More On Yellowstone Grizzlies and Whitebark Pine; A Favorite Subject Of Mine

I wrote this just before the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear was delisted from Endangered Species recovery. There are still a lot of grizzly bears in my old study area…but because of this Whitebark Pine beetle kill, driven primarily by climate change, I do not think grizzlies will be up there for long.

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, there is no doubt that the bear will eventually respond to this. 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. There are secondary foods like lomation

In my old study area you would walk through patches of timber where at least 3 grizzly bears were intruded upon (sometimes daily) 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 in the late field season 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 of this 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 whitebark 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 whitebark 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.


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