Relist Yellowstone Grizzlies

I think that Yellowstone Grizzlies are in real trouble and should be relisted under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, and here is why.

As mountain pine beetles wipe out a major food source and covertype of the Yellowstone grizzly Bear huge problems will happen to this group of bears. Those two stresser’s alone will negatively impact this subpopulation of brown bears and the population dynamics of this bear will reach a tipping point where this subpopulation of bears can be severely impacted.

In my old study area you would walk through patches of timber where at least 3 grizzly bears were intruded upon in a major way. These bears were all large enough to tear your head off-but their docilness never led to this. My thinking was that these bears were a mother and her 2 young siblings. We watched these bears over a 3 field season period.

Directly on the other side of these bears we had a radio collared grizzly bear and she had 2 coy and she was highly excitable. She showed up with her growing cubs over a 3 field season period when we saw her each night and the calm grizzlies over in the next meadow complex.

I watched as this female took on a large black bear and another radioed grizzly from her area. She was a protective, large female grizzly with very little tolerance for having her space intruded on. I had students who watched these bears. When they hiked out in the intolerant females area to get to the trailhead where they left their cars I told each student to sing and hike out in bear proof groups.

During the 3rd summer I was up there I saw these 2 groups of bears feed on the nuts of white bark pine. This was almost exclusive feeding in the fall of that year and whoabee to any red squirrel caches of cones in the area.

We regularly saw the skiddish female feed in the white bark caches and black bears in the area climbed the whitebarks to avoid grizzlies and get at nuts. Pine bark beetle now is raveging the whitebark pines, thus major food source, of the bears.

Near this food source that is dying quickly as the pine bark beetles do their deed is the dying lodgepole pine, being killed by the same beetles. Nearby this something is killing off the subalpine fir trees (not a pine) part of the covertype sought after by grizzly bears for security.

So grizzlies are losing a major food source and covertypes as mountain pine beetles reek havoc. This will happen over a 15 to 25 year period and the Yellowstone grizzly will be negatively impacted by this travesty.

As the whitebark pine nut disappears bears will look for food sources to replace the pine nut. In my old area they built a hamburger and beer joint right in a corridor where bears travel from my old study area into Yellowstone National Park. I became familiar with this area as we used it to radio collar bears twenty years before. Now off of the back porch it was an area to grill burgers. I am going to guess that grizzly bears will show up in places like the burger joint and become management mortalities.My guess is that a number of these bears will be mature females…a tipping point will be reached by slow reproducing females eventually.

Bears, in other parts of the ecosystem, will try to replace the whitebark with shot elk in hunters camps. These same bears will either be shot by hunters defending property or they will be “controlled” by wardens defending hunters and their properties.

I have seen no discussion about bears losing huge areas of their security cover as lodgepole pines are killed by pine beetles. I see more stress in a bears life as their security cover becomes highly restricted…this also will have a major negative impact on Yellowstone grizzlies.

I am a little stand offish about wolves because overtime I see them outcompeting the grizzly bear for the elk resource. I have seen Rose-Creek wolves almost get young grizzlies 3 times…so I am guessing that occasionally young grizzlies become wolf food. Eight wolves are hunting. They come across a grizzly mother and 1 young. Four wolves preoccupy the female as three more wolves take out the young grizzly. I have not seen this happen to grizzlies but I have personally reconstructed something like this as wolves took down black bears, a white black bear included, before these black bears climbed trees.

The bottom line is that I think wolves are way more efficient predators than grizzly bears who are occasional food for wolves. As bears are forced to turn to other food sources in the fall they will turn even more to ungulate food sources. Wolves and bears will compete for the elk food resource. Wolves will win that competition.

The subpopulation of Yellowstone Grizzlies is due quickly for disastrous changes as the pine bark beetles wreak havoc on all pines and wolves become a major competitor of the bear as bears mitigate loss of the whitebark pine nut resource with even more ungulate protein.

I can only shake my head.


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