Cutworm moths have arrived in the high country, along with the bears that eat them . . .
The dinner bell is ringing high in the Mission Mountains, and grizzly bears are heeding the call.
Every year in July, cutworm moths migrate from the plains toward the alpine highlands of the Mission Mountains, where the moths feed on late-blooming alpine wildflowers. Grizzly bears follow. The moths provide grizzlies with the highest source of protein available – even higher than feeding on deer.
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have closed about 10,000 acres in the Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness to let the grizzlies feed without human interruption.
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Although this article centers on the Yellowstone area, it includes lots of good general information on grizzly bear diet and and population management . . .
High above the trees, in the rocky slopes of the Absarokas, one-calorie morsels scurried from the light. They crawled under rocks and in dark shadows. The army cutworm moths come from as far as Kansas and Nebraska where farmers curse them as an agricultural pest. In the Absarokas, they’re something very different: one of several key ingredients to the survival of the grizzly bear.
One day in late July, Cody science teacher Dale Ditolla watched as nine bears gathered in the talus of a mountain bowl, miles outside of Meeteetse. The bears looked like dogs in search of buried bones. They lifted and heaved stones the size of frying pans between their legs, sending them tumbling down the mountainside. Their salad plate-sized paws swiped at scampering moths.
Counting multiple grizzlies at this site is a relatively new trend. Few lived in this part of Wyoming 30 years ago.
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