SPECIAL REPORT: State of the Grizzly in MT


The following article is from Missoula’s KPAX:

by Mark Holyoak

MISSOULA- Perhaps there’s no better symbol of the wild than the grizzly bear and Montana’s News Station is taking a closer look at the grizzly and how it fits in to our modern world over the next month.

Standing up to eight feet tall and weighing up to 1,500 pounds, the grizzly stands tall as the top predator in the back-country and thanks to decades of monitoring and assistance, the grizzly population is growing.

“The growth rate is pretty good. In northwest Montana in the Glacier/Bob Marshall complex it’s about 3{dfeadfe70caf58f453a47791a362966239aaa64624c42b982d70b175f7e3dda2}. In Yellowstone, it’s 4{dfeadfe70caf58f453a47791a362966239aaa64624c42b982d70b175f7e3dda2} to 7{dfeadfe70caf58f453a47791a362966239aaa64624c42b982d70b175f7e3dda2}. Both populations are expanding in numbers and range so we’re seeing them where they haven’t been in 100 years,” said Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator Chris Servheen.

There are six grizzly bear recovery zones across the Northern Rockies: Yellowstone, the Northern Continental Divide which is north of Missoula up into Canada, the Cabinet-Yaak in northwest Montana, the Selkirk in north Idaho, the Cascades in Washington State and the Bitterroot along the Montana-Idaho border.

Chris Servheen spent the last 30 years working for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as its grizzly bear recovery coordinator. Over that time, he watched the population almost triple in size.

“There are 1,500 grizzlies in the lower 48 states. About a thousand so two-thirds of those are in Montana,” he said.

But such growth includes frustration. Citing a recovered Yellowstone population, the service removed grizzlies from the Endangered Species List in 2007, only to see environmental groups sue to return them, a judge agreed and the service is now waiting an appeal.

“It’s really unfortunate we had legal interference in the recovery process because we’ve done so much for bears and built so much public support,” Servheen told us.

Much of that support comes for a positive public perception, thanks to a certain Montana college and its mascot.

“I think Monte and the fact of the University of Montana grizzlies in Montana–that’s a real positive thing for grizzly bears. There’s no doubt about that,” he said.

As Servheen approaches his 30th year on the job, there are many things on his anniversary wish list–no more legal interference, continued public acceptance, and re-establishing grizzlies in the Bitterroot Mountains, at 5,600 square miles, they represent the largest block of wilderness habitat without grizzlies, but perfectly suited for them.

“If we did, we’d have a connector between the Yellowstone ecosystem and those to the north. That would increase the probability of long-term survival of the grizzly bear,” Servheen stated.

Some worry an expanding grizzly bear population would evoke strong negative feelings like many have toward wolves. Servheen disagrees.

“Wolves elicit all this emotion from people, visceral reaction. People are really mad and don’t want them around. Most people are supportive of bears, they just don’t want them in their backyards or house, but they like having them around,” he said.

Servheen said he does not expect grizzlies to live and flourish everywhere in Montana, only where there’s habitat for them and where people learn to live with them. In fact, he says wildlife management is really human management and the most important habitat for bears is in the human heart.

“Having wild grizzly bear populations is good for all Montanans. We should be proud of that. It shows we’re good stewards of the landscape and we live in a place that’s pretty special,” Servheen stated.

He added that with approximately 930 grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem, the Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to de-list those bears over the next two to three years and he said thanks to that growing population, don’t be surprised if grizzlies start showing up in the Rattlesnake sometime in the next 10 years.

Source:  KPAX

Posted by Haylie Shipp


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