The Missoulian has an interesting story about how a farmer in the Mission Valley is dealing with bear conflicts . . .
Standing in a hollowed-out section in the middle of his 80-acre cornfield, Greg Schock bends over and picks up one of dozens of corn cobs scattered about. It’s been picked clean of every kernel.
On the dark black ground just barely moistened by Thursday night’s welcome rain, there are grizzly bear tracks and fresh scat dotted with kernels of corn.
From where he’s standing, the longtime Mission Valley dairyman’s view past the edge of the clearing is obscured by the thick rows of corn that will sometime soon become the silage that his cows will depend on to eat through the winter months.
A judge has ruled that the isolated grizzly bear population in the Cabinet-Yaak area can be treated as endangered . . .
Animals and plants can be considered endangered even if they are not on the brink of extinction, a judge ruled in overturning the U.S. government’s re-classification of a small population of grizzly bears living in the forests of Montana and Idaho near the Canada border.
Tuesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is prohibited from narrowing the definition an endangered species in its future decisions without explaining why it wants to make the policy change.
The federal Endangered Species Act defines an endangered species as one that is “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”
They finally brought someone in to take Chris Servheen’s old job. Dr. Hilary Cooley is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new grizzly bear recovery coordinator . . .
The federal official charged with leading the U.S. polar bear program has departed Alaska for Missoula, Montana, to oversee grizzly bear recovery in the Lower 48.
Hilary Cooley, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new grizzly bear recovery coordinator, has stepped into the job vacated by 35-year veteran Chris Servheen. Cooley will have the opportunity to finish what Servheen started: seeing through the Endangered Species Act “delisting” process for Yellowstone-area grizzlies, which turns over jurisdiction from Fish and Wildlife to Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzlies, she said, are ready to be managed by the states.
The grizzly bear delisting process is making its way through the federal bureaucracy.
It’s a lot like watching paint dry . . .
The work of crafting a draft final rule to delist the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bears is complete, and now the plans must navigate the many layers of federal bureaucracy.
The timeline for publishing the rule is unclear, in part because of the transition of presidential administrations and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s own influx status, said Jodi Bush, the agency’s Montana Ecological Field Office supervisor.
“We’ve had all of our packages stopped in headquarters lately,” Bush said in an interview at the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee meeting held in Jackson last week. “They want to look at stuff. With the [recently protected] bumblebee it took an additional 39 days for them to get through it.”
A couple of years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service started taking public comments on a plan to restore the grizzly population of Washington’s Cascade Range. Now, they are a step closer to a plan that will include using some of Montana’s grizzlies to seed a new population in the North Cascades . . .
In a few years, some grizzly bears from Northwest Montana could have new homes in the North Cascades Ecosystem of Washington and British Columbia. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service earlier this year released a draft environmental impact statement to reintroduce the iconic species back to the Cascades. At least some of the bears would come from Northwest Montana if the project comes to fruition.
The 6.1 million acre North Cascades have a smattering of grizzlies in Canada and in the U.S., the last known breeding female was seen in the early 1990s. The bears were hunted and trapped to near extinction by the Hudson Bay Co. about 200 years ago, noted Park Service spokesman Jack Oelfke.
Isolated by both geography and human barriers like highways and railroads, the bears have little chance of re-establishing populations on their own.
The Missoulian has an excellent story on the board of review findings concerning last summer’s mountain biker fatality. It includes links to the actual report document, as well as to the board’s recommendations for alleviating future biking-bear encounters . . .
An analysis of the fatal collision last summer between a grizzly bear and a mountain biker near Coram recommends more safety evaluation before new biking trails are built in grizzly habitat.
“Current safety messaging at trailheads and in the media is usually aimed at hikers,” the interagency board of review report stated. “However mountain biking is in many ways more likely to result in injury or death from bear attacks to people who participate in this activity.
“In addition, there are increasing numbers of mountain bikers using bear habitat and pressure to increase mountain bike access to areas where black bear and grizzly bear encounters are very likely.”
Science is at its best when it produces unexpected results . . .
Research that compared Yellowstone National Park grizzly bear and wolf interactions with those same animals in Sweden has produced a surprising finding: brown bear presence in both ecosystems reduces the wolf kill rate.
“It’s a baffling finding,” said Doug Smith, Yellowstone’s wolf biologist. “To be honest, for 20 years I’ve been saying bears increase wolf kill rates because bears steal so many carcasses.”
That data from two very different ecosystems pointed to the same conclusion helped convince Yellowstone bear biologist Kerry Gunther that the research was “not just a fluke.”
Removal of Yellowstone area grizzlies from the Endangered Species List is by no means a done deal . . .
Federal officials are delaying their decision on whether to lift protections for more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park and allow hunting, amid opposition from dozens of American Indian tribes and conservation groups.
Officials had planned to finalize the proposal to turn jurisdiction on grizzlies over to state officials in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming by the end of 2016.
But U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director Michael Thabault said it could take the agency another six months to finish reviewing 650,000 public comments that have poured in on the proposal.
Members of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee voted to approve a conservation strategy allowing for delisting of the grizzly bear in the region including Yellowstone Park. The vote was not quite unanimous, with the superintendent of Yellowstone Park voting against it and Leander Watson of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe abstaining . . .
Wildlife officials have moved one step closer to removing the Yellowstone grizzly population from the Endangered Species Act by approving a future conservation strategy.
The Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee voted to approve the conservation strategy, sending it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of what has been a months-long process to potentially remove the Yellowstone grizzly from federal protection.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed lifting the federal protections for the Yellowstone bears in March. Grizzly bears were first listed as threatened in 1975 when the Yellowstone population was estimated to have as few as 136 bears. Recent estimates say the population is now above 700.