Latest from The Spokesman-Review
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.
WILDLIFE — Opponents to a major ski resort being planned for the Purcell Mountains near Invermere, British Columbia, are emphasizing that their wilderness and wildlife aren't the only resources threatened.
Jumbo Glacier Resort also threatens grizzly bears in the United States, researchers say.
See the latest on the topic in an Energywire story.
- Related story: BC approves controversial Jumbo Pass resort
THREATENED SPECIES — As wildlife officials put their finger to the wind on the potential for restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades, Montana is getting ready to claim Endangered Species success.
National forests in Montana prepare for delisting of grizzly bears
The grizzly bear population in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in Northwest Montana has been increasing by 4 percent annually for the past decade, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on a plan to remove federal protections from that population of bears, and on Friday, the five national forests in that area of Montana released a draft forest plan amendment to ensure that personnel in the Flathead, Lolo, Bitterroot, Lewis and Clark and Helena national forests are all on the same page for grizzly bear management.
Updated March 10, 2015.
THREATENED SPECIES — While there's support for reintroducing grizzly bears into the North Cascades to spark a regional recovery effort, the sentiment certainly isn't unanimous at the public meetings that are being conducted in communities along Washington's iconic mountain range.
- Some see grizzlies as good for ecosystem, others seem them as bad neighbors — Northwest Public Radio
- Op-Ed| Let's Bring Grizzly Bears Back To The North Cascades — National Parks Traveler
- County may sue to stop grizzly restoration — Capital Press
- Grizzly bear meetings bring out ranchers, conservationists — Northwest Public Radio
- Speak out for North Cascades grizzly bear restoration — Conservation Northwest
- Should grizzly bears be restored in the North Cascades? — National Geographic
- Can Washington bear some grizzlies? — National Geographic
WILDLIFE — A tentative federal proposal to restore grizzly bears in the North Cascades will be explained at public meetings next month.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service are taking public comments for an environmental impact statement before deciding whether to take an active role in restoring the grizzly bear to the North Cascades Ecosystem.
The first meeting is 5 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. on March 3 at the Red Barn in Winthrop. Other meetings will follow in Okanogan, Wenatchee, Cle Elum, Seattle and Bellingham.
Online comments will be accepted through March 26 at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEG.
The grizzly bear was federally listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 United States in 1975. The species was listed as endangered by the state of Washington in 1980.
“The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan calls on us to fully consider the restoration of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades, and this process will ensure we solicit public input before putting any plan into action,” said Robyn Thorson, FWS Pacific regional director.
Several conservation groups already have indicated their support for grizzly restoration.
Fewer than 20 grizzlies are known to roam the North Cascades ecosystem encompasses 9,800 square miles in the United States and another 3,800 square miles in British Columbia. The United States portion includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake and Lake Chelan national recreation areas plus the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie national forests.
A few grizzly bears have recently been sighted in the Canadian part of the ecosystem, but no grizzlies have been confirmed in the United States portion since a hiker documented one with a photo in 2010.
Details on the public open-house meetings:
Winthrop March 3, 5-7:30 pm
Red Barn Upper Meeting Room
51 N. Hwy 20
Winthrop, WA 98862
Okanogan March 4, 5-7:30 pm
Okanogan PUD Meeting Room
1331 2nd Ave N
Okanogan, WA 98840
Wenatchee March 5, 6-8:30 pm
Chelan County PUD Auditorium
327 N. Wenatchee Ave.
Wenatchee, WA 98801
Cle Elum March 9, 5-7:30 pm
Putnam Centennial Center Meeting Room
719 East 3rd Street
Cle Elum, WA 98922
Seattle March 10, 5-7:30 pm
Seattle Pacific University Bertona Classroom 1
103 West Bertona
Seattle, WA 98119
Bellingham March 11, 5-7:30 pm
Bellingham Central Library Lecture Room
210 Central Avenue
Bellingham, WA 98227
Or perhaps you read the excerpts in Sports Illustrated about the events of Aug. 13, 1967 at Glacier National Park.
Here are a few details.
- grizzly bears
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 — As wildlife lovers and their families flock to Lake Coeur d'Alene Eagle Watch activities to view congregating bald eagles in Wolf Lodge Bay this week, let's not forget that very few if any bald eagles would be gracing our Inland Northwest skies if it weren't for the foresight of the lawmakers who passed Endangered Species Act in 1973.
Bald eagles, grizzlies living reminders of federal law's success
President Richard Nixon signed the federal Endangered Species Act into law on Dec. 28, 1973, and in Montana, bald eagles and grizzly bears have rebounded because of the law's protections.
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.
But doctors treating Marco Lavoie after his rescue in the wilderness of northern Quebec say he may not have survived his four-month ordeal had he not killed and eaten his dog.
Some fascinating points to the story:
- Lavoie, 44, was close to death when a rescue crew found him last week.
- His canoe and vital supplies were destroyed by a bear at the start of a planned two-month trip in August.
- Lavoie's German Shepherd may have saved Lavoei's life by chasing away the bear in the initial attack.
- But three days later, facing the possibility of starvation Lavoie, killed his doting companion with a rock.
- The first words Lavoie reported spoke to medical staff: 'I want to get a new dog.'
Lavoie had lost 90 pounds and was suffering from hypothermia when rescuers found him Wednesday. News reports from Monday indicated he was still in critical condition.
Could you kill your faithful canine companion if you thought it would be the difference between your life and death?
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 — 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.
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:
Two conservation groups are offering $6,500 in rewards for information leading to the arrest and a conviction in the case of a grizzly bear killed near the Idaho-Montana border last fall. The bear's radio collar was found, cut off, in a stream; it had been fitted with the collar just 18 days earlier. The Western Watersheds Project and Cottonwood Environmental Law Center sued in federal court last month, contending that the U.S. Sheep Experimentation Station, near where the grizzly disappeared, has been involved with multiple grizzly deaths, though the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has ruled that it hasn't.
The station is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and grazes about 2,000 sheep on 16,000 acres of land high in the mountains — an area biologists contend is also a prime travel corridor connecting Idaho and Yellowstone National Park for threatened grizzly bears. Click below for a full report from the Associated Press.
The Idaho Fish & Game Commission, at its meeting late last week in Coeur d’Alene, voted to support the removal of grizzly bears in Idaho from the federal list of threatened and endangered species, saying the bears have recovered sufficiently and now are starting to move into areas where there are increasing conflicts with humans. Tony McDermott, Panhandle Region commissioner, said, “Idaho can manage the bears better.”
The commissioners adopted a position statement saying that state has the regulatory and enforcement mechanisms in place to manage grizzly bears, and that people in Idaho would be more tolerant of bears if the state were managing them. “Key to the success of this effort is effective and efficient management of bear-human conflict,” the statement said.
It also said if delisting were to occur, the commission would continue to act to ensure sustainable grizzly bear populations in the occupied core habitats that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has identified in Idaho. You can read the full statement here.
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.