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Rash of grizzly deaths ends promising trend

I took notice of this article in my home town Montana paper. Just off the cuff , the way I recall the regulations when we use to have a hunting season for Grizzly's in Montana, It went some thing like this. We could take 25 bears a year. This number included road kill as well as the removed problem bears. Of these 25 bears only 8 could be female. The state was broken up into many hunting districts and each had it's own limits as well. Many areas would be a 3 bear limit but being shut down after the first female in the area had been killed. But when the state wide the 25/8 limit was met all districts closed. Some seasons there were 5 or 6 females killed before season opened making for a short hunting season. Even when this was the case it still generated a larger income for the state due to the purchase of non-resident tags. A guy still had a chance if he had a tag, you just had to make the opening of the season. We always had bears killed due to confrontations with livestock but rarely were there "backyard" and garbage can bears. It appears to me the conditioning of these bears due to the management practices under the endangered species act is accounting for a similar amount of bears to be killed as the hunting season did with the bears having more fear of areas inhabited by humans.. With the one difference being that what once was a positive income for the state has turned into another catastrophic federal tax drain to support these endangered species act management practices. The way this story was written it mentioned 37 bears being taken back in 1974 with hunters taking 17. This would happen at times due to after the hunt was closed bears would be killed on the roadways or more often around larger grain spills along the railroad tracks along the southern edge of Glacier National Park. There I recall multiple bear deaths at a time from trains.

~Jeff~

By JIM MANN
The Daily Inter Lake
Kalispell Montana
Oct, 12 2004

Four female grizzly bears were in state custody Monday with depreciated prospects for survival -- not a good thing considering that this year's grizzly mortalities may be unprecedented in the Northern Rockies.
There have been a total of 24 human-caused grizzly bear losses in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem so far this year, and at least 14 of those are female bears, according to Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Northern Continental Divide area covers the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Glacier National Park and most of Flathead National Forest, in addition to other areas. "Both those [mortality] numbers are really high," Servheen said from his home in Missoula, where he did not have access to the mortality numbers from previous years. "We're way beyond our normal levels of mortality." According to Brian Peck of the Great Bear Foundation, a grizzly bear conservation group, the ecosystem has not lost as many grizzly bears since 1974, when there were 20 nonhunting deaths and 17 legally killed by hunters. "This is a record," said Peck, who derived the numbers from the state's 1986 grizzly bear management plan. More recently, the highest number of human-caused bear deaths was 19, recorded in 1998 and 2000.
This year's total includes four young bears that did not actually die, Servheen said, but they are counted as mortalities because they are being "removed from the ecosystem" to zoo facilities. Two were sent to the San Francisco Zoo last week and two others will soon be sent to a zoo in British Columbia. The most significant figure is the loss of 14 female grizzly bears -- significant because grizzlies are known for their relatively slow reproduction.
"The only population that can sustain the loss of 14 females is 1,165 bears," Peck said, citing a formula used in the ecosystem's grizzly bear recovery plan. "It takes a population that large to be able to lose 14 females, according to federal recovery guidelines." Servheen explained that government guidelines allow for a maximum of four female grizzly deaths per year to sustain a minimum viable population of bears. The ecosystem's grizzly bear population is unknown, although a DNA study is under way to develop population estimates. Deaths have exceeded federal recovery standards for eight straight years, Peck said. Servheen and state wildlife officials are gravely concerned about four female grizzly bears that were recently captured by management specialist Tim Manley in Northwest Montana. Manley also has a male grizzly bear in a culvert trap; that bear will soon be released.
Because all of the bears had been getting into garbage and other food attractants near homes before they were captured, Manley and Servheen are concerned that they have been conditioned to repeat the offense. If that happens too often, they could face fates similar to a female grizzly bear with two female cubs that were captured near a garbage container in the Pinkham Creek drainage south of Eureka this year.
Those three bears were relocated to the Puzzle Creek drainage, far up the Flathead's Middle Fork drainage, and it didn't take long before they were "Dumpster diving" in the East Glacier area.
Their habituation to unnatural foods was eventually deemed hopeless, and all three were destroyed by Blackfeet tribal wildlife managers.
Three other grizzly bears have been killed by tribal officials so far this year despite what Servheen calls "heroic efforts" to discourage them from habituation. "Those guys stayed up all night [many times] to try to haze those bears out of town, and it didn't work out," he said.
"But those bears didn't die in East Glacier," Servheen added. "They died when they started getting in trouble ... Feeding garbage to bears is just like shooting them in the head. The end result is just the same."
Now in Manley's custody is a female bear and her three female cubs that were recently captured near the same garbage container used by a single family in the Pinkham Creek area. "We're trying to get that situation taken care of," Manley said, noting that there's an effort to replace the container with a bear-proof one. But serious damage may have already been done, Servheen said. "If we can't keep this female and her offspring alive, it's going to be a real serious issue. That's four females." The four are not typical "problem bears." The 15-year-old mother has no history with bear managers, but this year food conditions are rough in the wild, mainly because of a poor huckleberry crop.
"She's got three cubs that she's trying to keep alive," Manley said. "It's a bad huckleberry year, she's trying to make a living and she's opportunistic, so now she's taught her cubs to look for garbage."
Manley plans to release the four female bears today.
For Peck, the mortality situation has become a "crisis" that deserves enforcement of a state law that makes it illegal to intentionally feed wildlife, particularly bears. He also contends that private landowners should provide their own bear-proofing measures if that's what it takes to comply with the law.
"We should not be holding back on this at all," he said. "It is way past due for people to be going to court on that law."
State officials say proving someone intentionally fed bears can be difficult. Peck counters that any place where bears have repeatedly gotten food should be suitable for proving intent. "There isn't a law on the books in any state that can survive if it isn't enforced," said Peck.
Bear deaths, Servheen said, should be of concern for everybody.
"Even if you don't like grizzly bears, every mortality sets back recovery" of the bears, keeping them under protection of the Endangered Species Act.

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Rash of grizzly deaths ends promising trend

So are you saying the endangered species protection of brown bears in the lower 48 is a failure and is inferior to prior management policies? I guess I'm not understanding where you are going with this.

Unfortunately of all the big predators of recent north american history, I think grizzlies are getting the worst deal from human encroachment. They require vast tracks of land to roam which are available in only a few areas (and then sometimes that isn't even enough), plus a grizzly/human encounter is always to the grizzlies disadvantage in the long run (habitation).

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Rash of grizzly deaths ends promising trend

Bitmaster wrote:
"So are you saying the endangered species protection of brown bears in the lower 48 is a failure and is inferior to prior management policies? I guess I'm not understanding where you are going with this."

Lets see, "Failure" ? Maybe, but that is all in an individuals mind calculated from the data within the persuasions one views the situation from. " Inferior" ? Most likely, It's costing us a ton of money to achieve results similar to a management plan that generated a positive state income. I personally believe we had better control with the male/female harvest ratio with a controlled hunt.
I see in the article they openly admit they have no idea of how many bears there are. 30 years ago when they were fighting to close the hunt it seems they were throwing numbers around like it was an obvious fact of how many bears we had then. So as is often the case when the protection of the federal endangered species act is used there seems to be sufficient smoke screens applied to keep one from easily seeing if the program is a failure. One thing that is a unique fact in this case is the controlled habitat involved. Starting at the Canadian border we have now as we did before the hunt was abolished Glacier National Park, the area along it's southern boundary was declared Wilderness (Great Bear 450 sq. miles) long before the hunt ended as well. The Great Bear Wilderness was specifically formed and named accordingly to protect the habitat these bears used between the park and the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness areas. The entire Wilderness/ Park system is surrounded by a buffer zone created by a multitude of National and State Forests as well as a few Preserves. Over the years these protected "buffer zone" areas have increased in size as well as quality (multiple road closers) for bear habitat. So, the bears have not lost habitat in this case. Does this mean we now have so many bears that they are moving out of this area due to shear numbers and competition for range? Or is it due to the conditioning of the bears we have today under the management plan now in use. By "Conditioning" I am referring to the lack of fear for human presents due to not being hunted. What ever the reasons may be we now seem to be more "back yard' grizzlies in northwest Montana. These "back yard" bears are the ones being taken and either killed, sent to zoos or relocated as each case may dictate. I suppose if we were to spend millions hiring wildlife biologists to study these bears we would have an idea of how many bears verse available habitat we had and could come to a sensible decision as to how to deal with it.........hold it.. uhh....we have been spending millions on biologist for grizzly bear studies..oh never mind..
~Jeff~

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Rash of grizzly deaths ends promising trend
jeffalaska wrote:
By "Conditioning" I am referring to the lack of fear for human presents due to not being hunted.

Good point, I had not thought of it that way before. Perhaps hunting pressure was negative feedback on the bears, although I think you would get some serious scoffing from certain groups if you suggested that trash bears could be prevented or reduced by hunting. Its a testable theory though and I wouldn't be suprised if your at least partially right.

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Rash of grizzly deaths ends promising trend

The Daily Inter Lake, Montana
Oct 27, 2005

A recent rash of grizzly bear deaths has driven the mortality toll for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem closer to last year's unprecedented mark and erased a promising trend in the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery area.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks on Wednesday reported two grizzly bear deaths in the Flathead Valley, along with two grizzly deaths in the Yaak and another at the southern end of the Cabinet Mountains.

The Flathead bears raise the tally for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem to 24 human-caused deaths this year, compared to last year's record 31 bear deaths, said Chris Servheen, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's grizzly bear recovery coordinator.

No known grizzly bear mortalities have occurred in the Cabinet-Yaak recovery area for the past two years. That changed with a biologist's discovery of a dead bear with a radio collar in the Yaak, another dead bear that was reported by a Yaak landowner, and the discovery of a female

grizzly that had been killed by a train in the Noxon area, at the southern end of the Cabinet Mountains.

Servheen and state officials are not discussing details of the Yaak bear deaths, which are under investigation. But they are considered significant losses, because the government estimates there are fewer than 40 grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak recovery area.

State officials also did not release details on a grizzly bear that recently was "killed on the east side of the Flathead Valley," other than saying that "a landowner reported this mortality."

Wardens and wildlife managers could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The press release said that an adult female grizzly bear recently was found dead by biologists in the North Fork Flathead drainage.

"Lab reports were unable to determine the cause of death, but the death may have been related to a recent capture of the bear for population monitoring," the state's press release says.

Grizzly bear management specialist Tim Manley said bears rarely die from stress related to a capture, but it has been documented. Manley has captured and handled more than 100 grizzly bears without a death.

Last weekend, Manley captured a female grizzly with two male cubs northeast of Ferndale after the bears got into garbage, dog food and a chest freezer in an open carport. The bears were relocated Monday in the upper Goat Creek drainage of the Swan Valley.

Servheen said he will discuss this year's mortalities in detail at a meeting of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem subcommittee, a panel of state and federal land and wildlife managers charged with managing grizzly bear recovery in the ecosystem. The panel meets Tuesday at Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional headquarters in Kalispell.

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