Does Science Back up Alaska’s Policy of Killing Grizzly Bears?

courtesy of Alaska Dispatch
by Rick Sinnot

Four years ago the Alaska Legislature offered Gov. Sarah Palin and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game a special deal: $400,000 to “educate” voters on predator control. The money — spent mostly on a video, glossy brochures and public presentations — was meant to persuade and reassure Alaskans that predator control is essential and effective.

Firmly convinced he’s doing the right thing, the new director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation at Fish and Game, Corey Rossi, is taking predator control to new levels. For the first time since statehood, Alaska has targeted grizzly bears for large-scale population reductions, not by hunters but by agents of the state.

The publicity campaign, Rossi, Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska Legislature would like you to believe that scientific experts on predator and prey populations — particularly the professional wildlife biologists and researchers with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game — unanimously support killing bears to increase numbers of moose and caribou.

But some of those experts have questioned the efficacy and advisability of reducing numbers of grizzly bears in a peer-reviewed article in the latest edition of the Journal of Wildlife Management.

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Michigan Man Killed by Grizzly in Yellowstone

courtesy of MSNBC
by Matthew Brown

Wildlife agents were trying to capture a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park on Monday after it killed a Michigan hiker in the second fatal bear attack this summer at the famed park.

The body of John Wallace, 59, was discovered Friday in a backcountry area known for its high population of bears. An autopsy concluded he died from injuries sustained in a bear attack.

After a fatal mauling last month — the first inside the increasingly crowded park in 25 years — authorities let the responsible grizzly go because it was protecting its cubs.

This time, rangers have set traps with the intent to capture and kill the bruin that attacked Wallace. Its guilt would be established through DNA analysis connecting it to evidence found at the mauling scene, park officials said.

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Bear Runs Over Hiker on Chugach State Park Trail

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Lisa Demer

A hiker in Chugach State Park was run over by a grizzly bear this morning after surprising it on the overgrown South Fork Rim Trail, a state biologist said.

The hiker was scratched, but not seriously hurt, said Jessy Coltrane, Anchorage-area biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game.

Park rangers closed the South Fork trail because of the encounter, which she called a mauling. The trail runs parallel to the powerline trail at Prospect Heights.

“The bear basically ran over him,” Coltrane said.

The hiker was with another person and two dogs on leashes that were wearing bear bells. They were less than 30 minutes from the Prospect Heights parking lot, she said.

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Grizzly Sows Swap Cub in Grand Teton National Park

courtesy of the National Parks Traveler
by Kurt Repanshek

In an unusual, but apparently not unprecedented, move in wildlife behavior, two grizzly sows in Grand Teton National Park have swapped a cub. Making the swap even more curious is that the sows involved are themselves mother and daughter.

The cub swapping was detected last week when those monitoring the park’s grizzlies compared notes. According to park officials, the swapping was between 15-year-old grizzly No. 399, a prodigous sow when it comes to bearing triplets, and one of her daughters, 5-year No. 610.

No. 399 had given birth to three cubs this past winter. During the spring and into the summer she traveled with her young trio through much the same home range that she has maintained in recent years.

No. 610, who has a home range that overlaps with No. 399, meanwhile, had twins during the winter.

“The apparent adoption of a single cub occurred on or about July 21; the noteworthy event was confirmed by observations of No. 610 traveling with three cubs in the Willow Flats area of Grand Teton National Park, and later observations of No. 399 with just two cubs in an area further north of Willow Flats,” a park release said. “Biologists are not sure what caused the exchange of offspring, or whether this will be a temporary or permanent situation. However, these observations offer a fascinating glimpse into bear behavior.

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Keystone Species: How Predators Create Abundance and Stability

courtesy of Mother Earth News
by Douglas Chadwick

Long reviled as beasts of waste and desolation, wolves — along with other keystone predators — actually bring ecological stability to the habitats in which they live.

After an absence of half a century, wolves came back to Glacier during the 1980s, trotting across the border from neighboring Canadian wildlands. Suddenly, this Rocky Mountain landscape held more carcasses of deer, elk and moose, and those of us who frequented the slopes began to discover a few scavenging grizzlies later and later into the frozen season. One valley, with prime wintering grounds for hoofed herds, hosts a big male silvertip grizzly that I’m not sure ever holes up to snooze anymore.

Wolverines, with their unsurpassed nose for leftovers, can find more meals now as well. So can wintering bald eagles and golden eagles, along with northern ravens, which often follow wolf packs on the prowl. Wildlife biologists tracking the wolves discovered them taking over fresh kills made by mountain lions. In many cases, the packs seemed to be honing in on the sight of circling ravens or the birds’ excited calls in order to find the stealthy cats and drive them off their prize. Before wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s, cougars had expanded their range to include broad valley bottoms. After the wolves’ return, the cougars retreated to the steeper, more broken upland terrain they had normally hunted.

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Wyoming Game & Fish Catches First Bear of Season

courtesy of
by Christine Peterson

It’s a big old bear. Wyoming Game and Fish officials caught the first grizzly bear of the season this morning in a snare outside of Meeteetse. The bear weighs 520 pounds, one of the largest bears Bear Conflict Management Supervisor Mark Bruscino has seen in the spring. Bruscino estimates it’s 20 years old and near the end of an average bear lifespan.

It was caught on the third morning of trapping after frequenting a pit with several dead cow carcasses. Because he’d never been caught causing problems before and is healthy, Bruscino is driving him to a release site in the mountains outside of Dubois. The distance puts as much wilderness between the bear and the ranch as is possible with deep snow still covering most of the mountains in northwest Wyoming.

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Wyoming Elk Researchers to Give Talk About Study

courtesy of The Ravalli Republic
by Perry Backus

Wyoming researchers looking for the cause behind declining pregnancy rates in a Yellowstone National Park elk herd will talk about their study this week in Hamilton.

Sponsored by the Ravalli County Fish and Game Association, the talk begins at 6 p.m. at the Bitterroot River Inn.

“When dealing with wildlife management, you can never have too much information,” said association president Tony Jones. “We’re hoping that some of the things they learned may transfer over to what’s happening here.”

Last winter, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks started an ambitious study in the Bitterroot Valley looking the relationship between elk and predators.

“Big game numbers here are doing the same thing that they’ve seen in Wyoming,” Jones said. “We want to get a better handle on why our big game numbers are on a fast decline … when you have wolves and lots of them, it’s easy to say they are the problem. Sometimes it’s not the wolf that’s doing the bulk of the damage.”

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Board Votes to add Brown Bears to Snaring Program

courtesy of The Anchorage Daily News
by Mike Campbell

A controversial bear-snaring program designed to boost the moose population in an area on the other side of Cook Inlet from Anchorage was expanded Friday to include brown bears.

The Alaska Board of Game approved the move in a 900-square-mile area of Game Management Unit 16B near Tyonek and Beluga with a 4-3 vote.

“We know that brown bears are taking large numbers of calves,” Alaska regional management supervisor Lem Butler said in a written statement Friday. “Research last summer indicates 47 percent of the calves that die are killed by brown bears. Black bears killed 21 percent and the remainder died from a variety of causes including drowning and unknown predators.”

The board previously authorized the snaring and baiting of a population estimated at 3,000 black bears, and Fish and Game described the method as “an extremely effective method of take.”

Now brown bears will be subject to the same baiting and foot-snaring technique.

Critics decry the methods. Bears are lured in with buckets of raw meat, and their paws are snared when they reach inside. Sometimes bears chew off a foot to escape.

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Wyoming Rancher Says Night Penning Reduces Conflicts

courtesy of Wyoming Star-Tribune
by Cat Urbigkit

Portable electric fences as night pens for domestic sheep in the Upper Green River region of the Wind River Mountains last summer protected sheep and sheepherders from predatory animals, according to a rancher.

Speaking before the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board last week in Cheyenne, rancher Mary Thoman also said the pens reduced the number of grizzly bears removed from the area because of conflict.

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Lawmakers take up Grizzly Bear Conflict Measure

by the Associated Press

A state Senate committee is taking up a proposal to allow the use of trapping and lethal measures against grizzly bears to prevent conflicts with humans and livestock.
Grizzly bears are protected as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Senate Bill 143 by Republican Sen. Debby Barrett would declare grizzly bears a recovered population that should be managed by the state.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim says the agency agrees that the grizzly bear has recovered and should be managed by the state.
But, he adds, the provision on killing and trapping bears is unnecessary and could be used by those opposed to removing federal protections for the animal.

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Bearing Down

Experts put an eventful – and sometimes fatal – season of bear activity into perspective
by Erika Fredrickson

Chuck Jonkel learned long ago about the public’s deep fascination with bears. Before he switched the focus of his work to the animal in 1959, he saw bears mostly as a nuisance. While working toward his master’s degree in zoology at the University of British Columbia, he was dismayed to find black bears ruining his traplines, which he used to catch and study pine martens. But his constant encounters began to intrigue people around him.

“I’d stop somewhere for coffee and three people would run over and want to talk about bears,” says Jonkel, a now 80-year-old biologist, bear expert and founder of the Great Bear Foundation. “They’re very powerful for people. And that’s their burden.”

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