Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Snowshoeing: Banner Ridge

Everybody, git yer shoes on!

On Sunday, we went snowshoeing again, this time with our new friends Mike W., Roxanne, Erin, and Mike H. Some of the snow we enjoyed last weekend at Whoop-Em-Up had melted, so we drove further up the mountain to the Banner Ridge Park-n-Ski area.

The view is not too shabby.

One of the Mikes brought a GPS, so we knew exactly how far we went: 3.4 miles. I have decided that 3.4 miles on snowshoes is a pretty good hike. I woke up in the middle of the night and my legs were screaming.

Right from the outset, we saw lots of animal tracks.

I am enjoying learning how to identify animal tracks: rabbit, fox, and coyote were the most common. About halfway through the hike, we took an off-trail detour and Jon spotted
wolf tracks. They were enormous and stunning. You could see the outline of each pad-- the paws were about as big around as my hand.

Living out west has forced me to think more often about the tension between ranchers, hunters, livestock, and wolves. It used to be that wolves were just the bane of livestock farmers, but now hunters are citing anecdotal evidence that wolves are the cause of a decline in elk and moose populations, as well. I won't go into this in detail, but I found numerous sources that negate this, including from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. (If you want more information, just Google "idaho wolves elk population".)

The wolves in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are considered a "non-essential experimental population" but they are still protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act. Early this year, however, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal to remove grey wolves' endangered status. In preparation for the status change, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is trying to determine how the populations will be managed and to what extent. Idaho Governor Butch Otter wants the wolf population culled by hunters from current numbers around 800 (source) to 100 animals, or 10 packs. Ten packs is the minimum number of wolves before the animals would be considered endangered...
again. Anyone else see the lunacy in this idea?

According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Commission, delisting could occur as early as February 2008. At a hunter's rally last week, Otter spoke about the issue:

"That management includes you," Otter told the approximately 300 hunters, many wearing camouflage clothing and blaze-orange caps. "I'm prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself."


Another interesting thing we saw on our snowshoe trip was the remnants of a burn. At first we thought the rising smoke was steam from a natural hot spring, but closer investigation revealed that it was actually tree wood still smoldering.

Winter burn.

Why are the maps are so high? So they aren't at your knees when the snowpack is three feet!

Once again, I tripped myself by stepping on my own shoe and ended up face-planting in the snow. I wasn't hurt, but as I pulled myself up, my entire group stood on the hill above me laughing with their cameras poised on their noses. Evil. (I admit that later in the hike, when Erin tripped, I was actually hoping she would fall and she totally busted me by the excited look on my face. Nobody wants to be the only clutz.)

On our way back to Boise, we stopped at the Idaho City Ranger station to alert the staff to the burn and they called out a fire crew to investigate.

It was yet another beautiful, if tiresome, weekend in this winter paradise. I doubt we will get on our snowboards until after we return from Christmas holidays in Florida but I certainly look forward it!


Tricia Daily Manning said...

I understand the clutsy feeling in snowshoes. My last hike in snowshoes had a face plant where I kept sliding down this huge mountain and I had no idea how to stop. The hike ended the way it should have began where I learned how to stop in case you start sliding down a hill in deep snow. Tricia

Kate said...

Tricia, I wish I could say my fall happened on an incline. But alas, it didn't. LOL!

me said...

This looks incredible. I want go too. Those wolf tracks were so cool. Does that mean you were near a pack?