GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

All posts tagged grizzlies

Grizzly bears on a teeter-totter

Categories: Wildlife
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Back in 2009, when Yellowstone grizzly population had reached about 550, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the grizz. But Chris Servheen, acting for the USFWS, appealed that decision.

Now, just in time for my editor Beth and me to finalize the changes we want to make to Yellowstone Treasures for this coming spring’s reprint [for 2012], the judges reviewing the case decided that the bears must to returned to threatened status. This is a little surprising to me, since it comes at a time when many people are concerned about living with so many grizzlies in the area. Four people have been killed by grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone in the past two years.

A strong factor cited by the court in their decision is the collapse of whitebark pine seed production, which is due to warmer winter temperatures in the last decade. This affects the reproductive rate of grizzlies and contributes to greater human-caused mortality.

Just for the record—the word “teeter-totter” in my title this week reflects my Montana background; I guess most people call that playground object a seesaw.

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Your authority on bears preens a little

Categories: Wildlife
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All authors of non-fiction books like to be considered as some sort of authority—otherwise, why would they have written their books? I am no exception. I have to admit it’s rather flattering to me to be called an authority on Yellowstone, although I’ve only been researching the park for about 15 years, and some people I know are still learning more about it after 30 or more years. I still mostly just consider myself a researcher.

However, the latest review of Yellowstone Treasures on the book’s Amazon.com page certainly implies that I’m an authority. I found it so amusing to read, that I just had to respond and now pass it on to my blog readers.

“Falmouth” in Boston wrote in part:

So many people have covered the reasons why this book is fantastic, so I don’t need to add more. Except I do want to say that where the author notes that you may see a specific type of animal, believe it. We saw two black bears on different occasions exactly where she stated they frequent and we saw two mama grizzly bears with a total of 5 cubs where she said we might. How cool is that?

I commented:
“Hello Falmouth,
I can’t help but be amused by your review where you said the bears were where I said they’d be. That is some kind of luck! Congratulations! I can’t claim to have any power over the bears, but I think it’s great that they appeared for you.
Hope you’ll return to Yellowstone for many more memorable vacations.”

2010

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Wolves and grizzlies of Yellowstone again making the news

Categories: Wildlife
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The top of the food chain is always the most controversial. Last week [August 2010], U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Montana overturned last fall’s decision by the Interior Department to remove the gray wolf’s Endangered Species protective listing. The previous decision had resulted in the states of Montana and Idaho holding wolf hunts that saw the deaths of several hundred wolves, while wolves in Wyoming (outside of the national parks) were still protected, since Wyoming’s delisting plan had been deemed unacceptable.

Judge Molloy’s August 5th decision centered around his ruling that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service cannot list only part of a species as endangered while another part is left on the list. As stated on the National Parks Traveler’s website: www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2010/08/federal-judge-overturns-federal-governments-delisting-gray-wolf-endangered-species-act-protection6366, “conservation groups . . . have maintained that a sound wolf recovery program couldn’t sustain itself, genetically, without two or three times the estimated 1,500 or so wolves loping about Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming,” but this latest ruling “surely will infuriate some groups that see wolves as nothing more than four-legged killing machines.”

Meanwhile, grizzly bears were returned to the Endangered Species Act list, also last fall, due to another ruling negating their delisting due to the adverse effects of global warming on the bears’ ability to find food. The terrible death and maulings by a grizzly sow in a campground near Cooke City, Montana this month might have been related to the sow being malnourished, but the direct cause was probably her associating people with easily obtained food. A photographer had been baiting the bear shortly before that tragedy occurred. The marauding bear is now dead and her three cubs placed in the Billings zoo.

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Bears out already

Categories: Wildlife, Winter
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I just read today that both blacks and grizzlies are coming out of their dens a little early this year [2010]. It’s not really surprising, since the snow pack is way below normal, and it has been relatively warm in Yellowstone. Tracks and bears have been sighted in both Grand Teton and Yellowstone, starting in early February, according to the Jackson Hole News and Guide.

It saddens me to look at the Old Faithful Webcam—which I do nearly every day—because the viewing benches should be deep in snow this time of the year, but they usually haven’t been. And this can mean increased fire danger and hardship for all the animals, unless the next few months reverse the trend.

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News!

Categories: News, Wildlife
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First, the bad news.

After a summer of legal battles over the fate of wolves near Yellowstone, a federal judge has recently ruled that a large number of wolves in Idaho and Montana may be legally killed by hunters. The slaughter has already begun; four wolves have been shot in Idaho and one in Montana. However, Defenders of Wildlife is hopeful that their legal challenge to the Interior Department’s delisting of wolves in Idaho and Montana will ultimately prevail.

But long-time conservationist Mike Medberry has written a very thought-provoking op-ed piece for High Country News. He writes: “The groups’ lawsuit argues that the wolves have not recovered yet. That is simply disingenuous, as the goal has clearly been met. Conservationists need to be honest about their goals. If they insist on supporting shifting numbers, they may find that they represent shifting support. More to the point, however, is their refusal to accept that this victory for wolves endangers the Endangered Species Act, which protects all endangered species.”

Among the comments, one reminds us of an important part of the judge’s decision: “This column completely leaves out the element of recovery that the Fish & Wildlife Service set out for wolves in 1994 and a federal judge ruled it had not met in 2008: ‘genetic exchange between subpopulations.’” As has been clear since reintroduction of wolves was first proposed, this is a complex issue, and much more effort and time will be required before all its aspects are resolved.

Now, the good news.

Yesterday (9/21/09) a federal judge in Montana ruled that Endangered Species Act protections must be returned to Greater Yellowstone’s grizzly bears. According to the Defenders of Wildlife Web site, the judge agreed that, in delisting the bears in 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not “take into consideration the continued decline of the whitebark pine, a critical grizzly food source threatened by pine beetles, blister rust and climate change.”
2. Snowmobiles are to be limited to 318 per day for the next two winter seasons, more than the daily average entering the park in the past two winters, but cutting by more than half the 720 authorized to enter by the previous decision. Meanwhile, 78 snowcoaches holding 10 or 12 people will be allowed to enter.
3. This year, 3300 bison are living in Y.N.P., according to a recent count. This is a reasonable number to sustain the herd. Now, if only the agencies which have been hazing and killing the animals in the winter will develop and implement a more reasonable policy!
4. For the year, more than 2.6 million people have visited Yellowstone, making the first eight months of 2009 the busiest January through August in the park’s history (as reported in USA Today, 9/15/09).
5. Not news to anyone interested in Yellowstone but good news for all our national parks is the attention paid by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, who have produced twelve hours of what promises to be fascinating public TV watching in their series on the parks—including some footage of all 58 of them—beginning on Wednesday, September 27, nationwide.

Janet

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