new ranger; cold weather tips; wolf trapping panel meeting and more

Webber announced as new ranger for Townsend district

TOWNSEND – Aaron Webber has been announced as the new ranger for the Townsend Ranger District and will begin his service on Jan. 3, 2023.

“We are excited to have Aaron joining our leadership team,” said Forest Supervisor Emily Platt. “His extensive work developing partnerships through the US Fish and Wildlife Service will make him an asset to the district, forest and local communities. I’d also like to thank Steve Opp and Roy Barkley who did an excellent job providing leadership to the district following the promotion of former Townsend District Ranger Mike Welker.”

Webber comes to the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest from Bethel, Alaska, where he spent the last seven and a half years working for the US Fish and Wildlife Service at the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. He has also served as a grant specialist in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and spent time in Vernal, Utah, working to recover endangered fish in the Colorado River drainage. In addition to his federal service, Webber has worked for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Utah State University. Outside of work, Webber enjoys spending time with family, hunting, fishing and trapping.

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The Townsend Ranger District covers 300,000 acres in Broadwater, Jefferson and Meagher counties. The district includes portions of two mountain ranges, the Elkhorns and Big Belts, which are bisected by the Missouri River and Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/hlcnf/ to learn more about the Forest.



Heading outdoors for a day of fun? The Forest Service recommends you make sure someone knows where you are going and when you expect to be back.


U.S. Forest Service

Forest Service offers cold weather tips

Here are a few tips from the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest to deal with winter’s icy grip:

Always check local weather forecasts for the area you will be visiting: www.weather.gov

  • Check road conditions before you head out:
  • (Keep in mind Forest Service roads are unplowed and can be hard to turn around on in the winter).
  • Make sure someone knows where you are going and when you expect to be back.
  • Have traction tires and/or chains, carry an emergency kit, extra clothing & food in your vehicle.

Visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/r6/recreation/safety-ethics/?cid=fseprd700207&width=full for other winter tips.

— Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest

Wolf trapping season open in occupied grizzly bear habitat

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wildlife staff completed their final assessment of grizzly bear activity in occupied grizzly bear habitat.

Effective Dec 24, wolf trapping season is open in all areas of occupied grizzly bear habitat across the state, including deer and elk hunting district (HD) 130 in northwest Montana.

Hunters and trappers should note that wolf harvest quotas exist in each FWP trapping district and wolf management unit 313. Those harvest quotas can be viewed and followed on the FWP Wolf Dashboard.

In August, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission approved wolf hunting and trapping regulations for the 2022 season, which ends March 15, 2023. The regulations include a floating start date for wolf trapping in occupied grizzly bear habitat. The intent of the floating start date is to avoid conflict with grizzly bears that have yet to deny for the winter

FWP makes a decision opening trapping in occupied bear habitat each Monday in December with input from field staff on bear activity.

Trappers still need to exercise caution when out in the field. Black bears are still active is some parts of the state. In addition, grizzly bears can leave dens at any point during winter; trappers are encouraged to avoid trapping in areas where grizzly sign is detected.

Wolf hunters and trappers should make sure to be familiar with the 2022 Furbearer, Wolf and Trapping Regulations, which include maps of occupied grizzly bear habitat.

WHIP advisory panel to meet Jan 12

The Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) advisory council will meet Thursday, Jan. 12, at 9 am at the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks conference room. People can attend via Zoom or in-person.

WHIP was established during the 2017 Legislature to set aside up to $2 million of federal Pittman-Robertson funding annually for the purpose of wildlife habitat restoration work in the form of noxious weed management. The program focuses on landscape-scale projects involving multiple landowners working together to solve noxious weed issues in priority wildlife habitats. The council will meet to discuss program administration. A public comment opportunity is scheduled for approximately 11:30 am (time is approximate).

https://mt-gov.zoom.us/j/86045926195?pwd=ck5BZ1kvLzZDOURrODM5VkhuZXVtZz09

Webinar ID: 860 4592 6195

Join by Telephone: +1-213-338-8477 or +1-206-337-9723 or +1-646-558-8656

Join by SIP: [email protected]

Study to look at elk populations

Wildlife biologists are embarking on a multi-year project in the Lower Clark Fork near Noxon in Sanders County to better understand what is influencing elk populations.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists are partnering with researchers at the University of Montana WA Franke College of Forestry and Conservation to carry out a comprehensive study of elk populations in Hunting District 121.

The project will focus on:

  • survival, recruitment, and pregnancy rates of elk;
  • Predator-prey interactions between elk and wolves, bears, and lions;
  • Seasonal distribution patterns on public and private lands;
  • Habitat needs and land-use practices that could benefit elk;
  • Wildlife management strategies for northwest Montana.

“We are hoping to better understand elk population dynamics in northwest Montana by studying the top-down influences like predation and the bottom-up influences like habitat,” said Dr. Kelly Proffitt, FWP research lead for this project.

“FWP will use this information from the field to develop an adaptive management plan for elk in this region. It will also help FWP and land managers continue to collaborate on forestry practices that benefit wildlife.”

In order to properly manage any wildlife species, biologists and managers must have a good understanding of the animals and habitat conditions in an area. This new project will gather valuable local information about the drivers of elk populations, including predator-prey interactions and changes in forest management.

This winter and spring, biologists and researchers will begin capturing elk, mountain lions, wolves, and black bears. The goal is to catch 60 elk, 10 mountain lions, 10 bears, and five wolves and fit the animals with GPS radio collars to track their movements, help evaluate population numbers, and identify the different causes of elk mortalities. Female elk will also receive implants that detect when and where calves are born so biologists can capture and collar the young animals for tracking survival and mortality rates.

Elk captures will involve helicopters and ground traps starting this winter and continuing through the duration of the project to maintain 60 collared elk.

To learn more about where and how animals are using the landscape, remote triggered cameras will be distributed throughout the area and collect observations of wildlife for abundance estimates.

Another part of this project will include studying effects of timber management on elk habitat and distribution. This will include surveying the types of forage and forested habitats that elk are using throughout the year.

Research will also try to better understand how hunting pressure drives elk movements on public and private land throughout hunting season.

To follow the progress of this project, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/regions/region1.

To learn more about elk management in Montana, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/elk.

Intro to snowshoeing workshops

Beginning Jan. 8 and continuing each Sunday for the rest of the month, Lone Pine in Kalispell will host Intro to Snowshoeing workshops from 12-12:30 pm

The cost will be $4 per person, which includes 30 minutes of instruction in snowshoe fit, skills and snow safety using the park’s rental equipment, and snowshoe rental for the rest of the day.

Participants can keep their rental gear until 3pm if they want to take a self-guided hike on the trails at Lone Pine following the program.

Space is limited to 12 participants in each session, so call (406) 755-2706, ext. 0 to reserve a spot.

Snowshoes are also available to rent on a first come, first served basis during visitor center hours. The Lone Pine visitor center is open year-round, Wednesdays-Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm and Sundays from 12:30 to 3 pm

For visitors not registered for a guided hike or workshop, the cost to rent snowshoes is $5 per pair or $10 for a group of up to five people.

Rosebud Isle Fishing Access Site closed temporarily

BILLINGS — Rosebud Isle Fishing Access Site has been closed temporarily due to ice jams and floods.

Ice jams on portions of the West Rosebud River have caused water and large chunks of ice to inundate the site, creating unsafe conditions for motorists and pedestrians. Access to the site will be restored as soon as conditions allow.

Seasonal flooding may impact access at other sites throughout the winter. Visit fwp.mt.gov to learn more about temporary closures that may be in effect across the state.

Free junior ranger to-go kits promote outdoor education

KALISPELL—Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is offering free youth educational kits at two of its state parks this winter.

The Junior Ranger To-Go Kits are available at Wayfarers Unit of Flathead Lake State Park in Bigfork and Lone Pine State Park in Kalispell. These grab-and-go kits are geared toward elementary-school aged kids and are perfect for early release days, weekends and holiday learning. These kits will cover topics such as wildlife tracking, birding, owls, snow science, and winter’s effects on forest/lake ecology. Each kit will have lesson plans, activities, and most materials provided.

Locations and dates of pickup will vary, and all kits will be available on a first come, first served basis throughout the two-week period. Pick up a kit at Lone Pine during visitor center hours, 10 am to 3 pm, Wednesday through Saturday, and 12:30 pm to 3 pm on Sundays.

Pick up kits at Wayfarers Unit of Flathead Lake State Park, 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Saturday at the Ranger Station in the Harry Horn area of ​​the Wayfarers Unit.

For more information, call the Park Visitor Center or Ranger Station at (406) 755-2706 or (406) 837-3041

— Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

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