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False spring or Climate Change?

Wow, its’ in the 50’s and 60’s for days now…in early March.  ‘Spring’ is the time we should begin getting our wet snows that deliver our moisture for the year.   Early and/or rapid spring run-off from the high country spells flooding and erosion.  All the grizzly bear signs warn ‘Grizzly bear season April-October.  Take precautions’ , but grizzly bears are being sighted already.

If you look at thirty years of data on the ‘green-up’ period in the high country, it is getting more compressed and earlier.  Warm temperatures like these suggest the trend is only going to continue.  If the grasses in the high country green up earlier and brown sooner, the elk in my valley that travel back to the Lamar to calf will once again have limited nutrition, all at a time when they need it the most to nurse their young.  This has been one of the major factors in their low calf-cow ratios

Elk herd in valley on a warm day


This fall I had an opportunity to go on a grizzly tracking adventure with Gregg Treinish of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.  On that wonderful trip I met Louisa Wilcox of the Montana NRDC.  I asked her about a premier Whitebark pine study that NRDC sponsored.  What she told me was eye opening.  The research botanist said as global warming progresses, we will see Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii) in the mountains here.  Gambel Oak is the predominant oak of the Southwest United States.  I saw it growing in the canyons around Mesa Verde.

But for today, this week has been a nice break from winter.  We got a foot of snow just a week before these temps.  Here’s some of what we’re now missing, taken last week.

Wolf tracks with snow blown in

Bull Moose

Shows that he recently lost his antlers

Grouse tracks

Moose mom and male calf

One Response

  1. How cool to see the moose, I actually haven’t seen one for a number of years now. In fact the last one I saw was in Canada, while anchored in a wilderness island area when we were still sailing. I have to say that I have been enjoying the nice weather–and getting spoiled by it, but it does seem to be confusing some animals. We have a pair of robins that have nested on our back house outside light for 3-years now, and I saw a pair sitting on the wires staring at the nest for two days in the row now. Also a couple of days ago I hear sandhill cranes! A little scary, considering we know we aren’t through with winter yet!


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