NOW, the anecdotal evidence

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 12:23:42 06/27/13

In Reply to: I have so very few answers posted by Hoot

Whoops, I forgot to change the subject line after getting on a roll, responding to your latest post.

Here are some observations on the Greater Yellowstone grizzly population that have surfaced at idle moments in the past 24 hours:

1.) I remember hiking Bighorn Pass in the early 1990s. We encountered one small grizzly at the Pass, which appeared to be a recently emancipated 2 year old. Roughly ten years later, on a hike to the same area, we saw 3 grizzlies.

2.) Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, we kept hearing about how people were starting to report grizzly sightings further south of Yellowstone, in areas where they had not been seen since the early 1900's. Today, they are seen regularly in Grand Teton National Park and down toward Jackson.

3.) When I horsepacked the Bechler backcountry for a week in 1989, we were told not to worry about grizzlies, because they were never seen down there. Over the course of that week, we saw absolutely no grizzly sign. Numerous day hikes in the Bechler over the next several years produced similar results. By the mid-2000's, I was hearing all sorts of stories of backcountry travelers seeing grizzlies in the Bechler, and the Bechler rangers had started cautioning backcountry travelers to take precautions.

4.) Back in the mid-2000's, we saw not less than 13 grizzlies, almost arranged like points on a clockface, surrounding a bison carcass in northern Hayden Valley.

That's enough of the anecdotal "stuff". I could throw more out there, but it would just be more unscientific evidence of a robust grizzly population. I want to move to examining the claim regarding the demise of traditional foods. It is only in the last 20 or 30 years that we have even known of the role army cutworm moths play in grizzly bear diet, discovered by Steve and Marilyn French. Now, we know that whitebark pines are disappearing, victims of blister rust, fire, and global warming. We also are acutely aware of the demise of the native cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake. The fact of the matter is that these are seasonal foods, and only available to a subset of the population, based on geography. We do not see massive migrations of grizzlies. Grizzlies are omnivores. Ethologists theorize that the species evolved as a creature of the plains, with the large muscled hump and long curved claws. Grizzlies take advantage of whatever food is available. We see them eating various vegetation at different times, spring beauties shortly after emerging from their dens, and cow parsnip in late summer, for example. They work ground squirrel colonies, occasionally accompanied by an opportunistic coyote. To use the demise of the whitebark pine and cutthroat trout to bolster a faulty argument for delaying delisting, while the cutthroat trout is truly on the ropes, is more than a bit ingenuous. These people are selling the grizzly short. Meanwhile, due to a long-established process whereby new grizzlies are pushed out to establish new territories, we see progressively more bear-man conflict outside the national parks. This could easily shape up to be another instance of regional states chafing under federal jurisdiction over a resource.

This looks and smells like another attempt to change the rules long after the game began, and it is embarrassing.


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