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

All posts tagged whitebark pine

The Yellowstone grizzly bear’s chances for survival

Categories: News, Wildlife
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The question of whether or not the grizzly bear should be removed from the Endangered Species List is still being studied. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team will present its report December 11 in Missoula, MT. Grizzlies may not really be at risk, their report says, since the bears do not depend greatly on the now-relatively-scarce whitebark pine nuts for late-season food preparing them for hibernation, as many knowledgeable people have asserted. Instead, they are turning more to meat and foraging at lower elevations than previously. “A 75 percent reduction in whitebark numbers since 2002 isn’t cause for worry,” states the study’s report.

But other bear experts disagree that the grizzly population is out of danger. A retired bear biologist stated that three of the bears’ four main sources of food have declined recently: “We’ve got catastrophic loss of whitebark pine, catastrophic loss of cutthroat trout, and major declines in numbers of elk. [Only] army cutworm moths are hanging in there,” he told the Jackson (WY) News and Guide.

For my money, it looks like this bear population of Greater Yellowstone, which is variously stated as between 600 and 700-plus individuals, is not out of danger yet. The entire article by Mike Koshmrl is called “Pine Decline OK for Grizzly.”

No posts from me next week, since I’ll be attending the American Geophysical Union annual meeting to learn more about new research pertaining to Yellowstone.

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.