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The Cave Video: A year’s review

Several years ago I came across a small rock cave in a narrow drainage high up near a sheer rock face. There was cougar scat outside in a large cougar latrine. I crawled inside and peeked around. At the very back of the cave, some animal had made a nice bed out of soft debris. You could see the large rounded depression where the animal had rested.

Over the years I sometimes passed by this cave and wondered if a cougar might have used it as a den. I showed a photo of the rock enclosure to Toni Ruth, cougar biologist. She speculated that probably it had been used by many cougars as a resting place, but did not look like a den site normally does.

The cave sits high above a small valley used by many hunters in the fall because of it’s easy access and good game. Yet the placement of this rock site was too steep, and obscure, for humans to pass by. The only reason I happened to find it was because sometimes I hike in crazy and steep places just for fun, and I like to follow deer and elk trails.

After several years, in the spring of 2015 I decided to place a trail camera on the cave. I was deeply involved in a personal cougar study, and wanted to settle once and for all–den or lay. I hiked to the spot in May of 2015, placed one camera, and didn’t return for several months. What I found completely surprised me.

During the summer our elk,deer and bear travel into the high country and the predators follow. The valley is fairly quiet then and so my camera recorded lots of squirrel, pack rat and rabbit activity. In the winter, this particular area is closed to human presence. Before the closure, I hiked to the cave once again, and place my best trail camera, a Reconyx that takes film and stills, at the site. The camera sat till the reserve opened again in the spring.

I put together this short film that documents a year at the rock cave. Enjoy.

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Shoshone National Forest Hosts a Heated Day-long Discussion on their Proposed 20-Year Plan

I want to write a very short blog entry on a special ‘objector’s’ meeting held October 8 of this year.  The Shoshone National Forest held an unprecedented meeting to discuss just a few very contentious issues in their proposed twenty year management plan.  I will provide a link to the transcript of that day-long meeting which I found incredibly interesting and informative to read.

The meeting was restricted to four issues, and only people who had made written comments previously could comment verbally, either on the phone or in person.  But the meeting was open to the general public.  The issues were:

1. The Forest proposes to eliminate goat-packing due to the potential for bighorn sheep to contract diseases.  The northwest quadrant of Wyoming has biggest and best bighorn sheep herd.  There’s over 4000 bighorn sheep on and around the Shoshone National Forest, more than any forest in the national forest system.  Bighorn sheep advocates and goat packing advocates made their case.Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep

2. Lynx habitat and forest management.   Biologists and conservationists defended the proposed thinning restrictions in certain areas where lynx were known to exist or there is excellent snowshoe hare habitat.  County commissioners and their hired company, Ecosystem Research Group, argued for more thinning in those recommended designated lynx areas.

3. After lunch the two most contentious issues were addressed with lots of people arguing for wilderness preservation.  The Dunior Special Management Area has long had illegal mountain biking and the Forest Service plan is calling for mountain bike specific trails. This was a fascinating discussion with knowledgeable conservationists going back to early 70’s when the Dunior was suggested for SMA and eventual Wilderness designation.  No one from the biking community showed up, but the discussion was passionate, with many locals and wilderness advocates feeling betrayed by years and years of promises from the Forest Service as to Wilderness recommendation for these areas that never appeared, but now it seems to be ‘dewilding’ this area.

Jade Lake near Bonneville pass in the Dunoir

Jade Lake near Bonneville pass in the Dunoir

4. Lastly a heated discussion of increased ATV use in the forest, and in particular Franc’s Peak and how more motorized vehicles will disturb wildlife, destroy soil integrity, and be a hazard to horses and hunting use.

We have a chance to preserve and enhance this special area…the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem–one of the few remaining intact ecosystems in the temperate world–and preserve these places for future generations with roadless areas and habitat for elk, grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, and all the iconic species that it contains.

I think you will find this a fascinating and informative discussion.  Click this link, then at the Shoshone Forest page click the link at the top that says ‘Transcripts from October 8 2014 Meeting with Objectors’

 

 

Wildlife update

Of course this wildlife update could never be completely accurate; its just my own observations and the result of a few conversations.

As I noted in an earlier post, up around Camp Creek where there is a nice mosaic of young and old spruce/doug fir forest plus open meadows, I saw sign of an abundance of Snowshoe hares with a coyote or two hunting them.  But down here in the valley, cottontails are rarely to be found.  Today I saw my first sign of a cottontail in the willows by my house.  But on a walk near the upper bridge where I usually see a lot of sign, there were no bunnies to be seen.  The same is true with the Jackrabbit population in the valley.  Rabbits are subject to boom and bust cycles.  I had thought it had a lot to do with the predator/prey cycle, but my boss at the museum told me its more complicated than that.  In fact, so complicated that scientists don’t really know the cause.  But, one prominent theory is that it actually has to do with plants.  The theory goes that the plants the rabbits eat begin to build up toxins as a defense to over-consumption.  The toxins get so high they eventually cause the massive mortality in the rabbits.  The rabbits that remain of course, are the survivors and have the tolerance they pass on to their little bunnies.  Eventually, the population builds up again.

With the lack of bunnies, you’d think the bobcat population might be down, but there’s been the usual one hunting in my neck of the woods.

Bobcat track

I’ve seen sign of him tracking turkeys.  The turkey population on the other hand, seems to be holding its own.  Regularly there are 10-15 wandering threw the woods, making a nice racket.

Turkey in snow

turkey tracks

Wolves this year are down in the valley.  From 4 packs in the range last year, down to just two struggling packs of about 4 wolves each.  The Sunlight pack has just disappeared, and the once ten strong Hoodoo pack that roamed from the northeast Park boundary of the Absarokas into Sunlight was reduced this summer by at least half due to cattle predation.  What’s left of that Hoodoo pack has been the main wolf pack in the valley and apparently are not great hunters, as they have been struggling to kill the wise cow elks and are mostly predating on deer.

A wolf lopes through the snow away from a kill site

That being said, coyotes seem to be on the rise and in control of the valley.  Their tracks are everywhere and their calls are heard nightly.  When I arrived back here in January, I found an adult elk that they had killed.  Today I found a dead pup, death unknown.  But where I usually had seen wolf tracks regularly, for instance running down the roads, now I am seeing mostly coyote tracks.

Coyote caught on trail camera

I found a dead fox, dead from an injury to its leg.  Its leg was mangled, maybe due to a trap or a fight with a coyote.  The fox population seems to be getting healthier here, probably because of several years of wolves keeping coyotes in check.

A fearful fox lopes in snow before dying

Fox caught on trail camera

I would assume that the deer and elk are having a better year than last as there is much less snow with higher temperatures.  There’s been fewer times when I’ve seen large herds of elk on Riddle Flats, maybe because there is plenty of clear ground in many places in the valley.

500 head of elk on Riddle Flat

I’ve seen a few Golden Eagles, but no Bald Eagles this winter.  I saw some grouse today by the river happily foraging.  And despite the fact that a completely insane hunter poached a cow moose and her baby this fall in the valley, the moose seem to be doing o.k.  One resident told me she saw two bull moose and there are a few cow/calves hanging around. I have one cow and her calf by me.  Moose normally have twins, but I’ve noticed the cow that hangs around my area hasn’t had twins for several years now.

I haven’t heard of any sightings of bear tracks, which surprises me because we’ve had such warm weather.  I am still waiting to catch some marten tracks or an actual marten on my camera.  I recently bought a new stealth camera, a Reconex which is made in the USA and is the top rated trail camera on the market.  I need to get a sim card and batteries for it, then I’ll be setting it up first with the intention of catching that bobcat.

Jackson, the GYC annual meeting, and the room to roam

Soon the snows will be upon us but last week I was lucky enough to catch the fall colors in and around Jackson.  I attended the annual Greater Yellowstone Coalition meeting, always informative and fun.  I boarded the dog (no dogs allowed on Teton trails) and left a few days early.  The conference used to be a weekend affair, but the last few years has been reduced to just one full day and evening.

Ah, the Tetons end of sept.

Traveling through Yellowstone on Tuesday, the day was hot and all the wildlife, except a few bison, were well hidden and resting.  Gros Vente campground was one of the few still open, and even about 1/3 of that was closed.  Its puzzling that the two Parks choose to close so many campgrounds as early as September when the weather usually is fairly mild through even mid-October and the visitors are still packing the area.

My friend and I took a short evening walk around the campground and the nearby Gros Vente river. Especially at this time of year, moose abound and its easy to have a sighting let alone one or two running through the campground.  A large bull with a tremendous rack was stopping traffic just a mile down the road by the river.

Tucked among the rocks and willows was a curious scientific set-up:  a microphone with a recording box set up with a solar unit.  Not sure what study they were doing but it looked suspiciously like the ‘wolf howl’ machine I’ve seen in Sunlight.  But maybe they were studying coyotes around the campground, because that night, tucked in my tent around 11pm, I heard howling and response howling really close.  In fact so close, that pretty soon I heard sniffing around the outside of my tent. I figured a coyote was smelling Koda smells (who of course wasn’t there tonight but had been inside of that tent just a few weeks prior).  It was a strange and curious incident.

The next day I took a wonderful hike up to the mouth of Death Canyon from the parking lot of the newish Rockefeller compound.

Phelps Lake, Rockefeller Preserve

About ten years ago Rockefeller donated his home to the Park with the stipulation that only a small parking area be built which would limit the amount of hikers at any one time.  There is no overflow parking.  I’ve been up the one mile hike to where Phelps Lake and the former buildings were, but never past that.  The large and beautiful lake sits at the base of Death Canyon, a steep, massive drainage that is very inviting despite its name.

Looking into Death Canyon from Phelps Lake

We hiked around the lake, up to the canyon entrance, then headed north around the base of outcropping where a waterfall cascaded down.  Huckleberries overflowed and distracted us from the hike.  We ate our fill on the way in and out.  The aspens in this area hadn’t yet begun to change.

The next day I headed up to Taggart and Bradley Lakes.  Just a tiny bit north of Phelps Lake, all the plants including the aspens were aglow in their fall beauty.  I assume there are tiny micro-climates in these various canyons and that was why just a few miles north this area was ablaze in color while Phelps was not.  The hike is a nice 6 mile loop and I made it a bit longer by continuing up towards Amphitheater Lake. Several days later I approached Amphitheater Lake from Lupine Meadows trailhead, a trail more forested with conifers–Douglas and sub-alpine firs–than aspens.

Enjoying the Taggart Lake hike in 80 degree fall weather

The GYC meeting was full of information, focusing on climate change.  Without going into all the details and speakers, you can read the final report here on climate around our area and what’s happening after all the data is analyzed.  This data comes from actual weather stations set up around our area recording climate information for the last 100 years.  As is usual with climate change information, the future for the area looks troubling at best and makes the need for corridors north/south and east/west even more important.  In fact, the keynote speaker, Doug Chadwick, author of The Wolverine Way (which explores the research on Wolverines being done in Glacier National Park) called for just that kind of broader coalition between the Crown of the Continent and the Greater Yellowstone Area.  In order for these large predators to survive, they must have room to roam.  The future implores us to embrace new paradigms for the survival of so many species, from the Pika to Bighorn Sheep to Grizzly Bears and Wolverines.  We need to start thinking bigger, much bigger.  Room to roam is the very next step we need to embrace.  The Yellowstone to Yukon idea needs to mature from dream to reality in so short of time.

Can we really Re-Wild?

I just came back from New York where I picked up a few interesting books.   Two of them present similar science on our vanishing wildlife but different approaches.  End of the Wild by the late Stephen M. Meyer  who was a professor of Political Science at MIT, says it is just too late to save the biodiversity on this planet.  It is known that in the next 100 years, more than half the planet’s species will disappear.  Meyer’s says that there will still be plants and animals, but they will be the weedy species that survive more easily around humans–from dandelions to coyotes, mosquitos to corn–species that survive in human disturbed eco-systems.  His is a pessimistic view.

The other book I’m reading, Rewilding the World by Caroline Fraser is a fascinating read, presenting a more hopeful view that will take work, though.  Scientists concur that ecosystems, to remain intact, need three things–Cores, Corridors, and Canines (or translate top predators).  For instance, a Core would be Yellowstone Park; a Corridor would be the Yellowstone to Yukon project; and the Canine would be the wolf in this case.

Y2Y map

One of the most fascinating bits of research Fraser quotes that began this kind of thinking amongst scientists was a study done in 1990 by John Terborgh, a biologist who studied a stranded hilltop ‘island’ created by a new hydroelectric dam in Venezuela that flooded a valley.  As the new lake filled, the predators fled, leaving only smaller creatures behind on the islands.  I quote the book below:

After a team studied the islands, the data painted a horrific picture.  Safe from predators, howler monkeys proliferated on some islands, but they were not enjoying their freedom from fear.  Normally social animals, they were living alone, attacking one another, and killing their own infants.  By denuding trees, they caused surviving plants to protect themselves with toxins, so meals provoked vomiting.  Many plants are capable of deploying extraordinary chemical defenses against herbivory by inducing a rapid rise in levels of toxins that can repel or kill those feeding on them.  On islands with howler monkeys, the instability caused by the absence of predators and superabundance of herbivores set off a vicious chain reaction.  

On other islands, predators of left-cutter ants were absent (armadillos and army ants) and the ants ran amok, carrying everything green off to their underground nests, leaving a…thicket of impenetrable throny vines, destroying all remaining life, plant and animal.  Terborgh and colleagues reported that after a few years almost 75 percent of vertebrate species had been lost from the smaller islands without jaguars or pumas.”

Fraser’s book examines corridor projects around the world, successes and failures.  She looks at central and south America, and large projects in Africa.  Many of the African projects are of interest, not only because of the great diversity of megafauna (particularly elephants which reck havoc amongst farmlands and villages and need very large corridors) but because they are multi-national endeavors–huge corridors that cross nation boundaries. Like the Greater Yellowstone, these Peace Parks (a concept first begun with Waterton-Glacier Park) include protected cores, as well as corridors where people live.

I can’t begin to describe all the different approaches here, but certainly the corridor projects that have been the most successful involve the local communities and take into account their needs.  One of the most botched plans was Paseo Pantera in central America, where good intentions became convoluted by developers getting involved and local peoples weren’t taken into account from the start.  The project degraded into an “integrated conservation and development project”

Large animals need large corridors.

Large Corridor areas for large animals

 And there is also the ‘problem with predators’, a human problem that has been obvious in the GYE since the wolf was eliminated in the 30’s in Yellowstone, and millions of coyotes, bobcats and other predators have been routinely destroyed with tax dollars for decades due to cattle predation.

Yellowstone to Yukon is a corridor concept that has been around since 1997. Its a conservation vision to preserve our North American great animals for future generations and for the earth.  Some work is being done already, like over- and underpasses for wildlife; wildlife friendly fencing, and species reintroduction.  But to be successful, it will take people living within this corridor to be involved and share the same vision, to do their small part whether it be active shepherding their livestock or replacing their fences for pronghorn passage, or saying ‘no’ to intensive housing developments in corridor areas, or as small as bear-proof garbage cans.  People need to realize when they live or move to these areas that they are becoming involved in wildlife corridors, which have special requirements, different than city or suburb living.  And help and education needs to be given to those people, such as ranchers, affected by corridors. Solutions must be community based but with the greater vision in mind.

Fraser states ” ‘Carnivorous animals are important.  We have to stop thinking of them as passengers on this earth and start thinking of them as drivers.’ Inevitably, an ecosystem robbed of its top predators begins a remorseless process of impoverishment.”  If we are truly interested in saving the great animals of North America, from wolves to bison, elk and pronghorn to grizzly bears, we who live here must all become involved in the Vision of Y2Y, stop our regional bickering and look towards the wholistic future.

Fraser’s book presents a glimmer of hope for Rewilding.  We, as a world culture, are fighting a strong current of species loss.  It is a great fight not just for these species, but for ourselves and the future of mankind on this planet.  Meyer’s vision of a world of limited weedy human-adapted species may sound livable, but boring, and missing the richness of magnificent mammals such as tigers, elephants, and crocodiles.  But Fraser’s admonition of the howler monkey hell, a potential future with the absence of diversity and predators, is a world not worth living in.

The right thing to do…Niagara falls and Yellowstone

I just returned from helping my son with location scouting at Niagara falls.  Its strikingly beautiful, especially in the winter.  The crowds are gone and its bitter cold, but there are ice floes in the river and parts of the falls are frozen.  The Canadian side still lights up the falls at night and the sheer power and magnitude of so much water flowing (in fact only 50% is allowed to release as the other 50% is used for power) overwhelms and puts us humans in our proper perspective relative to the awesome power of nature.

Falls at night

Power of the falls

But along with my visit to Sedona, Arizona last year, (which also is a natural wonder but not a National Park) what really stood out was its contrast to where I live now, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Although I live next door to a National Park, I don’t of course live within the Park, but within what was designated a few decades ago as its larger ecosystem.  This is an actual mapped area, you could call it a ‘buffer zone’ where its recognized these large megafauna need room to roam to survive.

And, true to its name, I regularly see all the large and small animals that make up this complete ecosystem in the lower 48, which includes wolves, grizzlies, elk, and the occasional bison that is allowed to leave the Park.

So what’s so great about this area  you might say, as opposed to Niagara or Sedona?  Both have the power to overwhelm through their sheer beauty and immense landscape.  The difference are the animals.  Even the Sierras, as incredible a jewel as they are, are NOT a complete ecosystem.  Many animals that were there just 150 years ago are gone forever.

What Lewis and Clark encountered 200 years ago on their journey West is no longer, but a sliver of it can be glimpsed here in the Yellowstone Ecosystem.  Just a sliver, but that sliver is our history, our heritage.  No one would think of selling Monticello to create senior housing or a Walmart!  Why should we not value our original landscapes and the animals that were here before us in the same way?

Everywhere in the United States, with the exception of Alaska, animals have been pushed out to accommodate the biggest and toughest animal–humans.  And that is no exception in the Yellowstone ecosystem.  The controversy rages here too as to who should have primary use of the lands–hunters, atvs, developers, ranchers, oil and gas?.  Wolves are villified for killing elk that hunters could have taken.  Grizzlies are constantly moved around when they get into lands too close to homes or into unprotected garbage.  Bison are not allowed to leave the Park boundary.  Ranches are sold to developers who parcel up the land into lots, crowding out habitat for large animals.  Snowmobilers feel they should have the right to go wherever they choose, including the Park even when the science says differently.  The animals are last on the list.  And when that is how the priorities are set, what becomes of the land is Niagara Falls, Sedona, or at best a ‘safe’ wilderness like the Sierras; at worst we become like Europe, where their natural history is in the so-distant-past that its entirely unreachable in present-time.

Yellowstone and its ecosystem, unlike Alaska, is easily accessible by car to people from all walks of life, rich or poor.  It is an opportunity to view in the flesh our rich natural past.  Any person can do that from the safety of their car, and watch wolves or bears in the Lamar Valley.  Or one can take more risks and venture into the back country.  Even today, with this area protected and the reintroduction of the wolves, thereby completing the ecosystem fauna, the landscape doesn’t hold a candle to the enormous amounts of wildlife that was once beheld by the mountain men in the 1830’s.  Yet, they are all still here, thanks to the enormous efforts of many men and women conservationists through the century.

Black wolf

In the U.S., there are many unique and beautiful areas, but there is no where like this area.  Here we have the Serengeti of North America.  And in my mind, we are not valuing nor protecting it enough, nor are we holding it in the proper perspective.

Our Serengeti

The proper perspective:  This area, as well as more large tracts of contiguous land (Yellowstone to Yukon idea) is a wildlife first policy.  This is our gift to our children and the future.  This is our gift to the wildlife here.

Once we all realize what we have here, a jewel that is found no where else in the U.S. (Do we really want the last place where wild animals roam to be in Alaska, out of the reach of most ordinary folks?), we will change our approach and our views on a daily basis.  No longer will we have on the Wyoming books archaic 1890 laws that allow trapping, an indiscriminate way to kill wildlife.  No longer will we confine bison to the tiny Island of the Park because the cattle industry fears losing their brucellosis stamp.  Nor will people call for the extermination of the wolves because they are having a harder time hunting in the spots they are used to.

We will make new laws to help support the wildlife in any way we can and preserve this area; not for ourselves or for any use we desire today, but because we recognize its’ specialness, and because, frankly, its the right thing to do.

There was a time, not long ago, when out of 60 million Bison that once roamed the entire United States, only 100 survived.  In fact, it was thought that all bison were extinct, and that was what we, as a country, as a government, was trying to achieve.  But in the early 20th century, around 100 Bison were found living in Yellowstone.  An immense effort was made to bring at least some bison back and the bison that you see today living in Yellowstone are the result of that effort–the last pure genetic stand of bison living today.

When you go to Yellowstone, there is a power, a respect, a wordless reverence that wells up in your being just seeing these animals.  Something deep and ancient reverberates in their presence.  Imagine if those bison hadn’t been preserved?  Those conservationists who helped preserve the bison of Yellowstone did an incredible service to future generations.  We, living today, are the beneficiaries of their efforts.

We must make those same efforts today for generations that will be living 100 years from now, just as they did for us 100 years ago.  That is how we should be looking at the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  That is how we should be making our laws, our plans, our actions.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”

The magnificent and endangered grizzly

There’s been plenty of hubbub regarding bears this summer in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, mainly grizzlies.  If you haven’t followed it, we had two deaths just on the eastern side of the Absarokas from grizzlies this summer, one of them occurred just up the road from where I live.  In addition, there’s been 38 grizzly deaths just this year, 31 on those caused by humans.  And many of the bears causing trouble have been found to be underweight, or their cubs were malnourished.  Grizzlies were put back on the Endangered Species list just this summer because one of their main food sources, White Bark pine nuts, is also in trouble and in major decline.

Grizzlies have been coming down into hay fields, down into the flats where there are towns and farms.  Why? Because they need more habitat, they need food.  Let’s not forget that grizzlies were actually plains animals, following the Bison and ‘Buffalo Wolves’ on the prairie.  Grizzlies can’t climb trees and their enormous claws are adapted for digging.

 

Grizzly rooting around

 

On the other hand, the smaller Black Bear is a forest bear.  It can climb trees.

It’s not just that ‘we have too many bears’.  Its that we’ve decided Grizzlies can only be in places where people don’t want to live year round–the high mountains–or where we’ve protected the land, such as Yellowstone Park.  And even in those places we barely tolerant them, calling on the feds to move or kill a bear (Grizzlies get three strikes before they’re out, dead out that is) that interferes with our ‘rights’.  In an area north of Gardiner, a sow with her two underweight cubs were moved for raiding a chicken coup.  Chickens are bear bait, and having one just north of the north entrance to the Park makes your chickens a restaurant for a bear.  I don’t understand why we have to waste good tax dollars and federal employees’ time on moving bears for stupid people.

My valley happens to be one of the places the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service moves bad bears, with the hopes they’ll go into Yellowstone.  My valley has good access into the Park, but most of these bears just quickly ‘home’ or return to their territory.  This I’ve been told by one of the bear coordinators. (“You don’t have to worry about the relocated bears.  They leave fairly quickly.”)

So why relocate?  These dedicated federal employees seem to spend a lot of their summer moving ‘bad’ bears here and there–from Jackson to the East Entrance, from Dubois to Cooke City, from Cody area back to Jackson–or they have the dirty and terrible job of euthanizing ‘problem’ bears.  Problem hardly ever means human/bear conflicts, but mostly cattle/sheep/horse/chicken conflicts or just too-darn-close-for-comfort conflicts.

We just have to begin to make a concerted effort to live with bears and give them more habitat.  A few things I can suggest (and there are many more that could be added to the list by people ‘in the know’):

1.  Use bear-proof garbage cans and food containers.  Several bears were euthanized in 2010 because of ‘food rewards’.  The article above said that after euthanizing a bear roaming around West Yellowstone, the feds discovered lots of unsecured food containers.  That’s just a crime!  West Yellowstone is exactly adjacent to the Park.  If you want to live there, secure your food or pay the consequences.  Should the bears pay the consequences for stupid people?

2.  We need contiguous wildlife corridors from here to the Canadian Border, with planned wildlife crossings over highways.  This is very important.  These bears and other wildlife need to be able to migrate out into other food sources when their own territories get too cramped.  And for God’s sake, at least slow down in Yellowstone.  This summer alone there were several bears killed by cars in the Park.

California is now putting the grizzly bear on all CDL.  If you hold your license up to the light, there’s a bear there; the same bear that’s on their flag and the exact same one that was shot to extinction in the early 1900’s.  If you’re going to tout it, then bring it back.  California has good habitat for grizzlies.  Let’s move some there.

3.  We need prairie where Grizzlies and Bison and wolves can roam again.  Grizzlies are already moving into eastern Montana.  Support the American Prairie Foundation and tell them to not just bring Bison back (already beginning to happen there) but wolves and grizzlies as well.  With the extinction of the White Bark Pine by the end of this next decade, bears will need a different food source.  We need to be thinking about recreating some of the kinds of habitat they lived in when Lewis & Clark were here.  L&C didn’t find game in the mountains; the game was abundant in the prairies.  Restoring bison to the prairies along with wolves makes for more game for grizzlies, along with all the small mammals and roots they like to dig for.

This summer I was fortunate enough to see three grizzlies–2 in the Park and the other one we slowed down while the bear crossed the road near here.  What a beautiful magnificent animal.  There is nothing like hiking in grizzly county, knowing that you are not at the top of the food chain.  It makes you alert, alive and aware.  Let’s preserve that.  It keeps our human ‘hubris’ in check.

 

Grizzly track with penny for sizing