Latest from The Spokesman-Review
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
HUNTING — Bears are still out and active throughout the fall as hunters are out for deer and elk hunting — a potentially hazardous mix.
Being bear aware is particularly important for hunters because stalking and harvesting game increases a person’s chance of bumping into bears, says Jamie Jonkel, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear management specialist.
“When travelling through dense brush or field dressing an animal, be extra aware and do what you can to warn wildlife of your presence,” Jonkel says. “Always have bear spray close at hand.”
Jonkel says this has been an especially busy fall for grizzly bear activity, especially in Western Montana.
He offers these safety tips for hunting in bear country:
- Always carry bear spray, have it within easy reach and know how to use it.
- If you are going to be alone in bear country, let someone know your plans.
- Watch for fresh bear sign.
- After making a kill, get the carcass out of the area as quickly as possible.
- When field dressing the carcass, keep your can of bear spray within easy reach.
- Use special precautions if you must leave and return to a carcass, including placing the carcass where you can observe it from a distance when you return.
- Do not attempt to frighten away or haze a bear that is near or feeding on a carcass
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's another take on that spectacular wildlife watching opportunity posed in mid-September by the death of a bison 400 yards from a road in Yellowstone Park.
- Five grizzlies and five gray wolves challenged each other for three days as they jockeyed for a place at the dinner table.
In the YouTube video above, Deby Dixon — who took a videography course at Spokane Falls Community College from S-R photographer Colin Mulvany — captured an instructive wildlife moment as a wolf nips a yearling grizzly cub in the butt.
Wildlife biologists say this is not uncommon. An Alaska biologist described the same practice to me as he was explaining wolf behavior.
Wolves learn and survive by observing, testing the waters and pushing the limits. Even among grizzlies, wolves are quick enough to get away with murder.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — A dead bison 400 yards from a main road in Yellowstone National Park in September provided the rare opportunity for visitors to see five grizzly bears — rare in itself — and five gray wolves vying for meals off the same carcass at the same time.
I was there, underarmed in dim light with a slow 300mm lens on my camera, but thoroughly enjoying the spectacle through spotting scopes with another 100 or so specators parked along the road between Gardiner and Cooke City.
Other photographers, including Pete Bengeyfield of Dillon, Mont., scored memorable shots, such as these two, using 600mm telephoto lenses and 1.4x extenders.
When I watched the proceedings, all of the grizzlies — the boar as well as the sow and her three yearling cubs — were on the carcass at the same time. It appeared to me that the boar and sow had made rare peace because the five of them had a better chance of keeping the wolves at bay.
Read Bengeyfield's perspective and see more photos in this story from the Billings Gazette.
Click continue reading (below) to see another photo here.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Enjoy an intimate family moment with grizzly bears attracted to a scratching pole by some sort of powerful lure, a bruin's equivalent of ecstasy.
The video starts slow and builds to a frenzy of rubbing. Fun.
Compiled into a video called “What goes on when you are not there!” this camera wound up snapping a bonanza of photos.
Naylor says he doesn’t want the photos to give people the wrong impression about bears in general. Although the footage is cute and humorous, he says, “bears are not cuddly and friendly, they are wild animals that should be treated with caution and respect.”
See Naylor's YouTube channel.
HUNTING — “Is it dead, yet?”
Maybe that's a question you need to ask if your hunting buddy calls and asks for help packing out his bear. From the Associated Press:
KALISPELL, Mont. — Montana wildlife officials say a black bear wounded by a bow hunter bit the arm of the hunter’s companion before succumbing to its injuries.
State Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman John Fraley says a man was hunting Tuesday near Thompson Falls when he shot the 150-pound female black bear with a bow and arrow.
The hunter waited for several hours to try to make sure the bear was dead before he started tracking it.
The hunter located the wounded bear and shot it twice more with his bow. The bear then ran down a hill and encountered a man who had arrived to assist the hunter. The bear bit the second man’s arm before it died.
The injured man was treated at the hospital in Plains and released.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say the hunter legally tagged the bear.
HUNTING — After several recent human-bear encounters in Idaho and Wyoming, wildlife managers are reminding hunters and others heading into the region’s backwoods to properly store their food and garbage to keep conflicts with the curious and ravenous predators to a minimum.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials say anyone who leaves food out is baiting bears.
The animals have a tremendous sense of smell and become habituated to humans if they discover people are associated with easy meals.
The agency urges hunters to keep a clean camp, store garbage in bear-resistant containers or high in trees — out of reach of black bears and grizzlies.
In mid-August, four people in and near Yellowstone National Park were injured in separate bear encounters, though all escaped with minor bite and scratch wounds.
Two animal incidents marked the news yesterday in Boise: A bear found wandering in the North End, which was tranquilized and taken off to the forest north of Lowman for release; and a bull rampaging down the Greenbelt in Eagle after breaking out of its pasture. Initially, authorities warned people to beware on the Greenbelt near Merrill Park yesterday morning as they hunted for the bull, but no capture was ever reported. “They didn’t seem very concerned by yesterday afternoon,” said Ada County Sheriff’s spokesman Patrick Orr. “It was swimming in the river. … They were pretty confident it was going to swim back to the pasture it broke out of.”
The black bear, pictured above, was first sighted around 7:30 Thursday morning behind the Boise VA hospital on Fort Street; it then led sheriff’s deputies and Fish & Game officers on a few hours of “hide and seek,” Orr reported, before the F&G officers were able to get close enough to tranquilize it. Fish & Game warned that dry conditions in the mountains could drive bears to visit town over the next few months, so they advise those living near the foothills to keep trash sealed up and don’t leave food outside.
WILDLIFE — Apparently picnic baskets are no longer big enough for this bear in Colorado Springs… or maybe she just ordered takeout.
Either way, she's no stranger to food from human sources. Enjoy this.
PREDATORS — Defending livestock from wolves and grizzly bears appears to be going to the dogs in Montana.
Study in Montana tests effectiveness of dogs to deter wolves, grizzlies
The National Wildlife Research Center, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in Utah, has provided $80,000 to study the use of different breeds of dogs to keep wolves and grizzly bears away from livestock in Montana, including Kangals, a long-legged Turkish breed.
—Great Falls Tribune
CAMPING — “Bear spray left in car. Becomes bomb. Very impressive.”
That's a post with the photo above from Hal Herring in Montana, who performed an unintentional science experiment by leaving a canister of bear spray in the back of his Subaru open to direct exposure to the hot summer sun.
Manufacturers say aerosol cans can burst above temps of 120-130 degrees. But the main thing is that the canisters should always be covered — in a duffle, in an uncooled cooler, wraped in a towel under the seat of a car, but NEVER left to the full intensity of the summer sun in an enclosed vehicle.
“Check out the super shred on that bear spray holster…reckon there was a little force there?” Herring notes.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Nevermind if you cannot go to Alaska — you can thrill at the sight of huge brown bears fishing for salmon at an iconic waterfall via a live feed from a Webcam in Katmai National Park.
Click here for the live view documenting the annual gathering of about 100 brown bears descending on a mile-long stretch of Brooks River to feast on the largest sockeye salmon run in the world.
If the link above does not work, paste this URL into your browser:
HIKING — Bear activity has prompted the Idaho Panhandle National Forests today to temporarily close popular trails to Beehive and Harrison Lakes in the upper Pack River drainage of the Selkirk Mountains.
The two trails and the surrounding area are closed to the public until further notice to ensure public safety, said Jason Kirchner, Forest Service spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.
A bear recently entered a camp site near the Beehive Lakes Trail and was able to remove camping equipment and human food, he said.
Campers have to step up and follow simple bear-wise rules to protect campers who come after them as well as public access to these coveted backcountry areas.
This bear — the people involved couldn't verify whether it was a black bear or grizzly — likely had been lured by food previously.
One group's sloppy camping can unnecessarily screw up the outdoor experience for everybody, as this instance proves.
And neglecting to hang or protect food usually brings a bitter end for the bears, as it did this month for bears that had become food-conditioned in Montana's Smith River State Park (see story).
Here are the rules from the Panhandle National Forests
There is a mandatory food storage order in effect from April 1 through December annually. All food and beverages including canned food, soda and beer, garbage, grease, processed livestock or pet food and scented flavored toiletries must be unavailable to bears and stored in bear resistant containers at night and when unattended. For more information on proper food storage, members of the public are encouraged to visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s food storage web site.
Temporary closures are the first step in ensuring public and bear safety when problematic encounters occur.
For more information please contact the Sandpoint Ranger District at (208) 263-5111 or visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests Website.
PARKS — Apparently because of sloppy campers who came previously, people with coveted Smith River floating/camping permits have been getting disappointing phone calls.
Montana state parks officials have closed the Smith River State Park between Camp Baker and Eden Bridge because black bear looking for food and showing no fear of humans are turning up at the boat-in camps.
Bears have been getting into food storage coolers, they said.
No one has been injured, but to play it safe, the river has been closed since Saturday.
The bear activity has resulted in the need to close numerous boat camps, making it difficult to provide adequate and safe camping opportunities for those floating the central Montana river. People put in for the permits in a lottery each spring and only a fraction of the hopeful crowd draw reservations.
The river will be closed until wildlife managers can resolve the situation.
People with upcoming permits to float the river are being contacted by Smith River State Park staff.
CAMPING — A backcountry campground near the head of Lake Chelan has been closed indefinitely because of a black bear that was lured by the taste of food and garbage left unsecured by visitors.
The National Park Service announced Thursday that Tumwater Campground, located about 12 miles from Stehekin Landing, is closed until further notice.
A bear received a “substantial food reward” when it got into a garbage can at the primitive campsite on Monday, the agency said. Though the can has been removed, the bear is expected to return to the campground to look for more food.
The nearby High Bridge Campground will also be monitored by park staff to make sure the bear does not go there in search of an easy meal.
The agency said that a camp closure of two to three weeks in generally enough to convince a bear that there is no more food there.
HUNTING — A black bear gives a hunter a moment he'll never forget. Check it out.
WILDLIFE — Which predator gets the blame for poor survival of elk calves in Yellowstone National Park?
A. Gray wolf.
B. Grizzly bear.
C. Lake trout.
Answer: All of the above.
Check out the Billings Gazette story on the latest suprising research — which shouldn't be all that surprising to wildlife enthusiasts who understand the complex ways nature is connected.
WILDLIFE — Biologists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are getting a peek into what city bears do all day.
Six bears were equipped with rugged video cameras attached to collars around their necks, which are allowing biologists to get a good idea of how the four black and two brown bears spent their time last summer.
WILDLIFE — The region's black bears are out of their winter dens and on the move, looking for food sources that might help them regain weight lost during hibernation.
Homeowners can avoid problem encounters with bears by being aware.
High calorie human foods are a major attractant, particularly if they are easy to obtain, such as out of a bird feeder or garbage can.
Idaho Fish and Game officials urge homeowners who live rural and suburban settings to take small precaution that can make a big difference in safety and to the welfare of the bears. Whether it's a black bear or a grizzly, a bear lured into a yard or campground by food or garbage is likely to be killed for public safety.
“All bears are opportunists; their whole life revolves around food,” Fish and Game conservation educator Evin Oneale said. “They remember every single location where they receive a food reward, and if they get one from your residence, or your neighbor’s residence, they will be back for more.”
The result is always the same – a dead bear.
Read on for easy solutions for homeowners living near prime bear country.
WILDLIFE — It's time to start packing your bear spray again.
Grizzly bears are emerging from their winter dens pretty much right on schedule.
This photograph comes this week from Yellowstone Tour Guides, which has quite an assortment of photos showing the park's wildlife winning and losing the struggle to survive winter.
ENDANGERED SPECIES – Although Alberta grizzly bears are officially a threatened species in recovery mode, ranchers are asking officials to resume hunting at least for the problem bears in the southwestern corner of the province.
A grizzly bear recovery plan was initiated in 2008 after studies found fewer than 700 grizzlies left in Alberta. Grizzly hunting had be curbed in 2006.
Continued research indicates the bear population healthier than previously known in some areas, especially in the southwest.
Across the province, 15 grizzly bears were killed in 2012 by poachers, motorists and landowners: one problem bear was destroyed; five were killed in self-defence; four were hit on roads; two were poached; and two were mistaken by hunters for black bears. One death was ruled as an unknown cause.
Read more in this Calgary Herald story.
WILDLIFE — Minnesota wildlife biologists have a long history with the oldest wild black bear known to be roaming free in the woods (videoed in her den, above).
Tagged No. 56 by researchers in 1981, the the 39-year-old sow is still in her winter den in the Chippewa National Forest.
According to the Duluth News Tribune, No. 56 has outlived virtually all of the 550 black bears the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources collared and tracked in the past four decades.
In addition to the research data, she's also produced about 28 cubs in her lifetime, with her last litter at the twilight age of 25. Nowadays, the old girl is no longer in the mood for parenting or exhaustive courtships, researchers say.
In the summer before denning this winter, No.56 mostly meandered around the forest and took a lot of long naps. Although she had recently lost some weight and a few teeth, biologists say she’s still in pretty good health.
March is the month bears normally begin emerging from their dens In the Rocky Mountains. Males generally are the first to come out. Sows with cubs usually emerge weeks later.
HUNTING — Hunters have until Feb. 28 to apply for black bear spring hunting permits in Washington.
WILDLIFE — Bear with me on this….
The ability of computer generated animation to mix fantasy with reality is a bit alarming, but also quite humorous in the case of this creative Canadian ad for a clothes washing machine reveals.