Grizzlies return with strings attached In The Bulletin By Jim Robbins New York Times News Servicee

There are things I would like to argue about in this article but there are some real good points in this article about grizzlies also…so I included the article in this blog.
The grizzly population in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem has grown from 200 to 300 in 1975 to 900 today.
The Associated Press file photo
Grizzlies return, with strings attached
By Jim Robbins / New York Times News Service
Published: August 16. 2011 4:00AM PST advertisement: DUPUYER, Mont. — Russell Talmo, a bear management technician, greeted John and Leanne Hayne at their ranch on the windswept edge of this tiny town with a gift: a can of pepper spray to ward off grizzly bears.

Hayne worries that she will encounter a grizzly when she walks to the post office, half a mile from home.

“One day I opened the back door, and there was one there and it stood up on its hind legs,” she said.

“It’s eerie and primal and it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. That’s when I decided I should carry pepper spray.”

The bears here in Montana can be whoppers, too. Occasionally, they exceed 800 pounds, the biggest that grizzly bears get outside Alaska. The record here for a captured bear is 860 pounds.

So it goes these days along the Rocky Mountain Front, where the high plains rise to meet the sculptured peaks of the Northern Rockies, south of Glacier National Park. In 1975, when grizzly bears were listed here in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem as threatened — a less restrictive form of protection than endangered — there were 200 to 300 grizzlies. Now, there are more than 900 in the ecosystem, and the population increases 2 to 3 percent each year. It is the largest population of grizzlies in the lower 48.

Once considered plains animals — they lived as far east as the Dakotas, as far south as Texas, and Lewis and Clark encountered them across the prairie — grizzlies were routinely killed by settlers as a threat to livestock and driven into the mountains, their last redoubt. After more than three decades of recovery efforts, though, they are coming down from their refuge and greatly expanding their range.

“Bears are recolonizing their grassland habitat,” said a pleased Talmo. “They are showing up in places where they haven’t been seen in generations.”

Bear debate

Because of the growth of the grizzly population, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are writing a plan to manage the bear if its protected status as threatened, under the Endangered Species Act, is lifted. Such a change is probably at least a few years away. Still, said Christopher Servheen, the service’s grizzly bear recovery coordinator since 1981, “they’re recovered, they’re doing well, they are pushing out in all directions.”

Some here think removing federal protections is overdue and would welcome it.

“You’ll be able to protect your property again” by shooting bears, said Bert Guthrie, a retired sheep rancher. “That’s a good thing.”

While protecting a species under the Endangered Species Act is more controversial than ever, it is remarkable that the storm that once swirled around grizzly bears, one of the few protected species that attack people — three to five attacks a year in the continental United States, usually because of a surprise encounter — has calmed considerably. That is a result, experts say, of a campaign to build support for the bear, accomplished largely by using sophisticated research tools and effective bear management techniques.

Talmo’s job with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is to roam a huge swath of wild country along the front in a pickup truck loaded with bear tranquilizers, dart guns, snares, radio collars and heart rate and oxygen monitors, responding to calls about errant bears and livestock kills.

Talmo shows people how to harden their defenses against the big bear. He pointed out an electric fence around a shed on the Haynes’ land, where the sheep they raise for their online wool business give birth. There’s also a stout new wire fence around the elementary school here in Dupuyer, which is next to thick stands of chokecherry and buffalo berry shrubs, favorite grizzly foods.

Though bears usually avoid people, every once in a while they don’t.

“We’ve had bears passing through the middle of Choteau,” Talmo said, referring to a larger town 35 miles to the south. “We go look for them, but by the time we get there it’s a ghost hunt — the bear is usually gone.”

He and another bear expert, Michael Madel, also haul the carcasses of dead livestock away from ranches and into the mountains, so bears will stay away from sheep and cattle. And they hold meetings in towns where bears are returning after being absent for decades to explain the animals’ behavior and ecology and tell people how to bear-proof their beehives and sheep pens.

Bears that kill livestock or get into other kinds of trouble are usually trapped, drugged and moved. If they continue to offend, they may be euthanized as a last resort. Males get one chance; females get three strikes.

Keeping bears out of trouble, says Servheen of the Fish and Wildlife Service, is the key to keeping bears from being killed.

“Mortality control is our No. 1 tool to bringing the bear back,” he said.

New tools for tracking bears are a big part of more effective management. In the last decade, GPS collars and other technologies have opened a much larger window on where bears go and what they do.

For years after the grizzly was first listed as threatened, those with a radio collar had to be detected electronically from aircraft to determine their location.

“That meant we knew where a bear was twice a week, during good weather at 10 a.m.,” when biologists were in the air, Servheen said.

Newer GPS collars store location information “on board,” or in the collar itself, which records a satellite fix as frequently as every hour.

There but seldom seen

What the scientists have found from collared bears active at night, for example, is that the animals are coming close to houses, even though few people see them. Simple measures like taking in bird feeders and dog food at night and using bearproof garbage cans are a critical part of keeping bears alive.

The more detailed collar data is also being used to understand which corridors bears use to move between large reserves, like wilderness areas, so that linkages through developed areas can be protected with conservation easements and other kinds of safeguards. Out of the 930 or so grizzlies in the ecosystem, about 60 or 70 are collared.

Among other new techniques for studying bears are a handheld device that takes a bioimpedance measurement from a captured bear by sending a small current through the animal that measures its electrical resistance, which is related to fat content. Bears with less body fat than others might be hungrier and more prone to getting into trouble, and so they can be more closely monitored. The current is not painful.

The bear’s hair also speaks volumes. With a snip, a biologist can examine isotopes — atoms of a chemical element — in a hair to learn what a bear has been eating. When a bear killed a camper last year near Yellowstone National Park, biologists wondered if the bear had been habituated to human garbage. Since most human food has corn syrup in it, biologists tested the hair for an isotope associated with corn. It did not have that isotope, meaning the bear had not foraged in trash cans.

Regardless of the new science, there are some things about bear behavior that have always been predictable.

“Subadult bears 2 to 4 years old are like teenagers that get into trouble,” said Talmo. “They are trying to figure out the world and their place in it.”


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