"Where's all the *#%#$?! wildlife?" Jen shouted on our fifth day, as we were climbing south from Cooke City, Montana.
I laughed, then turned back to watch my footing and stepped on a set of fresh wolf prints-a timely reminder that while we weren't literally rubbing elbows with the critters, we were traveling through one of the few remaining ecosystems where grizzlies, wolves, bison, wolverines, and fishers still share the land with two-leggeds, and where deer, elk, and moose remain at near prepioneer levels.
During the following weeks, we listened to the wild wails of elk bugling in the night, watched moose watch us from streamside thickets, and felt the nighttime tingle of apprehension, wondering how many bear tracks would ring our camp the next morning.
Still, Absaroka wildlife faces challenges, most of which-oddly-are due to the health of the animal populations. Bison are so numerous that they're wandering beyond their traditional migration routes. Wolves, reintroduced to Yellowstone, now number more than 100 and have spread south as far as Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Grizzlies have dispersed south as far as the Wind River Range. All this movement creates inevitable encounters with humans, many of whom view the animals as threats and respond accordingly.
This is where you come in. The Absaroka wildlife need your help if they're to remain healthy.
- Buffalo Field Campaign, (406) 646-0070; firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Greater Yellowstone Coalition, (406) 582-8365; www.greateryellowstone.org.
- Predator Conservation Alliance, (406) 587-3389; www.predatorconservation.org.
- The Great Bear Foundation, (406) 829-9378; www.greatbear.org.