What is Wild Things Unlimited?
Wild Things Unlimited is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1997 to provide a vehicle for the collection of sound ecological information and the dissemination of such information to the American public.
We are in our sixteenth year of implementing projects to provide critically needed wildlife information to state and federal agencies, wildlife and wildland advocacy groups, and the general public.
The purpose of Wild Things Unlimited is to increase the effectiveness of wildlife and habitat management in the Rocky Mountains through two campaigns:
- conducting vital wildlife research that is not being accomplished in a comprehensive manner by government agencies or private entities, and
- increasing the public’s awareness of and participation in natural resource issues through education and outreach programs that provide individuals with a greater connection to the natural world.
Wild Things Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Steve Gehman and Betsy Robinson out of a desire to create a greater sense of structure, stability, and effectiveness for their research and education efforts in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Steve and Betsy are now staff members and researchers for Wild Things Unlimited, and are guided by a five-member Board of Directors. Our current Board members have expertise in a broad range of areas, including administration of non-profit environmental organizations, business management, organizational structure, communication, law, fund-raising, wildlife observation, environmental education, and public involvement in natural resource management issues.
Wild Things Unlimited currently conducts programs and activities in the Montana portion of the northern Rocky Mountains, from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park. Our research program includes two primary types of projects: Rare Carnivore Surveys and Wildlife Corridor Projects.
Rare Carnivore Surveys includes a series of projects designed to gather needed information on the distributions and abundance of the Rocky’s three rarest mammalian carnivores: wolverine, lynx, and fisher. All three of these species of animals are so rare that the states of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho consider them species of special concern and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that they are candidates for increased levels of protection.
Many biologists believe that wolverine, lynx, and fisher may be key indicators of an ecosystem’s health; however, critical information regarding their distributions, abundance, and ecology is lacking. In 1995 the founders of Wild Things Unlimited documented the first physical evidence of fishers in the Yellowstone Ecosystem since the late 1800’s (Yellowstone Science, Vol. 3, No. 4), and since then we have documented presence and behavior of wolverines and lynx in regions of the northern Rockies where their presence was previously unknown.
Wild Things Unlimited’s Rare Carnivore Surveys project has the following objectives:
- documenting presence of wolverines, lynx, and fishers at numerous locations throughout the northern Rocky Mountains, and thereby assist in the compilation of updated distribution maps for each species,
- documenting habitat use patterns of wolverines, lynx, and fishers in relation to human activities such as recreation and forest management, and
- gathering information related to the overall ecology of wolverines, lynx, and fishers.
Data are collected primarily during a four month field season (December through March) each winter. We use remotely triggered camera systems, snow track transects, hair snares, and interviews with backcountry users to document rare carnivore activity. Annual progress reports are distributed to resource managers and conservation organizations.
In 2001 we began our first Wildlife Corridor Project, which involved conducting wildlife surveys in key core wildlife habitat areas and corridors in the southern portion of the Yellowstone to Yukon lands network. During that project, we spent three summers collecting wildlife use data along the Gallatin-Bridger-Big Belt Wildlife Corridor, in order to provide up-to-date information to conservation organizations and government agencies that are working to protect wildlife and habitat within the Y2Y region.
Since 2001, we have been involved in other Wildlife Corridor Projects, such as: 1) searching for evidence of grizzly bear use in the HUB Conservation Area; 2) documenting the expansion of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population along the Gallatin Mountain Range, and searching for evidence of grizzly bear use farther north along the Gallatin-Bridger-Big Belt Wildlife Corridor; 3) documenting carnivore use in the MacDonald Pass Corridor, along the Continental Divide on the Helena National Forest; 4) helping to develop and implement citizen science projects focused on the Monida Pass (Montana-Idaho), Bondurant Pass (Wyoming), MacDonald Pass, and Gallatin Range wildlife corridors; and 5) documenting wildlife presence and use patterns on key private lands within wildlife corridors.
Education and Outreach Program
Wild Things Unlimited conducts an education and outreach program that has the following objectives:
- to produce materials that will inform the public about rare carnivores and our methods of studying them,
- to conduct slide presentations and public lectures concerning our research and critical natural resource management issues,
- to maintain a internet website that provides natural history information and research field notes developed primarily for secondary school students,
- to offer natural history expeditions that will help people to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural world, with the hope that they will become more involved in resource management issues, and
- to train citizen scientists in snow-tracking and other data collection protocols, so that they can increase their understanding of nature and contribute to on-going research projects.