Wapiti and the Wolf

Examining Deer and Elk in the Western States with Recovering Gray Wolf Populations: A Landscape-Scale Retrospective Review

(Photo courtesy of Bob Landia)

 

 

Abstract

The intent of this review is to examine the current and historical status of three native deer taxa (mule deer, Columbian black-tailed deer, and white-tailed deer) and two native elk taxa (Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk) across their range in the western United States with recovering gray wolf populations. It identifies the natural and human-related factors keeping these ungulate population levels in check and specifically addresses the role of wolves in driving current population trends. Results suggest that habitat restoration rather than predator control has the highest potential to produce healthy deer and elk populations throughout the west given the current major limitations on each species. Loss of available habitat due to human expansion, changes in forest management practices, and noxious weed invasions have progressed across the study area. Habitat fragmentation also poses an ever-increasing problem for ungulates that are forced to deplete critical fat reserves as they must move farther to forage and find security cover. The major watersheds of the Northern Rockies have been heavily altered over the past several decades by exceptional declines in spring and summer precipitation, harsh winter episodes, a lengthening of the fire season compounded by long-term drought, and perhaps changes in atmospheric circulation patterns over the North Pacific Ocean. Weather and habitat condition continue to drive major population trends on both the Cascade and Rocky Mountain landscapes while hunter harvest remains the primary source of additive mortality given high rates of removal of adult female elk. Mortality related to wolves and other large predators has been shown by several studies to be largely compensatory, or within the range of harvestable surplus. Without serious attention to road/access closures, noxious weed treatment, and a return to the natural fire regime big game will continue to struggle in areas with degraded habitat with or without predator removal programs.

 

Introduction

In 1986 a pack of gray wolves from Alberta, Canada established territory in the North Fork Flathead River Valley of northern Montana and was the first pack to return to the western United States in over 50 years. A decade later a small experimental population of 66 wolves related to the Alberta migrants (Canis lupus irremotus) was introduced to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. They flourished under the protection provided by the 1973 Endangered Species Act and now inhabit much of what remains of their historic natural habitat in the Rocky Mountains. Since the controversial return of the wolf in the 1990s the question has been asked, “Are they likely to trigger dramatic prey declines?” This review seeks to answer that question by examining deer and elk population trends in western states where wolf recovery is taking place.

Deer and elk are the west’s premier big game species. They provide hunting and recreational viewing opportunity to thousands of people every year and are cornerstones of the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West landscapes. As such they serve as excellent indicator species of the long-term ecological and social consequences of wolf recovery in the United States. This review addresses the primary factors found to be limiting their survival and recruitment, including the role of wolves in driving population trends.

 

Materials and Methods

The study area includes the five western states in the lower 48 with established gray wolf populations, namely Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.  The state government wildlife agencies responsible for managing deer and elk within each state produce species-specific management plans that contain measurable goals defined according to existing population levels, habitat potential, desired harvest opportunities, and modeling projections. With exception, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has not produced any deer or elk management documents and instead regularly adjusts objectives for individual Herd Units based on the most recent harvest and survey trends. Each of the five agencies also releases periodic progress and status reports that contain population censuses, adjusted management strategies, and relevant research findings. Peer-reviewed literature has been collectively analyzed and integrated into the following review in order to delimit the impact of various natural and human-related factors on deer and elk.

 

A History on the Landscape        

European settlement and westward expansion brought with it logging activity and predator control that at first increased the landscape’s carrying capacity for ungulates, but populations of deer and elk quickly plummeted due to unrestricted hunting. By the turn of the 20th century the deer population was near extinction and elk herds had been reduced to living in isolated pockets across the landscape. Deer quickly rebounded with conservative hunting restrictions, land clearing, a lack of major predators, and several translocation efforts. By the 1950s they were so numerous that planned reductions began. Elk numbers dwindled until the latter half of the 20th century when statewide enhancement efforts, reduced deer densities, and increases in available habitat allowed for steady growth.

 

“The whole continent was one continuing dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and bears and more savage men. Now the forests are removed, the land covered with fields of corn, orchards bending with fruit and the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.”

– John Adams (1756)

 

Current Status

Deer: While numerical estimates of deer are not known, they have expanded their geographic range and are thought to exceed pre-settlement densities by four to ten times depending on locale.[i],[ii] There are two species comprising four subspecies of deer within the study area: mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionus), Columbian black-tailed deer (O. hemionus columbianus), white-tailed deer (O. virginianus idahoensis), and the endangered Columbian white-tailed deer (O. virginianus leucurus). White-tailed deer and mule deer inhabit the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range while black-tailed deer are found west of the Cascade crest.  Columbian white-tailed deer are restricted to isolated range along the lower Columbia River where wolves are not present and as such have not been included in this analysis.

 

Elk: Today roughly 365,000 or more elk roam the northern Rocky Mountain portion of the study area. An additional 115,000 plus roam the Cascades and coastal range of western Washington and Oregon. Two subspecies of elk inhabit the study area. Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) are found primarily east of Washington and Oregon’s Cascades crest and are distributed throughout the northern Rocky Mountains. Roosevelt elk (C. elaphus roosevelti) occur west of the Cascades Crest. The two subspecies differ slightly in size and morphology but are otherwise quite similar and are able to interbreed.

 

Research discussion

Emerging science has brought into question long-standing research that may have provided an oversimplified view of ecosystem dynamics in the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West. Historically, ungulates bounced back rapidly from episodes of overharvest, severe winters, or other major disturbance, but since the latter part of the 20th century patterns of dramatic population depression sometimes lasting a decade or more following a major disturbance have emerged in certain herds. Moreover, herds once thought to be permanent residents in localized areas are shifting their distribution and migration patterns in response to a changing landscape. Their collective response to disturbance has become more conspicuous for three key reasons: an overarching reduction in the quantity and quality of available habitat, amplification in large-scale weather anomalies, and an increasing complex of predators on public lands.

Land Use­ – Over half a century of fire suppression has caused dramatic departures from the historical natural fire regime on national forest system lands. It has also facilitated conifer encroachment on protected roadless and wilderness lands that provide vast tracks of relatively secure habitat for wildlife, thereby reducing the states’ carrying capacities for deer and elk. Suppression of small fires has caused an accumulation of fuels that increase the potential for extensive high-intensity fires that scorch the landscape and delay regrowth.[iii] Several large, moderate-severity fires occurred in northern Idaho and Montana in the 1990s and early 2000s that have improved habitat conditions for elk.

On non-wilderness federal lands timber harvest has actively replaced wildfire as the primary disturbance regime. Logging reductions in the Idaho Panhandle and Clearwater River Basin and in Oregon and Washington west of the Cascade Crest have resulted from a change in public attitudes towards clear-cutting and old-growth harvest that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, a decline in the market demand for timber products in the late 2000s, and new research and federal plans/incentives that favor more limited restoration thinning activities. Habitat potential has improved where prescribed stand thinning and forest restoration activities still occur while forage production, and thereby fawn and calf recruitment, have declined where both thinning and natural wildfires have not occurred.

Noxious weeds, particularly spotted knapweed, have proliferated on winter ranges and present one of the largest threats to habitat productivity.[iv] Studies have shown reductions of up to 98% in elk use of rangelands heavily infested with noxious species and dramatic increases in use of ranges where species are removed.[v],[vi] Agriculture, livestock grazing, and expanding urban centers now dominate low-elevation ranges that are critical to ungulate survival during winter. Development activity throughout the west since 1950 has influenced mule deer habitat both directly by reducing available habitat in winter and summer ranges, and indirectly by changing fire dynamics in those ranges.[vii] In Wyoming rapidly expanding oil/gas fields are further contributing to winter range losses.

Vulnerability to mortality is furthered by a combination of influences such as avoidance behavior near roads, mortality caused by vehicle collisions, and illegal poaching.[viii],[ix],[x] Research conducted in northern Idaho estimated that 18% of all cow elk hunting mortality was attributable to poaching, which has been shown to rise with increasing road densities.[xi],[xii] Off-highway vehicle (OHV) registration and illegal access to restricted areas by OHV operators during the hunting season has increased remarkably since the 1990s and may surpass any other human land use activity in promoting elk vigilance[xiii],[xiv]. For mule deer, motorized vehicle disturbance tends to displace them to marginal habitats with less available forage and high exposure to inclement weather. [xv]

Climate – Mule deer inhabit highly variable climates and have become more susceptible to winter die-offs as a consequence of loss and fragmentation of critical winter range. White-tailed deer have a higher potential maximum rate of increase and are less susceptible to over-harvest and habitat loss but are more sensitive to harsh winters. Survival in both deer and elk across the northern montane environments of the study area was heavily impacted by the severe winters of 2009 and 2010 and responded positively to mild winters in subsequent years.

Although ungulate survival throughout western North America is often driven by snowfall and winter precipitation, variation in adult female pregnancy rates, juveniles-at-heel in late autumn, and spring recruitment are heavily influenced by summer forage production, which determines adult female nutritional condition and juvenile body mass entering winter.[xvi] April 1st snowpack has declined at an unprecedented rate in the northern Rockies and Greater Yellowstone regions since the late-20th century and is expected to continue to decline due to positive reinforcement of anthropogenic warming.[xvii],[xviii] Ungulates are in the poorest physical condition of the year immediately prior to the spring “green-up” in late-April, early-May when snowmelt and abundant runoff occur, leading to a sudden increase in available forage. Earlier green-ups can have serious detrimental effects on migratory elk herds that delay migration following harsh winters or are forced to winter on higher-elevation ranges.[xix],[xx]

Significant changes in fire season (July-September) precipitation trends in the Northern Rockies have also occurred since the 1980s.[xxi] Precipitation declined throughout Idaho and Montana from 1982 to 2006, resulting in extreme drought conditions in the Rocky Mountain States in the mid-2000s and potentially intensifying fire activity. The fire season also appears to be getting longer. Precipitation events that occur in October and signal the end of the fire season are occurring, on average, 15 days later in the year, which has the potential to increase fuel accumulation and the length of time that fuels actively burn. Drought and extensive fires in the desert and grassland environments have caused declines that are expected to persist through 2014 and may have altered herd distributions on a local scale.

Factors of large-scale climatic variability have traditionally been examined using Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) indices. Numerous studies have linked PDO and ENSO to fluctuations in snow depth, stream discharge, and fires in the northwest, but few have examined the effects of these sea surface anomalies on ungulate populations. A recent study conducted in Banff National Park in southern Alberta found that elk population growth rate was primarily limited by the North Pacific Oscillation (NPO), which drives atmospheric currents from the arctic down through the Rocky Mountains.[xxii] A correlation between negative peak anomalies in the NPO and record high years of statewide elk harvest in Idaho, and equally correspondent positive peak anomaly phases and major declines in successful harvest across the state indicate a potential climate limitation on Rocky Mountain elk that warrants further research.

Predation – Hunter harvest accounts for the largest source of “predation” mortality in both the Cascades and Rocky Mountains, contributing to the removal of roughly 10-20% of the ungulate populations annually. Furthermore, it has been shown by several studies to be the only source of additive elk mortality across North America due to high rates of removal of prime-aged reproducing females.[xxiii],[xxiv] Removing adult females, which is formally recognized as antlerless harvest, effectively regulates the size, composition, and reproductive rates of a herd and is the most widely-used population control technique employed by wildlife managers today. It is important to note when discussing hunter harvest that hunters provide over $100 million a year for wildlife management through a tax on the purchase of firearms, ammunition, or archery equipment established by the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 and millions more through license and public access fees every year.

Predator kills can exceed hunter kills, especially in primitive areas, but remain largely compensatory as predators tend to focus on young, sick, and older individuals with low reproductive value.[xxv],[xxvi]  Research has shown that non-human predators do have the potential to produce additive components of mortality in populations well below forage carrying capacity, nutritionally stressed populations, or during/after severe winters.[xxvii],[xxviii] Additive mortality is also possible in multi-predator complexes. Elk herds in the Idaho primitive area, west-central Montana, and the Greater Yellowstone area may be experiencing population depression due to high predator:prey ratios with multiple predators present. In systems with wolves and no grizzly bears, mountain lion and black bear predation are the dominant sources of calf mortality.[xxix],[xxx] In systems with wolves and grizzly bears, mountain lion predation has tended to decline due to a shift in niche space towards mule deer on steeper slopes. Grizzly bears thereby became the major source of calf mortality.[xxxi],[xxxii],[xxxiii],[xxxiv]

A recent study conducted in northwest Wyoming investigated whether non-consumptive risk effects (i.e. increased elk vigilance and avoidance) caused by the presence of wolves were significant enough to affect elk population growth.[xxxv] Although elk vigilance and avoidance increased when wolves were within 1 km, the frequency of encounters between elk and wolves was not high enough to significantly affect elk body fat, condition, and pregnancy rates. Thereby wolf predation impacts on elk population growth are likely limited to direct consumptive effects.

 

Conclusion

The results of this review of deer and elk dynamics in the Cascades and northern Rocky Mountains suggest that population dynamics for the five subspecies under consideration are being driven primarily by habitat deterioration (human disturbance, forest management practices, and noxious weed invasions), recent climate anomalies, and direct mortality caused by hunting. Urban development, motorized access, increasing predator numbers, and localized disease have also influenced fitness and survival to a lesser degree. With respect to wolves, the aforementioned research summarized in this report indicates that non-human predators are not a significant source of additive mortality or increased vigilance in deer and elk compared with other factors. Therefore predator control as a management tool will have limited impact on addressing low juvenile recruitment and is not a priority. Adaptive management strategies that aim to restore habitat and improve the quality and abundance of native wildlife species have the highest potential to produce healthy ecosystems throughout the west in the face of a rapidly changing landscape.

 

 

 

[i] Rooney, Thomas P. “Deer impacts on forest ecosystems: a North American perspective.” Forestry 74.3 (2001): 201-208. Print.

[ii] Kalisz, Susan, Rachel B. Spigler, and Carol C. Horvitz. “In a long-term experimental demography study, excluding ungulates reversed invader’s explosive population growth rate and restored natives.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.12 (2014): 4501-4506. Print.

[iii] Rollins, Matthew G., Thomas W. Swetnam, and Penelope Morgan. “Evaluating a century of fire patterns in two Rocky Mountain wilderness areas using digital fire atlases.” Canadian Journal of Forest Research 31.12 (2001): 2107-2123. Print.

[iv] Kelsey, Rick G., and Laura J. Locken. “Phytotoxic properties of cnicin, a sesqiterpene lactone from Centaurea maculosa (spotted knapweed).” Journal of Chemical Ecology 13 (1987): 19-33. Print.

[v] DiTomaso, Joseph M. “Invasive weeds in rangelands: species, impacts, and management.” Weed Science 48.2 (2000): 255-265. Print.

[vi] Olson, Bret E. “Impacts of noxious weeds on ecologic and economic systems.” Biology and management of noxious rangeland weeds. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, OR (1999): 4-18. Print.

[vii] Rachael, John. Project W-170-R-34 Progress Report, Mule Deer, Study I, Job 2, July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. Boise: Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Bureau, 2011. Print.

[viii] Swenson, Jon E. “Effects of hunting on habitat use by mule deer on mixed-grass prairie in Montana.” Wildlife Society Bulletin (1982): 115-120. Print.

[ix] Johnson, Bruce K., Michael J. Wisdom, and John G. Cook. “Issues of elk productivity for research and management.” The Starkey Project: a synthesis of long-term studies of elk and mule deer. Reprinted from the 2004 Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, Aliance Communications Group, Lawrence, Kansas, USA (2005): 81-93. Print.

[x] McCorquodale, Scott M. A Brief Review of the Scientific Literature on Elk, Roads, & Traffic. Olympia: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2013. Print.

[xi] Leptich, David J., and Peter E. Zager. Road access management effects on elk mortality and population dynamics. In Proceedings Elk Vulnerability Symposium, eds. A. G. Christensen, L. J. Lyon, and T. N. Lonner, 126-131. Bozeman: Montana State University, 1991. Print.

[xii] Cole, Eric K., Michael D. Pope, and Robert G. Anthony. “Effects of road management on movement and survival of Roosevelt elk.” The Journal of wildlife management (1997): 1115-1126. Print.

[xiii] Ciuti, Simone, et al. “Effects of humans on behaviour of wildlife exceed those of natural predators in a landscape of fear.” PloS one 7.11 (2012): e50611. Print.

[xiv] United States. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Oregon’s Elk Management Plan. Salem: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Division, 2003. Print.

[xv] Mule Deer Working Group. Range-wide Status of Mule Deer and Black-tailed Deer – 2013. Tuscon: Mule Deer Working Group, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, 2013. Print.

[xvi] Johnson, Bruce K., Priscilla K. Coe, and Richard L. Green. “Abiotic, bottom-up, and top-down influences on recruitment of Rocky Mountain elk in Oregon: A retrospective analysis.” The Journal of Wildlife Management 77.1 (2013): 102-116. Print.

[xvii] Pederson, Gregory T., et al. “The unusual nature of recent snowpack declines in the North American Cordillera.” Science 333.6040 (2011): 332-335. Print.

[xviii] McCabe, Gregory J., and Martyn P. Clark. “Trends and variability in snowmelt runoff in the western United States.” Journal of Hydrometeorology 6.4 (2005): 476-482. Print.

[xix] Wilmers, Christopher C., et al. “Climate and Vegetation.” Yellowstone’s Wildlife in Transition (2013): 147. Print.

[xx] United States. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Wildlife Habitat Council. Fish and Wildlife Habitat Management Leaflet: American Elk (Cervus Elaphus). Publication no. 11. N.p.: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1999. Print.

[xxi] Hadlow, Ann M., and Carl A. Seielstad. Changes in Fire Season Precipitation in Idaho and Montana from 1982-2006. Rep. Missoula: National Center for Landscape Fire Analysis, University of Montana College of Forestry and Conservation, 2009. Print.

[xxii] Hebblewhite, Mark. “Predation by wolves interacts with the North Pacific Oscillation (NPO) on a western North American elk population.” Journal of Animal Ecology 74.2 (2005): 226-233. Print.

[xxiii] Brodie, Jedediah, et al. “Relative influence of human harvest, carnivores, and weather on adult female elk survival across western North America.” Journal of Applied Ecology 50.2 (2013): 295-305. Print.

[xxiv] Vucetich, John A., Douglas W. Smith, and Daniel R. Stahler. “Influence of harvest, climate and wolf predation on yellowstone elk, 1961‐2004.” Oikos 111.2 (2005): 259-270. Print.

[xxv] Eberhardt, L. L., et al. “A Seventy‐Year History of Trends in Yellowstone’s Northern Elk Herd.” The Journal of Wildlife Management 71.2 (2007): 594-602. Print.

[xxvi] Dusek, Gary L., Alan K. Wood, and Shawn T. Stewart. “Spatial and temporal patterns of mortality among female white-tailed deer.” The Journal of Wildlife Management (1992): 645-650. Print.

[xxvii] Ballard, Warren B., et al. “Deer-predator relationships: a review of recent North American studies with emphasis on mule and black-tailed deer.” Wildlife Society Bulletin (2001): 99-115. Print.

[xxviii] Singer, Francis J., et al. “Density dependence, compensation, and environmental effects on elk calf mortality in Yellowstone National Park.” The Journal of Wildlife Management (1997): 12-25. Print.

[xxix] United States. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Bitterroot Elk Project Progress Report Fall 2012. Helena:  Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Wildlife Division, 2012. Print.

[xxx] United States. Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “Many Factors Influence Elk Numbers and How Elk are Managed.” Idaho Fish and Game News 25.7 (2013): 2. Print.

[xxxi] Griffin, Kathleen A., et al. “Neonatal mortality of elk driven by climate, predator phenology and predator community composition.” Journal of Animal Ecology 80.6 (2011): 1246-1257. Print.

[xxxii] Bartnick, T. D., et al. “Variation in cougar (Puma concolor) predation habits during wolf (Canis lupus) recovery in the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.” Canadian Journal of Zoology 91.2 (2013): 82-93. Print.

[xxxiii] Hamlin, Kenneth L., Julie A. Cunningham, and Kurt Alt. “Monitoring and assessment of wolf-ungulate interactions and population trends within the Greater Yellowstone area, southwestern Montana, and Montana statewide.” Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Annual Reports 28 (2009). Print.

[xxxiv] Barber-Meyer, Shannon M., L. David Mech, and Patrick James White. “Elk calf survival and mortality following wolf restoration to Yellowstone National Park.” Wildlife Monographs 169.1 (2008): 1-30. Print.

[xxxv] Middleton, Arthur D., et al. “Linking anti‐predator behaviour to prey demography reveals limited risk effects of an actively hunting large carnivore.” Ecology letters 16.8 (2013): 1023-1030. Print.

 

 

Exorcism of She, Part II

I don’t really have night terrors

Sweat

Blood

Fear

I used to have fucked up dreams

Now it’s when I wake up

Think about my own life

That’s when the terror sets in

Pounds of adrenaline

Pumping through a vegetable

With skeleton eyes

Fuck or fight mode

I fear I might die today

Or worse

Have to cast it past myself again

In pain

Of whip of possession

Why is it always possession

Escaping into my notes

When so many brighter words fade

Without their due

This is far too much for what

It’s worth

Black gloves do stain my arms

Do sting

And bruise and cuff

And it is not enough

To describe the circumstances of

Cruelty

More graphically

It does not do to dwell

On what is legal

Justice loves us

Not enough and

Everyone is potentially

A psychopath

So lock it up

Where it’s safe enough

They snuff us out

If we get too loud

The quota was meant for us

Down to the Cell

One must argue that if the fetus does have a soul, so then must the egg. For the egg is of course just waiting for it’s time to take a shot at life. By what mechanism it does decide or if it is the body that compels it to its loading dock I do not know. Some say fourteen days go by before the cell of lover’s sperm and egg call out to its mother for her blood. What single tryst goes by those two weeks in the cradle of life. A romance, ah but no more by comparison as that of the tragedy of hundred souls that wait by the hours only to slip through time.

Women carry hundreds of lovely unfinished children in their lives and each one a pain to lose, I can tell you that. Each one by the moon goes by and does not protest one way or the other so who are you, sir, to decide that the unfinished child would seek vengeance upon Mercury and Venus for their eternal divide. And the sun! Give birth to them all in another life!

Men their millions of smaller and swift particle child souls that choose their time in a more, shall we say, opportunistic way throughout their ride in sex organs. Still swimming in the primordial soup and genetically aware of ye old father time and what it shall bring with it on its journey to the nether-life if it should get so far. As is the case, it is a race with ye old father time to the moon that goes by and does not protest one way or the other if ye should get there alright.

The protest up to the mother at picket line. Protest ye mother, oh Nasty Woman, PROTEST. But all mothers of time have heard themselves screaming not always for their children. And sometimes some souls hear it all the time and still protest in silence, for the battle is within ourselves as well as outside and we do not wait for ye old wasted souls at the starting line! We lose them at their hours and there is more to say for that than can be said.

What to say today to you, my daughter or son or that by then had surely chosen one way, both, or neither. I write to you all the time but not often do the letters swim out of the pen in alphabet gumbo jambalaya chunky meats and holy vegetable and no gluten. Speak to me in soup my darling, for it is ash in my mouth.

I know we’ve never spoken, but I love you very much and hope that you have forgotten my awful touch and humanity. I have not. We’ve never spoken. I haven’t named you much. Just somethings and I hope someday I forget your birthday. I’ve forgotten, you see, like the letters before, to stop counting. The soup and the years that go by without them, I don’t miss them as much. But I still know how old I am. How gone you’ve been.

A decade older and still not rich enough. By and by. For mother’s love. Still bearing your aborted fetus in my ulcers. I wish we had never been born to each other! I love you more than ever. And maybe I should stop there and go away forever. But lo! There in that thing. There the very strange thing I say to you again is that I love you! Behold that northern star, kid! In it the ancestors of time have written love songs for our lost children. What I have not written to the desert sun. What I have not written because I am young and unfinished.

Coyote and Skeleton Man: A Hopi Tale

I am from the desert were Hopi face the burning sun and painted sands and are turned away to call upon the west-land fates. The desert faces the south sea and wastes away! Waste awaayyya awaayyya awaayyya.

A tale of the Hopi revisited: Coyote, foolish beast of the southwest has found Skeleton Man seated wily in his place and they do some things very strange. Coyote is watchsssssshhhhhhhing watching him waste away, he sings, “Hiiiiii aaayyyyaaa hiiiiiyyahaahey! Hiiiiii aaayyyyaaa hiiiiiyyahaahey! Hiiiiii aaayyyyaaa hiiiiiyyahaahey!” His eyes have gone south rolled away and came back into his cranium again just the same. His eyes go south, out of sight to see so many things and come back wanting for the south again he is bones away from his southern star. “I like that song you were singing,” Coyote says, “I can do that as well and will roll my eyes south like that. Hiiiiii aaayyyyaaa hiiiiiyyahaahey!” Her eyes have gone and they have not come back. Hiiiiii aaayyyyaaa hiiiiiyyahaahey! Rolled out of her head and gone south. Hiiiiii aaayyyyaaa hiiiiiyyahaahey! She has placed yellow gourds in her sockets. Holy yellow vegetable eyes of gourds. She returns home to her children and they scatter in fear across the earth, never to come back to her again with her unholy eyes of gourds. Cursing Skeleton Man, cursed Coyote curses the skies at night. OOOOWWWoooooo! Hiiiiii aaayyyyaaa hiiiiiyyahaahey!

Doppelganger, Pt II

I want to consume your shape

Your silhouette

The vignette of the light behind you

A sizable man

I like your shape and

The cartoonish wisp of your hair

I want to consume your hair

And wear it on mine

I want to consume your outline

And if you let me stick around

That’s what I’d do

And what you’d do, too

Because we labor over love

But truly live to consume

I like the shape of you

I want to eat your hair

St. Joseph

She's had enough

She's had enough

She's begging, "Please"

Please

She's put her hand up

It's enough

To take down that cup of

Don't say nothing

Choke down what's in it

Don't say nothing

Enough to be free 

Of those walls and scrub

Enough

For a city window in the moonlight

At that night hour

He steps off

He's had enough

He's calling into the darkness, "Please"

Mercy

Saint Mary! Unholy!

At that night hour

Battering hands of dark are more kind to me

In the morning I've had enough

She's my captivity, and he

Oh darling!

I would set you free!

He, I hear you calling

And I would see you free

Bulletproof walls

I cannot get to you

She's begging, "Please"

To lead walls

Through double panes

He's calling into the darkness

I looked into the darkness

For someone to set me free

Set my voice free

Oh, Mercy! Unholy!

Can you hear me calling?

Calling rape in the morning

Calling chemical lobotomy

Oh, darling!

Does no one love you?

Would no one see you free?

Hands of darkness are enough for me

Double-pane moonlight

I do not need

This selection of prose is brought to you via my experience in Peace Health St, Joseph Medical Center in Washington state. Forced injections, inhumane treatment, and abuse of patients is rampant among this country’s Mental Health facilities. Institutions broken apart within the last few decades have been moved into Behavioral Health Units within hospitals, where medieval practices and shock therapies have been largely abandoned. Patients now have the right to refuse shock therapy, but it is available upon request. What is now common practice equates to imprisonment with a chemical lobotomy: forcing highly addictive and volatile medications into captive’s bodies. I was held down by groups of people, stripped (even had my clothes cut off), and was given mystery shots on the inside of my thighs near my genitals. I thought I was going to be killed each time. I was taken in and released with the diagnosis of PTSD. Go figure.

Satellite 17

Warning: Sleep deprivation may cause hallucination. I was nearing 17; standing in the bathroom at the end of the hall. I had been up for days and likely had not eaten a thing. I was nearing the euphoria a piece of string cheese must feel as it is peeled off for consumption. Unsuspecting, I turned from the mirror to look over my left shoulder and down the darkened hallway. At the end of the tunnel where the last smoky bit of light lingered, the shade of a massive dog stood facing me: starved, lanky, masculine with the pointed ears of a pinscher. Just the one at first – two at a stare. Feminine twin to the first, the second lay on its side at the other’s back haunch. I locked eyes with the space for sockets on the first. I wanted to see it. Animus came forward and in less than four bounds was at the doorway, suspended. The creatures vanished from the gloom. All that remained was null. I would not start or turn away from what could be no more than a drug-fueled mirage.

Those hounds of hell.

Those phantoms black.

One goes forward.

One stays back.

Gustave’s Theatre

The guy upstairs. He listens and writes. I listen to the rain on a tarp. He writes in the dim moonlight. Writes about monsters and falling pillars. Dreams ’em up. Spits ’em out into wax figures. Makes stop-motion movies with ’em. Spits ’em out. Frame-by-frame. Makes this typewriter noise with his throat when he does. Real guttural. His characters got piano teeth keys. Piano key teeth. They play Monk in the morning and Chopin at night. They don’t talk. So they’re silent movies, you see. He projects ’em from the roof when nobody’s watchin’. Onto the moon when it’s full. Full moon night. Sometimes it’s warm and clear. And there’s a halo around the moon. Projects it in threes. Prisms. The whole town gets out on rooftops and watches. Sometimes it’s cold and rainy. Ice freezes the blankets. The air. The guy, he gets up and climbs real high. Up into the mountains. The trees. Projects the movies into the clouds. As close as he can get to ’em. For only him to see. And the crows. The crows watch in murders. They especially like the horrors. Piano keys play only minors. To the guy, “Why the fuck?” might you ask, does he spit up those figures? What does he eat before and afterwards?

Snake Oil Salesman

Traveling laymen fresh from occupation
Occupy the living room
‘For a night or two’
Fourth party
Extra graces
Extractions of oil from the kitchen
Resort to brooding
Curses
The paper-thin walls
Divide us
Musical chair
My bedroom door
I’m out first round
The salesman
Bottled up and stickered with praise
Grunge
I hope
Will aggravate these
Wheels of conversation
My attitude problem
Talk of the saintly feeding of the world
Says you
Throw the recycling in the dumpster
Yeah, I’ll separate that shit
‘What a wonderful town this is!’
The salesman
‘But the oil before I go!
Wouldn’t you like a lifetime supply of snake oil?
Cures all ails.’
Stratocaster
Evening
Oven 
On that bus
Shake these snake charms
I know that
I can tell them I don’t trust them
I know that
I can tell the fertile poison
Occupying
Occupying my living room
‘We have learned nothing but to bottle displacement
We are on islands'
Bridges greasy for the burnin'
The salesman
‘Has hid a bite in this house for safe keeping!
And will be back somewhat soon to take residence!’

Soggy Dollars

Got no spark, kid. No flare. It’s all who’s who in the parking lot anyway. And I, with my left wing shoved down my throat and a constant gristle in my throat from all the smoking. Choking. Blowing haze in the atmosphere. Puffs of cumulus clouds and visions, haunting recordings and Winehouse in rooms of windows of rainy Pacific Northwest with boat launches and I might find myself so lucky or haphazard to be going north to shores of those nostalgic gypsy daydreams and memories of naught a happy embrace. Liquor bound and woeful but romantic all the same. And at the first of those nights when I heard of sunflower sutras and the old Frisco dharma bums, angels of the trains. Carrying my road bound mind and hunger for the western trees to keep safe and sane from the oncoming fury of diesel oil tank and trains of the Georgia Pacific railroad and the north and the coal of China’s red-hot factories. Oh cold pit of remorse and all, bemusing to watch and turn away and back again to the perpetual contraption, contracting and extracting the core to fuel jettisoning engine and space stations and wars.

I think I’ll be breaking for the north because fuck persecution, bigotry, police brutality and their black bagging, assumptions, drug wars. I can’t believe our free speech has come to this tabloid tyranny place where red states paint their ballots with hate and don piggy white-face. Better think of something quick to survive the changing of the tides, help me stay alive and not only that but to thrive! Oh, and to be free of your god and those walls and hospital scrub and handcuff and piercing eye.

Carry instructions: “You have to leave me outside. If you lock me up we all die.” They won’t listen to save their lives. Got into a Ghost show the other night for peddling prints and patches outside and was rocked into a bittersweet embrace of nocturnal gilded theater and satanic metal faces of demons and death, and Lilith and Beelzebub and what have you. In twisted fate taking the place of a man’s mother; had passed away. Thinking for a flicker of a friend locked away for taking the life of a lover. But I do not know and never will I for my soul. All I can think of is postcards and pagan rituals, drug binges and oh if she was here with me as we shift along to Halloween dripping houses and oranges of October falling, she would make banquets of us all and down 30-rack bongs. How I have wandered into the past.

Here now in the downtown bustle grimy Monday Eugene at the library with other rubber trampers. Leather tramp jazz player. Sleeping in my car at the park for the last three months or so and I’ve come to the conclusion that I may have been too busy enjoying my wayward self to find a room to rent. But dammit it’s always just the half of it when the rain has damaged the electrical equipment in the hatchback and things are going south with the birds and so are my friends. The sky pissing down a hurricane puddle out there doesn’t care that jazz left his sleeping bag in a bush and it would just be perpetually wet for the next 6 months anyway so damn the man we’ll busk for those soggy dollars.

Recall laying in August under a mesh canopy gazing up towards the western heavens at a pie chunk of sunlight wedged between the trees. A halo arches the descending star. Spliff in the right hand. Idle hand swatting at the walls of the tent. Fwap. 4 miles down road from the nervous chatter of weekend campground refugees. Now at that fateful twenty-eight where I’ve got a bone to pick. Because I and my ticket to nowhere could go either way. No good shoes these days. Pinching quarters to save for laundry when I found out in Pacific City that a laundromat is a good place to hitch a ride on a cult following. Must love dogma. And all the godless heathens for their spanging and their souls. And Brother Ben for the rice he sows. The dead he knows. Playing with Velvet Underground and Nirvana tuned on my guitar strings and it sounds like liberty coming from myself but this is a degenerative life. And when the sun shines brightest I grow ever more weary. For it would be grand to live a dog’s life. Choosing to improve my dog’s life and she’s just peaches when I ain’t got no job and we stick together like a pack of animals on the run. But what you running from, huh? Why you starvin’, Jack?