Bear-proofing the Smith River


Anybody who has floated the super-scenic Smith River in central Montana in recent years knows it has a bear problem. Careless campers who failed to handle their food and garbage properly have food-conditioned a number of black bears.

Likewise, anybody familiar with bear behavior knows that once a bear receives a food reward from humans, it keeps coming back for more until it becomes a safety concern and has to be, as wildlife managers put it, “removed from the population.” Hence, the truism—a fed bear is a dead bear. Continue Reading →


Old playgrounds being taken out at South, Pioneer parks

South Park

All the playground equipment has been removed from South Park, and a similar removal will take place starting next week at Pioneer Park.

This is not the work of the Grinch. The city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Lands had already been planning to install new, much more attractive equipment at both parks next spring, using money from the Citywide Park District created by the City Council three years ago. Continue Reading →

Lake Elmo beavers: Cute, yes, but something of a nuisance

Ice beaver

Three or four beavers—one or two adults and two kits—have built themselves a home on the shores of Lake Elmo in the Heights.

Their bank den is on the west side of the 64-acre reservoir, near the boat launch and right alongside a culvert that feeds the lake with water from the Billings Bench Water Association canal. A bank den is similar to a lodge but incorporates the bank surface into the structure.

Continue Reading →

Secondhand solace



I pulled over along with the four or five cars in front of our van. We were outside of Billings and it was clear something was very wrong up ahead. There were newspaper pages blowing all over the westbound lanes of the highway. There was part of a horse trailer askew in the highway median. There was a pickup truck against a fence 50 feet off to the right of the roadway, smoke or steam billowing out of the front end. Continue Reading →

Bear safety in Yellowstone Park? Talk to a ranger


Most visitors to Yellowstone National Park rank the chance to see a grizzly bear at or near the top of their vacation wish lists. But park managers struggle with how to best keep humans and bruins safe when crowds gather to view wildlife along the roadside.

When it comes to educating visitors about the risks and rules of watching bears, it turns out the most effective communication method is the one used least often. Continue Reading →