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Alberta grizzlies fond of highway crossings for wildlife

WILDLIFE — Here's more support for highway crossings for wildlife that are showing up in projects around Washington and Idaho:

Research finds grizzly bears prefer overpasses in park in Alberta
Bow Valley-based scientist Tony Clevenger has released his findings of 17 years of study on grizzly bear use of overpasses and underpasses in Banff National Park, which revealed that grizzly bears generally prefer overpasses to underpasses.
— Rocky Mountain Outlook

Comments sought on restoring grizzlies to North Cascades

WILDLIFE — A tentative federal proposal to restore grizzly bears in the North Cascades will be explained at public meetings next month.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service are taking public comments for an environmental impact statement before deciding whether to take an active role in restoring the grizzly bear to the North Cascades Ecosystem.

The first meeting is 5 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. on March 3 at the Red Barn in Winthrop. Other meetings will follow in Okanogan, Wenatchee, Cle Elum, Seattle and Bellingham.

Online comments will be accepted through March 26 at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEG

The grizzly bear was federally listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 United States in 1975. The species was listed as endangered by the state of Washington in 1980.

“The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan calls on us to fully consider the restoration of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades, and this process will ensure we solicit public input before putting any plan into action,” said Robyn Thorson, FWS Pacific regional director.

Several conservation groups already have indicated their support for grizzly restoration.

Fewer than 20 grizzlies are known to roam the North Cascades ecosystem encompasses 9,800 square miles in the United States and another 3,800 square miles in British Columbia.  The United States portion includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake and Lake Chelan national recreation areas plus the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie national forests. 

A few grizzly bears have recently been sighted in the Canadian part of the ecosystem, but no grizzlies have been confirmed in the United States portion since a hiker documented one with a photo in 2010.

Details on the public open-house meetings:

Winthrop    March 3, 5-7:30 pm
    Red Barn Upper Meeting Room
    51 N. Hwy 20
    Winthrop, WA 98862

Okanogan    March 4, 5-7:30 pm
    Okanogan PUD Meeting Room
    1331 2nd Ave N
    Okanogan, WA 98840

Wenatchee    March 5, 6-8:30 pm
    Chelan County PUD Auditorium
    327 N. Wenatchee Ave.
    Wenatchee, WA 98801

Cle Elum    March 9, 5-7:30 pm
    Putnam Centennial Center Meeting Room
    719 East 3rd Street
    Cle Elum, WA 98922

Seattle    March 10, 5-7:30 pm
    Seattle Pacific University Bertona Classroom 1
    103 West Bertona
    Seattle, WA 98119

Bellingham    March 11, 5-7:30 pm
    Bellingham Central Library Lecture Room
    210 Central Avenue
    Bellingham, WA 98227

How warm is it? First griz emerges from den to see

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  The first confirmed report of grizzly bear activity this year in Yellowstone occurred on Monday, Feb. 9, 2015, as a grizzly bear that had emerged from its den was observed scavenging on a bison carcass in the central portion of the park, the Billings Gazette reports.

Unseasonably warm temperatures in the region have created a new normal:  Snowmobilers are being warned to carry bear spray.

With bears emerging from hibernation, hikers, skiers and snowshoers also are advised to stay in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray.

Bears begin looking for food soon after they emerge from their dens. They are attracted to elk and bison that have died during the winter. Carcasses are an important enough food source that bears will sometimes react aggressively when surprised while feeding on them.

The bear that left its den this week is at the very early range of bear emergence, according to published research on bear denning in Yellowstone:

Earliest den emergence for males occurred during the first week of February, with 90% of males out of dens by the fourth week of April. Earliest den emergence for females occurred during the third week of March; by the first week of May, 90% of females had emerged.

Male bears emerged from dens earlier than females. Denning period differed among classes and averaged 171 days for females that emerged from dens with cubs, 151 days for other females, and 131 days for males. Known pregnant females tended to den at higher elevations and, following emergence, remained at higher elevation until late May.

Surveys: St. Joe elk show signs of increase

HUNTING — Surveys conducted this winter showed a substantial increase in elk calf-cow ratios for elk in portions of North Idaho as the region's elk seem to be digging out of six-year slump.

Up to just a few years ago, the Panhandle Region was among the very few places in the United States that had a general either-sex elk hunt open to hunters with modern centerfire rifles. 

In Washington, Montana and most other states, hunters had to draw a "cow tag" in order to participate in controlled hunts for antlerless elk or participate hunts with weapon restrictions such as archery-only seasons. 

Two hard winters starting in 2007 delivered a blow to the region's big game. In 2012, low calf-cow ratios caused Idaho wildlife managers to eliminate the general either-sex elk hunt. 

That got hunters' attention.

"The low ratios were not caused by a single issue, but rather a combination of factors," said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Department of Fish and Game regional wildlife manager. "These include declining habitat quality, predation by black bears and mountain lions and wolves, changes in the ability of people to access areas and technology that can increase hunting success rates."

Winter severity and summer drought also are factors, he said.

A mix of factors can create a cascading effect.  "For example, declining habitat quality can result in cows in poor body condition," he said. "This in turn can result in lower birth weights of calves, something that’s been shown to be an important factor in calf survival.  The condition of a cow elk can affect the ability to survive severe winters and to escape predators."

With no single cure-all prescription available for Panhandle elk woes, Wakkinen said the agency addressed the elk decline in several steps:

  • Eliminating the general season on antlerless elk.  An unpopular move, but it increased cow survival to preserve breeding stock necessary to rebuild herds.
  • Liberalizing predator seasons.  Black bear and mountain lion seasons have been lengthened and in some units hunters can use electronic calls and a second tag.  Wolf hunting and trapping seasons have been lengthened region-wide and hunters and trappers can take multiple wolves.
  • Working to improve the quality of elk habitat. 

"Elk prefer younger forests that provide nutritious browse," Wakkinen said. "The 1910 fire and large fires in the 1920s and 1930s created expansive shrubfields that were conducive to a growing elk herd.  That, coupled with widespread predator reductions, resulted in a very robust elk population starting in the 1950s."

However, those forests have matured. They don’t provide enough nutrition and in some area's they're so thick that elk become more vulnerable to predation. 

The agency is working with the U.S. Forest service and other major landowners to give moose,elk and deer more consideration in forest management, he said. Prescribed fire and well-designed timber harvest are key to the effort.

Wakkinen said he sees progress. 

"During winter surveys in the Panhandle, IDFG uses a ratio of 30 calves per 100 cows as a yardstick for a healthy elk herd.  As recently as 2008, ratios were as high as 43 to100 in Unit 7 in the St Joe drainage, but ratios declined following the harsh winters of 2007-09. 

"This isn’t unusual following a hard winter, but typically the ratio bounces back within a couple of years.  Unfortunately, calf-cow ratios remained low in Unit 7, with winter surveys finding 9, 12 and 13 calves per 100 cows in 2012, 2013, and 2014."

The elk apparently were trapped what's known as a “predator pit,” he said.

For example, Central Montana pronghorn populations devastated by bad winters and disease have been struggling for years to recover partly because of a predator pit. Coyotes apparently are keying on the fewer number of does when they're dropping their fawns. In more normal times, say, 100 does might scatter to drop their fawns. Coyotes might sniff out and kill 20 fawns during the brief period when they're worth the effort to hunt instead of focusing on rodents. But if the herd has been reduced to 30 does having fawns, coyotes may still kill 20, but it's a much higher percentage of the crop and the herd cannot grow.

In the case of North Idaho elk, numbers were reduced by the winters, but predator numbers remained high because prolific white-tailed deer recovered quickly provided enough prey to support the bears, cougars and wolves. "The high number of predators can take enough elk to keep elk numbers low," Wakkinen said.

But surveys conducted this winter gave wildlife managers encouragement.

Ratios in Unit 7 above Avery averaged 30 calves per 100 cows and Unit 6 around Calder had more than 40 calves per 100 cows, Wakkinen said.

"Just like the cause of the decline, it is probably a combination of things," he said. Three consecutive mild winters certainly helped and  liberal hunting seasons on predators and have likely helped elk escape from the predator pit, he added. 

"If the current conditions remain the same or improve, we may see a continued improvement in the St Joe elk herds."

The Fish and Game Department ha a constitutional obligation to maintain native wildlife populations in the state, including predators, Wakkinen said. But the agency "will take steps to reduce predator numbers when they negatively impact elk or deer populations."

"Predation management is expensive and labor intensive and weather events are out of our control," he said. "Long term improvements in the quality of elk habitat are an essential part of the equation for insuring the continued existence of healthy Panhandle elk herds."

Florida’s largest black bear outweighed two Seahawks tackles

WILDLIFE — Florida wildlife officers trapped and killed the biggest Florida black bear on record Sunday in Longwood.The mammoth animal, which had been roaming Seminole County neighborhoods and causing safety concerns for more than a month, weighed 740 pounds — that's heavier than the combined weight of Seattle Seahawks offensive linemen Alvin Bailey (G, 320 pounds) and (Justin Britt (T, 325).

According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the new heavyweight is more than 100 pounds heavier than the previous Florida record, a 620-pound black bear caught in Paisley in 2013.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, The Longwood bear most likely beefed up on a buffet of curbside garbage in addition to the normal  diet of nuts, berries and sabal-palm hearts.

Residents had complained for weeks about a large beast with white chest markings that had been wandering through their yards and streets. State wildlife officials are taking a more aggressive approach to bear conflicts follows the mauling of two Seminole County women and a teen-age girl in the Panhandle during the past 13 months, the injury of a 68-year-old woman in Heathrow and the growing number of human-bear encounters.

But this one was a whopper. Adult male black bears weigh on average about 250 pounds, though they range between 125 and 600 pounds, according to the American Bear Association. Females are usually smaller, though they can tip the scales at 300 pounds or more. The bears in the Seminole County incidents were smaller females with cubs.

Man fined $30K for shooting grizzlies

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Montana man's excuse that grizzlies were a threat to his grandchildren didn't fly in court.

Everett Skunkcap, 75, accused of killing three grizzly bears near his Browning home last summer has been ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Skunkcap was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to one count of taking a threatened species.

Skunkcap said during a hearing earlier this month that he killed all three bears in defense of his grandchildren who were 100 feet away at the time.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston also gave Skunkcap a six-month jail term, which was suspended on the condition that he pay the restitution in a timely manner.

Bear shooting cases in court; Whitman wolf case still pending

WILDLIFE — Do prosecutors see endangered species protections for wolves in Washington differently than the laws protecting grizzlies in Montana?  It's too early to say, but…

The Whitman County prosecutor's office reports today that no decision has been made on whether to prosecute the case of a man, described as a local farmer, who chased a wolf in a vehicle on Oct. 12 and shot it to death. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police turned over the evidence in the case to Prosecutor Denis Tracy on Nov. 19.

Meanwhile in Montana, a Bigfork-area resident, faces charges filed on Dec. 23 that he killed three grizzly bears in May allegedly because they were messing with his chickens.

On another level, the alleged ringleader in what’s been called the largest illegal black bear poaching case in Montana history was charged on Nov. 25 with five felonies.  Black bears do not have the specials protections afforded grizzlies, but big-game hunting rules still apply.

James “Jimmy” Harrison, 61, of Darby, and two other Ravalli County men were originally charged with misdemeanors for illegally killing nine black bears with the aid of bait last July.  The county prosecutor upgraded the charges on Harrison after a review of the case.

 

Grizzly bear range expansion debated in Idaho

WILDLIFE — Should grizzly bears be relocated to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness?  

Idaho ponders the possibility.

Idahoans face decisions on just where they want to see grizzly bears

There are an estimated 700 grizzly bears roaming the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and next year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will again propose removing federal protections for those bears and transferring management authority to the state. The move will again meet resistance. On the other hand, the federal agency has been petitioned to reintroduce bears in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Central Idaho, a move the state wildlife agency has said it will resist.

—Idaho Statesman

Smith River floaters not ready to be bear savvy

CAMPING — Just about every outdoor park  and forest in North America that has bears requires bear-resistant camping methods. 

But even in the wake of having to kill eight bears that had become camp robbers, Montana lags…

Montana Parks Board won't require bear-proof food containers on Smith River
Over the past two years, eight black bears were killed along the Smith River corridor due to conflicts with people floating the river, prompting the staff of the agency to recommend that campers and boaters use bear-proof containers, a recommendation the Montana State Parks and Recreation Board rejected. Instead the board ordered parks staff to come up with other recommendations to keep bears from being attracted to camps and stops along the river. The board will take up before permits to float the river are issued next spring.

Man killed by bear likely interrupted feeding

BEAR ATTACKS — Hikers and hunters who venture into bear country can benefit from reading investigations of bear attacks.  Here's a report on the most recent investigation of a bear mauling in the Northern Rockies.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A panel of wildlife experts has concluded that a Utah man mauled to death in a remote area of northwest Wyoming in September likely happened upon a bear feeding on a deer.

“We think the attack was a combination of two things — that the bear was on a carcass and the bear was surprised at close range,” Chris Servheen, grizzly recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a member of the panel, said Friday. “Either one of those types of encounters can provoke a charge and an attack by the bear.”

The panel found evidence of both grizzly bears and black bears at the site where Adam Stewart, 31, of Virgin, Utah, was killed on Sept. 4. In addition, the area where the attack occurred is forested and hilly, and Stewart may not have seen the bear until he was 15 to 20 feet away, it said.

“It’s not real easy to see in that area,” Servheen said.

They can’t determine what kind of bear killed him because of the condition of his body and the presence of both kinds of bears in the area, Servheen said. Stewart’s body wasn’t found until eight days after the mauling in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, bears had fed on his body and his remains were mixed in with deer remains.

Stewart was employed by a Boise, Idaho, company, Nature’s Capital, which the U.S. Forest Service had hired to conduct vegetation surveys.

He was working alone and didn’t have bear spray or a firearm with him.

While it’s impossible to know whether bear spray would have prevented the attack, Servheen said he was surprised that Stewart didn’t have bear spray with him in an area known to be grizzly bear habitat.

“We recommend to everybody that they carry bear spray and we also recommend that people don’t hike alone,” he said.

It is believed that Stewart was an experienced backcountry hiker.

Investigators determined that Stewart was attacked and killed on the day he hiked into the forest. Evidence, which includes a time stamped photograph from Stewart’s camera, indicates he had set up camp and was hiking to a research plot site 3 miles away when the encounter with the bear occurred.

Study: Polar bears decline 40 percent in a decade

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The heat is on this indicator species. Who's next?

Study finds 40% decline in polar bear numbers in E. Alaska, W. Canada
A study done by researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and Environment Canada, as well as other groups, followed polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea from 2001 to 2010, and found that numbers declined 40 percent during that decade.
—Los Angeles Times

Bedtime coming soon for grizzly cub

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This grizzly bear cub photographed last month by Montana outdoor photographer Jaimie Johnson appears to have had a great first year in the field.

In a few weeks, depending on the weather, this cub, its sibling and mother will be snuggling into a den for a long winter's nap.

Grizzly cubs usually spend three years with their mothers before heading off on their own.

Says Johnson:

We were able to spend some time this fall with a sow grizzly and her two cubs.

It was a lot of fun watching mom teach the two cubs how to eat berries from the bushes.

This image is one of the cubs walking through the berries.

Glacier Park grizzly shooter case dismissed

WILDLIFE — The case against a Texas man accused of illegally discharging a firearm in Glacier National Park this summer, when he shot a grizzly bear he said was charging him, went no further than his not-guilty plea in a federal court late last month, the Missoulian reports

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has dismissed the charge against 57-year-old Brian D. Murphy.

The charge was dismissed with prejudice, meaning a final determination has been made based on the merits of the case. Murphy cannot be re-charged at a later date, reports Vince Devlin.

Here's the rest of Devlin's report;

Murphy’s attorney, Jason T. Holden of Great Falls, called it a “perfect scenario to have a case dismissed with prejudice.”

“The government did the right thing because Mr. Murphy did the right thing,” Holden said, adding that Murphy “had every right to act in defense of his life.”

Holden described his client as a part-time Montana resident who spends summers in the state, and is “an avid hiker and photographer with great respect for our national parks, their resources and wildlife.”

Murphy, he said, did not fire his .357 revolver until the charging bear – a grizzly, Holden said DNA tests later confirmed – was 7 to 10 feet away, and not until bear spray discharged when the animal was 15 to 25 feet away failed to deter it.

The wounded bear was never located. DNA samples were obtained from blood and fur at the scene.

***

Murphy was hiking the Mount Brown Lookout Trail, one of Glacier’s most challenging, on Saturday, July 26.

Although he was hiking alone, which park officials advise against, Murphy was wearing bear bells and packing bear spray, Holden said, and also “yelping” to warn any bears in the area of his approach, and because he was aware other hikers were behind him on the trail.

“When Mr. Murphy first saw the bear it was running down a hill toward the other hikers,” Holden said. “He yelled, ‘Bear!’ to warn them, and as soon as he yelled, the bear turned and came straight at him.”

Murphy first discharged his bear spray using his left hand, and when that didn’t stop the animal, fired with the .357 in his right hand, according to Holden.

“The bear fell back and was motionless,” Holden said. Murphy “withdrew and double-timed it out of there, taking the two hikers who were behind him with him. He stopped everyone else on the trail, too, told the first ranger he came to what had happened, and fully and voluntarily cooperated with rangers.”

When rangers arrived at the scene the grizzly was gone, but there was evidence it had been wounded. Murphy turned his revolver over to rangers, who reported it contained five unspent rounds and one spent casing.

***

While a 2010 federal law makes it legal to carry firearms in national parks, it remains illegal to discharge one in many of them, including Glacier.

Murphy was not charged by park rangers with the misdemeanor, which carries a $500 fine, until nearly two months later.

Holden appeared on his behalf in West Glacier on Sept. 26 to enter the not-guilty plea in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong.

“I informed the court we would raise the affirmative defense of self-defense, and after we presented our case to the government, they agreed it was an appropriate case to dismiss with prejudice,” Holden said.

Michael S. Lahr, an assistant U.S. attorney in Helena, filed the motion to dismiss the charge with prejudice. Strong granted the motion Thursday.

Lahr did not return a message Tuesday seeking comment.

“In a situation such as Mr. Murphy’s, where his life was in mortal danger, he has a right to defend his life,” Holden said. “That is not against the law, and that’s why the government dismissed this case.”

“I don’t want to give the wrong impression,” he went on. “You can’t willy-nilly fire a gun in a national park – you can’t. You can’t if a bear is 50 feet from you. But this was a full, straight-on charge and attack.”

No slack cut for grizzly-shooting wildlife staffer

HUNTING — Ouch! Shooting a protected grizzly bear can be costly no matter who you are.

Wyoming wildlife officer fined, ordered to pay $10K for shooting grizzly
Luke Ellsbury, a Wyoming Fish and Game employee who mistakenly shot a grizzly bear last year was ordered by a state judge to pay $10,000 in restitution for the illegal killing, as well as $260 to pay a fine and court costs.

Name that bear: contest at Idaho zoo seeks to name grizzly

WILDLIFE — The Pocatello Zoo is holding the contest to name a grizzly bear that was moved into the facility after it became too accustomed roaming around rural residences in Wyoming.

The 2-year-old female grizzly that was recently relocated to the zoo from the Shoshone National Forest.

Submit names by Oct. 12 to pocatellozoosociety@gmail.com or call the Zoo at (208) 234-6264.

Zoo staff will choose three finalist names from the submissions, and the public will have a chance to vote online, via phone and at ZooBoo starting Oct 13. Voters are required to donate a minimum of $1 along with their vote. The winning name will be the one that gets the most donations and will be announced on Oct. 27.

The grizzly bear is currently in quarantine at the zoo, but will eventually be on exhibit with the zoo’s matriarch bear, Stripes.

“We are thrilled to be able to give this girl a home,” zoo administrator, Peter Pruett said. “She needed to be relocated and we have a beautiful home for her here at the Pocatello Zoo.

Videos capture bears with cat-scratch fever

Get Adobe Flash player

WILDLIFE WATCHING  — The trail cam video of an Okanogan County black bear turning a scented tree into a massage parlor (at right) has been amusing thousands of viewers since it was posted this week by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin.

If you like the video posted here, you'll LOVE this video of GRIZZLY BEARS scratching their way into ecstasy — complete with music — in Banff National Park, Alberta.

Anti-hunters twist bear mauling into propaganda

WILDLIFE — An anti-hunting group says it has put up a billboard in the hometown of a Washington bowhunter recently bitten by a bear with the underlying message — "You had it coming."

While hunting deer with his son, Jerry Hause of Longview was treed and bitten in the foot and leg by a black bear over the Labor Day weekend after he apparently got between a sow and cub while bowhunting in the area.

Always game for a distasteful headline-grabbing jab at hunters, PETA apparently paid to place a billboard in Longview that shows a bear pursuing a hunter up a tree above the words "Payback Is Hell. Leave Animals Alone."

"No one wants to be treated like a living target or to suffer and die—not humans or any other animals," says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. "PETA's billboard is a reminder that hunting means causing fear, pain, suffering, and death, and there's nothing 'sporting' about it."

On the other hand, God designed life on earth with predators and prey.  For example, deer and elk suffer fear and pain as they are ripped, disemboweled and killed by wolves or coyotes. At least human hunters strive for a quick, clean kill.

It's shocking, but true.  Real life isn't like Disneyland.

Bowhunter treed, bitten by black bear

HUNTING — A Western Washington archery hunter is recovering from puncture wounds to his leg after startling a black bear during a hunt on Monday.

Jerry Hause, 60, spooked the bear while hunting near Longview and figured his best option as the bear charged was to climb a tree.

The rest of the story is told in detail in the following report, by Shari Phiel of the Longview Daily News:

LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) — When Longview resident Jerry Hause headed out for Monday’s bow hunting opener, he never imagined he would end up in a fight for his life with a black bear.

Hause and his son Jeffrey, 26, drove into a remote, wooded area in the upper Abernathy Creek area about eight miles west of Longview in hopes of bagging deer. Hause, 60, has been hunting for decades, but he’s been a bow-hunter for only four.

Hause was about to start driving game toward his son, who was waiting in a tree, when the unexpected happened.

“I’d already hiked about three miles so I sat down to take a break before I tried to push some (game) back to him. I took my backpack off and sat my bow down and as I was sitting there I started looking around and … I saw a black head which I thought was a bear,” Hause said from his home Thursday. “I’ve hunted this area for 30-plus years and I’ve never seen a bear up there.”

Hause said the bear appeared to be a cub and was 80 to 100 yards away. Knowing knew it’s unwise to come between a cub and its mother, he looked for a way to leave the area.

“I stood up and in one motion that bear jumped out of the creek it was in and was on level ground with me. And as soon as it was on level ground it was on a dead run after me,” he said.

He doesn’t know if the bear was the mother or the same bear he’d thought was a cub.

Hause said he knew he wouldn’t be able to pick and aim his bow, and he wasn’t confident he could drop the 250- to 300-pound animal. His only choice, he said, was to climb the tree he had been resting against.

“I knew the tree was right there, so I headed up that to get far enough up the tree that the bear couldn’t get me,” Hause said.

Hause climbed several feet up into the tree. The bear followed, but Hause said he thought he was out of the bear’s reach until he looked down just as the bear bit into his left leg.

“It totally amazes me how fast that bear got on me. In three seconds it was on me,” he said.

Hause said the bear also tried to grab him with one of its paws and left claw marks on his leg. He said he realized he couldn’t climb any higher, so he grabbed a branch above him and held on.

“I was thinking, ‘If it gets me out of this tree I’m a dead man.’ It was mad, it was growling. It was serious about what it was going to do,” Hause said.

Hause pulled himself and kicked out at the bear with his other foot. Having heard on wildlife shows that sharks will sometimes stop an attack after being hit in the nose, Hause aimed for the bear’s nose. The maneuver seemed to work. The bear let go and dropped to the ground and then moved off.

After waiting 10 minutes, Hause said he got out of the tree and began hiking back to his truck. Once he got to an area where he could make a call on his cell phone, he alerted his son and called his wife, who came and took him to PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center. He was treated and released and is expected to make a full recovery from his puncture and scratch wounds.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Bob Weaver said the chances of encountering a bear in the woods, let alone being attacked by one, are very slim.

“This is are very rare incident. It’s happened before, but it’s a very rare thing to happen,” Weaver said.

Statewide, there are an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 black bears. Weaver didn’t know how many bears there are in the Cowlitz County area.

“Typically bears are very afraid of people. If they know people are around, they tend to run the other way. Of course when you get a sow with cubs, the motherly instinct is to protect their cubs, so you have a higher possibility of something like that happening, especially if you get between the sow and the cubs,” Weaver said.

Officials initially planned to track down and euthanize the bear, Hause said. He said he talked them out of it because it’s in a remote area and may have just been protecting its young.

Weaver said wildlife agents plan to evaluate the attack site to see if there is evidence of cubs or a kill in the area that the bear may have been guarding. Hause said he’s willing to go along — if they’re armed. He said he also plans to carry a pistol with him when he goes hunting from now on.

Hause, a retired building analyst for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, said he doesn’t blame the bear for what happened.

“It either had cubs out there or I was threatening its food. It’s bear country. They live in the woods. I don’t.”

WSU study: Can grizzlies make use of tools?

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Washington State University researchers are learning whether grizzly bears make and use tools.

With claws and teeth that can rip open anything from a beer can to beaver dens and moose carcasses, it seems as though tools would be unnecessary.

But while it’s too soon to reach a broad scientific conclusion, researchers say at least one female bear at the WSU lab is demonstrating that use of tools comes naturally.

The study, being conducted at WSU’s Bear Research Education and Conservation Center, is documenting eight grizzlies faced with the challenge of getting their claws into a dangling food snack that’s too high to reach, reports Linda Weiford of WSU News. No training is involved. The researchers are chronicling innate learning behavior.

Information gleaned from the study can be used to help wildlife managers solve grizzly-related challenges and problems, according to researchers, and also assist zookeepers in keeping captive bears mentally and physically stimulated. The study should be completed this fall.

“While it’s generally accepted that grizzly bears are intelligent creatures, until now no scientific research had been conducted on their problem-solving skills,” said WSU veterinary biologist Lynne Nelson, who is overseeing the study.

Here are more details from the WSU report:

In WSU’s controlled setting, eight brown bears—three males and five females—are being tested separately and are at various phases of the experiment, said Nelson. To date, a 9-year-old grizzly named Kio has sailed through each phase, essentially nailing the hypothesis that the species is capable of tool use.

Here’s how the study works: Inside the grizzly bears’ play area, a donut is hung on a string from a wire, too high for the animals to reach. First, each bear is tested to see if it will stand on a sawed-off tree stump to reach up and get the donut down. Once this is mastered, researchers move the stump away from the hanging donut and place it on its side.

Here’s where things get challenging. The bear must move the stump until it is positioned underneath the donut and then flip the stump over into a makeshift footstool.

Kio mastered this early: “She manipulates an inanimate object in several steps to help her achieve a goal, which in this case is to obtain food,” said Nelson. “This fits the definition of tool use.”

The other grizzlies are in the process of figuring out the feat, she explained, which confirms what the center’s scientists have long suspected about the keen brain power of bears. Frequently, Nelson and her colleagues witness grizzlies doing remarkable things, including using a single claw in a key-like manner to try to open locks.

Why should humans scientifically assess tool use among America’s greatest predators?

  • “If grizzly bears are capable of using tools to interact with their environment, that’s important for us to know because it provides a fuller picture of how they think,” said WSU veterinary student Alex Waroff, who designed the study and who, with Nelson, tests the bears five mornings a week.
  • “By better understanding their cognitive abilities, we can help reduce encounters that can turn deadly for bears and humans alike,” he said.
  • Such understanding also could shed light on whether the species is capable of manipulating its environment when faced with changes in the wild, such as shifts in habitat conditions or declining food sources, he explained.

Most of the center’s grizzly bears were deemed “problem bears” in the wild and were brought to WSU as an alternative to being shot and killed.

“Grizzlies are smart foragers and they’ll work hard to get at food – which, as we’re seeing, can include some pretty sophisticated strategies,” Nelson said.

Incidentally, the glazed donuts, donated by a local grocery store, are used to entice the bears for the study and aren’t part of their normal diet, said Nelson.

“Yes, they like sweets – just like humans,” she said. “But we’re careful to restrict their intake.”

Photo: Mom’s lesson bears fruit for bear cub

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While bears have a well-known taste for huckleberries, they also cash in on other fruits.

This black bear sow appears to be giving its cub a lesson in the nutritional benefits of eating chokecherries, according to this great photo snapped this week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Backpacker gives grizzly bear right-of-way on Highline Trail

HIKING — This amazing photo of a hiker retreating to a precarious position on a steep, steep, slope to avoid a grizzly bear on Glacier National Park's Highline Trail was published in The Spokesman-Review on Aug. 2, but only in one edition.

I'm re-posting for those of you who may not have seen it.

Montana photographer Philip Granrud captured the image of a North Carolina man's close call with a grizzly bear while hiking along the trail, which has a dropoff on one side and a vertical cliff on the other.

Everything turned out fine for the hiker and the bear.

Here's a TV video interview with the photographer, including some of his other bear photos from years of cruising through Glacier Park

Here's the Missoulian story about the incident that presented the photo op above.

 

Livesock-killing grizzly euthanized in Idaho

WILDLIFE — On Sunday, Aug. 10, the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, with the permission of the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, euthanized an adult male grizzly bear that had been responsible for a series of livestock killings in the Island Park, Idaho.  The grizzly bear was trapped by Wildlife Services, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Wildlife Services is contacted whenever a predator is thought to be responsible for the death of domestic livestock.

The depredations had occurred on the portion of Harriman State Park that is located west of Island Park Reservoir.  Because of the age and history of the bear involved, the decision was made to remove the bear. 

Idaho Fish and Game officials say that once bears have learned to key in on a specific food source it is highly likely they will continue the behavior, even if moved to other locations.

Video: Momma bear gives cub tooth love

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The video above shows a savvy black bear sow doing what she needs to do to get her young cub out of danger from passing vehicles.

The short video was shot along the busy highway through Canada's Kootenay National Park north of Radium by Ricky Forbes.

Deja vu: Bear cub rescued from fire; flown for treatment

WILDLIFE — The story of Cinder, the badly burned 37-pound black bear cub rescued Monday from the Carlton Complex fires in northcentral Washington (top) has a very similar ring to another true story that bloomed into a national forest campaign.

The legacy of Smokey Bear is celebrating its 70th anniversary of fire prevention messages this year. 

Bats, bears, bighorns and more at Sinlahekin seminars

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Experts will be making free presentations on bats, bears, bighorns and much more July 26-27 on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in northcentral Okanogan County as the celebration continues for the 75th anniversary of Washington’s FIRST wildlife area.

It’s the third summer weekend in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” series of free public field trips and presentations on the fauna, flora, geology and history of the area south of Loomis. 

Sessions scheduled on Saturday, July 26, include:

  • Bighorn sheep of the Sinlahekin by Okanogan assistant district wildlife biologist Jeff Heinlen.
  • Bats of the Sinlahekin by wildlife biologists Ella Rowan and Neal Hedges.

Sessions scheduled on both Saturday, July 26, and Sunday, July 27, include:

  • Forests of the Sinlahekin by U.S. Forest Service and Washington State University foresters;
  • Role of wildfires in the evolution of the Sinlahekin’s landscape by a Central Washington University paleobotanist;
  • Historical photo point tour by veteran Sinlahekin manager Dale Swedberg;
  • Bears, cougars, coyotes and other carnivores by Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin.

Click here for more information about the July 26-27 weekend sessions, and a complete schedule of upcoming weekends (Aug. 23-24, Sept. 6-7, and Sept. 27).

Injured hiker had to fend off bears

HIKING — Bears have always been good at smelling opportunity.

A hiker who fell, broke his leg and dislocated his shoulder in the North Cascades last weekend said he had to fend off bears while he waited several hours for a helicopter rescue team.

The 50-year-old man activated a beacon that notified his wife after his accident at 6,000 feet on Syncline Mountain along the Pacific Crest Trail, the U.S. Navy told the Bellingham Herald.

  • Most mountains in the North Cascades were covered in snow above 5,000 feet last weekend.

A helicopter with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine responded and found him at the bottom of a winding series of switchbacks. But that crew did not have space to land or slings to hoist the man off the mountain.

So they dropped him food, a medical kit and a water bottle with a note letting him know another helicopter, from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, would come to rescue him soon.

Perhaps the bears smelled the rations.

The injured man was hoisted out off the mountain in a rescue basket by the Navy helicopter at 10:30, more than five hours after the accident.

He told the crew he'd encountered more than one bear while waiting, but fended them off with bear spray. 

Two grizzly bears relocated to Cabinet Mountains

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two female grizzly bears have been transplanted from the Whitefish Range to the Spar Lake area of the Cabinet Mountains as part of an ongoing effort to boost the struggling Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population.

The 2-year-old siblings were captured in the Deadhorse Creek drainage on the Flathead National Forest and moved Friday to the West Cabinets and a drainage with a hiking trail to Spar Lake near the Montana-Idaho border.

The bears have no history of conflict with people and have never been captured before, wildlife officials told the Daily Interlake.

Those factors plus their young age are part of the criteria for the augmentation program, a cooperative effort between Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The state agency captures the bears while the federal agency monitors them after their release. The bears are fitted with Global Positioning System tracking collars to allow for their movements to be monitored.

Friday’s release marks the 12th and 13th grizzly bears to released into the Cabinets since 2005.

In the early 1990s, three grizzly bears were moved into the Cabinets. Most of the bears that have been moved have been females.

Last year, a study that made use of genetic analysis of bear hair samples produced a population estimate of 42 bears for the Cabinet-Yaak region.

Wayne Kasworm, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service based in Libby, said that estimate means that there may have been fewer than 15 grizzly bears prior to 1990, and that indicates that the grizzly population might have vanished without the augmentation efforts.

As of last year, it was still unknown if any of the bears that have been moved since 2005 have reproduced. That’s partly because the young bears were moved well before they reached reproductive age of 5 or 6 years old, and they drop their tracking collars within a couple of years.

Grizzly bear at home on the range

WILDLIFE WATCHING — No cowboys were trying to rope this stray and put their own brand on it Tuesday, for good reason.

Western Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson had been sitting in a blind near a fox den before he headed toward  home near Lincoln.  

"As I drove along a back prairie road, I noticed a strange dark-colored cow being chased by the other cows. As I got closer I realized….. that’s no cow….  Weird to see grizzlies on the prairie."

He apologized for the quality of the image but said he had to document the sighting.

Head 'em up!   Move 'em out!

Researchers set grizzly bear snares near Priest Lake

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Researchers are setting snares in the Hughes Meadows area north of Priest Lake this month in an ongoing effort to capture grizzly bears and fit them with radio collars.

As of Tuesday, the two-man crew working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had caught one bear – a black bear. The 5-year-old male, weighing 134 pounds, was ear-tagged and released, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager.

Radio collars have been helping wildlife biologists monitor North Idaho grizzly bears, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act, since the first grizzly was collared in the Selkirks in 1983, Wakkinen said.

More than 80 different grizzly bears have been captured.

“There have been some years when we didn't trap in Idaho but we've generally been trapping in either Idaho or the British Columbia portion of the Selkirk ecosystem since then,” he said.

This year, the first significant research trapping in Washington occurred in May. The federal crew set snares in the Molybdenite Mountain south of Sullivan Lake. No grizzly bears were captured.

“The crew places warning notices at all major access points and trailheads in the area,” Wakkinen said. “They place more signs closer to the actual snare site.”

Researchers also are trapping bears in the northeastern corner of Idaho near Copper Creek and Copper Lake in the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery area, he said.

Wayne Kasworm, federal grizzly bear biologist who's supervising the collaring project, said his crews plan to be trapping high in the mountains in July and August.

"We currently have five female grizzly bears with collars in the Selkirks and we hope to collar four or five more," he said.  

Snares are checked at least once a day, or twice a day in hot or cold and rainy weather, he said. Most of the traps have transmitters that signal if they’ve been triggered with a radio signal to the crew.

The snare sites are placed well off of trails to reduce the chance of an encounter with humans, Wakkinen said. 

Snare sites are baited, typically with road-killed deer.  “If a person smells something stinky the best bet is to not investigate,” he said, “but this advice holds true whether there is trapping going on or not.

“If there's something stinky there's a chance that a predator of some sort – black bear, cougar, grizzly bear – may be around to check it out.  Or you might be poking your nose into a recent kill site where a cougar has stashed its prey.

“Radio collars can yield a great amount of information such as survival rates, cause of mortality, reproductive output, cub survival and identification of seasonal ranges and dispersal,” he said. “These data in turn can be used to make informed land management decisions.”

Grizzly bear dies in fall in Glacier National Park

WILDLIFE WATCHING  — The death of a grizzly bear in Glacier National Park is a reminder to hikers and climbers that spring and summer trekking across steep snowfields can be hazardous.

 A member of the Glacier Park road crew found a male grizzly bear dead on Going-to-the-Sun Road on Thursday morning.

An initial investigation by the National Park Service indicated the bear, one of about 300 grizzlies in the park, probably fell onto the road from a steep snowbank.

A necropsy revealed the 190-pound bear suffered head injuries, broken ribs and other internal injuries consistent with a fall. Park officials say the terrain above where the bear fell includes a steep snowbank, some steep cliffs and a drop of approximately 12 feet.