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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

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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.

Grizzlies isolated in Cabinet Mountains

THREATENED SPECIES — Our big bears  need lots of room to roam, something that's in short supply in our ever-more-developed world.

 Grizzly bears in NW Montana face trio of obstacles
An estimated 45 grizzly bears reside in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem in the northwest corner of Montana. In most cases, their lineage traces back to a female grizzly from British Columbia that was trapped and released to the area in 1993 to boost the population. The effort continues as the species struggles with isolation from other populations, conflicts with humans and habitat.
—Missoula Independent

Grizzly killed by Idaho black bear hunters

HUNTING — An 11-year old male grizzly bear was killed by black bear hunters near Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday, May 7, according to the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

The incident occurred on the Caribou-Targhee Forest, just off of the Cave Falls Road in Idaho.  Both black bears and grizzly bears are known to frequent the area just outside of the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park.

The incident is under investigation and information will be released as it becomes available, said IDFG, which is assisting the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service with the investigation.

Hunters are responsible for sharpening their bear ID skills.

Educational info and a bear ID quiz — this can be humbling — is available on the Idaho Fish and Game website.  

 

Alaska bear largest to be killed by hunters

HUNTING — The largest grizzly bear killed and recorded by a hunter has been entered into the Boone and Crockett record book.

The big bruin, taken in 2013 near Fairbanks, Alaska, by Larry Fitzgerald of Fairbanks scores 27-6/16. It missed the world's record mark by seven-sixteenths of an inch but landed a spot as the second-largest grizzly ever recorded. The reigning World's Record is a skull found in Alaska in 1976.

Bears are scored based on skull length and width measurements.

Conservationists use Boone and Crockett trophy data to gauge outstanding habitat, strong recruitment of game animals into older age classes, sustainable harvest objectives and other elements of sound wildlife management and fair-chase hunting.

“One would think that a relatively accessible area, with liberal bear hunting regulations to keep populations in line with available habitat and food, would be the last place to find one of the largest grizzly bears on record,” said Richard Hale, chairman of the Boone and Crockett Club's Records of North American Big Game committee.

Hale said the area is being managed for an overpopulation of grizzlies. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game liberalized hunting regulations to help balance and control bear predation on moose. Baiting is allowed although Fitzgerald stalked his trophy.

Hale added that Boone and Crockett Club recognizes found or picked-up trophies, like the reigning world's record grizzly which scores 27 13/16, alongside hunter-taken trophies because all are useful for documenting historic conservation successes.

Idaho spring bear hunting seasons underway

HUNTING — Here's a cue for hikers to wear colorful clothing — no black or brown.

Idaho's spring black bear hunting season opened April 15 throughout the Idaho Panhandle Region.

Season ending dates vary by unit.  In units 2, 3 and 5 the season closes May 15.  Units 1, 4, and 4A close May 31.  The higher elevation units close later with unit 6 open through June 30.  Units 7 and 9 close July 31.  Hunters may use a second bear tag and electronic calls in units 4, 6, 7 and 9 where bear numbers are higher and predation is depressing deer and elk numbers.

Only black bears may be hunted. Grizzly bears could be encountered throughout much of the Panhandle, but grizzlies are protected by state and federal law.

While grizzlies are most commonly found in big game unit 1, they may be found in any of the Panhandle hunting units. Several years ago, a grizzly showed up near Rose Lake in unit 4.  To get there it crossed through several big game units where grizzlies are very uncommon.

Also keep an eye out for this bear, as described by Idaho Fish and Game:

Last fall, a female grizzly collared in NW Montana crossed into Idaho big game unit 4.  This 16-18 year old bear then spent several weeks in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains. Apparently the area was not where she wanted to settle down for the winter, so she traveled toward the Silver Valley, crossed I-90 somewhere near Kingston or Pinehurst and made her way into the upper St Joe. She likely denned somewhere in the St. Joe drainage.

Her collar was programmed to automatically turn off for the winter to save battery power, so her exact den location is unknown.  

The collar is programmed to be back on now, but no signals have been detected.  The lack of a signal indicates she is likely still in her den. 

As she did not have cubs with her last fall, there is a good possibility she may have new cubs with her when she emerges.

Only the bear knows if she will move back toward Montana, or take up residence in the St. Joe country.  Because of the uncertainty of this bear’s next move, bear hunters should be aware that this (or another) grizzly could show up in any Panhandle big game unit.

IDENTIFICATION

Under field conditions, it can be very difficult to distinguish grizzly bears from black bears.  The mistaken shooting of grizzlies has been a significant factor limiting the recovery of grizzly bears in northern Idaho.

Grizzly bears have a hump on their shoulders, a dished face, longer claws on their front feet, and shorter more rounded ears than black bears.  

Size and color are not reliable features to identify the bears.   Black bears can be any color from black or brown to blonde; and, grizzlies can be so dark as to appear black.  A young grizzly can be smaller than an adult black bear and have a very small shoulder hump.

To prevent mistaken identity, bear hunters must learn to accurately identify black bears and distinguish them from grizzly bears in the wild, often in poor light conditions and possibly from long distances.

Bear spray is a good item to carry regardless of whether you're a hunter, hiker mushroom picker or anyone heading int North Idaho mountains.

Research has shown that bear spray is more effective and easier to use to deter a bear/human interaction than a firearm. 

Oregon rancher kills 500-pound black bear

WILDLIFE — A huge black bear by Oregon standards has been killed by a rancher legally defending the family's property.

Hunters are scratching their heads wondering how they missed seeing one of the biggest bruins experts have seen in the Northwest.

From the Associated Press:

Ranchers in south-central Oregon have legally killed a nearly 500-pound black bear after one of their heifers was killed by a bear and the giant animal was found in the family’s cattle herd.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Craig Foster says Marie Leehmann went beyond legal requirements by obtaining a kill permit before a family member shot the bear.

The Herald and News reports that field biologists say the male bear weighed 490 pounds, stood 6-foot-5 and was 13 to 15 years old. Foster said the largest bear he had previously seen weighed 345 pounds.

The kill permit was issued after it was determined that one of the Leehmanns’ yearling heifers had been killed by a bear. Two days later, on April 4, Leehmann was checking the cows when a bear ran out of the herd. Her son, Ryon, shot the bear within a quarter-mile of their home.

Foster says ranchers are legally allowed to kill bears that attack cattle.

Another sign of spring: Grizzlies emerging

WILDLIFE WATCHING — If you need more reassurance that spring has sprung, Yellowstone National Park officials have reported that grizzly bears are beginning to emerge from their dens.

First bears out of the hatch usually are males.  Females with cubs born in the den during winter usually are last out, giving the cubs more chance to develop.

Grizzly bears are emerging from hibernation in the Greater Yellowstone Area, so hikers, skiers and snowshoers are advised to stay in groups of three of more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray.

The first confirmed reports of grizzly bear activity in the Park were reported on March 4. Guides and visitors observed and photographed a grizzly bear along the road in the Hayden Valley area. The first black bear of the year was observed on February 11 near the south end of the park.

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.

Updated bear safety information is available on the Yellowstone bear safety Web page.

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm is a violation of park regulations. The park’s law enforcement rangers who carry firearms on duty rely on bear spray, rather than their weapons, as the most effective means to deal with a bear encounter.

Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods, and helps keep park visitors and their property safe.

Gearing up for a hike in griz country? Read this first

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BACKPACKING — If you're thinking about packing a gun on your next hike into Yellowstone, Glacier Park or other areas of grizzly bear habitat, read this story first.

Then check out the video above on how to effectively use bear spray.

Trail Cam proves wildlife around when hikers aren’t

WILDLIFE WATCHING — In December, Parks Canada posted this time-lapse video from a trail camera in Waterton Lakes National Park spanning over a four-month period when the area was closed to hikers as a result of flood damage.

See how the animals took advantage of a human-free trail and used it for an easy travel route.

How many species do you count?  

Most bears hibernating, but not all of them

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A wolf trapper has answered the question on whether all of Montana's bears have snuggled in dens to hibernate through winter.

A steel leg-hold trap set for a wolf nabbed a 4-year-old male grizzly bear instead on a ranch west of Dupuyer on Tuesday, prompting Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to help the trapper tranquilized and release the bear.

  • The photo above indicates the glowing eyes in the spotlight beam were all the officers saw when they drove up in the dark to encounter the trapped grizzly.

If a bear has plenty of food available, it won't necessarily head into its den, even in mid-December, wildlife biologists said.

Read on for the story from the Great Falls Tribune.

Yellowstone grizzlies recovered, panel says

THREATENED SPECIES — A panel of wildlife officials says it’s time to lift Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.

An Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee spokesman says the panel’s members voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of ending the federal protections, the Associated Press reports.

The committee’s recommendation will be considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency could propose a rule by mid-2014 to end protections.

Scientists say there are more than 700 grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming following a decades-long recovery.

Revoking the animal’s threatened species status would open the door to limited hunting, but other conservation measures would stay in place.

Environmental groups worried about climate change say it’s too early to take the bears off the threatened list.

Study finds at least 42 grizzlies in Cabinet, Yaak

THREATENED SPECIES — A “hair of the bear” study has accounted for at least 42 grizzly bears in the Cabinet Mountains and Yaak River drainage regions of northwestern Montana, according to the Associated Press.

Research leader Kate Kendall reported her findings to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Tuesday, the Missoulian reported.

Researchers used about 800 scent-baited “hair corrals” where rings of barbed wire snagged hair as the animals stepped over or under it to investigate the scent. They also collected samples in about 1,200 places where bears naturally stop to scratch their backs, such as trees, posts and poles in a 3,750-square-mile area in the mountains above Eureka, Libby, Trout Creek, Yaak and Troy.

The samples, collected in 2012 and analyzed this year, identified 38 grizzlies by their DNA. Researchers also knew about four collared bears whose DNA didn’t appear in the samples.

“That’s the rock-solid minimum count we detected,” research leader Kate Kendall told the committee at its meeting in Missoula. Including visiting bears and bears that died during the study, the figure could be as high as 54, she said.

The number is important because the health of the grizzly population influences how much logging and mining can take place in the area.

Read on for more details from the AP.

Video: See black bear test BearVault food canister

CAMPING — My Sunday Outdoors feature story focuses on bear-proof food canisters — where they are being required for campers and which one to buy.

The video above looks at the story from the bear's point of view.

This bear is very determined, but it doesn't get a reward for trying to steal a camper's food out of a BearVault brand container.