Friday, September 28, 2018

Annual Elk Fest in Estes Park This Weekend

To celebrate the annual elk rut and learn about the "wapiti," the Native American name for elk, the city of Estes Park hosts the annual Elk Fest, Sept. 29-30.

Elk Fest offers visitors a chance to view elk during the rutting season in the wild, as well as expand their knowledge of elk and its habitat.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will have a booth to promote the message of how to view wildlife responsibility, will have a kids craft table, general showcases on elk and hunting information from CPW’s hunter outreach program.

Held in Bond Park, located in downtown Estes Park, the free festival will offer:

• Bugling competitions
• Education areas
• Seminars
• Music by the Elktones
• Mountain Man Rendezvous
• Native American storytelling and music
• Guided elk viewing tours
• Vendors that offer art from oils and pastels, hand made elk-ivory jewelry, scrimshawed antler knives, elk antler lamps and chandeliers, elk hide pillows, silver and gold jewelry and elk antlers.

Schedule of Events

Saturday, Sept. 29

• 8:30 a.m. - Rut Run 5k
• 10 a.m. - All Vendors Open
• 10 a.m. -3 p.m. Kids Corral w/ fun activities and crafts
• 10:30-10:50 a.m. - "Elk of Estes Park" film in Town Hall
• 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. - Native American Storytelling
• 12:15-1 p.m. - Bugling Contest
• 1-1:20 p.m. - "Elk of Estes Park" film in Town Hall
• 1:30-3 p.m. - Live Music from Amplified Souls
• 3-5 p.m. - Native American Music, Dancing & Storytelling
• 8 p.m.-12 a.m. - Elk Fest Afterparty at Hunters Chophouse

Sunday, Sept. 30

• 10 a.m. - All Vendors Open
• 10 a.m.-3 p.m. - Kids Corral w/ fun activities and crafts
• 10:30-10:50 a.m. - "Elk of Estes Park" film in Town Hall
• 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. - Live Music from Cowboy Brad
• 12:45-1:45 p.m. - Rocky Mountain Raptors, educational performance
• 2-4 p.m. - Native American Music, Dancing & Storytelling
• 2:30-2:50 p.m. - "Elk of Estes Park" film in Town Hall

You can visit the Elk Fest web page for more information by clicking here. For information on lodging during your visit, please click here.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, September 24, 2018

Two Elk Poaching Incidents In Rocky Mountain National Park

On Sunday morning park visitors reported a dead bull elk next to Trail Ridge Road, near the Ute Crossing Trail south of Forest Canyon Overlook in Rocky Mountain National Park. Park rangers investigated and discovered the large bull elk had been poached during the night of Friday, September 21, or early morning Saturday, September 22.

On Wednesday morning September 12, park rangers discovered a large bull elk had been poached on Trail Ridge Road near Milner Pass. This occurred during the night of Tuesday, September 11, or early morning September 12. This bull’s head had been severed and the carcass remained.

Both cases are under investigation. Park rangers at Rocky Mountain National Park urge anyone with information on these incidents or other incidents related to wildlife poaching in the park to call or text the National Park Service Investigative Services Bureau at 888-653-0009 or call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-332-4155. Persons providing information that leads to an arrest may receive a reward. If you have information that could help investigators, or if you were in the locations listed above please contact us. You do not have to tell us who you are, but please tell us what you know.

The group of elk near Milner Pass in particular had frequented that area. Park rangers are asking for any photographs taken of bull elk near Milner Pass. Please email those to or post on the park’s Facebook page at RockyNPS.

Rocky Mountain National Park’s wildlife is a resource for all to enjoy and protect. Both of these elk were magnificent large bulls. Tens of thousands of park visitors have viewed and photographed these bulls. The individual(s) involved with these egregious poaching incidents have robbed park visitors from this experience and killed two strong bull elk during the rutting season. Please help the park protect wildlife by reporting any suspicious activity.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Celebrate National Public Lands Day with Free Admission and Special Events at National Parks

On September 22, join in the nation’s biggest celebration of the great outdoors on National Public Lands Day! All national parks will have free admission and many will host volunteer service projects open to all.

"Every year, Americans come together on National Public Lands Day to demonstrate their love of national parks," said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith. "Activities hosted by parks across the nation will promote environmental stewardship and encourage the use of public lands for education, recreation, and good health."

Marking its 25th anniversary this year, National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest single-day environmental volunteer effort. More than 200,000 people are expected to participate in volunteer service events designed to improve the health of public lands and encourage shared stewardship.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan K. Zinke will celebrate the day by working alongside groups of military veterans and youth to paint several historic structures at Grand Canyon National Park. The volunteer project to restore the cabins is an example of the $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance needs in the National Park System. Secretary Zinke will also meet with national park partners and congressional representatives to discuss legislative efforts to address the maintenance backlog.

Grand Canyon is just one of 100 national parks and 2,600 federal public land sites hosting National Public Lands Day events. In other national parks, volunteers will rehabilitate campgrounds, improve trails, restore native habitats, repair bluebird boxes, clean beaches, and refurbish historic buildings, among other projects. Check for more information and a list of sites.

Volunteer efforts on days such as National Public Lands Day demonstrate the willingness of people to give back to the land for the benefit of parks. Volunteers assisting on work projects on National Public Lands Day will receive a voucher that can be redeemed for free entrance to any national park on a date of their choosing.

National Public Land Day celebrations also include recreational and educational activities, such as hikes, bike rides, paddle trips, bird watching excursions, and water quality testing. To encourage everyone to join the fun, it is an entrance fee-free day for national parks and most other federal public lands and state parks.

The National Environmental Education Foundation coordinates National Public Lands Day in partnership with seven federal agencies as well as nonprofit organizations and state, regional, and local governments. The federal partners are the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

All National Public Lands Day events are free, and open to people of all ages and abilities. To learn more, register an event, or find an event near you, visit


Monday, September 17, 2018

Colorado Parks and Wildlife announces discovery of unique cutthroat trout in southwest Colorado

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists have discovered a unique genetic lineage of the Colorado River cutthroat trout in southwest Colorado that was thought to be extinct. The agency will continue to evaluate the findings and collaborate with agency partners to protect and manage populations of this native trout.

The discovery was officially recognized earlier this year thanks to advanced genetic testing techniques that can look into the basic components of an organism’s DNA, the building blocks of life. This exciting find demonstrates the value of applying state-of-the-art genetic science to decades of native cutthroat conservation management and understanding.

“Anyone who just looked at these fish would have a difficult time telling them apart from any other cutthroat; but this is a significant find,” said Jim White, aquatic biologist for CPW in Durango. “Now we will work to determine if we can propagate these fish in our hatcheries and reintroduce them into the wild in their historic habitat. It’s a great conservation effort and a great conservation story.”

Eight small populations of these trout have been found in streams of the San Juan River Basin within the San Juan National Forest and on private property. The populations are in isolated habitats and sustained through natural reproduction. U.S. Forest Service staff and landowners have been cooperative in CPW’s efforts; they will also be instrumental in further cutthroat conservation efforts.

In August, north of Durango, crews from CPW and the U.S. Forest Service hiked into two small, remote creeks affected by the 416 Fire and removed 58 fish. Ash flows from the fire could have severely impacted these small populations.

Cutthroat trout originated in the Pacific Ocean and are one of the most diverse fish species in North America with 14 different subspecies. Three related subspecies are found in Colorado: Colorado River cutthroat trout found west of the Continental Divide; Greenback cutthroat trout in the South Platte River Basin; and the Rio Grande cutthroat trout in the San Luis Valley. A fourth, the yellowfin cutthroat trout native to the Arkansas River Basin, went extinct in the early 1900s. Cutthroats from each of these areas have specific and distinctive genetic markers. CPW propagates the three remaining subspecies, and actively manages their conservation and recovery throughout the state.

White and other biologists ‒ including Kevin Rogers, a CPW cutthroat researcher based in Steamboat Springs, and Mike Japhet, a retired Durango CPW aquatic biologist ‒ have been surveying remote creeks in southwest Colorado for more than 30 years looking for isolated populations of cutthroat trout. They found some populations in remote locations long before advanced genetic testing was available. The biologists understood that isolated populations might carry unique genetic traits and adaptations, so they made sure to preserve collected samples for genetic testing later. Significant advances in genetic testing technology over the last 10 years were instrumental in finding the distinct genetic markers that identify the San Juan lineage trout as being unique.

In 1874, naturalist Charles E. Aiken collected and preserved samples of fish found in the San Juan River near Pagosa Springs. Two trout were deposited in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. These samples were forgotten until 2012 when a team of researchers from the University of Colorado was hired by the Greenback Trout Recovery Team to study old trout specimens housed in the nation’s oldest museums. When the researchers tested tissue from those two specimens they found genetic markers unique to the San Juan River Basin. Armed with the knowledge of these genetic “fingerprints”, CPW researchers and biologists set out to test all the cutthroat trout populations they could find in the basin in search of any relic populations.

“We always ask ourselves, ‘What if we could go back to the days before pioneer settlement and wide-spread non-native fish stocking to see what we had here?’” White said. “Careful work over the years by biologists, finding those old specimens in the museum and the genetic testing gave us the chance, essentially, to go back in time. Now we have the opportunity to conserve this native trout in southwest Colorado.”

Developing a brood stock of these trout so that they can be reintroduced into San Juan River headwaters streams will be a key conservation strategy for increasing their distribution into suitable habitat and help their long-term stability. Protecting the fish from disease, other non-native fish, habitat loss and over-harvest are important factors that will be considered in a conservation plan that will be developed over the next few years. While that might seem like a long time, the discovery of this fish goes back more than 100 years.

Over the decades, CPW has worked with many partners throughout the state to find and conserve distinct cutthroat populations. Many of these efforts were conducted with assistance from the U.S. Forest Service, conservation groups and private property owners. CPW also works on projects with both the Colorado River Cutthroat Trout and Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout conservation teams.

All native cutthroats have been adversely affected by a variety of issues, including reduced stream flows, competition with other trout species, changes in water quality and other riparian-habitat alterations. Consequently, the various types of native cutthroats are only found in isolated headwaters streams. To ensure continued conservation of Colorado’s cutthroats, CPW stocks only the native species in high lakes and headwater streams. That stocking practice started in the mid-1990s.

CPW has also conserved cutthroats in headwaters streams by working with the U.S. Forest Service to build barriers to prevent upstream migration of non-native trout, removing non-native trout and subsequently stocking them with native trout. The conservation group, Trout Unlimited, has provided valuable assistance with many of these projects.

John Alves, Durango-based senior aquatic biologist for CPW’s Southwest Region, said the discovery shows the dedication of CPW aquatic biologists.

“These fish were discovered because of our curiosity and our concern for native species,” Alves said. “We’re driven by scientific inquiry that’s based on hard work and diligence. This is a major discovery for Colorado and it shows the critical importance of continuing our research and conservation work.”


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Decision Reached on Fall River Entrance Improvements In Rocky Mountain National Park

The Director of the Intermountain Region, National Park Service, has signed a decision document that will enable Rocky Mountain National Park to implement improvements to the Fall River Entrance Station, including the addition of a fast-pass lane for use by pass-holding visitors as well as employees and emergency vehicles. The Fall River Entrance is one of two major entrance stations on the east side of the park and is located on U.S. Highway 34, just inside the park boundary.

In addition to the new fast-pass lane, the selected alternative reconfigures the existing entrance and exit lanes, replaces all existing buildings with newly constructed ones having updated equipment and systems for ventilation and technology, improves the accessibility of all entrance facilities, and adds new parking spaces and pedestrian paths. The park will also develop an interpretive wayside exhibit at Sheep Lakes Overlook to depict the developmental history of the Fall River Entrance Station Area. Keeping the current configuration of existing buildings will minimize impacts on the Fall River Entrance Historic District.

An Environmental Assessment for the Fall River Entrance Improvements was prepared in June 2018, to examine alternative actions and environmental impacts associated with improving the entrance station area. Initial public scoping for the project occurred in the summer of 2017, including a public meeting held in August. It will be several years until the construction begins.


Monday, September 10, 2018

Orphaned Estes Park bear cubs begin rehabilitation process in San Luis Valley

Three orphaned black bear cubs taken from inside the Estes Park city limits are getting a new lease on life at Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Frisco Creek wildlife facility near Del Norte in the San Luis Valley.

The three cubs were orphaned last Thursday after their mother was euthanized for attempting to break into a home on Ponderosa Drive in Estes Park. It was the sow’s third reported residential break-in of the summer; she had also caused damage at a local business in her search of food.

That sow become known in the town as “Scarface” because of wounds sustained on her snout two years ago when she touched a power line. Due to her comfort being around people, she was deemed a threat to human health and safety.

“She had become habituated to people and had associated humans with food,” said Kristin Cannon, area wildlife manager for CPW. “She posed a safety risk to the public and we felt compelled to act to protect the community. We also hope that by removing the cubs from this situation, they will not repeat the behavior of their mother and will have a higher chance of survival over the long term.”

The rehabilitation center now plays an important role in the development of these cubs. The cubs are isolated from people to deter habituation. The Frisco Creek Center also prepares these cubs for winter hibernation.

Frisco Creek has been very successful in the rehabilitation of black bear cubs. In 2017, the center rehabilitated two orphaned cubs taken from Hermit Park Open Space just east of Estes Park.

“They came from near Estes Park and they were returned to the same area later that year,” said Michael Sirochman, Frisco Creek wildlife facility manager. “We are not taking them away. We are not putting them in a zoo. We are not killing them. We are successfully returning them to the wild, once they are ready to be self-sufficient.”

In a typical year, the facility receives 15-20 black bear cubs that they prepare to survive a winter’s hibernation on their own. Sirochman said the process of rehabilitating these three cubs begins with keeping them away from people.

“To prevent habituation, we are very strict about keeping people away from the bears. We also have the enclosures set up with visual barriers,” he said, so the cubs cannot see the working staff. “We will have two pens adjacent to each other and when the bears hear us, they generally will retreat to the farther pen, just to get away from the sound of humans. We are trying to preserve that instinct to avoid humans".

The next step is to continue to build on the bears' natural instincts and pack on the pounds before winter.

“A lot of this isn’t really taught, they just know to follow their nose to food and we try to provide the widest variety of natural forage that we can so that they have experience with those things,” Sirochman said. “When they smell them one day, they remember: ‘Ah ha, gooseberries are good and I’m going to go eat them.’ ”

The staff puts whole berry bushes or rose hips in their pens so the cubs actually pick the berries off and get poked by the thorns, making it a realistic experience. They are also fed fish provided by the Monte Vista Fish Hatchery.

However, the bulk of their diet is made up of a nutritionally complete commercial bear formula to make sure the cubs are getting all necessary nutrients to grow.

The minimum target weight that facility staff would allow a cub to be released for hibernation is 60 pounds for a female, 70 pounds for a male. Most cubs they release are somewhere in the 90- to 110-pound range.

“This time of year, since we are in hyperphagia, they are really keyed in on food,” Sirochman said. “They want to spend a lot of their day eating and this commercial feed is just so packed full of calories that they can really get a lot more nutrients in a short amount of time than they could in the wild. So they grow very quickly.”

How quickly? Sirochman said these cubs will probably put on 30-40 pounds by the end of September.

“Visually, they are very healthy cubs,” he said of this trio. “Some of the cubs we get have been orphaned for weeks without mom and they are starving. These went straight from mom to us so there was no lag time for them to get hungry.”

Just like the other set of orphaned cubs from Estes Park last summer, the success rate of the facility in getting cubs through their first hibernation on their own has been good.

In 2012, the facility released 20 cubs, equipped with ear-tag transmitters, into the wild during hibernation. The ear transmitters stay on typically for no longer than six months, but CPW collected enough data off of that to know that all 20 cubs survived the winter.

“It is not an occasional thing, it is something we do all the time,” Sirochman said. “We are good at it and are very successful. I very rarely find out about these cubs getting into trouble after release, which is somewhat telling. They don’t seem to be getting into trouble any more often than a wild bear would get into trouble.”

And that is the goal here with these three orphaned cubs. Do what can be done to get them to be self-sufficient without having to go into town to look for food.

When released, these cubs will have white ear-tags on them to signal they are rehabilitated cubs. This does not count as a first strike against them, so if they get into trouble in the future, they won’t be euthanized on that first offense unless they pose an imminent threat to human health and safety, such as by breaking into a home.

“They are going to hibernate all winter, they are going to turn their fat into all the energy and water they need,” Sirochman said. “One of the things a little bit of the research I’ve seen has shown, is that the longer they can go between the release and encountering humans for the first time, the greater the likelihood that they will respond like a wild bear that wants to avoid people.”

As for the city of Estes Park, Cannon stressed the importance of its residents being bear aware to help prevent future conflicts. “It is imperative that the residents of Estes Park work to secure their garbage and houses to make town less appealing to the cubs and other bears,” she said.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Enjoy the fall foliage with Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Though summer doesn’t officially end until Sept. 22, fall colors are already beginning to appear across the State of Colorado. Colorado Parks and Wildlife invites you to plan your fall excursions, making the most of those fleeting fall colors. Whether you are looking for wildlife viewing, picturesque hiking trails or a scenic foliage drives, Colorado has got it all.

If you are interested in witnessing the changes to nature autumn brings, Colorado’s 41 state parks are a perfect place to start. With fall bringing dramatic changes to the aspen leaves, as well as unique animal mating rituals such as elk bugling, state parks are a great place to access all that the season brings. Take a weekend away at State Forest State Park to witness a phenomenal showing of changing aspen trees. If you are more interested in elk viewing, head to Mueller State Park to join a group hike to seek out the bugling elk and a chance to witness bull elk competing for females. While making the most of the wildlife viewing opportunities autumn presents, always remember to practice ethical wildlife viewing.

"Autumn is a wonderful time of the year to enjoy Colorado’s state parks. With opportunities to view wildlife and appreciate our fall colors in beautiful settings, our state parks are great places to experience the best aspects of the season. With the potential for fall colors to arrive a bit earlier this year, make sure to get outside and enjoy this special time before it passes for another year," says Julie Arington, Park Manager at Steamboat Lake State Park.

Fall in Colorado provides opportunities for those looking for a solo adventure, as well as those seeking some family fun. With hundreds of miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding as well as a wide variety of camping options, Colorado’s state parks are sure to have a trail or site to fit every age, ability and interest. Whether you are interested in a nature walk at Barr Lake, a horseback ride at Golden Gate Canyon, a mountain bike ride at Mancos, or a relaxing overnight yurt stay at Pearl Lake, fall in Colorado has something that everyone will enjoy.

As the air becomes brisk, you may find a scenic drive preferable. Begin your drive at Trinidad Lake State Park, and wind your way through the Highway of Legends down to Lathrop State Park. Along the way, you’ll be rewarded with views of mountain peaks and groves of changing aspens. If you’re looking for a new take on fall color viewing, head out to southwest Colorado for a visit to Navajo State Park. You will have a chance to witness the desert mountains, buttes, and mesas while they are highlighted by pockets of colorful brilliance and interest.

To find state parks with fall activities you may be interested in, please visit the Park Finder, as well as the CPW calendar.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Body Found Believed To Be That Of Jens “Jay” Yambert

Yesterday morning, August 31, a body was found by Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue ground team members west of Keplinger’s Couloir at 12,600 feet in elevation, in extremely steep, rugged terrain. Boulder County Coroner’s office will not release positive identification until completion of an autopsy. However, it is believed that the body is that of Jens “Jay” Yambert, 60, of Urbana, Illinois.

Based on this afternoon’s weather and erratic winds, rangers will be staying in the area overnight and an investigation will take place tomorrow. Recovery efforts will also begin tomorrow. Due to the extended weather forecast for high elevations, it is unknown when complete recovery efforts will take place. Once the investigation and recovery is complete more details will be released. Until then, no further information is available.

On Tuesday, August 28, Rocky Mountain National Park rangers were notified by a family member that Jens “Jay” Yambert, 60, of Urbana, Illinois, was overdue. Yambert is believed to have started from the Longs Peak Trailhead at 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 26. His rental car was found at the trailhead Tuesday night after park staff were notified by his family that he was overdue. It was unknown what Yambert’s planned destination or route was. After learning about the search for Yambert, park staff heard from visitors who saw Yambert on Monday morning, August 27, along the Keyhole Route. Visitors indicated that the weather was poor with ice, sleet, rain, and strong winds.

Extensive ground and aerial search efforts began for Yambert the morning of Wednesday, August 29, two days after he was last seen on the Keyhole. Assisting Rocky Mountain National Park's Search and Rescue Team members in today’s search operations were Rocky Mountain Rescue based out of Boulder, Larimer County Search and Rescue, including one dog team, and Northern Colorado Helitack.


Conquering A Granite Goliath

Below is an outstanding short film by Christopher R. Abbey on what it's like to climb 14,505-foot Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48. The film has recently become an official selection for the Highlands Park Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

CONQUERING A GRANITE GOLIATH - Summiting Mount Whitney from Christopher R. Abbey on Vimeo.