Playing Russian Roulette with Grizzly Matron 399 and the Bears of Yellowstone

MAY 24, 2021

BY LOUISA WILLCOXFacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Photo by Tom Mangelsen.

This is the first of a two-part essay on the famous bear matron of Jackson Hole, Grizzly 399, and the mounting threats she and other grizzlies face. Part 2 will focus on a path forward. You might also want to listen to a fascinating Grizzly Times podcast (2 episodes) with renowned photographer Tom Mangelsen, who waxes eloquent about his 15-year relationship with this special bear and his advocacy for the wild.

Few if any animals have been more celebrated than 399, the matron grizzly bear of Grand Teton National Park. Each year, families flock to Jackson Hole hoping to catch a glimpse of her shepherding her latest brood – now four irrepressible yearlings. Her grown-up daughter, Grizzly 610, accompanied by two pre-adolescent cubs now as large as she is, generates almost as much excitement. Today, about 10 grizzlies of 399’s lineage make their living along Jackson Hole’s roads in the company of people.

With a global fan club, Grizzly 399 is an ambassador for grizzlies everywhere. Her tolerance for people is legendary. To cross a road, she is known to look both ways before threading through parked cars and mobs of delighted onlookers, as doors slam and kids shriek – placidly returning to fetch a cub still wrestling with a road cone. Who could still cling to the myth that grizzlies are vicious man-eaters after beholding the ways of 399?

But as the fame of these roadside grizzlies had grown, so have the crowds. Current systems to keep visitors and grizzlies safe are breaking down. As summer tourist season begins with a vengeance, officials are often either nowhere to be seen — or they are firing projectiles at bears in a cruel, disorganized, and futile effort to haze grizzlies rather than manage people.

Not long ago 399 and her four youngsters were swarmed by 300 people – with no Park Ranger in sight. And 610, known as an especially protective mom, bluffed charged two tourists out of a mob of 150 who got too close. East of the park, 863 (aka “Felicia”) and her adorable new cubs face a tsunami of people, cracker shells fired by state managers, as well as semis barreling down the adjacent highway at 70 miles an hour.

Anywhere grizzlies are visible we are seeing scenes of bedlam and terrifying close calls – and tourist season has just begun. Last year, record numbers of people — throngs numbering as many as 1000 — gathered any time 399 or other roadside grizzlies appeared. The spectacle lasted from Memorial Day to New Year’s Day, when 399 broke trail for her youngsters through chest-deep snow to reach her den.

Caring citizens, most of them veteran photographers and wildlife watchers, are doing what they can to keep tourists from crowding Jackson Hole’s grizzlies. Last year these citizen volunteers saved the lives of 399, 610 and other grizzlies many times. So did Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Mike Boyce, who spent long days and nights trying to keep 399 safe as she ventured south of the town of Jackson onto private lands.

But these efforts are a drop in the bucket of a sea of need. This summer we can expect another valence shift in tourism as pent-up families seek beauty, solace and adventure in our National Parks. With ever more airlines servicing the Yellowstone and Grand Teton region, another record-breaking year of visitation is virtually guaranteed – and with it, more pressure on the region’s world-class wildlife.

When I asked veteran Jackson News and Guide reporter Mike Kosmrl what he thought this summer would bring for Grand Teton’s grizzlies, he offered one word: “chaos.”

This chaos surrounding 399 and her offspring highlights the threats posed by so many people, compounded by long-neglected deficiencies in grizzly bear management. Courageous government action is urgently needed – on behalf of not just grizzlies, but also on behalf of the multitudes who care about these wild animals.

Grizzly 399’s Unique Strategy: Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

Grizzly 399 makes her living near people, teaching generations of cubs how to live amicably along roads and around recreation areas. Her main reason for settling into these human-impacted environments is to keep her cubs safe from aggressive male grizzlies—known as boars—that often prefer to hang out in more remote areas.

For her and other female grizzlies who frequent roadsides, staying near people is a better bet than mixing it up with boars who can and will kill cubs. Every day, these females and their offspring literally depend on the kindness of strangers, to borrow from Blanche Dubois’ famous line in A Streetcar Named Desire.

To these grizzlies, people are allies – even, at times, babysitters. This should not surprise us given the stories told for millennia by Native Peoples throughout the Northern Hemisphere about humans living among bears, saved by bears, even marrying bears.

We know more about 399 than most grizzly bears because she has lived her long life so close to us. Tom Mangelsen, a world-famous photographer, has photo-documented his 15-year relationship with this special bear, co-writing a lovely book about her.

A successful and attentive mom, 399 is the quintessential mother with muffins in the oven. She birthed and successfully raised three sets of triplets. And last year, she performed a miracle when she emerged with quadruplets at the age of twenty-four – ancient for a mother bear. Her feat is especially noteworthy given that only eight litters of quadruplets have been documented in the Yellowstone ecosystem since 1983.

We cannot forget the difference that one good mom can make. All existing Yellowstone grizzly bears are the decedents of perhaps only 50 females alive during the early 1980’s. Every mom matters. And a female such as 399 is an Olympian.

But despite her competence as a mother, so far 399 has raised only two females who have also had cubs, Grizzlies 610 and 962, the latter just appearing with a new cub. The reasons are straight-forward. Grizzly bear birth rates are inherently low and many of 399’s offspring have been killed by humans.

But humans can be benevolent. There is no doubt that 399 would not still be with us were it not for the dedication of the Park Service. Indeed, a past superintendent of Grand Teton Park, Mary Scott, spared 399’s life when, as a young mom with cubs, she mauled a jogger who came too close as she fed upon a dead elk. Since then, with the help of volunteers who comprise its Bear Brigade, Grand Teton Park has tried to ensure that everybody — bears and humans — stays safe.

But the crush of park visitors is overwhelming agency capacity. Despite clear warning signs that this year would see record tourism, government agencies are again on their back heel. They have also failed to adapt to the tangible impacts of a warming climate, which is prompting bears to be up long before the Brigade is typically assembled and long after it disbands for the season.

Moreover, when 399 steps outside the borders of the National Parks, she enters a more dangerous world.

The Perils of an Olympian Mom

Much of 399’s home range lies outside the protected landscapes of Grand Teton Park. She dens and forages on Bridger Teton National Forest lands that abut the park. The Forest is a deadlier environment because it is managed for “multiple use,” meaning mostly for the benefit of hunters, ranchers, off-road vehicle users and increasingly, mountain bikers. Not surprisingly, one of 399’s cubs, Grizzly 587, was killed by managers after depredating cows on a Forest Service grazing allotment, where notoriously anti-grizzly ranchers dominate management of public lands that are ostensibly owned by all citizens.

399 must also dodge poachers who often are undeterred by the hefty penalties that can be levied under the Endangered Species Act — but too often are not. Indeed, one of her daughters, Grizzly 615, aka Persistence, was gunned down illegally as she ate a moose carcass on National Forest land close to the Park border.

She and other bears such as Grizzly 863 must also avoid being splattered on the roads as trucks and tourists speed to their next destination. And even inside Grand Teton Park, roads are dangerous. Two of 399’s cubs have been killed by vehicle collisions.

399 must, moreover, navigate private lands, dogs, compost piles, beehives, garbage and more. Even in Jackson, where wildlife is abundant, too many people still unthinkingly contribute to destroying bears by poorly managing food and garbage. One woman has continued to feed grizzlies and other wildlife despite government efforts to dissuade her. The results are predictable. One of 399’s cubs, Grizzly 964, developed such a bad garbage habit that she was relocated last summer to the north end of the ecosystem.

And now 399 and other roadside bears must dodge projectiles fired from shotguns, part of an ill-conceived, haphazard and doomed effort by the Park Service to haze her and other grizzlies away from the roadside environment they depend on.

Of Riot Control and Half Measures

With the Park Service understaffed and its Bear Brigade not fully assembled, the agency is floundering to deal with crowds gathering long before Memorial Day, the traditional kickoff date for summer tourist season. But instead of expanding its program and more aggressively managing the people, government officials are taking out their anxiety on innocent bears by shooting them with rubber bullets and rock salt or dosing them with bear spray when they near roads. The effort is erratic and disorganized, with contradictory messages to the public about what the agency is doing and why. (The Park Service did not respond to an interview request by deadline).

Such riot control tactics will fail, even as they harm the bears. Roadside females are more terrified of male bears in the backcountry that might eat their cubs than they are of the poorly implemented and ill-thought-out hazing efforts. Grizzlies such as 399 and 610 have long relied on limited roadside habitats and cannot—more importantly will not—just pick up and relocate.

Many roadside bears would rather suffer the punishment of rubber bullets, no matter how severe, than mix it up with aggressive bears that can be a mortal threat. Proving this point, years ago one black bear was actually bludgeoned to death by rubber bullets while cowering along a narrow strip of habitat along a road in Yellowstone Park. And hazing is deeply stressful and confusing to the animals. As anyone who has trained or rescued a dog knows well, stress and fear can make animals more unpredictable and aggressive towards people.

Furthermore, an effective hazing program is extraordinarily difficult to implement. Negative experiences need to be unrelenting and consistent if bears are to learn to avoid specific environs such as roadsides. Execution of such a program requires resources, discipline, and skill on the part of managers—something that has never been achieved before. Without this mix of ingredients, hazing programs devolve into little more than the gratuitous infliction of pain on targeted bears. And bears are intelligent, which makes the job even harder. In Yellowstone, grizzlies targeted for hazing quickly learned to disappear when the green Park Service trucks arrived and return to the roadsides when they left.

The Park Service is hardly the only agency failing these bears and the broader public who care about their well-being. Others with authority over grizzlies include the state of Wyoming, Bridger Teton National Forest, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wyoming Department of Transportation, and Teton County.

Importantly, the state of Wyoming dictates wildlife management on nonpark lands. State managers have long been hostile towards large predators such as grizzlies, seen as competitors for elk and moose. In the zero-sum calculous of state managers, any elk or moose killed by a predator translates into lost hunting-license revenues. As problematic, those predators that managers do allow to live are seen as little more than grist for the mill of trophy hunting. It is no surprise that state managers resent celebrity roadside grizzlies because, beloved by nonhunters, these bears represent an alien and even existential threat.

The fundamentally antagonistic view of Wyoming Game and Fish towards these bears and their fans has been on full display on Togwotee Pass in recent days, where officials are exploding cracker shells at Felicia and her newborns and imposing erratic constraints on viewers. (Wyoming Game and Fish did not respond to an interview request by deadline). Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson, who is in charge of these efforts, made his view clear several years ago, saying: “Habituation towards people and the roadside bear situation, it’s not something that we’re supportive of.”

Gutted by budget cuts, the Bridger Teton Forest is also ill-equipped to manage mounting numbers of recreational users on forest lands near Grand Teton Park, even as the agency continues to shirk its legal duty to conserve wildlife. Similarly, Teton County has struggled to ensure meaningful sanitation on private lands. And Wyoming Department of Transportation has done precious little to improve safe passage for wildlife, in contrast to successful systems of overpasses and underpasses built in Montana’s Flathead Valley and in Canada’s National Parks.

But the agency with the clearest legal authority to help these bears is the one that is most conspicuously absent: the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The Endangered Species Act charges FWS with recovering threatened species, using the best available science in decision-making, and ensuring that federal and state agencies take a precautionary approach in decisions affecting protected species. Despite this duty, the FWS has done little lately other than sanction the killing and relocating of grizzlies that are increasingly deemed to be “surplus” by FWS managers.

Thankfully, citizen volunteers have been stepping into the breach.

Into the Breach

In recent years, concerned citizens, most of them photographers, have been helping manage tourists at often understaffed wildlife jams – and they are up to their eyeballs this spring. Too numerous to count, citizens routinely step in to slow traffic and keep tourists from getting too close, literally saving not only people who are careless, but also the lives of roadside bears. Any time a person gets injured, the involved bear almost invariably pays the ultimate price.

Recognizing the scale of the need, last winter, photographers Jack and Gina Bayles created Team 399 to raise money through donations and the sale of merchandise to help support Grand Teton Park’s Wildlife Brigade, through the Park’s nonprofit arm, Grand Teton Park Foundation. They are hoping that contributions from these bears’ enormous social media following can be channeled into work to help keep them safe.

This summer Team 399 is also partnering with Friends of the Bridger Teton National Forest, the nonprofit private adjunct of the Forest, to sponsor additional seasonal staff to help educate and manage roadside throngs of bear-watchers in Felicia’s haunts along Highway 287 on Togwotee Pass. After a successful foray last year, Friends of the Bridger Teton has again hired two roadside bear ambassadors to help manage viewers along this hazardous stretch of highway.

Meanwhile, other local organizations are engaged in complementary work. The Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation is working with Wyoming Department of Transportation to improve signage along area roads. Greater Yellowstone Coalition has been working with the Bridger Teton Forest to increase the number of bear-resistant storage boxes at campsites. Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, Wyoming Untrapped and Cougar Fund work to raise awareness of the value of large carnivores, especially grizzlies, wolves and mountain lions. And Friends of 760, named for a grandson of 399 who was killed as a result of government bungling, is working to make sure similar mistakes do not happen again.

But while citizens and nonprofit groups can help immeasurably, they lack legal authority and anything close to adequate resources to tackle the crisis facing grizzlies around Jackson. The government must step in — immediately and in a much bigger way — on behalf of the public trust and threatened grizzlies that will always depend on the kindness of strangers.

Part 2 outlines a path forward to ensure that 399 and the other grizzlies of Greater Yellowstone flourish.

Louisa Willcox is a longtime grizzly bear activist and founder of Grizzly Times. She lives in Montana.

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Montana officials kill 3 grizzlies after livestock attacks,involved%20in%20numerous%20livestock%20attacks

by The Associated PressTuesday, June 1st 2021AA

Montana FWP officials euthanized a pair of grizzly bears after they several depredations on llamas, sheep, goat and chickens over time near Whitefish. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Montana FWP officials euthanized a pair of grizzly bears after they several depredations on llamas, sheep, goat and chickens over time near Whitefish. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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KALISPELL, Mont. — Montana wildlife officials said Tuesday that state bear management specialists killed a pair of grizzly bears near Whitefish that had been involved in numerous livestock attacks.

An adult female grizzly bear was captured on Monday and its yearling captured on Tuesday in the Haskill Basin area.

The animals were euthanized because of a history of killing livestock including sheep, llamas, chickens and a goat.

Last week, authorities killed an adult male grizzly bear in the Dupuyer area after it was suspected of attacking calves across numerous ranches.

The following was sent out by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bear management specialists euthanized a pair of grizzly bears after numerous depredations on llamas, sheep, goat, and chickens over time near Whitefish.

FWP specialists captured an adult female grizzly bear on May 31 and its yearling on June 1 in the Haskill Basin area. The decision was made to kill both bears due to their history of livestock depredations and in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The bears most recently entered an enclosure holding numerous animals on private property and killed a llama. The bear pushed through a gate to enter the pen where the llama was located along with other animals, including six wallaroos. FWP staff responded to assist the landowner and continue efforts to capture the bears.

The adult female bear was previously captured and fitted with a GPS radio collar, but the collar was malfunctioning and came off in the summer of 2019. Data collected from the radio collar identified the bear at several sites where sheep, llamas, and chickens were killed around Whitefish. Attempts to recapture the adult female were unsuccessful during 2020.

Earlier this spring, FWP received reports of sheep killed off East Edgewood Drive. Staff with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services set a trap in the area and attempted to capture the bear but was unsuccessful. Cameras set up at the site identified the adult female and yearling. Several days later, the bears killed goats on private property in Haskill Basin. Additional traps and cameras were set but efforts to capture the bears was unsuccessful until most recently. Reports of chickens killed on private property in the area persisted at the same time.

Mama grizzly bear killed on highway in Yoho National Park orphans two cubs

The orphaned cubs, a male and a female, were relocated by wildlife specialists into a remote backcountry area within their mother’s traditional home range, which included parts of Banff and Yoho national parks.a day ago By: Cathy Ellis

  • Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park.

Photo by Parks Canada
  • Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park.

Photo by Parks Canada
  • The bear cubs are transported by helicopter to the new location.

Photo by Parks Canada

PreviousNext1 / 3 Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park. Photo by Parks CanadaExpand

Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park.

Photo by Parks Canada
Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park.

Photo by Parks Canada
The bear cubs are transported by helicopter to the new location.

Photo by Parks Canada

FIELD – Two yearling grizzly bear cubs have been orphaned following the death of a well-known mama bear on the busy Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park.

Female grizzly bear No. 156, who produced two litters of cubs in her nine years of life, was struck by a car on the highway about one kilometre east of Field at 2 a.m. on Saturday (May 29).

The cubs, a male and a female, were relocated by wildlife specialists into a remote backcountry area within their mother’s traditional home range, which included parts of Banff and Yoho national parks.

Parks Canada wildlife experts say they wanted to give the one-and-a-half-year-old cubs every possible opportunity to remain in the wild, adding the young bruins were continuing to hang around the collision site on the weekend.

“There was a very high risk that they were going to get struck and killed as well,” said Jon Stuart-Smith, a human-wildlife management specialist for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay.

A team of trained wildlife responders and experts assess individual situations and respond with management interventions aimed at the best possible outcomes for wildlife.

Previous research has indicated cubs in this region, on average, typically stay with their mothers for about four years. However, previous experience has shown one-and-a-half-year-old cubs have survived on their own in this area.

In 2011, two other cubs the same age were orphaned when their mother was struck by a train on the Canadian Pacific Railway line.  One of the cubs survived four years before getting run over on the Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho in 2015. The male bruin sustained serious injuries and had to be euthanized on site.

Stuart-Smith gives bear No. 156’s cubs a greater than 30 per cent chance of making it on their own.

“There is precedent that they can survive on their own at this stage of their life,” he said.

“Every year the chances of surviving into adulthood get greater and greater.”

The siblings’ chances of beating the odds also get better if they stay together. They can forage for food together and be vigilant and on the look-out for predators.

“Siblings together often have a higher survival rate than when they’re on their own,” Stuart-Smith said.

The cubs weighed about 50 pounds, which is on the low side, but otherwise appeared healthy.

After the wildlife specialists handled them and put ear tags in each of them for future identification, the cubs were flown by helicopter to the release site.

“They were doing well and we let them go,” said Stuart-Smith said.

The bears are too little for GPS collars, which track where the animals travel. As bears grow quickly at this age, any collar would have had to come off in short order.

“Although it would have been very important information to get, we wanted to put their well-being and their chance of survival as the first priority,” Stuart-Smith said.

The biggest risk to the young bears is a large male grizzly bear predating upon them. Adult male bears are known to kill cubs that are not theirs – and it’s the mother that typically defends them.

The other great risk is if the cubs return at some point to the deadly stretch of highway where their mother was killed in search of the easy-to-get roadside dandelions and vegetation.

Stuart-Smith said although there were limited relocation options because of snow in the high country, the bears were taken to an area with natural foraging opportunities.

He said he’s optimistic the cubs will find enough nutrition to sustain themselves through summer and fall in order to den up and make it through the winter with enough reserves to come out in the spring.

“Getting them away from the highway was important for us, but now it’s just a matter of them figuring out how to survive and feed themselves,” said Stuart-Smith.

“We’re hoping the conditions that we found for them are enough to keep them there and away from human habituation and the highway where they would have a higher risk of being struck or getting into trouble.”

Bear 156 spent most of her life in the backcountry, but historically brought her cubs down to the valley bottom by the Trans-Canada Highway for a few weeks each spring to feed on roadside green-up.

It is hoped No. 156’s cubs have learned the lessons she has taught them, including following the green-up as snow melts and feeding on natural food sources previously shown to them.

“She would spend most of her time in the backcountry in Banff and Yoho, and amazingly enough, not really run into anybody back there,” Stuart-Smith said.

“She probably would have moved them on to other habitat shortly, so it’s quite unfortunate she was struck at this time.”

Bear No. 156 was captured and fitted with a GPS collar as part of the joint Parks Canada-Canadian Pacific Railway five-year study on ways to reduce bear mortality on the train tracks.

This is her second litter of cubs. Her previous litter of two, which includes a rare white grizzly bear, has been spotted again this spring. Those bears are now in their fifth year.

“We have seen them periodically and thankfully most visitors have been respectful of their space,” Stuart-Smith said.

“Hopefully they continue to make a living and go on to produce offspring themselves as well.”

Parks Canada urges motorists to consider not stopping when they see bears by the side of the road if it is unsafe, but to stay in their vehicles if they do decide to pull over.

Following the death of bear No. 156, motorists are also reminded to observe speed limits and to drive with extra caution in the early morning and evening hours when wildlife are most active.

“These are really important things in order to avoid tragic incidents like this,” Stuart-Smith said.

Please report all wildlife sightings on the roads or any wildlife incidents to Parks Canada dispatch at 403-762-1470.

Breaking news: U.S. says grizzly bears should remain protected under Endangered Species Act

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

April 1, 2021 0 Comments

Breaking news: U.S. says grizzly bears should remain protected under Endangered Species Act

States that are home to these bears should be doing all they can to protect them but instead they have chosen to sell them out to trophy hunting interests. Photo by Don Getty1.2KSHARES

Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states should retain their current protections under the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the primary federal agency that makes decisions on the conservation of wildlife species. This is encouraging news for these native carnivores who have been under attack from trophy hunting interests in the states they live in, and who need all the help they can get to survive.

In a report published yesterday, the USFWS recommended that grizzly bears retain “threatened” status based on a five-year scientific status review.

Under the previous administration, the USFWS, in 2017, sought to prematurely delist grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as a handout to trophy hunters. We stopped this effort—and with it the first trophy hunting season on grizzlies in decades—in its tracks with a federal court victory in 2018 followed by an appeals court victory in 2020.

There are fewer than 1,800 grizzly bears now in the lower 48 states—a small number, by any measure. These animals were nearly wiped out of existence in the United States between 1915 and 1975. Today they occupy less than 2% of their original range in the United States.

Grizzly bear populations increase slowly. Female bears do not reproduce until they are between three and eight years of age and they produce small litters, with many years between each litter. Not all of the cubs survive to adulthood. That is why every bear must count, and why it may take a decade for a female bear to replace herself in the population. And the threats to their survival are many, including poachers, ranchers and state wildlife agencies who continually target these animals and kill them over fear and exaggerated claims that they kill cattle—claims we debunked using USDA data.

In its report, the USFWS pointed to tremendous threats grizzlies continue to face, including “limited habitat connectivity, management of access by motorized vehicles, human-caused mortality and uncertainty surrounding future conservation efforts in some ecosystems.”

The USFWS report also correctly recognized that the long-term survival of grizzly bears depends on establishing populations in parts of their historic range where they remain absent, like Washington’s North Cascades and Idaho’s Bitterroot ecosystem. We urge the USFWS to follow through by developing a comprehensive plan to achieve a truly interconnected, recovered population of grizzly bears.

States that are home to these bears should be doing all they can to protect them but instead they have chosen to sell them out to trophy hunting interests. We recently told you about Montana’s state legislature passing a host of bills in anticipation of a federal delisting. Those bills would have, among other atrocities, allowed ranchers to shoot grizzly bears they “perceived” as a threat to their livestock. They included measures such as barring the relocation of grizzly bears to promote their recovery.

These bills also allow hound-hunting of black bears in early spring and expanding wolf snaring and trapping, which could also harm grizzly bears and cubs. Fortunately, continuing federal protection will shield grizzlies from some of the worst impacts of these bills if they become law.

The Montana and Wyoming delegations in Congress are also engaged now in efforts to delist these bears—a shortsighted approach because grizzly bears and other wildlife contribute heavily to these states’ economies, with thousands of tourists flocking there each year to catch a glimpse of these animals in the wild.

We are encouraged by the USFWS recommendation today, but so long as these other threats to grizzly bears continue our work is far from done. You can rest assured we will keep a vigilant eye and continue to work hard to ward off efforts by bad state legislators, wildlife managers and members of Congress to hurt these iconic animals.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

26 Grizzlies Captured, 18 Euthanized in Wyoming Last Year

26 Grizzlies Captured, 18 Euthanized in Wyoming Last Year


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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department captured 26 grizzly bears and euthanized 18 of them throughout 2020.

The department detailed the capture of the bears in its annual report on bear captures, relocations and removals in northwest Wyoming.

Over 2020, the department captured 26 bears in 27 different events (one bear was captured twice) in an attempt to prevent or resolve conflicts. Of the 26 bears capture, 18 were male and eight were female.

Over the year, 13 captures were a result of a bear killing livestock (primarily cattle) and the other 13 were related to bears obtaining food rewards or frequenting developed sites, the report said.×250&!2&btvi=1&fsb=1&xpc=LJLGGNpd0W&p=https%3A//

Of the captures, 15 took place in Park County, more than half. Five were in Sublette County, three were in Fremont County and two each were in Hot Springs and Teton counties.

The nine bears that were relocated were released on U.S. Forest Service lands in Park, Teton and Fremont counties, according to the report.

One bear was captured twice. The grizzly was captured first in July in Teton County and moved to Park County. After being captured a second time in Park county in August, the bear was euthanized, in part because of its aggressive behavior.

Bears are euthanized if they have a history of conflicts with humans, a known association with humans or they are deemed unsuitable to live in the wild.

The report detailed all 27 of the captures, which began in April and wrapped up in November.

According to a previous report July 27 to Aug. 21, six different grizzlies were captured southeast of the Moran Junction, with five of them being collared.

Information from the collared grizzlies provides data on survival, reproduction, distribution, habitat use and movements of the population.

Each summer, Game and Fish Department biologists and other researchers conduct grizzly bear observation flights to document grizzly numbers, distribution and reproduction. These observation flights have been conducted in the greater Yellowstone area since the 1990s.

This article was first published by The Cowboy State Daily on 16 February 2021.

Jet hits brown bear mom, cub while landing in Alaska

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Guinea’s Conde says there is no ‘witch hunt’ against opponentsKylie Bunbury explores ‘Blackness in a very white’ Montana in ABC thriller…Jet hits brown bear mom, cub while landing in Alaska

In a first in Alaska Airlines history, a jet struck and killed a brown bear while landing Saturday, officials said.a large brown bear walking across a grass covered field© Provided by RADIO.COM

The Boeing 737-700 was landing at the Yakutat Airport in southeast Alaska when it struck both the mother and her cub, killing the mother and leaving the 2-year-old cub undamaged. None of the passengers or crew were injured.Works with every tool – Learndash Is OverkillUpload CaptivateEmbed RiseiFrame iSpringUpload

According to Associated Press, although airport crew members had cleared the runway about 10 minutes before the flight was expected to land the jet landed in the dark and the staff didn’t see any signs of wildlife during their normal checks.

Only until after landing did the pilot spot the two bears, just as the jet slowed.

“The nose gear missed the bears, but the captain felt an impact on the left side after the bears passed under the plane,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement.

The pilots saw the bear lying about 20 feet (6 meters) from the center of the runway as the plane taxied to a parking area just before 6:30 p.m., the airline said.

The airport crew is accustomed to dealing with wildlife, plants have reportedly hit deer, geese, and caribou in the post, but never a bear. Employees are known to use pyrotechnics or vehicles to keep animals away from the runway.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was expected to collect the remains of the bear.

The left engine cowling of the jet was damaged, and the plane remained in Yakutat Sunday.

“Our maintenance technicians are working to repair the plane, which will take a couple of days,” Alaska Airlines said.

“Man Attacks Grizzly” and Other Leading Bleeding Stories

July 26, 2020

|David Mattson

My Google Alerts inbox has been flooded during the last week by an article making the rounds among national and regional media outlets with a title that virtually screams “Official: 7 Grizzly Bear Attacks This Year.” More matter-of-factly, the article leads off with the observation that “Wildlife officials have documented seven grizzly bear encounters resulting in injuries so far this year in the three-state greater Yellowstone region…” The article was authored by Mike Koshmrl, a journalist from Jackson, Wyoming, and subsequently circulated by the Associated Press.

I’m not altogether sure what motivated this article other than the perhaps obvious fact that 7 human injuries prior to the end of July is indeed a record for the greater Yellowstone area. Even so, the article comports with the tired truism that “if it bleeds, it leads,” in the somewhat dubious tradition of a seemingly endless series of books with titles such as “Bear Attacks” (times three), “Bear Attacks of the Century,” “Mark of the Grizzly,” “Bear Attacks: The Deadly Truth,” “True Stories of Bear Attacks,” ad nauseam. Sensationalized stories about grizzly bears “attacking” people never seem to exhaust the interest of either journalists or the public.

The central problem with this genre of journalism is that, while it may indeed be “news,” readers are rarely provided with a useful and realistic orientation to both grizzly bears and the risks of recreating and living among them. As such, the question inevitably arises whether this sort of semi-torrid journalism serves the public interest—the standard by which the Fourth Estate is putatively judged—or whether it is simply about making money.

Leaving this troubling question aside for the moment, Mike Koshmrl’s recent article on “bear attacks” exhibits three seminal and persistent problems typical of its genre. For one, the reported incidents are not put in context of actual risk. For another, details relevant to understanding the reactions of involved bears are rarely provided, much less usefully interpreted. And, finally, the semantics are universally troubling and inflammatory. So taking each of these issues in turn…

You Are Safer In Grizzly Bear Habitat Than You Are Crossing the Street

I recently waded through all of the data I could find (some of which I collected myself) pertaining to risks incurred by people on foot while recreating or living among grizzly bears, including risks of having a close encounter with a grizzly, experiencing an aggressive reaction, and, worst of all, being injured as a result. I reported what I came up with in a recent publication entitled “Effects of Pedestrians on Grizzly Bears.”

Without being exhaustive, these are the key results:

The odds of someone on foot being charged during a close encounter with a grizzly bear are small, even under conditions where bears are likely to be more reactive. In more open habitats with lower grizzly bear population densities typical of interior North America, 6% of documented close encounters resulted in some form of aggression by the involved bear, although much of this result was driven by a single study area where food-conditioned bears were implicated. Without this study, the percent of close encounters typified by aggression dropped to 4.5%.

Under all other circumstances, odds of people experiencing an overtly aggressive response from a grizzly were essentially nil, notably in Scandinavia, and so small as to not warrant direct study in most coastal areas of North America where people are concentrated in predictable locations at predictable times. As an example, Larry Aumiller reported only 8 “intense charges” during 21 years of close interactions with grizzly bears concentrated at McNeil River Falls in Alaska.

The odds that someone on foot will be mauled during a close encounter with a free-ranging grizzly bear are likewise so small as to almost defy calculation. For example, in Scandinavia where researchers directly approached brown bears (the same species as our grizzly) on literally hundreds of occasions, overt aggression was never documented, much less an attack. The same more-or-less holds true for coastal study areas in North America centered on areas of concentrated human activity along or near salmon spawning streams.

The best estimates for odds of injury during a close encounter with a grizzly bear in interior regions of North America come from Glacier National Park and from amalgamating results from multiple studies elsewhere. In Glacier, only 6 of 1000 encounters resulted in human injury. Everywhere else, only 3 in 1000 did. Kerry Gunther estimated an even lower 1 in 200,000 chance of injury for backcountry campers in Yellowstone National Park, although he calculated these odds based on total number of registered overnight users rather than on a per encounter basis.

Even so, managers and backcountry users are often interested in knowing the odds that an aggressive reaction by a grizzly bear—rather than just simply a close encounter—will result in human injury, realizing that odds of an aggressive reaction are small in the first place. With that proviso, roughly 6-8% of aggressions resulted in injury to a person on foot in interior regions of North America outside of Glacier National Park. In Glacier Park that figure was around 6-14%, depending on how aggression was defined by investigators.

Otherwise, as with aggressive reactions in general, encountering a grizzly bear in areas used less intensively by people is more hazardous for those involved, presumably because these encounters are more often registered by the involved bears as unpredictable threatening events. For example, given a confrontation, injuries were nearly 10-times more likely off-trail and 4-times more likely on low-use trail compared to on high-use trails in Glacier National Park.

Or, putting all of this another way, as a person on foot you are more likely to experience aggression, be attacked, and be injured upon encountering a strange dog—or even a car on a street—than you are wandering around among grizzly bears.

Surprise Encounters Lead to Defensive Reactions

So, what about the particulars relevant to understanding motivations of aggression from a grizzly bear? Adequate coverage of this topic would clearly fill a book—for example Steve Herrero’s seminal analysis of bear attacks in his book entitled…”Bear Attacks.” I also cover many of these particulars in the report I referenced earlier.

As a basic premise, though, there are three near-universal features of close encounters with grizzly bears that lead to aggression: (1) the bear is surprised at close quarters; (2) the bear is a female protecting her young; (3) the bear is guarding or perhaps appropriating food that it considers to be its own. The instances involving predation or maliciousness are a vanishing small minority of the total. None of this should surprise someone who has spent much time around grizzly bears, or animals of any sort for that matter—including parrots.

With these basics in mind, what about the grizzly bear-human encounters that resulted in injury this year—not just in the Yellowstone, but throughout the Northern Rockies? There have, in fact, been nine so far: 7 in Yellowstone and 2 in the Northern Continental Divide. And the pattern is strikingly consistent and clear.

In all cases the injuries resulted from close encounters that surprised the involved bear. No anomaly there. In fact, two of the incidents were triggered by the involved person almost literally colliding with the surprised bear—once involving a mountain biker and once involving a trail runner. Perhaps even more egregiously from the bear’s perspective, in two instances the involved person startled a bear that was bedded down—tantamount to entering someone’s bedroom unannounced. Four of the incidents involved females defending their young. No anomaly there. Six of the 9 incidents involved people who were alone. No anomaly there either. And finally, four of the incidents involved people who were off trail. Not surprising at all.

In other words, all of the human injuries this year were the result of a bear defending itself against a perceived attack or proximal threat. What’s truly surprising is that all the involved people managed to escape alive and, with the notable exception of the mountain biker, sustaining only minor injuries. This is, as always, perhaps the most remarkable feature of incidents where a grizzly bear attacks a person. Grizzlies are powerful. I’ve seen a number of instances where a grizzly bear took down and killed full-grown moose and elk. Grizzlies are almost never out to kill a person. They are almost always defending themselves, their space, their offspring, or a prized food. And they almost always show remarkable restraint in the process.

Some Reflections on Personal History

I haven’t kept a tally of my own close encounters with grizzlies, including instances where most people would have said they were “attacked.” Several of these encounters arose from unintentionally surprising bears in daybeds. Several involved females with offspring. Shear good luck or benevolence on the part of the bear prevented me from being included at some point on the list of people injured by a grizzly.

But I’ve never carried a gun, nor have I wanted to. I’ve concluded that being safe around grizzly bears is, if anything, contingent on being emotionally grounded, aware of my surroundings, attuned to unfolding situations and–as always–carrying pepper spray for last ditch self-defense. But there are no guarantees, just as there are no guarantees when I get behind the wheel of a car and head out on the highway.

To be honest, I’ve known bears that ended up killing people. But each of these bears had a back story. Thanks to human negligence, one had become used to eating food from campgrounds and off of people’s back porches. Another had routinely obtained food from backcountry campsites. Yet another had been pushed beyond the limits of endurance by a photographer—at the end of an acutely stressful year that involved the loss of two cubs.

My main point is straight-forward. In all of my immediate personal experience, grizzly bears have been aggressive only to the extent they were trying to defend themselves against a perceived threat or, on very rare occasions, perhaps out of rage at being trapped, immobilized, anesthetized, man-handled, tattooed, collared, and released, minus a tooth, in a semi-somnolent and acutely vulnerable state. In other instances, bears have pushed boundaries, sometimes tragically, to see if there might be a food reward, often because of past experiences where food had been obtained.

None of these bears was malicious or aberrant. And in every instance, human choices and behaviors were major factors in determining whether interactions were benign…or not.                       

Humans Are Attacking Grizzly Bears

Returning to this year’s human injuries, what we seem to have had is a series of incidents where the involved people were, by all reasonable standards, actually attacking the involved bear. The victims were out minding their own business trying to make a living, trying to take a nap, or trying to insure their offspring survived cub-hood, only to be attacked out of the blue by a human. “Bear Defends Itself Against Attacking Human.” Or, at least, that’s how the incidents would have been reported in a media outlet run by grizzly bears serving a grizzly bear audience.

Without belaboring the point, language matters. Narratives matter, especially when tacitly constructing culpability and blame. And we humans seem to take full advantage of our ability to broadcast narratives of victimhood as suits the purpose, especially in our relations with animals that lack our capacity for language.

In fact, “attack” bespeaks motivation and even criminality. Media articles that report on crimes frame events in terms of attacks by perpetrators intent on harming victims. An “attack” by a grizzly bear—whatever the circumstance or motivation—thus becomes a criminal act regardless of whether the journalist intends it to be read as such.

The upshot of articles such as the recent one making its rounds in the media is that people end up with an increasingly distorted view of grizzly bears and of the risks of living with them. …

Rare white grizzly bear captured on camera in B.C. park

ByAmy Judd Global NewsPosted July 21, 2020 7:51 pm Updated July 21, 2020 8:01 pmNews: Rare white grizzly bear spotted in B.C.’s Yoho National Parkclose video video has surfaced of a rare white grizzly bear that’s been spotted in B.C’s Yoho National Park.

A rare white grizzly bear has been sighted by the side of the road in a B.C. park.

Oly Talens was driving through Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies on their way to Takakkaw Falls when a flash of white through the trees forced them to pull over and pull out a video camera.

Turns out, the animal, named Nakoda by locals, has been seen before in Yoho and Banff national parks, but not very often.

READ MORE: Concerns raised as people crowd rare white grizzly in Banff and Yoho parks

Parks Canada has previously said the bear is not albino, but actually a natural colour phase variation that makes it white.

The animal, believed to be about three and a half years old, can be seen in the video with its brown sibling.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“They said seeing a grizzly up close in the wild is lucky, but two at the same time — and the (second) one is a rare white bear — is like winning a lotto ticket,” Talens said.

Parks Canada had to put out a statement following other sightings of the unusual bear, reminding the public to consider not stopping if they see wildlife as they travel through the parks, or, if safe to stop, to always stay in their vehicles and give the animal space.

“Bears and other wildlife that become comfortable around people and roadsides are at greater risk of being struck by a vehicle,” the agency said.0:38Rare white ‘spirit’ bear spotted with cub in B.C.Rare white ‘spirit’ bear spotted with cub in B.C.

Lawsuit threatened over about-face on grizzly reintroduction

by GENE JOHNSON Associated PressWednesday, July 15th 2020AA

FILE – In this May 26, 2020, file photo, a grizzly bear roams an exhibit at the Woodland Park Zoo, closed for nearly three months because of the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle. Grizzly bears once roamed the rugged landscape of the North Cascades in Washington state but few have been sighted in recent decades. The federal government is scrapping plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

SEATTLE (AP) — A conservation group is threatening to sue the Trump administration over its sudden reversal of plans to restore grizzly bears in the North Cascade mountain range of Washington state.

The Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter Wednesday giving notice that it intends file a federal lawsuit in 60 days unless the Interior Department resumes its efforts to reintroduce the apex predator.

The group said the Endangered Species Act mandates the bears’ recovery.

The administration scrapped the plans this month, saying local residents made clear they opposed having more grizzlies in the region.

Feds scrap plans to reintroduce grizzlies to North Cascades

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, Associated PressPublished: July 7, 2020, 12:10pmShare: 

A grizzly bear Photo copyright Jim Robertson

SPOKANE — The federal government on Tuesday decided to scrap plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem in Washington state.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt told a meeting of community members in Omak, Washington, that his agency will not conduct the environmental impact statement needed to move forward with the plan.

“The Trump Administration is committed to being a good neighbor, and the people who live and work in north central Washington have made their voices clear that they do not want grizzly bears,” Bernhardt said in a news release.

“Grizzly bears are not in danger of extinction, and Interior will continue to build on its conservation successes managing healthy grizzly bear populations across their existing range,” he said.

The decision was hailed by U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, who represents the region in Congress.

“Homeowners, farmers, ranchers, and small business owners in our rural communities were loud and clear: We do not want grizzly bears in North Central Washington,” Newhouse said. “I have long advocated that local voices must be heard by the federal government on this issue.”

The Department of the Interior began planning the environmental review process in 2015 under the Obama administration.

The recovery of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states is an amazing success story, the agency said. Most of the efforts have focused on six areas of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and eastern Washington state.

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has been the primary focus of grizzly recovery efforts to date, and grizzly populations have increased to about 700 bears there since the animals were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975.

The environmental group Conservation Northwest was disappointed by the decision, but did not think it was the final word on the bears.

“We are still confident they will be restored there,” spokesman Chase Gunnell said.

Gunnell said 80% of the people who provided public comments on the bears supported growing the population by bringing grizzlies to the back country in and around North Cascades National Park.

Gunnell said it was false that local residents overwhelmingly oppose reintroduction of the bears.

“This is not an issue that has just west side support,” Gunnell said, referring to more populous and liberal western Washington. “Public support is strong.”

Fewer than 10 grizzlies are thought to live across 9,800 square miles anchored by North Cascades National Park, Conservation Northwest said.

Given their isolation from other grizzly populations, the low number of bears, their very slow reproductive rate and other constraints, the North Cascades grizzly bear population is considered the most at-risk bear population in the United States, the environmental group said.

Grizzly bears were listed as a threatened species in 1975. They have slowly regained territory and increased in numbers in the ensuing decades, but they still occupy only a small portion of their historical range.

An estimated 50,000 bears once roamed the contiguous U.S. Government-sponsored programs led to most being poisoned, shot and trapped by the 1930s.