As the grizzly bear population rises, the bears spread into more of their historic range . . .
A probable grizzly bear sighting just over the edge of the Missoula Valley highlights the theme of this week’s Interagency Grizzly Committee meeting in Choteau: People get ready.
“We’ve done such a good job with the recovery, the public needs to understand what’s happening and how they can be safe in where they live,” IGBC spokesman Gregg Losinski said on Friday. “There are challenges because we’re not doing recovery anymore — we’re doing management.”
Since getting federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975, grizzly bears now number nearly 2,000 in the continental United States. Most of those are concentrated in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem around Yellowstone National Park (about 700 grizzlies) and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem between Missoula and Glacier National Park (about 1,000 grizzlies).
The first results from a Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear “family tree” study are encouraging . . .
Using genetic analysis U.S. Geological Survey Scientist Tabitha Graves and Nate Mikle recently completed a first look at the “family tree” of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
The 8-million plus acre area stretches from Glacier National Park south to Ovando. The pair looked at genetic data gathered from 1,115 bears in a 2004 study done by researcher Kate Kendall and again in 2009-2012 through hair follicle samples of bears.
The family tree, printed out on one sheet of paper, stretches 20 feet, Graves noted in an interview last week. The thrust of this initial study was to determine the genetic diversity of bears on the fringes of the ecosystem, namely in the southeast and southwest corners.
There were fewer grizzly bear deaths last year in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem . . .
On the heels of the federal government’s proposal to delist the grizzly bear population in the Yellowstone National Park area, this year’s annual report on Glacier National Park and the surrounding region shows the population continuing to hit its recovery targets.
Grizzlies in the lower 48 states were listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1975, after their historic range and population plummeted over decades of over-harvesting and habitat loss.
The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem boasts the highest number of great bears among the five geographically distinct populations in the Northwest. It covers more than 5.7 million acres in Northwest Montana and includes Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and surrounding lands.
Documented mortalities in the Northern Continental population, now estimated at 982 individuals, dropped substantially in 2015 from the two preceding years. That’s something of a return to normal, according to Cecily Costello, a research wildlife biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks who was one of the lead authors on the annual report.
Again, a lot of discussion of a shift from grizzly bear recovery to grizzly bear management . . .
Top grizzly bear experts from Montana, U.S. and Canadian governments descended on Many Glacier Hotel last week to discuss the future of grizzly bear populations throughout the Northwest, including in and around Glacier National Park.
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, created in 1983 to oversee recovery of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, is considering removing the protected status under the Endangered Species Act of two bear populations: those in the Northern Continental Divide and Yellowstone ecosystems.
Grizzlies were one of the first high-profile listings under the 1973 law, listed as a “threatened” species in 1975 after being extirpated from the vast majority of their historical range.
“The animals are leading the way — they’re recovering themselves, along with a lot of our help…”
A good report on discussions of bear attractants at the recent Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear management meeting . . .
Chickens continue to be a problem for bear managers in the Flathead Valley, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear specialist Tim Manley told Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem bear managers last week.
Manley said of the 10 bear complaints he’s responded to so far this spring, nearly all of them involved bears getting into chickens, ducks or both. The most effective way to keep bears out of coops and feed is electric fencing or electric wiring over gates and doors.
He showed a comical video of a grizzly bear attempting to get through the door of a coop with an electric screen over it. The bear was shocked, ran away and never came back. He also showed a video of just how well bears catch chickens — pouncing on chickens like they were salmon and swallowing them just as fast.
Debo Powers, NFPA Vice President, attended the spring Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear management meeting yesterday. Here is her report:
I remember the old days when Chuck Jonkel held an annual Grizzly Bear Research meeting in Sondreson Hall to share grizzly bear research with North Fork landowners. We would sit on the uncomfortable wooden benches in the sweltering temperatures of a hot summer day and listen to the enthusiastic reports from young bear researchers. Those were the meetings that fanned the flames of my love for grizzly bears.
It has been many years since those meetings happened, but the memories associated with them prompted me to attend Wednesday’s meeting of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), which was held in the conference room of the Hungry Horse Ranger Station. Rather than the animated stories of youthful researchers filled with an infectious passion for learning about grizzlies in order to save them from extinction, today’s meeting featured reports from people from various agencies and tribes who have successfully brought about grizzly bear recovery in the Crown of the Continent. It’s amazing to see how things can change in a few decades when humans work together to save a fellow species.
The packed meeting was facilitated with humor and style by Deb Mucklow, the Spotted Bear District Ranger. Numerous agencies and tribes participated in the meeting. Members of the public , representatives from various environmental groups, and reporters from Flathead Beacon, Hungry Horse News, and NF News were present in the audience.
The reports were fascinating and focused on the conservation strategies that have been used by different groups in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE). Some of the topics covered were: the effectiveness of food storage orders to decrease grizzly habituation, educational resources to train humans to operate awarely in grizzly country, the use of snow rangers and fly-overs to monitor snowmobiling in grizzly habitat (especially when bears are emerging from dens), and reports from management officials, like Tim Manley, on bear conflicts this spring.
Rick Mace, who will be retiring soon, received a beautiful plaque with a huge grizzly paw for his three decades of leadership in grizzly bear conservation and management. Afterwards, he presented the results of his trend monitoring research on grizzly bear populations in the 23 management units of the NCDE. It was nice to notice that we live in one of most densely populated grizzly habitats in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. Rick’s final written report will be available in a few months.
It was a day of information and sharing . . . a day well spent, despite the beautiful weather that beckoned us to be outdoors in grizzly country.
The public is invited to participate in the upcoming spring Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) grizzly bear management meeting hosted by Flathead National Forest. The meeting is scheduled from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on May 6, 2015 at the Hungry Horse/Glacier View and Spotted Bear Ranger District Office located at 10 Hungry Horse Drive in Hungry Horse, Montana.
During the meeting there will be updates from NCDE members on the Draft NCDE Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy, work plans for the coming year, educational tools, bear mortality rates for 2014 and bear management spring activity.