Spike in Yellowstone grizzly deaths tied to conflicts with humans

By Laura Zuckerman | SALMON, IDAHO Dec. 1

U.S. wildlife managers at Yellowstone National Park are reporting an unusually high number of grizzly bear deaths, 55, linked to humans this year in a trend believed tied to a growing number of the bruins harming livestock or challenging hunters over freshly killed game.

The uptick in bear deaths comes as the Obama administration says the population of roughly 690 bears in and around Yellowstone has come back from the brink of extinction and should be stripped of U.S. Endangered Species Act protections.

The plan, proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year, opens the way for hunting in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, the Northern Rocky Mountain states that border the park.

The measure is strongly opposed by conservationists and Native American tribes but supported by sportsmen and ranchers who claim the number of conflicts will diminish by targeting bears that bounce hunters off freshly shot game or which harm livestock.

The carcasses of at least 55 Yellowstone area bears have been found so far this year, with most dying from human-related activities, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey. Nearly half the grizzlies were killed by government bear managers for preying on cattle, sheep and the like.

Wildlife advocates fear that the final tally for 2016 will exceed the 61 bears known or believed to have died in the Yellowstone area last year, a high in the decades since such moralities have been tracked.

That compares to 28 grizzlies known or likely dead in 2014 and 29 in 2013, according to government records.

Gregg Losinksi, member of a federal and state team that oversees Yellowstone grizzlies, said some bears running into conflicts are seeking to expand their range into areas already occupied by humans or other grizzlies.

“As far as we’re concerned, the population is maxed out based on the available habitat and we’re seeing more and more deaths because of this density,” he said.

Conservationists say they are alarmed by the number of Yellowstone area bears that have died in 2016, the third year the overall population has fallen.

“The mortalities keep escalating and the population keeps dropping. We don’t think now is the time to remove Endangered Species Act protections; we need more time to study these trends,” said the Sierra Club’s Bonnie Rice.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Sandra Maler)



6 thoughts on “Spike in Yellowstone grizzly deaths tied to conflicts with humans

  1. Hunters shooting grizzlies: Nonlethal management, using pepper spray, should be required of these Elmer Fudd Nimrods as the first alternative; and they should have training so that they do not fire off the can too soon. Most grizzly charges are feints (a deceptive or distracting movement). These guys, carrying guns, are too quick with the macho gun response. Hunting in grizzly country, all these Elmer Fudds, it is bound to seem threatening to grizzlies and is in effect encroachment. A fine for shooting one instead of pepper spraying one might work. I have talked to rangers and they emphasize pepper spray as a better alternative. I have run into 20 bears over the years and never had to even use pepper spray. Even an air horn is likely to work. A blast from an air horn is startling.

  2. We need more human management of hunters, ranchers, hikers. Grizzly-Human Conflict

    Hunting in grizzly country is like ringing a dinner bell. Grizzlys know hunters mean gut piles. A female with cubs easily is provoked by surprise encounters to defend her cubs. Hiking or hunting is inherently a little dangerous but greatly exaggerated. I have over 20 grizzly encounters, no attacks or feints of attacks. I have hiked Glacier many times, Yellowstone Park, the Bob Marshall and other ranges.

    Hunters in grizzly country are ringing a dinner bell. Bears know what hunters mean: gut piles, remains. Hunters of course shoot grizzlies, “fearing for their safety or life” rather than use pepper spray. Many probably shoot grizzlies on sight claiming they had to do so. Hunting is encroachment.

    FWP-MT and other surrounding states of ID and WY have been wetting their lips, anxious to sell another trophy animal tag and “manage” by killing (aka hunting). They are quick, with newspaper help, to point out “rising conflicts” with increased number of bears and argue that therefore they should be delisted. MT, WY, and ID have already divvied up hunting quotas. There are approximately 1000 Grizzlies in Northern Divide-Glacier ecosystem and 750 in Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Hopefully, if left alone, they will disperse to other territories.

    But have encounters of an injuring or killing humans really risen? (Bear attack – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Wikipedia › wiki › Bear_attack
    Between 1980-2002, there were only 2 grizzly bear-caused human injuries in a developed area. However, although grizzly attacks were rare in the back-country “before 1970, the number of attacks increased to an average of approximately 1 per year during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

    NPS: “During the 34 year period from 1980-2014, there have been 34 human injuries , caused by grizzly bears in the backcountry, an average 1 per year. The park does not have statistics on how many park visitors hike in the backcountry, so the probability of being injured by a bear in backcountry areas cannot be calculated.” During that same period there have been 100 million visitors to Yellowstone.

    Bear attacks grizzly and black bear:
    “In the 2000s, there have been 29 fatal incidences so far in North America,15 were in Canada, three were in Alaska, two were in Tennessee, and single fatal attacks happened in New York, New Mexico, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah and Montana. 17 of those attacks were perpetrated by black bears, and 10 by grizzlies – See more at: http://www.backpacker.com/news-and-events/news/trail-news/ask-a-bear-how-many-bear-attacks-really-2/#sthash.K6Gajhgl.dpuf”

    Bear attacks or mountain lion attacks or almost nil. Injuring or killing attacks are newsworthy and sensationalized because they are so rare, as are shark attacks. You are more likely to be killed by dogs (26 per year) or lightening (90 per year). We humans also have morbid attraction and primordial fear of predators.

    The problems are mostly with humans: encroachment in numbers, careless behavior, ranching in grizzly country. There are guidelines: Hike in numbers 2-3 or more, make noise so as not to surprise, don’t run (or, I would say bike) evoking chase response, carry pepper spray, if attacked try to roll onto belly only leaving back exposed. Cover neck. Remain silent as possible. Most attacks will be feints, faked attacks (charges), maybe a mauling which ever how bad is a warning. The bear could easily kill you. Rarely but sometimes they do.

    In summary, chances of bear attacks are slim. With all the encroachment, bears deserve a humanitarian award for tolerance of humans. To visit, live near or in their territory, their world we take inherent risks.







    Two Montana grizzly encounters leave hunters injured
    Both men taken to the hospital and released
    Check out this story on greatfallstribune.com: http://gftrib.com/2dCS475

    ‘I thought this was the end’: Man tells of 2 ferocious battles with same grizzly bear

  3. Yes, it’s really upsetting to know that for many, legalizing recreational marijuana use is ‘more important’ than our protecting our wildlands and wildlife. (Yes, I’m talking about you, Colorado). Why can’t they seem to reintroduce wolves for such a liberal state? It sends them into a hysterical panic, just like most states. I read a horrible, irreverently-toned opinion piece about how climate change is ‘more important’ than ‘popping a few wolves from a helicopter’.


    • Legalizing recreational marijuana is one of the issues that I couldn’t give a sh*t less about, and which really should be kicked down to the bottom of the to-do list. Talk about self-serving hedonism.

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