Yellowstone Grizzlies Doing Well

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The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST), reported today that 50 different sets of females with cubs were counted in the Yellowstone area in 2002.

"Fifty of these females were in and around the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone," said Mark Haroldson of the IGBST. "This 2002 number is a new record high for the number of females seen with cubs."

At least 102 cubs were observed to be associated with these 50 females. These 2002 numbers continue to indicate an increasing Yellowstone grizzly bear population, he said.

Through Oct. 9, there have been 13 known and probable human-caused grizzly bear mortalities or live removals in the 14,481 square mile area where mortalities are counted under the mortality limits in the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan.

Live removals are considered as mortalities in terms of their effect on the overall grizzly bear population. Of these 13 mortalities or live removals -- six males, six females and one unknown -- six were the result of management removals after conflicts with human activities. Two bears were killed in self-defense. One self-defense encounter involved a hunter at an elk carcass, and the other occurred at a private residence. Three illegal mortalities were documented, and two bears were killed by vehicles in Yellowstone National Park.

"In addition to these deaths, another grizzly bear was killed in a management action at the southern extent of grizzly bear range. This was the first occurrence of a grizzly bear in this area in 50 to 80 years," Haroldson said. This bear was killed due to a sheep depredation in the Wyoming Range, 80 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, and only 66 miles northeast of Bear Lake, Utah.

Earlier in the year, IGBST biologists had cautioned that poor habitat conditions could lead to increased dispersal of bears and increased risk of conflicts. The whitebark pine cone crop was poor throughout the Yellowstone area this fall. As a result, grizzly bears are frequenting mid- and lower- elevation areas in search of alternate food sources, one of which is carcasses and offal from hunter kills.

Recreationists, hunters, and those who live in bear country should be aware of this and take the appropriate measures to avoid encounters with grizzly bears. To date, there have been several conflicts between grizzly bears and hunters over game carcasses. One of these conflicts resulted in minor human injuries and a dead bear; another case resulted in a wounded bear.

Hunters should attempt to secure their game the same day that they harvest it. At the very least, it is important that they distance the remaining meat from the gut pile. In many situations involving a close encounter, bear spray can be an effective alternate to deadly force.

The Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear managers will hold their annual fall meeting Nov. 5 - 6, at the Holiday Inn in Bozeman, Mont. The managers include staff from Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks; the Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, Custer and Gallatin national forests; the wildlife agencies of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; and the U.S. Geological Survey.