As big and ferocious as they are, grizzly bears aren’t looking for trouble.
In fact, grizzly bears try to avoid roads and trails that get human use, according to recent research by wildlife biologists in the region.
The biologists monitored the travels of radio-collared female bears in the Selkirk Mountains and Yaak River drainage, and what they found didn’t surprise them, said Wayne Kasworm, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist in Libby, Mont.
“Bears tended to avoid high densities of open roads and where road densities exceed one mile per square mile,” Kasworm said. “It’s the amount of human use on the roads, not the roads themselves, that appears to be affecting bears.”
Roads that have been closed to motorized vehicles can also disturb bears, but only at a higher density than the open roads.
These and other findings will be presented in three public workshops beginning Thursday in North Idaho.
The workshops are designed to get public input on the research and how local citizens would like to see public lands managed for grizzly bear habitat.
“This is the beginning of public involvement in working toward new access standards,” said Bob Schrenk, chairman of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Subcommittee for the Selkirk, Cabinet and Yaak ecosystems.
“We do not have our minds made up,” Schrenk said. “We want this to be an open process where people look at the same information we see and help us decide the best course of action.”
While the national forests have been closing roads to protect the grizzly bear, an endangered species, the practice has angered some hunters and other forest users.
The recovery zone for grizzlies in the Selkirks stretches into British Columbia and has about 40 to 50 bears, Kasworm said. In the Cabinet-Yaak area, there are about 20 to 30 bears.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to restore the population to 90 to 100 bears in each recovery zone.
The workshops will be from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday at the Federal Building on Highway 2 in Sandpoint, April 21 at the Senior Hospitality Center on Lincoln in Bonners Ferry, and April 24 at the Inn at Priest Lake in Coolin.
Meetings also are planned for Libby, Troy, Eureka and Thompson Falls in Montana, and in Metaline Falls in Washington. The dates for those meetings will be announced later.
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