Sometime after midnight, Helgeson awoke to a bear sniffing at her sleeping bag and whispered to Ducat to “play dead,” but moments later the bear knocked them both from their unzipped sleeping bags and sunk its teeth into Ducat’s right shoulder. He remained still and quiet, and the bear turned on Helgeson, biting her before returning to Ducat and biting his left arm and the backs of his legs. The bear returned to Helgeson a final time and dragged her off by her arm.

The Kleins estimate they went to sleep around 10:30 p.m., but woke up two hours later to the sound of screaming.

“We heard the screaming … and the main words I heard were just, ‘Help me, help me,” Klein told rangers. “Someone was yelling this over and over again.”

He continued: “This screaming went on it seemed for a long time — it was probably about a minute-and-a-half or two minutes — and it seemed to get farther and farther away and die down, and finally it reached a crescendo and went down from there and finally stopped. We didn’t know what to do.”

Sitting bolt upright in their sleeping bags, the Kleins heard rustling minutes later, and Ducat appeared in the dark before them, bleeding and in shock, mumbling, “a bear, a bear.”

Along with Don Gullet, another overnight hiker camped nearby, the Kleins leapt into action, climbing atop the trail crew cabinet with flashlights to alert the guests inside the chalet, while Gullet swaddled the injured Ducat in his sleeping bag.

Yelling toward the chalet, the Kleins flashed their light three times. And three times again. They flashed the emergency signal over and over again.

After what seemed like an eternity, someone called down from the balcony above: “Everything OK?” the guest hollered.

“No,” Robert Klein called back. “Bear.”

According to Devereaux, several guests at the chalet began to assemble a search party. The young naturalist dressed quickly and fetched her emergency radio as the group gathered outside, still not understanding the gravity of the situation.

“We were reluctant to accept there had been a bear attack,” said Riley Johnson, the hiker who earlier encountered Helgeson and Ducat on the Highline Trail. “But something was awry, that’s for sure. The one thing that we impressed upon Joan was that she was the one in the uniform and she needed to use it. Here you have 65 people with all kinds of different emotions and experiences, all different ages, up to 79 and down to my 9-month-old son. All different ranges of talent, different fears and levels of panic. And Joan took charge, and she did a doggone good job. Everyone rallied around Joan.” She would later receive a Distinguished Service Award for her efforts that night, the Interior Department’s highest honor.

With Devereaux taking the lead, a group of 10 or 12 guests began heading down the trail from the chalet toward the campground.

“We got about halfway down when we heard the boy screaming, ‘Bear, bear,’” Johnson said. “And then we knew what we were in.”

The group soon stumbled upon a horrific scene.

“We discovered immediately the young boy laying there,” Devereaux reported. “We were informed then that there might be another person, and he started mumbling and moaning about the girl having been dragged off. I immediately began talking over the radio to the west side and the fire cache over there. After several attempts the word came through and they began to understand what we were talking about, and I radioed in that we had an emergency, that there was some bear damage and it was very critical.”

Nails were originally hammered to the outside of the shutters at Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park to keep wildlife from coming through windows. They are pictured August 7, 2014. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Supervisory ranger Gary Bunney intercepted the radio call at the park’s main fire cache, situated at headquarters in West Glacier, which was being monitored around the clock due to the fires. On the line was Devereaux, requesting helicopter assistance and medical supplies. Three doctors happened to be staying as guests at the chalet that night, but they needed surgical equipment, she said, as well as a transfusion apparatus and plasma. And Ducat needed immediate medical evacuation from the area.

The impromptu search crew transitioned into rescue mode.

Johnson helped break into the trail crew cabin and unearthed an old bedspring, which the group used as a stretcher to carry Ducat up to the chalet while they waited for the helicopter, splaying him out on a dining room table for medical treatment.

“Dan (Regan) and I guided the team up and brought the boy into the lodge,” Johnson said. “I was holding the lanterns over the table where the boy was for the doctors. They were just trying to stop the bleeding. He was conscious, he was talking, and I was standing there with the two lanterns so the doctors could work on him.”

Meanwhile, the search party reorganized to go look for Helgeson, but when Devereaux received word on the radio that a helicopter was en route, she redirected the crew to build small fires around the perimeter of an impromptu landing pad, delaying the search for the girl.

When the Bell helicopter arrived at 3:15 a.m., the pilot, John Westover, could scarcely see the narrow landing zone through the haze of smoke and glare of the guests’ flashlights on the helicopter’s plastic dome, and Devereaux ran inside to ask if any of the guests had any knowledge about landing helicopters.

A young Air Force veteran who had just returned from the Vietnam War, Jack Dykstra, volunteered that he had experience landing helicopters on aircraft carriers and used a pair of flashlights to expertly beckon Westover to the landing zone, using military signals that Westover recognized.

It marked the first of several emergency landings Westover made on the precipitous landscape that night, and the guests recall his acts of bravery as heroic. After loading Ducat into the helicopter, Westover ferried the injured teen to Kalispell for medical treatment.

Meanwhile, ranger Bunney, armed with a .300 H&H Magnum rifle, remained at Granite Park to determine the fate of the missing girl. He and a group of about six guests departed the chalet for the camping area, carrying a washtub in which they’d made a fire. When they arrived at the campsite, it was strewn with shoes, sleeping bags and other belongings, and a trail of blood led downhill. Continuing down the mountain, they discovered a coin purse, and after another 225 feet the blood trail disappeared.

Fanning out, the group heard a faint noise and located Helgeson another 52 feet downhill, lying on her stomach wearing only her cutoff jean shorts. She had been dragged about 342 feet from the camping site and was critically injured, with deep lacerations on her arms and legs, and a punctured lung.

“It hurts,” she said repeatedly.

After rendering first aid with what supplies they had, members of the group wrapped her in sleeping bags, loaded her on the bedspring and carried her to the chalet.

It was 3:45 a.m., and Bunney radioed Chief Ranger Ruben Hart that Helgeson was alive and needed immediate helicopter assistance. Westover, who had by then returned to park headquarters, agreed to make another emergency flight.

Inside the chalet, a team of doctors tended to Helgeson, while a young priest, Father Tom Connolly, sat at the head of the table consoling her.

“I remember the doctors working feverishly, but two big arteries were cut and he kept saying to the nurse, he said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know,’” recalls Riley Johnson. “Finally as he was working on several wounds, he just stopped and said, ‘She’s gone.’ And everyone just kind of stood up. You could hear a pin drop in that room of 65 people. Everybody knew what had just happened. How many people in their lifetime witness an actual death, particularly a crisis death like that? Not many. It was a trying event for me and my wife.”

Helgeson was pronounced dead at 4:13 a.m., moments before Westover landed the helicopter a second time.

After sending the guests back to their rooms, Devereaux washed the tables and “made it a point to clear up as much as possible of the evidence … so it wouldn’t be so oppressive in the morning when they woke up.”

She made sure the signal fires were out cold and tried to fall asleep, though sleep never came.

The next morning, a somber mood pervaded the chalet as guests made breakfast, packed up their belongings and prepared to hike out.

“The mood there was quite evident that something had happened — rather a depressed feeling was felt by everyone, even the young children sensed this and most of them had been informed about what had happened,” Devereaux said.

A total of 60 guests hiked out together down four-mile Loop Trail, with Johnson taking up the rear to “sweep,” ensuring no one was left behind.

Before departing, he counted 59 guests. Recounting, he again came up with 59 guests. Knowing there should be 60, he began to panic, but then remembered his son.

“I forgot that my own kid was strapped to my back,” Johnson said. “They called me the backpacking father who couldn’t count.”

After shuttling their cars from Logan Pass and driving away from the park, members of the Granite Park group would soon learn that the tragedy they’d witnessed was only half the story.

The bear that mauled a visitor near Trout Lake in 1967. Courtesy Bert Gildart

Trout Lake

On that same Saturday afternoon, Judy Voris burst through the doors of the Lake McDonald Lodge gift shop with news.

Voris was one of the dozens of college students who worked at the lodge and the surrounding shops in the summer of 1967. Since June, the University of Evansville student had been working the counter at the Camp Store, selling everything from ice cream to souvenirs. It was at the Camp Store where she met Ren Fuglestad, one of the “Jammers” who drove the bright red tour buses around the park. Fuglestad asked Voris on a date, and the seed of a summer romance was planted.

Elated by the development, Voris rushed to the gift shop in the lodge to tell her roommate and one of her closest friends in the park: Michele Koons.

But when Voris ran into the gift shop, Koons wasn’t there. Voris remembered that Koons had gone camping at Trout Lake with four other employees — she had even borrowed Voris’ sweatshirt.

Back then, if lodge employees wanted to embark on an overnight trip, they had to get permission from home. A few days earlier, Koons, a 19-year-old from California, had called her parents and told them she wanted to spend a night at Trout Lake. Located about four miles from Lake McDonald, Trout Lake is surrounded by mountains and requires a strenuous hike over Howe Ridge.

Koons and her four friends — Denise Huckle, a 20-year-old lodge clerk; Paul Dunn, a 16-year-old busboy at the East Glacier Park lodge; Ray Noseck, a 23-year-old gas station attendant at Lake McDonald; and his brother Ron Noseck, a 21-year-old waiter at East Glacier Park — arrived at Trout Lake at about 5 p.m. on Aug. 12. The group set up camp, hung their food in a tree and went fishing. Koons, who didn’t fish, volunteered to stay behind and keep an eye on camp. After a few hours, the four other campers joined Koons and started cooking a dinner of hot dogs and trout. Soon after, Koons saw a grizzly bear.

“Here comes a bear,” she said, gesturing to the brush.

The female bear was no stranger to Trout Lake, with numerous people reporting encounters that summer.

“That bear did not have a lot of fear,” a local ranger said later. “The bear would go into camps, scare people off and then chow down on food that was left.”

As the bear approached, Koons and her friends ran for the lake. The sow rummaged through the campers’ supplies and ripped open a bag of food before retreating to the woods. The group quickly gathered their belongings and set up a new campsite closer to the beach. They discussed hiking back to Lake McDonald or Arrow Lake, where there was a shelter, but they decided to stick it out at Trout Lake because it was getting dark and they had heard the shelter was already full. They built a large campfire on the beach in hopes of keeping the bear at bay. They laid out their sleeping bags around the fire and went to sleep at about 11:30 p.m.

A few hours later, the group awoke to find that the bear had returned. The grizzly grabbed a bag of cookies that had been left out and headed back into the woods. Over the next few hours, the bear would return to the camp multiple times. At about 4:30 a.m., the bruin moved in closer to the five campers, who played dead in hopes that it would just sniff around and then leave. But the grizzly walked up to Paul Dunn and bit his sleeping bag. Dunn jolted up, startling the bear, and then quickly climbed a nearby tree. The bear moved on to the other campers, who heeded Dunn’s warning and ran. Everyone climbed trees except for Koons, who couldn’t get out of her sleeping bag in time. The bear bit her in the arm and began dragging her into the trees.

“Oh God, I’m dead,” Koons screamed as the bear hauled her away from her friends. It was the last time anyone heard from her.

The remaining four campers stayed in the trees for an hour or so. When it was light enough to see, they climbed down, grabbed some gear and sprinted back to Lake McDonald to report the incident and get help for Koons. They burst into the Lake McDonald ranger cabin shortly after 8 a.m. and found seasonal ranger Leonard Landa.

“They were talking so fast and were so excited that it was hard to tell what was going on,” Landa said.

Once Landa determined they were talking about a separate bear attack from Granite Park Chalet, he contacted park headquarters and announced that he was heading to Trout Lake. Landa asked two of the hikers to come along to direct him to where they had camped. The three arrived at the lake at about 10 a.m. and began yelling for Koons. On the beach, they found four sleeping bags. Minutes later, they discovered Koons’ sleeping bag, bloody and torn, about 20 feet from the others. They went deeper into the woods, where Landa spotted a small piece of flesh. He followed a trail of blood into the brush and found Koons’ body, about 40 feet from where she had fallen asleep the previous night.

Bert Gildart gestures as he recalls the grizzly bear attacks during the summer of 1967. He is pictured in his Creston home on July 7, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Not long afterward, Bert Gildart arrived. Earlier, Gildart, a seasonal ranger, had been helping guide a piece of firefighting equipment over Going-to-the-Sun Road when he heard a ranger at Granite Park frantically trying to get ahold of headquarters to report a bear attack. Gildart helped relay the message on his radio and then continued down to West Glacier. After a few hours of sleep, Gildart was woken up by another ranger and ordered to respond to a bear attack at Trout Lake. Confused, Gildart responded that the attack had happened at Granite Park. The ranger told him there had been a second mauling.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Gildart said.

Gildart and Landa loaded Koons into a body bag that had been delivered by helicopter. The body was flown to West Glacier and turned over to the local coroner. Landa helped the two hikers gather items they had left behind and then directed them to hike out with a horseback rider. Landa and Gildart continued on to Arrow Lake, another three miles up the trail. There they found a group of hikers and gave them an armed escort back to Lake McDonald.

By the time Gildart and Landa arrived at Lake McDonald that evening, news of the Trout Lake attack had spread. T.J. Tjernlund was a 16-year-old dishwasher at the lodge and often spent his free time chatting with the girls at the gift shop, including Koons, who was friendly and widely liked. On the morning of Aug. 13, rumors were flying around the lodge about a death at Trout Lake.

“We were in the dining room that afternoon when one of the girls walked in crying and said, ‘It was Michele,’” Tjernlund said. “Everyone felt numb after that.”

“I went down to the lake and sat there for a while, just trying to absorb what had happened,” Voris said. “It seemed impossible to lose someone you were so close to.”

The following day, Gildart and Landa were ordered to return to Trout Lake and find the bear that had killed Koons. At the lake, they set out cans of fish, but after the bear hadn’t appeared for a few hours, they continued on to the Arrow Lake shelter to spend the night.

Gildart woke up around 5:30 a.m. the next morning and went outside to go to the bathroom. In the pre-dawn light, Gildart spotted a large female bear 40 to 60 feet away.

“Leonard,” Gildart called out, “get the guns.”

Leonard Landa, pictured with the bear that mauled a visitor near Trout Lake in 1967. Courtesy Bert Gildart

Unafraid of the two men, the grizzly walked toward them. As it inched closer, the two men raised their rifles and opened fire, killing the animal. They radioed headquarters to report the shooting. A biologist and an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived later that day by helicopter to recover parts of the bear, including the head, claws and stomach contents. When they cut into the sow, they discovered a clump of blond hair, leaving no doubt that it was the right bear.

Later that week, Gildart made a third trip to Trout Lake to pick up the trash that had initially attracted the bear. They filled 17 burlap bags. Fifty years later, the mounds of garbage from Trout Lake remain one of the most enduring images of that summer for Gildart.

“The 1967 maulings changed everything,” Gildart said recently. “Bears were looked at very differently after that.”

In 1968, journalist Jack Olsen wrote a three-part Sports Illustrated series about the attacks that was later turned into the book, “Night of the Grizzlies.” In it, he stated there was a one-in-a-million chance of two fatal bear attacks occurring so close to one another on the same night. For a long time, Gildart believed that, but over time he has changed his mind.

“The more I thought about it over the last 50 years, the more I realized that it was only a matter of time,” he said. “It was inevitable that there would be a fatal bear attack in Glacier National Park.”

Bert Gildart, pictured with the bear that mauled a visitor near Trout Lake in 1967. Courtesy Bert Gildart

Bear Management

As the park’s first-ever research scientist hired weeks before the fatal attacks, Cliff Martinka’s charge on Aug. 13, 1967 was, at least initially, straightforward: “Shoot the bears. Pretty simple,” Martinka told the Beacon prior to his death in 2014.

Five grizzlies were shot and killed in the days that followed, including the two bears that rangers believed had killed Helgeson and Koons. But in the weeks and months to come, park management and the public started asking questions about grizzly bears’ relationship to Glacier Park and its visitors.

The inquiries turned up a dearth of information and a glut of misguided theories about what led to the attacks, including rampant speculation that lightning had provoked the bears.

The killings would eventually prove to be a bellwether event for bear management in national parks.

They also led to Martinka’s first research assignment.

“I started to do some work on grizzly bears,” Martinka said. “We were trying to piece together what the bear population looked like in those days, without having any technical information except some bear sightings. There was amazingly little work going on with grizzly bears.”

“In many respects,” he added, “that night kind of defined my career.”

Two weeks prior to the fatal night, David Shea, a park ranger and biologist, hiked to Granite Park Chalet on three occasions, instructed by his supervisors to report on the “garbage disposal situation” and to observe grizzlies in the area.

“They were putting out food because it was entertaining,” said Shea, who spent 36 years working in the park. “I can’t believe it’s been 50 years, but a lot of good has come out of that tragic night. I can remember when Glacier’s bear management plan was three pages long. Now it’s around 50 pages, and grizzly bear research has been a major focus.”

Along with Martinka, Shea joined Chief Park Naturalist Francis Elmore, research biologist Robert Wasem, naturalist John Tyers, and seasonal ranger Kerel Hagen on a mission to Granite Park Chalet, where over the course of three days the men would shoot and kill three grizzly bears.

Bert Gildart reads through a record of the grizzly bear attacks in Glacier National Park. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

“As a biologist and naturalist, I really like bears,” Shea said. “They are curious and intelligent animals, and I didn’t enjoy killing them. But those bears were so tied into humans and garbage, they had come to associate the two.”

Following the deaths of Koons and Helgeson, the park established a pack-in, pack-out policy for food and garbage, eliminating dispersed camping and establishing designated campgrounds, as well as designated cooking areas. Park officials installed wire cables so that backcountry campers could hang their food, and launched an aggressive bear education program.

“There is Glacier National Park before the Night of the Grizzlies, and there is Glacier National Park after the Night of the Grizzlies,” said Jack Potter, a 41-year employee of the park, who retired in 2011 as chief of science and resource management. “It changed everything.”

It’s a sentiment that has not been lost on friends and family of Koons and Helgeson.

“Michele was instrumental in changing how the National Park Service managed bears,” said Michele’s younger sister, Krista Petersen. “I think that’s something she would be proud of.”

Petersen was 13 years old when Koons died, but she still remembers her older sister as someone who was full of life and adored by all.

“She was cute and perky and funny and all that,” she said in an interview last week.

The two deaths received heavy media attention almost immediately. Television networks sent correspondents to Montana, and the story appeared in nearly every newspaper in the nation. Petersen said her parents worked hard to shield Koons’ three younger siblings from the attention, although her mother kept an envelope with stories about the incident.

One year younger than Julie Helgeson, Laurie Helgeson George recalls her favorite cousin’s magnetic and outgoing personality, which was evident in the last letter she ever received.

“I had just graduated from high school and she had finished her freshman year of college, and she was describing her upcoming trip to Glacier Park and how excited she was,” George said. “When it happened, I can remember it like it was yesterday. I heard my dad yell and I ran downstairs. I can remember watching Walter Cronkite on CBS News talking about it. It was the main headline because it had never happened before, but when it happens to someone who you love, who has the same last name as you, it just hits so close to home.”

Michele Koons and Julie Helgeson. Courtesy Photos

Over the years, people who knew Koons and Helgeson have reached out to the families to express condolences and convey memories.

A few years ago, Judy Voris — now Judy Fuglestad — spent several days in San Diego visiting with the family and remembering her roommate from the summer of 1967. This year, a man from Massachusetts reached out on Facebook to tell Petersen that he had met Koons when he was 11 years old, just a few weeks before she died. He wrote that he had been on a family vacation in Glacier and went to the gift shop multiple times to visit with her.

“My Dad liked us to go fishing, but my favorite pastime was going to the gift store,” the man wrote. “There was a girl there, a lot older than me, and I had a little boy crush on her. She was sweet and friendly and each time I came by, she always made me feel like I was the most important person she had run into that day. I made any excuse to go to the gift store at least twice a day to buy gum and candy. Of course, I didn’t need more — I just wanted to talk to the girl that made me feel special.”

In the weeks before the fatal bear attacks, both Koons’ and Helgeson’s parents visited their daughters in Glacier National Park, and saw firsthand how happy they were working and playing in its wild and pristine environment.

“Julie’s parents talked about what a good time she was having, and her love of nature, the people and the animals,” George said.

After Helgeson’s death, Father Tom Connolly, the priest who held her hand and prayed with Helgeson while she lay dying on a table in Granite Park Chalet, visited her parents in Minnesota. He told them that while it was tragic, Helgeson died surrounded by beauty.

“I think that brought them comfort,” George said. “That she was in such a beautiful place.”

Petersen said Koons’ family camped, saw where she worked and met her friends. Even a half-century later, Petersen said it was clear that her sister loved being in Glacier.

“Michele lived a lot of life in 19 years,” she said.

Editor’s Note: This narrative is based on numerous interviews with witnesses, as well as National Park Service incident reports compiled after the tragic events and made available to the Beacon through a public records request.

Newly Discovered Dinosaur Makes T. Rex ‘Look Like a Dwarf’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

This Newly Discovered Dinosaur Makes T. Rex ‘Look Like a Dwarf’

6:57 AM ET

(WASHINGTON) — A study proclaims a newly named species the heavyweight champion of all dinosaurs, making the scary Tyrannosaurus rex look like a munchkin.

At 76 tons (69 metric tons), the plant-eating behemoth was as heavy as a space shuttle.

The dinosaur’s fossils were found in southern Argentina in 2012. Researchers who examined and dated them said the long-necked creature was the biggest of a group of large dinosaurs called titanosaurs.

“There was one small part of the family that went crazy on size,” said Diego Pol of the Egidio Feruglio paleontology museum in Argentina, co-author of the study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The researchers named the dinosaur Patagotitan mayorum after the Patagonia region where it was found and the Greek word titan, which means large. The second name honors a ranch family that hosted the researchers.

Six fossils of the species were studied and dated to about 100 million years ago, based on ash found around them, Pol said. The dinosaur averaged 122 feet long (37 meters) and was nearly 20 feet high (6 meters) at the shoulder.

A cast of the dinosaur’s skeleton is already on display at the American Museum of Natural History. It’s so big that the dinosaur’s head sticks out into a hallway at the New York museum .

Legendary T. rex and other meat-eaters “look like dwarfs when you put them against one of these giant titanosaurs,” Pol said. “It’s like when you put an elephant by a lion.”

Scientists have known titanosaurs for a while, but this is a new species and even a new genus, which is a larger grouping, Pol said. Another titanosaur called Argentinosaurus was previously thought to be the largest.

“I don’t think they were scary at all,” Pol said. “They were probably massive big slow-moving animals.”

“Getting up. Walking around. Trying to run. It’s really challenging for large animals,” he said.

The big question is how did these dinosaurs get so big, Pol said. Researchers are still studying it, but said it probably has to do with an explosion of flowering plants at the time. Along with a forest, it was like an all-you-can-eat buffet for these dinosaurs and they just got bigger.

“It’s hard to argue this isn’t a big deal when it concerns the (probable) largest land animal ever discovered,” University of Maryland paleontologist Thomas Holtz, who wasn’t part of the study, said in an email.

Kristi Curry Rodgers, a paleontologist at Macalester College who wasn’t part of the study, praised the work as important. She said the fact that Patagotitan’s bones show signs that they haven’t completed their growth “means that there are even bigger dinosaurs out there to discover.”

Alabama Man Shoots 820-Pound Wild Hog in His Front Yard

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Alabama Man Shoots 820-Pound Wild Hog in His Front Yard

July 20, 2017

An Alabama taxidermist will preserve an animal he shot and killed himself: a massive, 820-pound wild hog.

Wade Seago told al.com he saw the hog in the front yard of his home in Samson, Ala. last week after his schnauzer, Cruiser, began barking at it. Seago said that he had never seen a hog that large, and was worried it could harm his family pet. So he fatally shot the hog three times with his .38 caliber revolver.

“By the time I got in a position to shoot, the hog was about 12 yards away,” Wade said. “Cruiser was out of my line to the hog so I fired.”

According to the Associate Press, Seago plans to mount the head and shoulders of the hog. He weighed the hog on large scales at a nearby peanut company.

In Alabama, feral hogs are a game animal that are known to create hundreds of millions of dollars of agricultural damage in the U.S. per year, al.com reports. People in the state can legally hunt wild hogs on private land.

“I didn’t think twice about taking down this hog,” Wade told al.com. “I’d do it again tomorrow.”

[al.com]

Big Kitty

Big Kitty

What is the great will of the tiger

What drives its will to win

Is it the growl of its own belly

Or the teeth laying beyond the next bend

Poor man for whose blood he lies in wait

Do not anger the big kitty you fool

For next, it may be your blood

The big kitty decides they will take

Within My Gaze

 

I see my picture

Upon your T-Shirts, paintings and plates

Displayed proudly upon your walls

You think me to be cuddly

Domesticated easily like your lap dog hounds

Only to the giant bear have I ever backed down

You dare come into my home

To jog, camp, sleep, and play

When was the last time

You ever saw me walking down your streets

More ignorant than the lamb I had this morning

My belly is grumbling as the dark sets in

Do you now think I am so cute and cuddly

As I back you down to the edge of the cliff

Your eyes glued, within my gaze

Yours truly, the Alpha WOLF!

Queen Piggy

 

Queen Piggy was a pretty little girl

We inherited her when cancer

Took her mommy from this earthly world

She was a mere six months old

When she came prancing and dancing

Into our family’s little fold

She was so cute you just had to hold and love her

For wherever she was, she always stole the show

Everyone who cast their eyes upon her

Would soon lose their heart to this hairy little girl

For 18 years she ruled our home

To her, every hand was a friend

For everyone always wanted to

Pet her or hold her,

Even with her snarly little grin

You see, Queen Piggy was a Pekingese

With smashed snout, hairy little toes

And her toothy little smile

Everyone that she met was now

Her newest best friend

We loved this little girl

As to our home, light she did bring

But now it’s the Angels turn

To smile with Queen Piggy

Tucked up underneath their wings

Here on earth we will always miss her

For all the smiles she did bring

But who am I to complain of missing her

For last night in my dreams

I saw Piggy fast asleep being petted by our Savior

There upon His knee

Teenager dies after being mauled by bear during race in Alaska

 

Teenager dies after being mauled by bear during race in Alaska

Authorities say a black bear killed a 16-year-old runner while he was competing in a race near Anchorage, Alaska, on Sunday.

Anchorage television station KTUU reports that the teenager, whose identity has not been released, was a participant in the juniors division of the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb three-mile race between Anchorage and Girdwood.

Race director Brad Precosky said the runner had apparently made it to the halfway-point turnaround for juniors on steep Bird Ridge trail and was on his way down when he texted a family member that he was being chased by a bear.

Officials from a number of agencies responded up the mountain to locate the boy, whose body was found about a mile up the path, at about 1,500 vertical feet.

“This is the worst thing that could happen,” Precosky said.

Alaska State Troopers released a statement Sunday saying the boy’s remains were transported from the scene and his next of kin was notified.

A park ranger shot the 250-pound bear in the face, but it ran away.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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