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The region’s whackin’ and stackin’ griz this year

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The recent news about charges pending against a North Idaho Man for the May 8 killing of a grizzly bear in his yards wasn't an isolated case.

The region had a virtual grizzly killing spree in May as two grizzly bears also were shot and killed in western Montana, according to a story by The Missoulian.

An antler hunter shot a sow grizzly bear — orphaning two cubs — in the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.

In a separate incident, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Wildlife Management Program said a 2-year-old female grizzly was shot and killed by a Ronan-area landowner as it went after his chickens.

Grizzly bears are a threatened and endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act. They are among the rarest species in the region.

The young grizzly shot near Ronan was the fourth bear lost from the Flathead Indian Reservation's grizzly population in 10 months due to grizzly-chicken encounters.

Prosecutor releases details of North Idaho grizzly killing case

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Boundary County Prosecutor Jack Douglas has sent a letter to media outlets with his account of the May 8 grizzly bear shooting that has resulted in federal charges against Jeremy Hill, 33, of Porthill, Idaho.

Douglas said neither he nor the Idaho Fish ad Game Department was involved in filing charges against Hill and makes the case that Hill never should have been charged.

Click continue reading below to see Douglas's letter, released this afternoon, and details on the case he said he's learned from interviews with IFG officers and the Hill family.

For background:

S-R reporter Becky Kramer covered Monday's hearing in which Jeremy Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty to the charges, backed by a lot of community support.

The S-R's Boise reporter, Betsy Russell, has filed this report on Otter's request that the U.S. Secretary of Interior step in and have the charges dropped.

See my Thursday Outdoors column for less politically popular thoughts on the case from the grizzly bear's side of the story — at least until more details are revealed from the investigation.

Recent Selkirk region human-caused grizzly deaths recounted

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Further clarification from today's outdoors column on the case of a North Idaho facing federal charges for shooting a grizzly bear in his yard on May 8.

2007 was a notably bad year for Selkirk grizzlies.

  • One was killed by indiscriminant hunters northeast of Sullivan Lake near Pass Creek Pass. They were from Moses Lake and were later prosecuted in Spokane.
  • One grizzly that wandered far south was killed by a black bear hunter near Kelly Creek.
  • Another grizzly was killed that year near Priest River. That bear had become addicted to human food after a photographer essentially baited the animal for better pictures.

Readers are pointing out that a Rose Lake elk rancher killed a grizzly that reportedly was harassing his animals two years ago. Apparently he was given permission to shoot a black bear threatening his elk, but it turned out to be a grizzly. I’ll need to check on the resolution of that case.

Grizzly bear case good political stage for Idaho politicians

ENDANGERED SPECIES — An Idaho state senator from Sandpoint and now Gov. Butch Otter have stepped up to chastise the feds for prosecuting a Porthill-area man for illegally shooting a grizzly bear.

This is about as politically risky in Idaho as saying American citizens have the right to bear arms.

But the facts of the case have not been disclosed. There might be a few other details to consider.

S-R reporter Becky Kramer covered Monday's hearing in which Jeremy Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty to the charges, backed by a lot of community support.

The S-R's Boise reporter, Betsy Russell, has filed this report on Otter's request that the U.S. Secretary of Interior step in and have the charges dropped.

See my Thursday Outdoors column for less politically popular thoughts on the case from the grizzly bear's side of the story.

Federal wildlife agents probably couldn’t win a popularity contest in hell, but the jury’s still out on whether they should be condemned for doing their job.

Learn about bear spray and more at “Be Bear Aware” exhibit

WILDLIFE — A “Be Bear Aware” educational trailer – and a chance to be trained on using bear spray – will be open Monday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department office, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

Bonners Ferry man charged with killing grizzly

POACHING — Jeremy M. Hill, 33, of Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, has been charged for killing a grizzly bear, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced today.

The information filed today in United States District Court alleges that on May 8, 2011, Hill shot and killed a grizzly bear that was on his property in Bonner’s Ferry. The grizzly bear is classified as a threatened species in the Lower 48 states, according to the Endangered Species Act of 1975, and protected by federal law.

The charge of killing a threatened species is punishable by up to one year in prison, a maximum fine of $50,000, and up to one year of supervised release.

The case was investigated by the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Grizzly attacks solo hiker in Glacier Park

HIKING –A grizzly bear attacked a hiker around noon today on the trail from Many Glacier to Piegan Pass in Glacier National Park. The hiker was able to walk to assistance after the being bitten multiple times.

The 50-year male hiker from St. Paul, Minnesota was hiking alone when he rounded a bend in the trail and encountered a sow grizzly with one sub-adult, park officials say. The hiker was carrying bear spray, but was unable to deploy it before the bear attacked.

The hiker sustained bites to his left thigh and left forearm, before the bear grabbed his foot, shook him, released him and left the area, the park report says.

The man hiked back toward Many Glacier encountering a naturalist ranger leading a hike. The ranger notified dispatch while the man continued to the Many Glacier Ranger Station where he was treated for his injuries and then transported to the Blackfeet Community Hospital in Browning by the Babb Ambulance.

Initial reports indicated the hiker was making noise as he hiked.

The trail from Piegan Pass to Feather Plum Falls is closed at this time, and rangers are investigating the incident.

Glacier National Park is grizzly and black bear country. Park officials advice hikers to carry bear spray, know how to use it, and have it on a pack strap ready for immediate use.

Hikers are also encouraged to hike in groups and make noise when hiking.  

Aggressive Yellowstone bear killed after charging hiker

BACKPACKING — Rangers have taken the rare step of capturing and killing a grizzly bear deemed a threat to human safety in Yellowstone National Park after the bruin menaced a hiker without any apparent provocation.

Bear managers told Reuters the 4-year-old male grizzly was euthanized on Monday, two days after the 258-pound animal charged at but did not injure a man sitting along a hiking trail near Yellowstone Lake.

Read on for more details from the Reuters report.

National Geographic bear photographer tells bear stories

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY — National Geographic photographer Michael Melford — who's made some famous photos of Alaska brown bears fishing for salmon — gives a slide show during a lecture featuring funny and amazing stories about his work.

Grizzly attack takes toll on Alaska NOLS group

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Seven teens participating in a month-long National Outdoor Leadership School wilderness trip in Alaska were mauled by a grizzly bear with a cub in Alaska's Talkeetna Mountains; two hikers had life-threatening injuries, the Denver Post reports.

Kootenai Forest enacts food storage rules in bear country

CAMPING — The Kootenai National Forest, which manages the Cabinet Mountains of northwestern Montana and a portion of Idaho, has enacted stricter food storage rules to help prevent campers, hunters and cabin dwellers from luring bears in to trouble.

Storing food in a vehicle satisfies the rule for most campers.  But campers without hard-sided RVs or vehicles must take extra measures.

Details have been posted on the forest's website.

Bear resistant containers are required for campers in some cases.

Hanging food properly continues to be an option for backpackers and other backcountry campers.

The diagram at left indications how campers who must go light can meet the forest's "approved storage method."

Storing food in a bear resistant manner means hung 10 feet off the ground and four feet horizontally from a tree or other structure; stored in a hard-sided camper; vehicle trunk, or cab or trailer cab: in a hard-sided building, or stored using an electric fence.

Bear experts resume search for North Cascades grizzlies

WILDLIFE — Teams of wildlife biologists have begun the second year of effort to determine the status of grizzly bears in the North Cascades.

U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Western Transportation Institute biologists are using remote-controlled cameras and hair snares spread across about 9,500 square miles in North Central Washington.

Some teams will be working this summer in the Upper Cascade River watershed where a hiker photographed an animal in October that an interagency panel of grizzly bear experts confirmed was a grizzly bear. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week it was the first confirmed grizzly bear sighting in the North Cascades since 1996.

Read on for details about the research, which is having a boost of enthusiasm now that the photos have confirmed grizzlies have been using the area.

Kayaker rescues hiker backing away from Yellowstone grizzly

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS —  An Oregon man visiting Yellowstone National Park with his family helped rescue a hiker who was being threatened by a bear on Friday just days after another grizzly attacked and killed a hiker in the park.

The rescue as he paddled his kayak to help her swim safely across the lake was captured on video and photos and presented in this KING 5 TV report.

While it might be an exaggeration that he saved the woman's life — the bear had no cubs to defend — Dave Beecham, 37, certainly defused the tension as he helped the woman escape from the approaching bear Friday at a remote lake in the park.

Park officials say backcountry visitors have been edgy since the story broke July 6 that a grizzly with two young cubs had killed a 57-year-old California man as he was hiking in the backcountry with his wife.

Park officials are encouraging backcountry hikers to carry pepper spray and have it ready for instant use, according to this ABC News video report on the bear attack.

Grizzly kills hiker in Yellowstone: first in 25 years

NATIONAL PARKS —  A grizzly bear killed a hiker today on a popular trail in the Yellowstone National Park backcountry. It's the first fatal bear mauling in the park since 1986, officials said.

Park spokesman Al Nash said it appears the man and his wife surprised a female grizzly and her cubs this morning, the Associated Press reports.

Nash said investigators have been interviewing the woman about the bear attack, which took place close to Canyon Village, near the middle of the park. He said authorities aren’t prepared to release the man’s name, age or hometown and likely won’t release more details until Thursday.

Nash said park officials haven’t taken any action against the bear, which he described as a sow with cubs.

Read on for details.

More details on grizzly bear in North Cascades

WILDLIFE — I posted the notice Friday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that experts had confirmed a bear photographed by a backpacker in the North Cascades in October was indeed a grizzly.

A news report by Craig Welch of the Seattle Times provides much more detail on this rare bit of documentation.

Before this, the last officially recognized sighting was in 1996, when a biologist happened on a bear and a cub in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area and was able to make a cast of the adult's track.

"Our records go back to the mid-1950s, and the last official photo we have is of a dead bear that was killed in 1968," said Doug Zimmer, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman in Olympia, who monitors a hotline for grizzly-bear sightings.

Joe Sebille, of Mount Vernon, was hiking in the park in October when saw the bear south of Highway 20 in the upper Cascade River drainage, on the western slope of the range. He made the photos with a cell-phone camera.

Bear experts confirm North Cascades bear was grizzly

WILDLIFE — A team of government and independent grizzly bear experts has confirmed that a bear photographed by a hiker n North Cascades National Park in October 2010 was a grizzly bear, according to a statement just released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency says this was the first "confirmed photograph" of a grizzly bear in the North Cascades in perhaps half a century.  Another sighting confirmed by tracks and evidence was recorded in 1996.

A panel of experts identified the grizzly in a photo taken last October in the upper Cascade River watershed by Joe Sebille. The Mount Vernon man says he was hiking near Marblemount when he saw the bear and snapped the cell phone photo.

Friends persuaded him to share the photo with the North Cascades National Park.

A member of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, Becki Heath, says it’s a significant event in the recovery of the bear. Fewer than 20 grizzlies are believed to live in Washington’s North Cascades. The bears are protected under state and federal law.

At nearly 10,000 square miles, the North Cascades Ecosystem is the second largest of six official grizzly bear recovery zones designated by the federal government and the only one outside of the Rocky Mountains. State and federal agencies have been working to recover the North Cascades grizzlies for more than two decades.

Read on for more.

Unbelievable wildlife spectacle bruin at Yellowstone

NATIONAL PARKS — Yellowstone National Park still delivers for wildlife watchers. 

A Spokane family just back from several days in the great Montana-Wyoming park said that among all the wildlife they saw, they were blessed with 24 bears sightings, half of them grizzlies.

To top it off, they also witnessed the sobering drama of wolves taking down an elk calf.

This is better than reality TV.

Bonner Co Leads In Bear Complaints

Bonner County has a bear problem—or is it really a people problem? Last year, Bonner County had a record number of bear complaints—770 complaints, in fact. That's a whopping 740 more complaints than in any other county in Idaho. All those negative human-bear interactions amount to a lot of danger—for people and bears alike. The Upper Panhandle is bear country: We've got lots of black bears and two threatened populations of grizzly bears in the Cabinet and the Selkirk mountains. But when folks unintentionally or intentionally attract bears with bird feeders or dog food or even doughnuts, they're not helping them to survive. Instead, they may be sealing their fate/Susan Drumheller, Idaho Conservation League. More here. (Photo: Idaho Department of Fish & Game)

Question: Do you know people who shouldn't be feeding wildlife?

Grizzly 399 parades another crop of cubs in Tetons

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Grand Teton National Park’s most famous grizzly bear — dubbed 399 by researchers — is once again roaming the roadsides around Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, and again with three new cubs at her heels.

The Jackson Hole News reports
that starting in 2006, grizzly 399 raised three cubs within sight of roads in the Oxbow Bend, Willow Flats and Jackson Lake Lodge area of the park, delighting visitors and providing numerous opportunities for photographers. Researchers say 399 is about 15 years old.

The 399 sightings last weekend come after one of those 2006 cubs, 399’s 5-year-old daughter 610, was spotted last week with two cubs of her own. She was just a few miles away from her mother near Signal Mountain and the Potholes area.

“It’s incredible,” said photographer Tom Mangelsen, who operates Mangelsen-Images of Nature Gallery in Jackson. “Especially with three cubs again. She must be really fertile and healthy. It was a nice surprise.”

That 399 and 610 are raising their cubs so close to each other is exciting but not surprising, Grand Teton National Park senior wildlife biologist Steve Cain said.

“We know during years when neither of them had cubs, their home ranges overlapped significantly,” Cain said.

Bear Aware websites offer tips on bear sprays and more

BACKPACKING — The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee stresses the importance of following proper bear avoidance safety techniques and recommends bear spray as an effective tool for personal safety when recreating in bear country.

Bear spray has the potential to reduce human injuries and the number of bears that are killed as a result of conflicts with humans. The active ingredient in bear spray is an extremely strong irritant that turns the tables on an aggressive bear.

IGBC bear spray recommendations and other useful information can be found on the IGBC Website or read on for tips on buying and using bear spray.

Wyoming keeping a not-so-open mind about grizzlies

"We're not interested in grizzly bears occupying new habitat except in areas where they already are. Socially acceptable habitat would be areas where grizzlies already occupy. We're not interested in expansion. We're maxed out on grizzly bears already.”"
Brian Nesvik of the Wyoming Game and Fish, a member of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee, discussing future expansion of the region's grizzly bear population.
- Billing Gazette


Bears emerging from long winter – and they’re hungry

 WILDLIFE — Black and grizzly bears are emerging from hibernation, and wildlife managers are trying to get word out to people who live in bear country – that’s virtually anywhere north and east of Spokane – to clean up their act and avoid creating a problem bear out of a normal hungry  bear.

Generally the males of both species grizzly and black bear species come out first and get their bowels activated by eating grass.. Females with cubs den separately from the males and generally emerge after the males have had a chance to start replenishing fat reserves by feeding on winter-killed deer and elk.

But basically, they’ll eat everything.  So it’s important to clean up bird feeders and secure garbage and keep pet food inside.

Click here to learn more about living safely in bear country.  www.igbconline.org.

International Wildlife Film Fest coming to Sandpoint

WILDLIFE – Grizzlies and snow leopards highlight the films in the International Wildlife Film Festival coming to Sandpoint’s Panada Theater Friday night – a fundraiser for the Sandpoint High School Venture Club.

Starting at 7 p.m., the line up of award-winning films includes:

  • “South Pacific: Fragile Paradise,”
  • “Expedition Grizzly,”
  • “GOOD RIDDANCE! Termites: Attack of the Killer Environment,”
  • “Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth.”

Read on for details:

Spring bear hunters must be careful observers

HUNTING — When Idaho's spring black bear hunting season opens Friday, hunters must be especially careful to identify the species of bear they are looking at before they pull the trigger. 

Species identification important: It's legal to take a black bear but illegal to kill a grizzly.

In Idaho, it is legal to take a female black bear as long as no cubs are present, so it's critcal for the welfare of several bears at once that hunters take the time to watch for cubs.

Spring grizzly bear hunt cancelled in Alberta

HUNTINGThe lack of a sustainable population of grizzly bears in Alberta once again prompted the province to cancel a spring grizzly bear hunt, according to todays story in the Calgary Herald.

For the fifth consecutive year, the province's traditional spring grizzly bear hunt is off. Conservation groups are please with the decision, but split on how the province should ensure survival of the species.

Early-bird grizzlies working up an appetite

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As tracks of the first gizzly bears emerging from hibernation were reported recently at Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, Bruce Auchly of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks was penning the following insights about bears as they emerge from their dens.

Read on…you're likely to learn something, such as why cubs aren't being spotted this month and people in bear country need to be careful with their bird feeders.

Northern Montana grizzly bears show some growth

WILDLIFE — The grizzly population in northwestern Montana is growing at 3 percent a year — not bad for grizzlies, experts say.

The grizzly is still being scrutinized for removal from threatened species status.

Last year, 941 grizzlies were roaming the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, according to Rick Mace, leader of a team tracking the population trend of grizzlies in the ecosystem.

That is up from the 765 bears found in 2008 by fellow researcher Kate Kendall, who counted bears based on DNA testing of hair samples collected at scratching sites.

In 2009, according to the Great Falls Tribune, there were 913 bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, a region the size of Maryland and Delaware combined that includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

"For grizzly bears, 3 percent is good," Mace told  Tribune outdoor writer Michael Babcock. "It is not the very best we have ever seen globally, but in terms of brown bear populations, when you are within 2 to 4 percent (annual growth), that is almost as good as it can biologically get.

"This means there is a very high survival rate of females, and a relatively high reproductive rate. They are kicking out babies, and the females are surviving well," he said.

Grizzly bears will dance for salmon

WILDLIFE WATCHING — We've all seen photos or video of grizzly bears feeding on river salmon.  But have you even seen a griz harvest a salmon with it's hind feet?

Check out this short video from the BBC.

Parks Canada gives cold shoulder to science experts

WILDLIFE — Mike Gibeau, an internationally recognized grizzly bear specialist who spent more than three decades with Parks Canada, is retiring June 3 and the federal agency has no plans to replace him, just as the agency did not replace science manager Cliff White when he retired more than a year ago.

Conservationists say these decisions indicate that Parks Canada has a declining interest in science programs.

See story in the Rocky Mountain Outlook.