Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Forest roads gated to protect grizzlies opening in Idaho Panhandle

PUBLIC LANDS — Forest road access to wood cutters and hunters will be increasing starting next week as the Idaho Panhandle National Forests begin opening forest roads that have been gated to help provide security for grizzly bears.

Gates will be opened starting Nov 16 in the Selkirk Mountains and starting Dec. 1 in the Purcell and Cabinet Mountains of the forests’ North (Kaniksu) Zone.

"The difference in opening dates between the two areas is based on local research findings and provides additional habitat security for grizzly bears that have not yet denned," said Jason Kirchner, forest spokesman in Coeur d'Alene. "Gates will be opened as weather conditions and personnel availability allow."

Some roads will continue to be closed to motorized vehicle traffic as shown on the forest's latest Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). The maps are available at forest offices. 

Top award for Idaho archery bear may go to boy on first hunt

HUNTING — Harvesting the biggest black bear taken in the state this year may seem like a pretty ambitious goal for a first-year bowhunter.

But 10-year-old Sam Sherman of Eagle just may have pulled it off.

“We won’t know for awhile yet,” said Sam’s father, Tad Sherman. “The skull has to dry for at least sixty days before taking the official measurement."

The green score measured in September was 19-13/16 inches.

The length plus width of the bear’s skull has to measure at least 18 inches to be eligible for the Pope and Young Club record books for bowhunting.

In addition to the Pope and Young listing, the Idaho State Bowhunters recognize Best of Species taken each year by bowhunters. That’s the award Sam had set his sights on—the same title his dad earned in 2014.

Here are details from Wendy Green, via Idaho Fish and Game:

The Shermans had been hunting on the Hughes ranch in Goodrich for about a week in September with Sam’s brother, 13-year-old Ty, and their houndsman friend, Brian Shanahan.

When they arrived at their hunting area on Sept. 18, the hounds started a bear almost immediately from a pasture along the Weiser River. Both boys had tags.

“A lot of times, the bear won’t tree,” said Tad, noting that safety issues enter into bowhunting bears in that situation.

Rather than trying to get in close for an archery shot, they needed to be prepared to keep a safe distance and shoot with a rifle. But Sam had his heart set on getting a bear with his bow.

Much to his delight, the bear scrambled up a big ponderosa pine.

“Are you sure that’s a big bear, Dad?” Sam asked his father. Tad assured him it was, indeed, a big bear.

The Shermans didn’t end up in southern Adams County by accident. A plethora of bears and a little cooperation led them there.     

Arnie and Sharon Pederson of Goodrich attended a First Thursday meeting in Cambridge in September, sponsored by Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The informal public meetings are a way for Fish and Game to exchange information with sportsmen, landowners and others interested in wildlife and hunting.

The Pedersons and other landowners wanted to know what to do about too many black bears damaging fruit trees and trying to break into their homes. Fish and Game personnel encouraged landowners to provide their contact information if they were willing to grant access to hunters. It’s not unusual for hunters to contact Fish and Game for tips on where to hunt bears and other big game.

“When hunters started calling, asking where they might find bears, we put them in touch with the Pedersons,” said Anna Owsiak, who manages Fish and Game’s Cecil D. Andrus Wildlife Management Area west of Cambridge.

The cooperation worked especially well in Goodrich this year.

“I talked to another hunter who told me he’d treed three bears in one morning,” said Sherman.

“Both hunters and landowners called us later to say thank you for putting them in touch and making this a win-win situation,” Owsiak said.

With Sam’s big bear up a big tree, Shanahan showed Ty how to gather the dogs and tether them out of harm’s way.

Then Sam took his shot and the bear tumbled to the ground. Before he went to inspect the animal, the first thing Sam did was give Shanahan a big hug for using his dogs to find and tree the bear.

“That touched my heart,” said Tad. “We only met Brian last spring, and he is a fantastic, ethical guy. To have him show the boys what needs to be done when hunting with hounds, and to have Sam react that way, it had to be one of my proudest moments.”

Sam’s bear measured 6 feet, 6 inches, nose to tail, and weighed 400 pounds.

“That bear filled the bed of the pickup,” said Pederson.

Winter can’t come soon enough for Yellowstone grizzly bears

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's the latest of several disturbing reports about the impact this year's drought is having on bears.

Grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone dying at a rate of 1 every 2 days
Forty-six grizzly bears have died this year in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and in mid-September to mid-October, they were dying at the rate of about one every two days, due in part to poor natural food resources. Fourteen of those deaths were attributed to removals because the bears were killing livestock. Ten remain under investigation. The details of deaths due to conflicts with hunters may be available by the time the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee meets on Nov. 3 and 4.
-Jackson Hole News & Guide

Car’s interior tasty treat for hungry bear

WILDLIFE — It's been a rough year for bears as they've tried to navigate fires and find food in a bad berry year complicated by drought.

But in some cases, the bear's get a chance to turn the tables on vehicles.  We've all heard about the Yosemite National Park bears that have honed vehicle break-ins to an art form.

Montana black bears go about it this way, according to a recent story by Brett French of the Billings Gazette:

A black bear that entered and then got trapped inside a Toyota Camry recently south of Red Lodge demolished the interior of the car, went to the bathroom and finally exited by bolting out through the front windshield when it was startled by a human.

“The whole inside is destroyed,” said Greg Creasy, who shot photos of the car that was parked outside the Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association’s lodge near the base of Mount Maurice.

Despite the destruction, the car’s owner — retired Pittsburgh middle school teacher Ellen Stolpe — said she laughed because the incident was so unusual.

“I guess it’s part of the Montana experience to get claw marks on the dashboard,” she said.

The incident was one of several over the the span of a few days in September. Earlier in the week a bear chewed up two motorcycles to get to food inside saddlebags while the bikes were parked at Rock Creek Resort, also south of Red Lodge. And bears have broken into two homes in the area, as well.

The raids have prompted Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to remind residents and visitors to remove any food from around their homes or in their vehicles, including anything that smells like food — such as pet food and garbage.

Yet Creasy said the bear that has frequented the YRBA lodging area appears to have figured out how to open car doors.

“It did get into a couple of other cars and pulled the consoles off,” he said. “It pulled the handle off of one door.”

Advised of the break-ins when she arrived, Stolpe said she removed all of the food from her car but after four days of driving there were apparently “residual smells” that attracted the bear. With the vehicle parked on a hillside, it would have been easy for the door to slam shut behind the bear, trapping it inside, she added.

Inside the Camry, Creasy said the bear had pulled on the driver-side door so hard in an attempt to get out that it bent the metal inward. Photos show the upholstery shredded and a large pile of scat left on the floor.

“That was clearly a panic dump,” Stolpe said. “Oh my goodness, that poor bear.”

During late summer and fall bears are instinctively trying to add fat reserves for winter hibernation, so FWP suggests that residents store all garbage, barbecue grills, pet food and horse pellets in a locked building. They should also remove bird feeders from their yards and clean up

North Side black bear indicates lean fall food supply

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The black bear that Washington Fish and Wildlife officers are currently attempting to catch in North Spokane is another indicator that the 2015 drought has left some wildlife short on food.

The bear is in a neighborhood near Nevada and Lyons. Officers are trying to tranquilize, catch and relocate the bear into the wild.

It's not new to occasionally have bears in town, but this incident is one in a larger trend this year as many of the normal berries and other foods bears need in preparation for denning have dried up.

"This is typical of other incidents that are happening more this year than usual because of the drought leaving wild food sources scarce for bears now trying to fatten up before hibernating," said Madonna Luers, Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman.

The issue is region-wide.  More bears are dying in in vehicle collisions, and so on.

People can help bears out by not luring them into trouble in rural home areas or suburban neighborhoods with improperly stored garbage, pet food, bird seed or other temptations.

For details check out:

Grandma’s advice helps hunter ward off grizzly bear attack

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — In the past two months, I've written about hikers and hunters who have defended themselves in a grizzly bear attack by using bear spray as well as by using a handgun.

The latest case involves an alternative that's even more creative if not more desperate.

Hunter escapes attack by shoving arm down bear’s throat

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A bow hunter in Teton County is recovering after he survived a grizzly bear mauling by remembering a tip from his grandmother and shoving his arm down the animal’s throat. 

Chase Dellwo, 26, was hunting with his brother northwest of Choteau on Saturday when he came face to face with a 350 to 400 pound male grizzly, the Great Falls Tribune reports

Dellwo went to walk up a creek bed, hoping to drive a group of elk to a ridge where his brother was waiting. 

He was about three feet away before he realized he was near a bear that had been sleeping. With 30 to 40 mph winds with snow and rain, the bear hadn’t known Dellwo was coming. He said he only had time to take a few steps back before the bear knocked him off his feet and bit his head. 

“He let go, but he was still on top of me roaring the loudest roar I have ever heard,” Dellwo said. 

The bear then bit Dellwo’s leg and shook him, tossing him through the air. As the bear came at the man again, Dellwo remembered a magazine article his grandmother had given him. 

“I remembered an article that my grandmother gave me a long time ago that said large animals have bad gag reflexes,” Dellwo said. “So I shoved my right arm down his throat.” 

The advice worked and the bear left. 

Dellwo started to walk out, bloodied and disoriented.

"I saw a six point elk on the way out, that was disappointing," he said with a laugh.

He wasn't laughing at the time however.

"I forced myself to calm down and not to panic," he said. "I was lost. I cleared the blood out of my eyes. If I had allowed myself to panic I would still be in there."

Dellwo rejoined his brother who drove him to a hospital. He received stitches and staples in his head, some on his face, a swollen eye and deep puncture wounds on his leg. 

“I want everyone to know that it wasn’t the bear’s fault, he was as scared as I was,” Dellwo said

Hunter kills well-publicized collared grizzly bear near Wallace

HUNTING — The well-publicized Montana grizzly bear caught, radio-collared and released to near Idaho on Aug. 4 has been shot and killed by a hunter near Wallace, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed.

The bear was shot Wednesday evening, said Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.

The bear was killed at the bottom of Kings Pass and Beaver Creek Road about 6 air miles north of Wallace, Idaho, the Sheriff reports.

An Idaho Fish and Game officer and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer are on the scene, Cooper said, noting that he did not know more details, including who reported the shooting.

Grizzlies are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Black bear hunters are supposed to know the difference between legal black bears and grizzly bears before shooting.

Legal baiting for black bear hunting was going in in the area, Cooper confirmed.

The 2-year-old male grizzly had been relocated by Montana and federal biologists as part of a periodic program to boost the Cabinet Mountains grizzly population.

Like many bears trying to survive the record-dry year, the bear appeared to be on the search for food, a task hampered by dodging fires, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene.

The bear had been captured on video in recent weeks checking out rural residences and old bear bait barrels that lured him with scent even if they were empty of animal fat and other bait.

"We knew it was bear season," Cooper said. "We'd been putting out a trap to try to catch him and  move him to an area where he'd be safer and not so accessible to people, but we didn't make it."

More on this unfortunate development as soon as details are available.


Once again: Fed bear is dead bear, people injured

WILDLIFE — It's the same disheartening "Fed-bear Dead-bear" story retold this time with an additional little twist of human denial at best, or maybe just stupidity.

State wildlife officials have captured and euthanized two food-conditioned black bears west of Kalispell, but they say someone else continues to feed the bruins, making it difficult for them to catch a bear suspected of attacking and injuring an elderly woman in her house, according to the Associated Press.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks investigator Brian Sommers said the woman who was attacked on Sept. 27 had been regularly feeding the bears.

The two female bears that were euthanized on Sept. 29 and 30 had bellies full of sunflower seeds and bird seed.

 That means someone else is feeding the bears in the Ashley Lake area, hampering agency’s ability to trap the offending bear, Eric Wenum, FWP bear specialist says.

Sommers asked people to remove all supplemental feed from their yards and noted that whoever is feeding the bears can be cited for obstructing the investigation.

Glacier Park hiker uses bear spray to turn away attacking grizzly

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Bear spray apparently enabled a hiker from Wisconsin to ward off an attacking grizzly bear in Glacier National Park on Tuesday.

The man, 65, was hiking alone off- trail near Mt. Henkel in the Many Glacier Valley, where he surprised a sow grizzly with two sub-adult cubs about 5 p.m., according to Park officials.

The hiker was grabbed and shaken by the bear during the encounter. The man successfully deployed his bear spray, causing the bear to release him and leave the area.

The hiker received puncture wounds to his lower leg and injuries to his hand. His injuries were not life threatening.

The man hiked back to his vehicle in Many Glacier and drove himself to the emergency room at the Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cutbank, Montana.  He was treated and released later the evening of Sept. 29, and continued on with his travel itinerary. He called Glacier National Park Dispatch to report the incident. Rangers are still investigating the incident.

According to park rangers, the bear’s response to the hiker was defensive in nature and consistent with a surprise encounter with a hiker.

A similar attack involving a bowhunter occurred last month near Yellowstone Park, except that the hunter used a handgun to thwart the attack. The result was similar, but the mother bear with cubs may have been injured.

Glacier Park officials warn hikers to venture out in groups, avoid hiking in obvious feeding areas like berry patches, cow parsnip thickets, or fields of glacier lilies, to make noise when hiking, and have bear spray accessible and know how to use it.  

Click here for more information about recreating in bear country.

At this time of year, bears are entering a phase called hyperphagia. It is a period of concentrated feeding to prepare for hibernation. There has been a shortage of berries in many areas of the park this year, leading to the potential for increased bear activity in visitor use areas. 

Bears looking high, low in search for calories

WILDLIFE  — Wildlife officials were warning the public about hungry bears probing lowland areas for food before the black bear attack on a woman in her home near Kalispell and another grizzly killed by a vehicle — both in the past week.

Bears are desperately looking for food in the wake of a poor berry year in a drought-weary region. 

“We’ve got grizzlies getting into everything from seed spuds in the fields outside of Ashton (Idaho) to apple trees in people’s yards," said Charlie Anderson, Idaho Fish and Game Department conservation officer. 

The North Idaho and northeastern Washington areas also are experiencing significant lowland bear activity, officials say.

The bear attack on the woman near Kalispell could be related to bears being lured into an area by bird seed, wildlife officials say in an initial statement.

Here's an explanation and a plea from IFG bear experts:

Before bears enter into hibernation, they go through a period where they try to gain as much weight as possible.   The Latin term for this time is “hyperphagia” and basically means to pig out.   Bears are incredible omnivores and will seek out a surprising diversity of foods in order to gain the needed stored energy to survive the winter. Certain grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem actually gain much of their needed winter weight by gorging on up to 40,000 army cutworm moths per day.  These moths head to mate on the high talus slopes east of Yellowstone National Park and are among the bear’s highest calorie food!

It is important that anyone living in bear country not only keep their garbage stored properly, but makes sure that natural food attractants like windfall fruit are kept picked up.   Even keeping an immaculate orchard is no guarantee of preventing problems, numerous reports exist of bears climbing into trees to pick apples or breaking off limbs.  Making sure that bears are not surprised by humans is a good first step in reducing conflict.  Turning on yard lights and making lots of noise are also good way to alert a bear of your presence.

Bear leaves calling card on Trail of the CdAs

TRAILS — Today's news that a grizzly bear is still hanging around the Coeur d'Alene River near Kingston caught the attention of Erick Swanson.

So did the large pile of bear scat Swanson passed while bicycling along the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes last weekend.

"We were just past the Snakepit heading back to Kellogg," he said. "It was very fresh on Sunday morning."

I can't confirm the pile is grizzly scat.  I've seen large-bore black bears, too, including bear scat in the past on the Trail of the CdAs that runs 71 miles from Plummer to Mullan.

But it could have been the 2-year-old collared grizzly that's been in the area, recorded on video and reported by hunters and fishermen for more than a week.

The photo is an impressive reminder that the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes winds through excellent wildlife habitat and impressive autumn scenery.

Watch out for moose!

Grizzly still in CdA River area; news reminder — fed bear is dead bear

WILDLIFE — The collared 2-year-old grizzly bear from Montana is still roaming the Coeur d'Alene River area north of Kingston. Idaho Fish and Game has been unsuccessful, as they expected, in getting the bear to take the bait and walk into a culvert trap for the second time in six weeks, so it's still in the area, clearly looking for food.

Kingston-area resident Sandy Podsaid has posted new video from two game cams on his property showing the grizzly looking for food and snooping around empty barrels that have been used previously for baiting black bears.

Area rural residents can help themselves and the grizzly by managing garbage and food for pets, livestock and bird feeders to avoid attracting the bear.

Two stories in the news remind us that allowing bears and other wildlife to get into human food can have dangerous consequences for the public and almost certain bad results for the animals.

  • Culling is one of several options on the table for dealing with aggressive mountain goats on  Scotchman Peak.
  • A black bear in Glacier National Park was euthanized by rangers last week because it had developed a habit of visiting the Lake McDonald Lodge area for food.

The bear revisited the area despite repeated attempts by park rangers to haze the bear away from the area with rubber bullets and bean bag rounds.

On Sept. 10th, the bear was observed peering into windows at the employee dorm. Park staff captured and relocated it to a remote area.

But the bear returned to the Lake McDonald area, breaking into a vehicle to obtain food.

Goodbye, bear.

CdA River grizzly had been captured, released Aug. 4 north of Noxon

WILDLIFE — A Montana grizzly bear that had been trapped, collared for research and released northwest of Noxon has wandered to the Coeur d’Alene River area north of Interstate 90 where Idaho wildlife officials say they’ll attempt to trap it again.

Like many bears trying to survive the record-dry year, the 2-year-old male grizzly appears to be on the search for food, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene.

The bear was videotaped Wednesday by Kingston-area resident Sandy Podsaid, clearly showing that it was a collared grizzly. 

On Aug. 4, the grizzly had been captured in a culvert trap by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staffers about 20 miles north of Whitefish. The bear was transported and released the same day near Spar Lake north of SR200 near the Montana-Idaho border.

The bear was captured and released as part of the practice of Montana and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to occasionally bolster the struggling grizzly bear population in the Cabinet Mountains, Wakkinen said. The grizzly is federally protected as a threatened species by the Endangered Species Act.

“The bear was 165 pounds and healthy when it was captured,” he said. “The bears they select for augmentation over the years are young bears that have not history of problems or conflict with humans.  These aren’t problem bears.”

GPS tracking from the grizzly’s collar indicates steady movement to different areas since its relocation, Wakkinen said. “It appears that the bear has been bounced around by wildfires and fire-fighting activity,” he said.

The bear has been reported in the Coeur d’Alene drainage several times since Sept. 4.

“A bowhunter reported that he was annoyed by squirrels that were suddenly yakking at him and when he stood up, the grizzly was feeding near him about 15 yards away, not paying attention to the hunter,” Wakkinen said.

 “Then a fisherman sent in a photo on Tuesday saying a grizzly swam across the Coeur d’Alene in front of him.”

Since the bear seems to have lost its natural wariness of human activity, state and federal wildlife officials have decided they’ll try to recapture the bear and move it out of the area.

“That won’t necessarily be easy; it may be impossible,” Wakkinen said.  “The bear hasn’t really settled into one area, so trap placement is difficult. 

“And the bear has a very recent unpleasant memory of being caught in a culvert trap, so it may be reluctant to go inside one again.”

The grizzly hasn’t been reported getting into a homeowner’s garbage or pet food, yet, but that possibility is a major concern for wildlife managers.

“We’ve had a definite uptick in reports of black bears in lowland areas looking for food, even right out of Coeur d’Alene,” Wakkinen said. “Given this year’s conditions, bear biologists aren’t surprised.

“It’s important for people to keep their garbage, pet food and bird seed away from the reach of bears.”   

The grizzly bear videotaped in a yard north of Kingston appeared to be sniffing around looking for food, Wakkinen said.

The video shows the bear poking its head into barrels, which according to Podsaid were used to hold grease and other bait for hunting black bears.  "The barrels were empty, but they still had scent," he said.

The bear also ran up to his mule, he said, "but I was yelling and cussing and the mule stomped and blew and the bear stopped, but it didn't immediately go away."

A link to the video has been posted on the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Facebook page.

Grizzly bear reported by sheriff on Coeur d’Alene River

UPDATE 9-11-15: Click here for new information about the grizzly and the situation here.

WILDLIFE — A rare grizzly bear sighting has been confirmed up the Coeur d'Alene River around milepost 9, officials say in a warning especially to hunters. 

  • Grizzlies can be attracted by elk calls.
  • While black bears are legal game, grizzly bears are federally protected.

Also, property owners can avoid attracting the bear by cleaning up garbage and pet and livestock feed.  The dry summer and lack of berries has forced bears into the lowlands.  They're hungry and looking for food, which means they might find trouble.

Although Idaho Fish and Game officials were not immediately available for comment, the bear apparently is wearing a collar that helped them identify its origin.  Here's the information recently posted on Facebook by Shoshone County Sheriff Mitch Alexander:

"A heads up out there, A confirmed grizzly was reported to Fish & Game and had been seen up the main Coeur D'Alene River at about mile post 9 Saturday by a bowhunter. A video which I can not share was taken by a guy at his home on mile post 4.

Fish and Game said this collared bear was from the Cabinet Mountains of Montana. Be careful out there, this is now the third grizzly in our area in the last few years that I have personal knowledge of."

Grizzly sightings near Whistler could signify bear range expansion

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Grizzlies appear to be slowly sniffing out new digs in the Pacific Northwest.

Grizzly bear sighting in SW British Columbia raises hopes, prompts warnings
The sighting of a grizzly bear with two cubs near Whistler has raised hopes that the species is recovering in that area of British Columbia. Officials are warning hikers in the area to be aware of the potential of running into the bears.
—Vancouver Sun

Meanwhile, the prospects of reintroducing grizzlies into the North Cascades of Washington is still being considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

Darby man fined $9K for poaching nine bears in Montana

POACHING — A 63-year-old Darby man will no longer be able to hunt, fish and trap in Montana after being sentenced in a bear poaching case.

The Ravalli Republic reports that James Harrison was sentenced Friday by Ravalli County District Court Judge James Haynes, who also ordered Harrison to pay $9,000 in restitution.

In addition, Harrison must spend 180 hours addressing hunter education classes about breaking hunting regulations.

Harrison pleaded guilty in June to five felony counts that included unlawful possession of nine bears that were illegally killed over bait between 2009 and 2014.

Harrison was one of three Ravalli County men charged in the case.

The other two pleaded guilty earlier to misdemeanor charges.

Harrison said he’s been humiliated and humbled by this case.

Nearly toothless Idaho grizzly bear, 25, euthanized after series of cabin break-ins

WILDLIFE —  A 25 year-old male grizzly bear that had been breaking into buildings in search of food was euthanized Monday by Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists.

The grizzly bear had previously been captured as part of routine scientific monitoring, so its age and health status was known to biologists, the agency reported in a media release.  

“This bear started getting into trouble around buildings at the end of last season and given that fact that some of his teeth were missing and the others were pretty worn down, which is typical for a bear of this age, continuation of this type of behavior could be expected," said Curtis Hendricks,  regional wildlife manager.

While this bear had made no direct threats to humans, it habituation to human-related foods and decreasing ability to forage naturally increased the potential for physical conflict with humans and required immediate action, he said.

Elsewhere in Island Park, another younger grizzly bear who had become overly comfortable around humans and whose antics playing with a sprinkler had appeared on local television news,  was hazed with rubber bullets. 

About 1,150 grizzly bears are roaming the Yellowstone Ecosystem, a number that exceeds all Endangered Species recovery goals, the agency says. 

While the Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears remain listed, all management actions such as this, are first approved by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. 

Idaho Fish and Game and other recovery effort member agencies have requested that the USFWS once again remove the Yellowstone grizzly population from the Endangered Species list.

Momma bear, 5 cubs, play in kiddie pool

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This video of a black bear sow with FIVE cubs seeking relief from summer heat is worth enduring the entry commercial for a few minutes of wildlife observation.

Momma bear immediately recognizes the cool water haven in a New Jersey family's backyard, but the cubs are more cautious, some of them testing the waters by dipping a paw and backing in slowly.

As they cool and become more comfortable in the setting, all the bears, including Momma, become more active and playful, leaving NONE of the toys and playground equipment in the family's backyard untested.

A lot of black bear learning is going on in this scene … some of it not so healthy for the future of the bears living at the edge of human development.

  • Moose like kiddie pools, too, as we've noted in the Spokane area for years.   See the story and photo from this month in Spokane Valley.

Be Bear Aware program Aug. 27 in Bonners Ferry

WILDLIFE — A presentation on safely living and recreating in bear country will be presented 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at the Bonners Ferry Ranger Station, 6286 Main Street in Bonners Ferry.

"We held the same event in Sandpoint and had to turn folks away so we decided to do another event in Bonners," said Nancy Dooley of the Idaho Conservation League.

“Be Bear Aware,” features experts about grizzly bears, traveling safely in bear country and how to use bear spray as one tool in bear conflict avoidance.

  • Pre-registration required; space is limited.
  • To register and for more information visit: www.idahoconservation.org, or call (208) 265-9565.

The presentation and training will be conducted by Brian Johnson, grizzly bear information and education conservation officer with Idaho Fish and Game, and Lydia Allen, Idaho Panhandle National Forests wildlife program manager.

Topics covered will include, a brief history of grizzly bear population declines, grizzly bear ecology, grizzly bear versus black bear identification, general conflict avoidance techniques and food storage requirements on national forest lands.

The presentation will also include a discussion on the origins and use of bear spray, followed by an opportunity for participants to practice using an inert bear spray training canister.

Participants will be entered into a drawing to receive a free bear spray holster.

A minimum suggested donation of $5 is encouraged to help cover the cost of bear spray training canisters.

Popular ‘Be Bear Aware’ program set for Bonners Ferry

Get Adobe Flash player

WILDLIFE — A presentation on safely living and recreating in bear country will be presented 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the Bonners Ferry Ranger Station, 6286 Main Street in Bonners Ferry.

"We held the same event in Sandpoint and had to turn folks away so we decided to do another event in Bonners," said Nancy Dooley of the Idaho Conservation League.

“Be Bear Aware,” features experts about grizzly bears, traveling safely in bear country and how to use bear spray as one tool in bear conflict avoidance.

Pre-registration required; space is limited.

To register and for more information visit: www.idahoconservation.org, or call (208) 265-9565.

The presentation and training will be conducted by Brian Johnson, grizzly bear information and education conservation officer with Idaho Fish and Game, and Lydia Allen, Idaho Panhandle National Forests wildlife program manager.

Topics covered will include, a brief history of grizzly bear population declines, grizzly bear ecology, grizzly bear versus black bear identification, general conflict avoidance techniques and food storage requirements on national forest lands.

The presentation will also include a discussion on the origins and use of bear spray, followed by an opportunity for participants to practice using an inert bear spray training canister.

Participants will be entered into a drawing to receive a free bear spray holster.

A minimum suggested donation of $5 is encouraged to help cover the cost of bear spray training canisters.

Grizzly suspected of killing Yellowstone hiker captured

Update 8/11/15 — One cub has been caught in addition to the female grizzly and rangers are trying to catch another cub seen in a trail camera image put out near the seen of the incident.

WILDLIFE — A female grizzly bear suspected of killing a hiker on Friday has been captured in a trap today, Yellowstone National Park officials report. The cub suspected of being with her was not caught.

If DNA testing determines the grizzly is responsible for the hiker's death, it will be euthanized, they said.

Seasonal park employee Lance Crosby, 63, of Billings was killed last week while hiking alone off-trail without bear spray, according to officials. His body was found Friday about a half-mile from the nearest developed trail, near an area known as Lake Village.

A park ranger found him “partially consumed” a half-mile from the Elephant Back Loop Trail in a “popular off-trail area he was known to frequent,” according to a National Park Service statement.

Crosby was the sixth person killed since 2010 by grizzlies in the greater Yellowstone area, which has an estimated 750 grizzlies and includes the park and surrounding portions of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

Here's more from the Associated Press:

Encounters between humans and grizzlies bears have risen sharply in recent decades as the region’s grizzly population expanded. But relatively few lead to death or injury, and park officials say the risk of being attacked by a bear is comparable to the chances of being struck by lightning.

Park biologists set a trap Friday that caught a female bear at the scene of the attack but not the cub believed to have been with her.

If testing confirms the sow was involved in Crosby’s death, it will be killed, Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said. The cub, if captured, could be killed or adopted by a zoo or rehabilitation center.

Crosby had worked as a nurse in the park’s medical clinics over five seasons and was described as an experienced hiker, officials said.

“At this point in time, I have no knowledge that it could have been avoided,” Wenk said. “He was in an area that’s frequently used, a popular area that people went to. It’s not like he was bushwhacking through the forest.”

Bruising around puncture wounds on Crosby’s forearms suggested he had tried to defend himself, officials said.

The victim’s family said through a park spokeswoman that they had no plans to release any statements or conduct interviews and asked that all media requests be directed to park officials.

Yellowstone receives more than 3 million visits a year from tourists who journey from around the world to view its geysers and other thermal features and abundant wildlife.

Hikers who enter backcountry areas are advised to stay on trails, travel in groups of three or more and carry mace-like bear spray in case of an encounter.

“It’s an individual’s personal choice to carry bear spray. It’s something we highly recommend because it has been shown to be an effective deterrent in the case of a bear charge,” park spokeswoman Amy Bartlett said.

The last fatality caused by a bear attack occurred in 2011, a year when two people were killed in separate incidents. Those deaths were the first to occur in the park in 25 years.

“Since 1916, the first year anyone was recorded being killed by a bear in the park, there have been eight fatalities,” said Yellowstone Park spokeswoman Julena Campbell. “It’s very rare.”

Single hair spills beans on bear’s diet

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — U.S. and Canadian researchers have found they can get a good idea of a grizzly bear’s diet over several months by looking at a single hair. The technique, which measures residues of trace metals, can be a major tool in determining if the threatened animals are getting enough of the right foods to eat, according to a release from Washington State University.

The technique can also help determine how much mercury bears are ingesting.

“You can use the technology for both applications,” said Marie Noël, lead author of a mercury study on polar bears and a more recent study, published in Science of the Total Environment, on how the technique works. “You can see how much mercury they’re getting but also estimate how much salmon they’re eating.”

Charles Robbins, a Washington State University wildlife biologist and director of the WSU Bear Research, Education and Conservation Center, said the technique helps determine how bears are recovering and if they have enough habitat to meet their food needs.

Grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the continental United States and endangered in parts of Canada.

“You can see bears chasing down salmon, but other than saying, ‘bears eat salmon,’ that really doesn’t give you much information,” Robbins said in the release. “So we’d like to know where the energy and protein is coming from to create either large bears or small bears or cubs and help them with their reproduction. We’d like something that integrates all that information over a 24-hour period, a week, a month, a year.”

Hair grows throughout a bear’s active season, and because it is almost entirely protein, “it’s a good indicator of the protein sources to the bears,” he said.

The new technique has a laser run down the length of a single hair. As it vaporizes one location, said Noël, the gases are analyzed by a mass spectrometer.

The researchers analyzed the hairs of 20 wild bears from British Columbia and five captive grizzlies at the WSU bear center. The captive bears were fed a diet of commercial bear chow and apples while grazing 12 hours a day on white clover.

For about a month, they were fed Yellowstone Lake cutthroat trout, which have high levels of mercury from nearby thermal features. Almost to the day, the researchers saw mercury levels rise in the captive bears, as well as levels of copper and zinc. The scientists then correlated those levels with levels seen in the wild bears to see what they had been eating.

“Taken together,” the researchers write, “the pattern obtained from these three elements can provide information on salmon consumption… as well as the amount of salmon consumed… by wild grizzly bears.”

Grizzly paw offers eye-opening perspective

WILDLIFE — For all of you heading to Alaska or the coastal region of British Columbia, this photo offers a big validation to the guidelines I've been preaching about camping in grizzly country.

Look at that paw and those claws and say after me: 

"I will store my food properly, cook away from sleeping areas and carry bear spray."

Wisconsin hunter fined for killing Montana grizzly bear

HUNTING – A nonresident hunter has been ordered to pay more than $2,300 for mistakenly shooting and killing a grizzly bear in northwestern Montana. That's a light fine for killing a protected big-game species, likely the result of the hunter's cooperation in the case.

Richard Kutcher of Mukwonago, Wisconsin, thought the animal he shot May 16 was a black bear, not a grizzly.

Grizzly bears are listed as a threatened species and are illegal to hunt.

State wildlife officials say Kutcher reported the shooting to wildlife officials immediately and cooperated with the investigation.

Kutcher pleaded guilty in Flathead County Justice Court to killing a grizzly bear in a closed season. He was fined $235 and ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution.

Public opinion divided on restoring grizzly bears to Washington

WILDLIFE — U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staffers are working to draw conclusions from about 3,000 comments accumulated this year on a plan to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades.

The Seattle Times reports that after public meetings in six cities an environmental-impact statement is in the works and a final decision is expected in late 2017.

Submitted comments range from outrage at the possible reintroduction of a predator to hopes of grizzly conservation.

Grizzlies would be returned to about 9,800 square miles, mostly federal lands, from the U.S-Canada border south to Wenatchee, extending west to towns such as North Bend and Darrington.

Most grizzly bears in the state were killed by settlers, officials said. Federal wildlife officials estimate there may be fewer than 20 of the bears living in the North Cascades south of Canada.

Glacier Park’s ‘Sun Road’ ready for motor vehicles

PARKS — Although bicyclists have been pedaling to Logan Pass on freshly plowed blacktop for three weeks, vehicle access from the west side to the top of Glacier National Park's Going to the Sun Road is set to open Friday, June 12.

The entire route through the Montana park should be open by June 19.

Following are details from a just-posted park media release:

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Vehicle access to Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the west side of Glacier National Park is anticipated to be available tomorrow morning, Thursday, June 11. Park road crews have finished snow removal, debris clean-up, guard rail installation, and facility preparation, as well as assessing snow conditions.  Vehicle access to Logan Pass from the east side of the park is scheduled to be available June 19 due to road rehabilitation work. 

Services at Logan Pass will include restroom facilities and potable water.  The Logan Pass Visitor Center will not be open until June 19.  At that time it will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., including a bookstore managed by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.  

There are two areas along the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road near Rim Rock, just below Oberlin Bend, that visitors will need to drive with caution.  Approximately 200 feet of masonry guard walls were destroyed by avalanches this past winter and temporary barriers have been installed creating a narrow two-lane roadway.

Through June 19, crews will be working near Triple Arches, located approximately two miles below Logan Pass on the west side.  One-lane traffic will be implemented during this time.  Flaggers will direct traffic during the day and traffic control lights will be used nights and weekends.  Crews will be completing some of the detail masonry work on the footing areas. 

Visitors will discover a snow-covered landscape at Logan Pass. Cold temperatures and wind, as well as icy conditions, may be encountered. Be aware of snow walls along the Going-to-the-Sun Road and hazardous snow bridges near the Big Drift. Standing or walking on snow along the road is strongly discouraged.

Trails near Logan Pass will be covered in snow and visitors should exercise caution when hiking. Be aware of unseen holes in the snow and snow bridges that exist. Avoid crossing steep, snow-covered slopes where a fall could be disastrous. Visitors should have the appropriate equipment and skills if hiking on snow.

The Highline Trail from Logan Pass is closed due to snow conditions.

Click here for current status reports on park trails.

Grizzly bear researchers working near Sullivan Lake

WILDLIFE — Federal grizzly bear researchers are working near the Salmo-Priest Wilderness to trap and fit GPS collars on grizzly bears.

The researchers also are trying to get DNA samples from other bears to help determine the number of grizzlies in the Idaho-Washington Selkirk Mountains.

"No captures and no mortality to report as yet this season," said Wayne Kasworm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research leader based in Libby.

"The trap crew is working around Sullivan Lake area and we have several people out setting up corrals with trail cameras to try to snag hair and get pictures of bears throughout the recovery area. 

"The trap crew will probably move into the Priest Lake basin during June."

Last summer, the crew caught and collared one adult male grizzly bear.  

The trap team also captured 10 black bears (7 males and 3 females) that were ear tagged and released at the site of capture.

The study has collared 6 grizzly bears (1 male and 5 females), although one female's collar detached for recovery last fall. That collar had been on the bear since 2012. 

The collars are programmed to detach as they reach the limits of their batteries. Researchers can then restore an expensive collar and reuse it rather than have it uselessly dangling around a bear's neck.

The research is a joint effort with British Columbia, in cooperation with the states of Washington and Idaho.  Canada researchers worked in the Selkirks north of Highway 3 last year and collared 9 grizzly bears (7 males and 2 females).

Kasworm is monitoring those bears, too, as part of this project to peg grizzly population trends.

Video: People crazy about getting bear photos

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I'll refrain from commenting on this widely seen recent video of tourists crowding around a Yellowstone Park black bear sow and her three cubs.  Until park staff ordered the visitors to their vehicles, the bear had a hard time finding an escape route. No one was hurt in this case, but….

OK, I'll say one thing:  This is more evidence that humans continue to be stupid about wildlife.

Outdoor writer Brett French of the Billings Gazette reports:

Tourists near Gardiner got an up-close reminder about why it's best to keep your distance from wildlife.

Bob Gibson, who works for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, shot a photo in Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday evening, May 6, of a sow black bear and her three cubs caught on a bridge over the Yellowstone River, between Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, and Cooke City.

Gibson was with videographer Winston Greely, who shot video of the encounter.

As FWP wrote, "Luckily, no one was hurt and these bears made it safely back to the forest."

Second black bear in a week removed from Five Mile area

WILDLIFE — A young black bear was captured in the Five Mile Area of Spokane Saturday, less than a week after a nuisance bear was killed by wildlife officials to protect the neighborhood.

After receiving complaints for homeowners, the second black bear was removed from the same area over the weekend and relocated to southern Pend Oreille County, said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman.

Officer Mike Sprecher received a call about the second bear on Friday, May 1, and set a live barrel trap in the Lloyd Charles neighborhood on Saturday. By  about 8:15 p.m. Saturday that bear, estimated to be about the same age but slightly smaller than the first bear, was in the trap and on its way to a remote release site, Luers said. 

On April 27, a particularly troublesome bear was shot and killed in the Five Mile-Waikiki area by wildlife officers after more than two weeks of attempts to live-trap or tree the animal with with hounds so it could be tranquilized and relocated.

The second bear's willingness to be trapped gives it a second chance at being wild.

Two questions:

  • Has the bear been habituated to human food to the point that it will become a problem to someone else?
  • Is somebody in the Five Mile area continuing in to feed wildlife or leave out garbage in a way that's attracting bears?

Maybe that leads to a third question:

  • Is it time to ding the bell of people clueless about living with wildlife and saddle them with the cost of tranquilizing and relocating bears that become a problem because of human negligence?

Nuisance black bear killed in Spokane’s Five Mile area

WILDLIFE — A black bear that has been causing problems from patios and garbage bins to chicken coops in the Five Mile Area was killed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers today, April 27.

The young bear was killed with the help of houndsmen in a six-hour mission — the third attempt in a week.

"It had been causing a lot of problems for quite a while and we've been trying to catch it since about April 10," said  Capt. Dan Rahn, the department's head enforcement official in Spokane.

The bear had evaded traps and would not go up a tree when tracked by hounds, making it a difficult task to capture the animal and reducing the options officials had for dealing with the nuisance bear, he said.

Safety to the public is a key factor in when, where and how wildlife officers ultimately deal with a large potentially dangerous problem animal, whether it's a bear or a moose.

"We had an opportunity to euthanize it today, so we took it," Rahn said.