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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!

Alberta ranchers want hunts on problem grizzlies

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.

BC approves controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort in Purcell Mountains

PUBLIC LANDS — British Columbia Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Steve Thomson has announced his approval of controversial private-company plans to build the $900-million Jumbo Glacier Resort in the Purcell Mountains near Invermere.

The area is considered a pristine conservancy important to grizzly bears and backcountry recreation.

According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, opponents say they have not given up the fight to block the building of the luxury all-season resort that will have two hotels and 1,360 residential units with 6,250 beds.

Here's the Calgary Herald report:

B.C. approves controversial Jumbo Glacier ski resort:
$1B proposal has divided Kootenay region residents for decades

Here's the CBC News report on the decision.

See my story and photos about hiking in the area, which is featured in my guidebook, 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.


Enviros oppose Jumbo Ski Resort as decision nears

PUBLIC LANDS — After 20 years of debate, the British Columbia government apparently is nearing a decision on whether to authorize development of a large four-season resort on and around glaciers near Jumbo Pass in the Purcell Mountains above Invermere.

If you've hiked the trails to Monica Meadows and Jumbo Pass described in my book, 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest, you know the neighborhood.

Environmental and recreation groups have opposed this resort from the beginning, arguing it would be detrimental to grizzly bears in some of the best grizzly habitat in the region. They also say existing resorts, such as nearby Panorama Resort, already are short of customers without adding more competition.

The Jumbo Glacier Resort appears to be more of a real estate development scheme than a viable ski resort plan, as pointed out in this video.

Recreationists also point out the development would degrade what's been a premier backcountry experience and close some access to public (crown) lands.

Click here to see how the developers promote the Jumbo Glacier Resort project.

Click here for insight on the potential impacts to wildlife.

Click here for the overall environmental argument against the resort.

Click here for the perspective of the local First Nation, the Ktunaxa.

Click here for information on booking the rustic Jumbo Pass hiker-skier cabin.

Click here for a YouTube video documenting a week of backcountry skiing out of the Jumbo Pass cabin.

Elk carcasses spark brawls among Tetons grizzly family

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Grizzly 399 and Grizzly 610 — 399's daughter from 2006 that is now full-grown and raising cubs of her own — thrilled visitors to Grand Teton National Park this summer as they raised this year's cubs by roads in the Wyoming park.

But the two bear mothers have been squabbling recently over a bison carcass and elk carcasses left behind by hunters.

Read the story from the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Forests adopt standards for motorized access to grizzly habitat

PUBLIC LANDS — The Idaho Panhandle, Kootenai and Lolo National Forests have adopted standards for motorized access within the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones in a two year effort prompted by a 2006 court decision.

The Grizzly Bear Access Amendment makes no changes at specific sites. Changes to motorized access will be accomplished through separate, site specific NEPA analyses, including public comment and consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Panhandle National Forests officials say.

Implementing the standards across the recovery zones affecting Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming is expected to take up to eight years, they said.

The Grizzly Bear Access Amendment sets standards for road density and percentage of core habitat for grizzly bears across 30 Bear Management Units (BMUs) within the recovery zones. This amendment is expected to continue the current downward trend of grizzly bear mortality on national forest system lands within the recovery zones, but could result in approximately 16 to 48 miles of currently open motorized routes being barriered and an additional 18 to 54 miles of open routes being gated once standards are fully implemented, officials said.

Grizzly fishing explosive, even without dynamite

WILDLIFE — Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson captured the power of a brown bear fishing for salmon during a recent visit to Alaska.

One fish escapes, but look closely underwater to see the big one that didn't get away from the bruin.

Video: Erin Bolster, Tonk wow crowd on The Late Show with David Letterman

Watch the video clip of Erin Bolster and Tonk on Late Night with David Letterman. The full segment will be broadcast tonight on CBS:

Fans of heroes, horses, wranglers and grizzly bears will get it all in one package tonight on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Trail riding guide Erin Bolster and her horse from Whitefish, Mont., are being featured on the CBS talk show after a Sept. 18 Spokesman-Review feature trotted the duo into the national spotlight.

“How can you not love this story?” Letterman says as he introduces Bolster in a show taped earlier today. The host praised the 25-year-old wrangler who leveraged her own bravery as she convinced the horse to save a child by charging a grizzly bear head on.

Bolster had been acquainted with the leased horse from the Swan Mountain Outfitters stock pool for only two months.

“Our first guest showed remarkable courage when she and her horse, Tonk, rescued a young boy from a 750-pound grizzly bear – 750 pound grizzly bear: that’s like (all the people in) Row 2,” Letterman says, pointing to the audience.

In the interview, Bolster says Tonk initially “didn’t want to be there” when the grizzly ran into her group of eight trail riders.

The bear was chasing a deer. But when the deer escaped in the pandemonium of panicking horses, the grizzly continued its pursuit – bearing down on a fleeing horse carrying Ian Turner, an 8-year-old guest from northern California.

Horse experts have marveled at Bolster’s ability to get Tonk to overcome his natural instinct to run away from the danger. With Bolster’s heels in his ribs, the large Percheron (draft horse) mix, wheeled around and charged the bear three times before driving it away from the boy and the other horse.

“Erin was just awesome,” said Greg Turner, the boy’s father. “I can't say enough good things about her.”

Tonk reacts similarly when Letterman introduces him to the nation on tonight's show. That is, when the studio audience roars with applause, Tonk initially wants to head for the barn.

“Must be a bear on 53rd Street,” Letterman says as the huge white horse pivots and moons the crowd.

But Bolster composes the horse, holds his head tight to her shoulder and confirms that she bought Tonk after his heroic performance against the bear.

“He’s my boy now,” she says, to the crowd’s approval.

“Lovely story,” Letterman says. “And take good care of this guy.”

“Wow. That was awesome,” Bolster said in a Facebook post after taping the show this afternoon. “Tonk tried his very hardest to be a good boy. He was so cute… love him.”

Dad praises wrangler who saved son from grizzly

Ian Turner, 8, of northern California is pictured here on a horse named Scout on July 30, 2011, shortly before they were chased by a grizzly bear on a trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters near Glacier National Park. Wrangler Erin Bolster and her horse, Tonk, rode to his rescue, challenging the bear until it ran off. 

Here's what Ian's dad has to say, as posted on the Swan Mountain Outfitters Facebook page:

My name is Greg. My son Ian is the unnamed 8 year old. Erin was just awesome. I can't say enough good things about her. Even aside from her chasing down Ian and Scout, you could not do better by having Erin as your guide. Although, could someone tell Scout not to be chasing bears? :-). Thank you again Erin, you are awesome. Someone was watching out for us all that day.

Gutsy wrangler and horse that took on grizzly taping Letterman Show

GREAT STORIES — If you like heroes, horses, blonde horse wranglers and grizzly bears, tune in to the Late Show with David Letterman tonight.

My Outdoors feature story last month, “Gutsy wrangler, huge horse, save boy from charging grizzly” struck a chord with Spokesman-Review readers –and then spread to readers across the continent like jet-propelled stallions.

The news didn't escape Letterman, who owns a Montana ranch near Choteau. Letterman's handlers shipped both the wrangler and the horse from Whitefish to New York. Tonk was chauffeured on a five-day expedition in a comfort-controlled van with breaks every three hours or so.

The 25-year-old wrangler and her horse are scheduled to be taping two segments today for the show that airs tonight. Bolster and her huge Percheron mix horse will be sharing the show with actor Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller's Day Off).   

The story of Erin Bolster and Tonk riding herd on a grizzly bear near Glacier National Park went viral on the Internet, capturing the hearts of a country with an appetite for heroes, horses and potential tragedies with happy endings – for both the people and the bear.

The family of the 8-year-old California boy Erin rescued from the bear posted high praise for the Virginia-born wrangler on the Swan Mountain Outfitters Facebook page:

My name is Greg (Turner). My son Ian is the unnamed 8 year old. Erin was just awesome. I can't say enough good things about her. Even aside from her chasing down Ian and Scout, you could not do better by having Erin as your guide. Although, could someone tell Scout not to be chasing bears? :-). Thank you again Erin, you are awesome. Someone was watching out for us all that day.

Nearly 100,000 people a day were viewing the story on The Spokesman-Review site alone in the few days after it was published after Google added the link to its News Spotlight list. Now the story has all over North America and readership is in the millions.

Click here for the follow up story after her appearance with Letterman.

Notes from previous blog posts:

“It’s been crazy,” said Bolster from her home in Whitefish, Mont., noting that she’s been interviewed by numerous publications, TV and radio since the S-R story went wild.

She’s also received marriage proposals, job offers and made a lot of new Facebook friends.

She’s set up an account for the many people who’ve offered to chip in for Tonk’s winter boarding, since there’s no bigger hero in this story than the burly white Percheron mix. I've attached it to my Sunday story.

At first, she said she was going out and giving Tonk a carrot every time something new and good came back as more people read the story.

But at the rate it's been going, Tonk was goingto get fat and the pasture was going to be full of orange muffins if she didn't scale back.

Oh, no! Even dead grizzlies are hurting people this year

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — This strange year for grizzly bear encounters with humans is going toward bizarre, as you'll see in this story that just moved by the Associated Press.

Man gets shock after poking dead bear on live wire

LIVINGSTON, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a bowhunter suffered serious injuries from an electric shock when he poked a dead bear lying on live wires.

The Park County sheriff’s office says Edward Garcia of Emigrant came across a badly decomposed bear carcass Sunday in the Beattie Gulch area north of Gardiner.

Garcia was shocked when he poked the carcass with a knife, suffering injuries to his torso, head and hands.

The sheriff’s office says Garcia walked two miles to find help. He was flown to a burn center in Salt Lake City, where he was listed in critical condition on Tuesday.

Eugenio Garcia tells the Livingston Enterprise that his brother is in good spirits. He says Edward Garcia helps his family run a salsa business, Montana Mex, in Livingston.

Gutsy griz wrangler and horse on Letterman Show Oct. 11

GREAT OUTDOOR STORIES — Here's latest update from Erin Bolster, the wrangler who rode her horse to the rescue of a boy being charged by a grizzly bear:  

The David Letterman Show has postponed her appearance until Oct. 11 so they can bring her hero-horse, Tonk, to New York for the program.  
Bolster has become a national hero, too, after the S-R revealed the story of how she and her horse went head to head with the big bear on July 30 near Glacier Park.
 Here's the scoop in Erin's words.

I just wanted to let you know, Letterman has been moved to the 11th. They decided they really wanted Tonk out there and they want to make him and me a bigger feature. So, in order to allow Tonk a more relaxed 5-day trip to NYC (in his own climate controlled van no less) and to schedule me on a date when they could allot me two segments, the producer set us to film and air on Oct. 11th. I'm quite excited and I think Tonk will be a real treat on camera.

Bear spray worked for bowhunters

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — It's worth emphasizing that an Idaho archer was able to end a grizzly attack on his bowhunting partner on Saturday by using pepper spray, an essential that should be on the pack straps of every hunters in grizzly country.

The elk hunter who apparently stumbled across a bear’s resting spot and was hospitalized after the animal bit him and broke his right arm, officials said.

Richard Paini, 40, suffered puncture wounds and an injured left hand along with the broken forearm in the attack at about 9 a.m. He was taken to the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls.

A hospital spokesman said Paini, of Island Park, was listed in serious condition Saturday afternoon.

The bear involved in the attack fled after Paini’s archery hunting partner, John Stiehl of Island Park, used bear spray to scare off the bear. Stiehl told authorities he believed it was a grizzly bear.

Gregg Losinski, an Idaho Fish and Game bear specialist, said hunters are at more risk of surprising bears because they are understandably being stealthy when they're in the woods.

Hunter killed by gunshot wound, not grizzly bear

ENDANGERED WILDLIFE  — Here's another big twist to the story about the hunter attacked and by a grizzly bear after it had been mistaken for a black bear and wounded in a remote area of extreme northwestern Montana.

The hunter who died during a grizzly bear attack was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest, the Montana State Crime Lab medical examiner announced today.  Initial reports suggested the man was killed by the bear.

Steve Stevenson, 39, was killed when his hunting partner, Ty Bell, shot the bear multiple times in an attempt to stop the bear’s attack on Stevenson, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. One of the rounds struck Stevenson in the chest.  The breaking story has just been posted by S-R reporter Chelea Bannach.

Here's the perspective the S-R published last week from the father of the young hunter who shot the bear.

Gutsy wrangler, horse fending off charging grizzly: Story strikes a chord

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERSMy Sunday story about a female wrangler, her horse and their showdown with a grizzly bear has generating numerous emails from people for a wide range of reasons.

Some are simply glad to finally hear some positive news about people and their encounters with grizzlies this year, especially when the story was positive for both the people and the bear.

Others  — and not just the many horse women out there — are bolstered by Bolster's courage, poise and determination.

A few wonder if that horse, Tonk, is for sale.

But I have to tell you, after I interviewed Bolster, I came home for dinner and told my wife her tale.  When the tears started rolling down her cheeks, my instincts were confirmed: This is a good story.

Cyberspace loose with facts or flat out lying about Jeremy Hill grizzly case coverage

ENDANGERED SPECIES — People want to hear what they want to hear about the Jeremy Hill grizzly bear shooting case, and some of them aren't letting facts get in the way of spreading their agenda on the Web.

My down-the-middle factual column on the issue last week pointed out the various considerations the case brings up as it heads to trial.

Now I'm seeing righteous people lie about what I said to discredit the column.  Here's one excerpt from a Idaho Freedom Foundation blog post by Wayne Hoffman (emphasis mine):

Not everyone is taking Hill’s side. Spokesman-Review columnist Rich Landers was quick to stick up for the grizzly and the feds, writing that while federal law lets people shoot wolves that are threatening people, but not so with grizzlies. … Thus, Landers justifies and gives cover to the federal stance that has enabled Hill’s prosecution.

That's a total fabrication to make it look as though the law - and me, too - would find fault with a person protecting human life. Here's what I wrote:

Shooting a grizzly bear is serious business. The law says a wolf can be shot if it’s actively threatening pets or livestock, but no such caveat exists for shooting a grizzly.  Self-defense or the defense of another person are the only legal justifications for shooting a grizzly.

I clearly pointed out that Hill has legal justification to shoot a grizzly if it was threatening him or his children.

But Mr. Hoffman's words and those of others are circulating quickly in cyberspace for unquestioning people to consume and repeat with no regard for the truth.

Career over for Grizzlies QB Selle

Sad news out Missoula.

The college career Montana’s senior quaterback  Andrew Selle, who threw for 204 yards and a touchdown in the Grizzlies’ 36-27 loss to the Eastern Washington University Eagles earlier this fall, is over.  You can read more here.