Grizzlies, black and polar bears found together for 1st time

Polar bears, black bears, and grizzlies have been found together for the first time during a University of Saskatchewan research project in northern Manitoba.
 Polar bears, black bears, and grizzlies have been found together for the first time during a University of Saskatchewan research project in northern Manitoba. University of Saskatchewan / Supplied
University of Saskatchewan researchers said they made an unprecedented finding – all three species of North American bears in the same subarctic region.

The researchers documented polar bearsblack bears, and grizzlies in Wapusk National Park on the west coast of Hudson Bay near Churchill, Man.

READ MORE: Draft plan says Nunavut has too many polar bears and climate change isn’t affecting them

“These sightings are consistent with expected ecological responses to the amplified effects of climate change on high-latitude ecosystems,” said Douglas Clark, a conservation scientist at the U of S School of Environment and Sustainability.

“Our observations add to growing evidence that grizzlies are substantially increasing their range in northern Canada.”

Researchers said they observed the bears between 2011 and 2017 using motion-activated cameras.

WATCH BELOW: Grizzly bears at Saskatoon zoo to begin 3rd hibernation

5 fun facts about grizzly bear hibernation at Saskatoon zoo

5 fun facts about grizzly bear hibernation at Saskatoon zoo

What was new in the observations, said Clark, were the grizzlies.

“It’s likely that they will benefit the most because they have been known to dominate the other two species elsewhere, for instance eating both black bears and polar bears, or displacing them,” he said.

However, Clark said, large black bears could have the upper hand when encountering a young grizzly, while smaller species of bears will modify their behaviour to avoid grizzlies.

Clark said the big question is how the interactions will affect bear conservation and management efforts.

He said the overlap could be due to climate change as bears seek out new or expanded habitats for food sources.

“This range overlap shouldn’t be viewed as a threat to any of these bears, but should be understood as an ecological response to environmental change.”

He added Wapusk is at the convergence of the boreal forest, tundra, and ocean ecosystems that are all changing quickly with climate change.

The largest bears in the world use small streams to fatten up on salmon

NEWS RELEASE 19-DEC-2019

OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

CORVALLIS, Ore. – It’s a familiar scene to anyone who’s watched footage of brown bears catching sockeye salmon in Alaska: They’re standing knee-deep in a rushing river, usually near a waterfall, and grabbing passing fish with their paws or jaws.

But a new study published in the journal Conservation Letters reveals a different picture of how and when bears eat salmon. Most of these bears, also known as grizzlies, are dipping into small streams to capture their iconic prey.

Using a foraging model based on the Wood River basin in southwest Alaska, a study team led by Oregon State University determined that while small-stream habitats have only about 20% of the available salmon in the watershed, they provide 50% of bear consumption of salmon.

“This tells us that populations of sockeye salmon that spawn in little streams are disproportionately important to bears,” said study lead author Jonny Armstrong, an ecologist at Oregon State University. “Bears profit from these small streams because they offer salmon at unique times of the season. To capitalize on plentiful salmon runs, bears need them to be spread across time.”

Small streams typically have cold water, which leads to populations of salmon that spawn much earlier in the season when no other populations are available to predators such as bears.

These results have potential consequences for how environmental impact assessments are conducted and evaluated for large projects such as the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

These reports typically focus on how the project will affect the abundance of salmon in lakes and rivers, but they usually overlook smaller habitats, Armstrong said.

“When people want to build a large mine, they think these streams don’t matter because they represent a small fraction a watershed, in terms of area or salmon abundance. In conservation and management, we generally place value on the largest runs of salmon at the expense of the smallest ones,” Armstrong said. “If we pose a different question and ask which habitats are important for the ecosystem, then small streams become particularly relevant.”

The researchers developed a mathematical model that explores how watershed development and commercial fisheries affect how many sockeye salmon are available to grizzlies. The model simulated different patterns of development and explored how they affected the number of salmon bears consumed.

Protecting large salmon runs at the expense of smaller ones turned out to be bad for bears.

“This causes the bears’ total salmon consumption to drop off faster compared to strategies that protected small salmon runs and the early feeding opportunities they offer to bears,” Armstrong said. “If you impair these areas, you may only reduce the total number of salmon by a little, but the number of salmon that end up in bear’s stomachs – you could reduce that a lot.”

According to the study authors, there are two significant reasons why the largest bears in the world are drawn to small streams to eat salmon.

First, the fish in these streams are easy to catch for adult and juvenile grizzlies. And second, because the water is colder than in lakes and rivers, salmon spawn in them earlier – probably to give their eggs more time to incubate, the authors said. So, the fish are plentiful by the first week of July – making them the first places bears fish after they emerge from hibernation.

“When they come out of hibernation, the bears are just scraping by and barely making it,” Armstrong said. “Having these streams means they can start eating salmon in early July, which is about six weeks before the river- and lake-salmon populations start spawning and become available to bears. It’s an incredible foraging opportunity for bears.”

Armstrong added, “I’m sure that native Alaskans who subsisted on salmon were keenly aware of this, too.”

###

Armstrong is an assistant professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Collaborators on the study included Daniel Schindler, professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington; Curry Cunningham, research fisheries biologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks; Will Deacy, a former postdoctoral researcher at OSU now at the U.S. National Park Service; and Patrick Walsh, supervisory fish and wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.

Funding for the study was provided by the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and funds from the Alaska salmon processing industry that support the University of Washington’s Alaska Salmon Program.

*****************************************
IPCC
“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changein all aspects of society.”
First sentence of IPPC Special Report on 1.5C Summary for Policy Makers.
***********************************************
Greta Thunberg
“So if we are to stay below the 1.5 degrees of warming limits …, we need to change almost everything.”
*****************************************

Forbes

“It’s time that everyone, from the humble homeowner to the highest levels of business and government, rethink their relationship with energy and take action. Relying on renewables alone won’t be enough.”
<<https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikehughes1/2019/08/02/climate-change-18-months-to-save-the-world/#166763c749bd>>

Some perspective on grizzlies and salmon

Brown bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park July 1, 2015 feast on sockeye salmon skin, which has a nutritious layer of fat.

Brown bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park July 1, 2015 feast on sockeye s

The stark images of malnourished grizzly bears on the coast of British Columbia, Canada, have garnered widespread international media attention. The photographs are difficult to view and strike a chord of deep concern in most people.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation has long advocated for a wildlife welfare ethic when it comes to the conservation and management of large carnivores. This approach becomes even more compelling when the life requisites, in this case wild salmon, of species such as coastal grizzlies are diminished as a result of human activities.

Much of the news coverage associated with the aforementioned situation has been linked to climate change, but this particular salmon run collapse is likely the result of a suite of influences, not the least of which is the failure to protect wild salmon in British Columbia from fishing pressure, habitat degradation, hatchery impacts, fish farms and more.

Wild salmon and grizzly bears have an intertwined relationship and the choices we make are inextricably linked to their fates. When salmon are plentiful in coastal streams, bears thrive and produce more cubs. Grizzlies also occur at higher densities and grow to larger sizes when salmon are abundant. Importantly, when salmon are plentiful, bears eat less of each fish, selecting the nutrient-rich brains and eggs and casting aside the remainder. These salmon remains then feed other animals, scavengers and fertilize the adjacent streamside zone. Thus, abundant salmon boosts the amount and value of food for bears, as well as transfers more nutrients and energy to other wild consumers.

In contrast, when salmon are scarce, grizzlies produce fewer cubs, if any, and eat more of each individual fish. Less discarded salmon enters the surrounding ecosystem with diminished benefits for other wildlife, plants, and less visible organisms such as fungi, algae, and insects. Commercial salmon fisheries typically extract 50% or more of the salmon bound for rivers, bears and forests. When the number of salmon returning to spawn from their ocean migration is variable, fishery managers favor the short-term benefit of harvest, even when salmon abundance is low and even if it means forgoing larger harvests in the future. Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans manages for spawner persistence, not for healthy, abundant spawning runs.

Despite the knowledge that many species depend on salmon, humans have never managed fisheries with wildlife in mind.

Contemporary thinking in conservation science instructs salmon management to include the bears, whales and other wildlife that have an evolutionary reliance on the annual pulse of nutrients and food energy delivered via spawning salmon. Even Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy recognizes the need for management to transcend salmon ‘production’ alone and consider the needs of terrestrial species.

For this policy to be consequential, however, it requires fisheries managers to consider bears and other wildlife by lowering catches and allowing more salmon to reach the rivers to spawn. Currently, humans engage in what ecologists call “exploitative competition,” — we capture salmon en route to spawning grounds before they can reach awaiting carnivores. Even salmon runs that spawn in protected watersheds and parks are subjected to exploitation by commercial fisheries. Often, these parks were created to protect species such as grizzlies, black bears and wolves. As such, we suspect that grizzly bears now receive a fraction of the salmon they evolved with, which ultimately manifests in population declines through repeated years of low birth rates.

In some areas, we believe it is time to establish truly protected salmon runs – runs that would be managed solely for their importance to wildlife and ecosystems. This would allow salmon to return to spawning grounds without encountering the nets and hooks of the Pacific salmon fleet. And those fish would then spawn in rivers that flow naturally without their watersheds logged, developed or otherwise impaired.

Of course, it is not just fishing nets and hooks that rob wildlife of their energy needs. Degraded freshwater and marine habitat, fish farms and disease, dams and diversions, hatcheries and genetic dilution, climate change and changing ocean conditions, all influence salmon abundance. Human generated impacts that reduce salmon abundance must be addressed. However, reducing, and in some cases eliminating, exploitation from fisheries would have an immediate, positive effect on coastal wildlife.

Chris Genovali is executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Misty MacDuffee is Raincoast’s Wild Salmon Program Director and Paul Paquet is Raincoast’s senior scientist.

The problem with bears in our backyards isn’t a bear problem at all; it’s a human one

Bear-human conflict increases substantially in years when natural foods fail.

LARS JOHANSSON/STOCK

Kyle Artelle is an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Victoria and a biologist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Last month, in Penticton, B.C. a group of five black bears – three males and two younger females – had been spotted feasting on residents’ garbage. Conservation authorities were called in, and the five bears were shot dead. This came just a week after six bears were shot in a three-day period near Kelowna. These bears – who have grown accustomed to humans and are comfortable in our proximity – are deemed “conflict bears” in the conservation community.

Unfortunately these incidents were anything but anomalies. This year there has been a substantial increase in the number of bears killed across B.C. The common response to these kinds of conflicts is to focus on the bears themselves: killing bears, relocating bears, or having a fear of humans instilled in bears. Hunters will even argue that the best solution to reducing human-bear conflict is to hunt more bears, with the assumption that fewer bears will lead to less conflict.

Unfortunately, these responses are at best misguided, and often counterproductive. The truth is that the root of bear-human conflicts has little to do with bears – and a lot to do with us. However, better co-existence with our ursine neighbours is possible, based on solid understanding of bears, problem human behaviour and the ecology of bear-human conflict.

Research my colleagues and I have conducted has found that in the long-term, killing so-called conflict bears does not seem to affect conflict patterns in the long-term. Similar research has found the same in Ontario, Colorado, and elsewhere. You kill some conflict bears, and others will replace them.

An understanding of the ecology of conflict between bears and humans reveals another important insight: although, the saying “a fed bear is a dead bear” can certainly be true when bears become too dependent on human food, bears who venture near human habitation in years of particularly poor natural food availability do not necessarily return the next year, if natural food conditions improve.

This is perhaps not a surprise given bears’ preference for human avoidance: other than in extreme garbage-conditioning cases, if natural foods return, so too should avoidance of people.

Key to effectively addressing bear-human conflict is instead realizing that for the most part, it’s not bears that need to be managed – but people. Conflict can be thought to arise from two inter-related processes: proximate causes, such as someone’s garbage drawing a bear into their yard or someone surprising a mother grizzly bear with her cub, and ultimate or ecological causes, such as humans encroaching into bear territory or loss of natural foods. When we start to see bears coming into towns and backyards it is helpful to avoid knee-jerk reactions and to instead ask: why? Finding out what is actually driving the pattern will inform effective solutions.

Poor attractant management is by and large the most consistent problem human behaviour. Although bears generally avoid human habitation, persistent human food sources (for example, fruit trees, garbage, compost) can be too hard to resist, especially in late summer and fall when bears are desperately trying to pack on the pounds pre-hibernation. Treating this as a bear problem is to propel an unending cycle that not only results in the needless killing of bears but also in a waste of time and energy.

It is also helpful to understand the ecological context. Our research in B.C. has found that bear-human conflict increases substantially in years when natural foods fail. Examples of this include poor salmon returns, berry failures, or similar. This highlights the importance of management that takes an ecosystem approach, for example managing to ensure sufficient berries on the landscape, and fisheries management that ensures sufficient salmon for bears. An ecological understanding can also be used to predict when conflict might be at its worst. Years with poor natural food availability could signal a need for extra vigilance and management of problem human behaviour.

There have been some promising developments highlighting how we can shift toward a more informed and effective approach to mitigating bear-human conflict. For example, Port Moody recently increased the fines for improperly stored garbage by 10-fold – with repeat offenders facing fines of up to $1,000 – in an effort to reduce the number of black bears killed each year.

In Bella Coola, a provincial hot spot for grizzly bear-human conflict, the Nuxalk First Nation-led Bear Safety program takes a holistic approach to conflict mitigation involving public education and programs that work with landowners to take measures such as removing attractants and constructing strategic electric fencing.

Although managing landscapes and fisheries with bears and other wildlife in mind is not yet the norm in B.C., there are some promising cases of where it is increasingly being taken into account. For example, a number of Coastal First Nations explicitly consider the needs of bears and other salmon consumers in their salmon stewardship planning.

A recent report commissioned by Raincoast Conservation Foundation and produced by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre offers policy reforms that could improve agency responses to conflict, including independent oversight and a shift toward a more restrained (and less lethal) response to conflicts.

This year’s high rates of bear-human conflict have been frustrating and upsetting for many. This is in many ways more of a symptom of our own behaviour than that of bears. The sooner we can learn from successful examples of bear-human co-existence and adjust our focus to our own behaviour, the sooner the widespread and consistent stories of bears being shot in cities and towns of B.C. and beyond could become a thing of the past.

RELATED TOPICS

Grisly cargo of 240 bear paws which were ‘destined for China to be turned into food and traditional medicine’ is seized by Russian security agents

A stash of bear paws was intercepted by the FSB at a border post with China
The Russian agents later found tiger paws and mammoth tusks in a garage
It is likely the bear paws were obtained after illegal slaughter of
60 animals

By Will Stewart for MailOnline

Published: 15:15 GMT, 12 November 2019 | Updated: 15:16 GMT, 12 November
2019

A grisly cargo of 240 bear paws which were allegedly on their way to China has been seized by Russian security services.

Two paws of an endangered Amur tiger and a pair of extinct woolly mammoth tusks were also found in the illegal cache.

The gruesome goods are believed to have been destined for China to be used in traditional medicines and food delicacies.

The bear paws intercepted at the Chinese border are from Himalayan – or black – bears endemic to the far east of Russia and it is likely they were obtained after the illegal slaughter of 60 animals.
Seized: A cargo of bear paws from 60 illegally slaughtered animals is seen after it was intercepted by Russian security agents
+5

Seized: A cargo of bear paws from 60 illegally slaughtered animals is seen after it was intercepted by Russian security agents
Illegal: Two of the paws which were seized by Russia’s FSB security agency at a border post between Russia and China
+5

Illegal: Two of the paws which were seized by Russia’s FSB security agency at a border post between Russia and China

‘Two Russian nationals and two foreigners have been detained,’ said a statement from the FSB security agency.

They face up to seven years in jail for smuggling tiger and bear parts as well as ivory out of Russia, said the security service.

A total of 44 bear paws and two Amur – or Siberian – tiger paws were seized from two ‘foreigners’ at the Kraskino border post which links China and the Primorsky region of Russia.

Later, 198 bear paws and two mammoth tusks were found in a garage at a house linked to the alleged smuggling ring.

Four sacks of unidentified animal body parts were also seized and will now be analysed.

Sergey Aramilev, director general of Amur Tiger Centre, said the tiger paws were from an animal that died earlier than this year.

The tigers are among the most threatened big cats on the planet.

‘This is clearly a crime,’ he said.
One of the paws in the collection of 240 bear paws, two paws of an endangered Amur tiger and a pair of extinct woolly mammoth tusks which were intercepted at the Chinese border

One of the paws in the collection of 240 bear paws, two paws of an endangered Amur tiger and a pair of extinct woolly mammoth tusks which were intercepted at the Chinese border The bear paws are from Himalayan – or black – bears endemic to the far east of Russia and it is likely they were obtained after the illegal slaughter of 60 animals

The bear paws are from Himalayan – or black – bears endemic to the far east of Russia and it is likely they were obtained after the illegal slaughter of 60 animals A stash of 198 bear paws and two mammoth tusks were found in a garage at a house linked to the alleged smuggling ring

A stash of 198 bear paws and two mammoth tusks were found in a garage at a house linked to the alleged smuggling ring

‘All the circumstances of the crime and all the chains in the criminal ring will be established during the investigation.

‘It is most important to establish where are the remaining parts of the tiger.’

He warned that only a ‘small part’ of a large trafficking operation of wild animal parts is curtailed by the authorities.

He also praised the FSB for the successful operation in busting one smuggling route.

Delicacies made with bear paws – such as soups and stews – can command prices of up to £750, it has been reported.

Bear as well as tiger paws are also turned into traditional medicines to supposedly strengthen the spleen and stomach.

They can be used to counter rheumatism, it is claimed.

Mammoth tusks are ground into powder and can be used for traditional medicines and cosmetics.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7676875/Grisly-cargo-240-bear-paws-60-illegally-slaughtered-animals-seized.html

Island Voices: The evolutionary links between grizzlies and salmon

The stark images of malnourished grizzly bears on the coast of British Columbia have garnered widespread media attention. The photographs are difficult to view and strike a chord of deep concern in most people.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation has long advocated for a wildlife welfare ethic when it comes to the conservation and management of large carnivores. This approach becomes even more compelling when the life requisites, in this case wild salmon, of species such as coastal grizzlies are diminished as a result of human activities.

Much of the news coverage associated with the aforementioned situation has been linked to climate change, but this particular salmon-run collapse is likely the result of a suite of influences, not the least of which is the failure to protect wild salmon in B.C. from fishing pressure, habitat degradation, hatchery impacts, fish farms and more.

Wild salmon and grizzly bears have an intertwined relationship, and the choices we make are inextricably linked to their fates. When salmon are plentiful in coastal streams, bears thrive and produce more cubs. Grizzlies also occur at higher densities and grow to larger sizes when salmon are abundant.

Importantly, when salmon are plentiful, bears eat less of each fish, selecting the nutrient-rich brains and eggs and casting aside the remainder. These salmon remains then feed other animals, scavengers, and fertilize the adjacent streamside zone. Thus, abundant salmon boosts the amount and value of food for bears, as well as transfers more nutrients and energy to other wild consumers.

In contrast, when salmon are scarce, grizzlies produce fewer cubs, if any, and eat more of each individual fish. Less discarded salmon enters the surrounding ecosystem with diminished benefits for other wildlife, plants and less-visible organisms such as fungi, algae and insects. Commercial salmon fisheries typically extract 50 per cent or more of the salmon bound for rivers, bears and forests.

When the number of salmon returning to spawn from their ocean migration is variable, fishery managers favour the short-term benefit of harvest, even when salmon abundance is low and even if it means forgoing larger harvests in the future. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans manages for spawner persistence, not for healthy, abundant spawning runs.

Despite the knowledge that many species depend on salmon, fisheries have never been managed with wildlife in mind.

Whether its bears, wolves or whales, many coastal species have evolved to rely on annual returns of Pacific salmon. But how are the food needs of these animals considered in fisheries management or the benefits of salmon managed for coastal ecosystems? Bottom line: they aren’t.

Contemporary thinking in conservation science instructs salmon management to include the bears, whales and other wildlife that have an evolutionary reliance on the annual pulse of nutrients and food energy delivered via spawning salmon. Even Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy recognizes the need for management to transcend salmon “production” alone and consider the needs of terrestrial species.

For this policy to be consequential however, it requires fisheries managers to consider bears and other wildlife by lowering catches and allowing more salmon to reach the rivers to spawn. Currently, humans engage in what ecologists call “exploitative competition,” i.e. we capture salmon en route to spawning grounds before they can reach awaiting carnivores.

Even salmon runs that spawn in protected watersheds and parks are subjected to exploitation by commercial fisheries. Often, these parks were created to protect species such as grizzlies, black bears and wolves. As such, we suspect that grizzly bears now receive a fraction of the salmon they evolved with, which ultimately manifests in population declines through repeated years of low birth rates.

In some areas, we believe it is time to establish truly protected salmon runs — runs that would be managed solely for their importance to wildlife and ecosystems. This would allow salmon to return to spawning grounds without encountering the nets and hooks of the Pacific salmon fleet. And those fish would then spawn in rivers that flow naturally without their watersheds logged, developed or otherwise impaired.

Of course, it is not just fishing nets and hooks that rob wildlife of their energy needs. Degraded freshwater and marine habitat, fish farms and disease, dams and diversions, hatcheries and genetic dilution, climate change and changing ocean conditions, all influence salmon abundance. Human-generated impacts that reduce salmon abundance must be addressed. However, reducing, and in some cases eliminating, exploitation from fisheries would have an immediate, positive effect on coastal wildlife.

Chris Genovali is executive director of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Misty MacDuffee is Raincoast’s Wild Salmon Program director and Paul C. Paquet is Raincoast’s senior scientist.

The Grizzlies Are Coming

A grizzly bear
MONTANA FISH, WILDLIFE, AND PARKS / AP
The Rolling Stone Ranch lies behind a cluster of deciduous trees on the open, undulating plains of Montana’s Blackfoot Valley. Its green barns sit just outside the tiny town of Ovando, which is home to about 80 residents. As a crisp autumn breeze swept by in early October, Jim Stone, the ranch’s owner, greeted me in front of his house with a firm handshake. From his kitchen, he gazed out the window overlooking the valley and gestured across Highway 200. “My neighbor has 13 grizzly bears on his property,” a 21,000-acre spread, he told me. Just two decades ago, that many bears would have been rare.

To protect their livestock from the booming bear population, many local cattle ranchers have installed electric fences. They require less maintenance than barbed wire does and are safer for migrating elk, Stone explained. Since improving his fencing, he no longer has to worry about grizzlies killing his cows and calves.

As grizzlies continue to expand their range in Montana, more communities will have to face the question of how to coexist with them. Strategies such as installing electric fences, distributing special garbage cans, and encouraging communities to share the lessons they learn can help. But the most effective solution may be one of the hardest to achieve: trust between rural landowners and government agencies.

Back in the early 1800s, there were more than 50,000 grizzlies in the Lower 48. But by 1975, after years of hunting and habitat destruction, the population had dwindled to fewer than 1,000, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. With federal protections in place, grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide in northwestern Montana have flourished. Currently, there are approximately 1,000 bears in the area, the largest population in the United States outside Alaska. As a result of this rebound, the federal government considered delisting the population, though that process is now paused in light of last year’s court decision to restore federal protections for grizzlies in and around Yellowstone.

But the grizzly boom has brought with it a rise in human-bear conflicts. In September, for example, four hunters were injured in three separate attacks in southwestern Montana. These encounters are bad news for the grizzlies as well: Last year, about 50 bears were killed or removed from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, a record high for Montana.

Nonprofits such as the Blackfoot Challenge, located in the Blackfoot Valley, are helping communities deal with these conflicts. Stone, who chairs the organization’s board of directors, has helped implement its three-pronged approach to managing grizzlies: building electric fences, moving dead livestock to designated compost plots, and employing range riders to protect cattle. All told, conflicts with grizzlies in the Blackfoot Valley dropped by 74 percent from 2003 to 2013, according to a 2017 case study on the Blackfoot Challenge.

But in the small town of Condon, in nearby Swan Valley, where tall conifers rather than rangelands dominate the landscape, the residents face different problems. One of the biggest challenges is teaching people how to manage backyard bear attractants, such as garbage cans and chicken coops, says Luke Lamar, the conservation director at the nonprofit Swan Valley Connections. The organization offers electric-fencing installation, bear-resistant garbage containers, property consultations, and educational events. Once a bear knows where to find free food, it tends to return to the area, Lamar says. “That cycle will most likely continue until the bear is caught and removed by agency bear managers or by other means, such as a resident shooting the bear.”

Communities have different reactions to grizzlies and may need different methods to manage them. Sara Halm, a graduate student at Idaho State University, is interviewing people who live in three Montana communities to learn how grizzlies impact their rural towns. Many locals are scared for their children, who can no longer play outside alone the way their parents once did. For some, electric fences help lessen that fear. But fences make other residents feel confined. “This is deeper than just an economic issue of protecting people’s livelihoods,” Halm says. People have to redefine their relationship with the environment and wildlife.


This post appears courtesy of  High Country News.

Experts project 72 grizzlies will die due to cattle conflicts

‘Really tough decision’ to authorize grazing where there’s chronic conflict, forest ranger says.

Federal wildlife officials foresee and have approved growing grizzly bear bloodshed on a sprawling complex of Bridger-Teton National Forest cattle grazing allotments recently permitted for the long haul.

The Bridger-Teton’s Pinedale District ranger, Rob Hoelscher, signed off in early October on a decision OK’ing the continuation of a historic grazing operation on 267 square miles of forestland that falls in the Upper Green and Gros Ventre river drainages. That decision instituted a number of minor changes, like giving the Upper Green River Cattlemen’s Association more flexibility in rotating its cows, tweaking utilization standards for vegetation heights and authorizing some new fencing.

A larger shift, however, is outlined in an accompanying document called a biological opinion, which estimates the federal action’s impact on a threatened or endangered species — in this case, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bears. The updated overall estimate of grizzly bears that will be “incidentally taken” as a result of the Upper Green grazing, the April 2019 document says, is 72 bruins between the 2019 and 2028 grazing seasons.

Upper Green grazing

Phil McGinnis looks for cattle in one of the Upper Green River Cattlemen’s Association’s Bridger-Teton grazing allotments in 2016. Federal wildlife officials have authorized the incidental taking of up 72 grizzly bears in the area over the next 10 years.

“We had a number of conversations with the grizzly bear recovery coordinator and also with Wyoming Game and Fish,” said Nathan Darnall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s deputy supervisor for Wyoming. “When we start talking numbers this large, we all have to pause for a second and ask if this number is sustainable.

“In looking at the grizzly population and looking at the future expansion of the population … we decided that this number, in concert with everything else, was sustainable,” he said.

The Greater Yellowstone grizzly population is estimated at around 700, though an undetermined number of Ursus arctos horribilis dwell on the fringes of the region outside where the species is carefully monitored.

“This is not going to jeopardize the population of bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem,” Darnall said. “We’re not going to see numbers dipping below recovery levels, and we would still expect the population to increase.”

Darnall and his colleagues at Fish and Wildlife, who oversee grizzlies because they’re currently classified as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, produced the biological opinion.

The document points out that not all bears in the Upper Green cause trouble and that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has documented bears with territories in the allotments that haven’t killed cattle.

“Nonetheless, bear conflicts with livestock increased an average of 10 percent each year,” the opinion says. “We believe this trend is likely to continue within the action area. Within the last nine years 37 grizzly bears were lethally removed from the action area due to conflicts with livestock.”

The all-time high mark for lethal action taken in response to dead cows came in 2018, when Wyoming had jurisdiction over the species during the grazing season, didn’t need Fish and Wildlife authorization, and opted to kill eight depredating grizzlies.

The 72 grizzlies authorized for removal over the coming decade is a large increase from the most recent estimate, in 2014. That year the “take” was set at a maximum of 11 bears over any rolling three-year period.

Grizzly bear removals
Capture locations of grizzly bears removed due to livestock conflicts within the Upper Green Allotment Complex.

The 69-page document puts numbers to the rising rate of ursine-bovine conflict that led to the higher estimate. Although ranchers reported a relative lull this summer in the slaughter of both cattle and bears, since the turn of the century conflict has soared in the Upper Green as grizzly range has expanded and filled in that portion of the Bridger-Teton.

Between 2010 and 2018, Game and Fish and federal wildlife managers confirmed 527 conflicts, almost exclusively cattle that were killed or maimed. The majority, the document says, occurred in the last five years, and they took place “throughout the action area.”

The 1,112-square-mile “action area” assessed in the document is much larger than the actual allotments, taking into account grizzlies estimated to inhabit areas up to 7.5 miles away from the allotments. The more than 9,000 cow/calf pairs and few dozen horses permitted to graze the expansive rangeland have proven a big attractant, according to grizzly bear GPS collar data cited in the opinion. One bear captured after killing cattle on the allotments, grizzly No. 499, denned clear across the mighty Wind River Range, 24 miles away on the Wind River Reservation. Another Upper Green grizzly captured for research, bear No. 754, denned 29 miles away near the east boundary of Grand Teton National Park.

This iteration of Fish and Wildlife’s biological opinion for the Upper Green did not estimate the grizzly population in the “action area” surrounding the allotments. In 2013 the agency put the number at somewhere between 51 and 60 grizzlies.

Fourth-generation Upper Green stockman Albert Sommers, who helps run the Cattlemen’s Association, has tried and failed to change his grazing protocols in a way that reduces grizzly conflict. The operation pencils out, he’s told the News&Guide, only because of Wyoming compensation programs. In 2016 and 2017 Sommers worked with the conflict-reduction group People and Carnivores to test a herding technique that bunched up his bovines at night. It had “no effect on depredation,” the Fish and Wildlife’s opinion said, and was discontinued.

“I still go to conferences,” Sommers told the News&Guide this summer, “and listen to ideas.”

Not all parties paying attention to the chronic conflict in the Upper Green are satisfied with a gruesome status quo that’s forecasted to worsen. Center for Biological Diversity employee Andrea Santarsiere, of Victor, Idaho, said that the Bridger-Teton grazing complex is “good habitat” that’s turned into a “population sink” bound to continually attract more bears, resulting in more conflict.

“It’s just a cyclical problem that they’re not going to be able to resolve without taking some conservation measures on the ground,” Santarsiere said.

Grizzly conflict map
The map compares grizzly bear/cattle conflicts in the Upper Green Allotment Complex between 2010-14 and between 2015-2018.

Mandatory conservation measures in the Bridger-Teton’s decision, she said, are “lacking terribly.”

“Pretty much everything that we asked for was ignored or significantly watered down,” she said.

During the “objection process” with the forest in early 2018, Santarsiere tried to make it mandatory for range riders to carry bear spray, but the language was turned into a recommendation. It was a similar story, she said, with carcass removal requirements that the conservation community sought.

“They have to move carcasses under the new decision if they are too close to roads where the public might be, which protects the public,” Santarsiere said. “But that’s not doing a lot to protect grizzly bears, because all they have to do is move them a little ways from the road.”

Hoelscher, the Bridger-Teton district ranger, said authorizing the mostly business-as-usual Upper Green grazing plans was a “really difficult decision.” He acknowledged that the regulations relating to grizzly conflict are largely unchanged.

“The permittees as well as the state have done a lot of trying to figure out what works, and what doesn’t,” Hoelscher said, “and they’re pretty much already doing about all they can do.”

“I feel it’s very important to maintain the lifestyles and the industry here locally for the permittees,” he said. “We’ll wait and see what comes out of this all.”

Santarsiere, who is an environmental attorney, said she’s considering her options.

Washington state considers importing B.C. grizzlies to re-establish bears in North Cascades

The translocation of bears is likely years away as Washington state and B.C. officials are in the early stage of talks about how that would work, and the province said First Nations have to be consulted first.

Updated: October 15, 2019

The U.S. has dusted off a plan to repopulate the North Cascades area of Washington state with grizzly bears by translocating dozens of Canadian grizzlies to the U.S.

The U.S. parks and fish and wildlife departments are accepting public comments about its environmental impact statement on a grizzly bear restoration plan that could see dozens of young, mostly female, bears flown into North Cascades National Park.

Conservationists in both countries support the plan to establish a grizzly bear population in the vast park that’s on the other side of the border from Manning Park, and where the last sighting of a grizzly was in 1996.

“It would be great,” said Joe Scott, international program director for Conservation Northwest. “It would be a wonderful conservation success story for both the U.S. and B.C.”

The approval process in the U.S. would take at least another year and it would take several years of gradually introducing the bears stateside, about 25 bears over five to 10 years, before the grizzlies ideally would be self-sustaining, he said.

The bears would likely be imported from B.C. because the bears should be from a similar ecosystem (berry eating as opposed to salmon eating, for instance) and would likely be flown in by copter to ensure that they’re delivered a “fair distance from humans, for obvious reasons,” said Jack Oelfke, chief of natural and cultural resources for North Cascades National Park.

He said conservationists and the public have been supportive of bringing grizzlies back to the North Cascades. But some are opposed, such as the ranching industry.

B.C. government has had a representative on one of the U.S. committees contributing to the recovery plan in the past, and supports efforts to restore grizzlies to Washington state.

The province and the state are in the “early planning stages” to determine if grizzlies can be translocated from B.C., and B.C. First Nations have to be consulted, a spokesperson from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said in an email.

The ministry said, generally, the province’s grizzly bear population is healthy and stable at around 15,000 bruins.

“The province will be collaborating with Indigenous Peoples in the near future to draft a provincial grizzly bear management plan,” it said.

“We do have bears to spare,” said Nicholas Scapillati, executive director of the Grizzly Bear Foundation. But not in Canada’s North Cascades grizzly bear population unit, where it’s estimated fewer than 10 bears live.

Two years ago, B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer, in a report on B.C.’s grizzly bear conservation efforts, said one of the goals of the province’s conservation strategy was to lead the way in international recovery efforts, but that the U.S. was leading the way. The report also said, “it may be that recovery actions have been too little, too late” for the North Cascades’ grizzly population in Canada.

Scapillati said the bears would likely have to come from elsewhere in B.C. If the U.S. recovery plan was successful, it could help the North Cascades’ population recover in Canada, conservationists said.

The U.S. grizzly recovery study was first announced in 2014, halted in 2017, and then restarted last year. The Americans have until Oct. 24 to comment on the plan.

https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/washington-state-considers-importing-b-c-grizzlies-to-re-establish-bears-in-north-cascades?fbclid=IwAR2wcv3BBfx8oXg0f0tJ5iUSvsh03sKZQ5leP22pHVAEBe-3OD5lsYhDg9Y

Grizzly experts want research into emaciated bears photographed on B.C. coast

Photos of bears concerned scientists, who said they could be suffering due to a poor salmon return. There could be other explanations.

Starving bear walks along the riverside in Thompson Sound on the west coast. Photo: Rolf Hicker. ROLF HICKER / PNG

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Grizzly experts disturbed by photos of emaciated bears in Knight Inlet are calling for research to determine why they are suffering.

Photos of a sow and two cubs taken by wildlife photographer and tour guide Rolf Hicker raised alarms for some scientists, who said the bears were likely suffering due to an abysmal Pacific salmon return this year. Federal fisheries experts have pointed to climate change as the main reason for the poor return, and salmon are crucial to coastal grizzly bears’ diets.

Longtime grizzly researchers say a salmon shortage is the most obvious explanation for why the bears in Hickers’ photos are suffering, but said there could be other factors.

Dr. Ken Macquisten, a wildlife veterinarian and managing director for the Grouse Mountain wildlife refuge, said he was shocked by the photos. Had only a single bear been suffering, he would have questioned whether it had broken teeth or an intestinal blockage.

“But multiple bears would tend to point to some common reason, and a lack of food would be top of the suspect list, in my mind,” said Macquisten, who is a director for the Grizzly Bear Foundation.

Starving grizzly bear in Hoeya Sound. Photo: Rolf Hicker ROLF HICKER / PNG

Macquisten said grizzly bear researchers are concerned about B.C.’s salmon supply. The fish are crucial to west coast bears during their hyperphagic stage before hibernation, when an adult will eat 50,000-60,000 calories of food and gain three to four pounds each day. They are omnivores and also typically eat whitebark pine nuts, insects and berries.

But if they don’t eat enough before hibernation, they will wake up early and be forced to search for food during winter when it is scarce, he said. They could die of starvation.

“Because they can range over large areas, typically the bears will be able to go to somewhere else where the food is, so it’s a bit surprising why these (photographed) bears are in such a state,” he said. “Either they haven’t been able to find food over a wide area or they haven’t been moving.”

But Macquisten urged caution before drawing the conclusion that a salmon shortage is to blame, and said he hopes someone will locate one of the suffering grizzly bears to determine the exact cause.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said provincial biologists can’t confirm why the sow in Hicker’s photo appears to be in such poor shape.

The biologists don’t know its history and whether age, dental issues, injuries, or providing for cubs contributed to its state, the ministry said in an emailed reply to questions.

“The number of bears on the coast are stable to increasing and this often means more competition for resources,” the ministry said. “If salmon runs in the area are lower than expected, this will have an added effect and bears may have to travel further to find food.”

Government representatives are working with the Mamalilikulla First Nation to monitor the welfare of wildlife in the area.

The B.C. government has estimated 15,000 grizzly bears are in the province and said roughly 340 die each year of human-related causes. Of the 56 grizzly populations in B.C., nine are classified as threatened.

Dr. Cole Burton, an associate professor in the Department of Forest Resources Management at the University of B.C., also called for research into whether a poor salmon return and climate change are impacting the wellbeing of some bear populations.

“If we’re concerned about grizzly bears and how they might be responding to these changes, then we should try and support some more study on that, some more monitoring that’s tied to our management actions,” Burton said.

He wouldn’t jump to the conclusion, from the photos, that the suffering grizzly bears represent more widespread suffering, he said.

“It’s certainly consistent with these ideas around a reduction in salmon,” said Burton, who is the Canada Research Chair in Terrestrial Mammal Conservation. “But on its own, I don’t think it provides much evidence of the bigger-picture trends.”

Burton said that grizzly bear populations in B.C. are generally doing okay, but not thriving, mainly due to habitat loss caused by development and roadbuilding.

The government’s ban on grizzly bear trophy hunting in 2017 may have increased the number of bears’ competing for food, Burton said. Prior to the ban, an average of 297 grizzly bears were legally killed by hunters annually, according to provincial data.

“I’m not saying that that’s what we’re seeing here, but certainly we would want to know about the population,” Burton said.

Clayton Lamb, a PhD candidate and Vanier Scholar at the University of Alberta, has been working with grizzly bears for six years and is currently researching their population dynamics.

A poor salmon run is a “reasonable” explanation for the sow to be malnourished, Lamb said. But when salmon populations are low, grizzlies tend to move elsewhere in search of berries, and he wondered whether the bears in the photographs have that option.

“I think a couple of pictures don’t give us that larger population context,” he said.

Lamb said climate models for grizzly populations in B.C.’s Interior suggest that berries and other diet staples could, in fact, become more abundant as the climate changes.

“As far as food and climate change for bears, it’s not immediately concerning,” he said. “There’s undoubtedly going to be winners and losers in climate change, and I think it just so happens that some of those key berry species are going to be winners.”

Bryce Casavant, a former conservation officer who is now conservation policy analyst with non-profit conservation organization Pacific Wild, said Hicker’s photos serves as a reminder that human behaviour can have an impact on wildlife.

“What we do know is there is food scarcity, currently, within the Great Bear Rainforest and coastal regions of B.C., which is causing problems for grizzly bears,” said Casavant, a PhD candidate at Royal Roads University.

“Salmon runs have declined, their ability to access natural food sources has decline. Habitat loss is a serious contributing factor to grizzly bear population recovery and stability.”