Doug's Blog

Rants from a renegade naturalist

Don't Delist the Yellowstone Griz (nor believe everything you read)

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Two contrasting news stories about bears in the West were published on April 2, 2017. The first is a credible six-year scientific study of black bears by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The second is a report from the Yellowstone Ecosystem subcommittee meeting of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team in Jackson, Wyoming, featuring the head scientist spouting familiar political bullshit about too many grizzlies ever expanding their Yellowstone range.

 

The Colorado study documents rising temperatures, fewer days spent in the den, increased human conflicts, and dramatically decreasing female black bear populations in southwestern Colorado. Rising conflicts with bears eating human garbage does not mean the bear population is rising. Garbage, they conclude, is not addicting; bears go back to natural food when it is available. The key to bear populations is the carrying capacity: how much food is there, which is directly related to soil moisture and plant production that is, in turn, directly related to climate change and (by correlation) to drought and rising temperatures in the American West.

 

On the other hand, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team in Yellowstone doesn’t believe climate change matters, writing in the Federal Register: “Therefore, we (The Fish and Wildlife Service) conclude that the effects of climate change do not constitute a threat to (the Yellowstone grizzly bear population) now, not are they anticipated to in the future.” Frank van Manen, head scientist of Study Team, says the grizzlies are expanding their range by 11 percent every couple years. Why? He says it’s because there are too many bears: “We are packing more sardines in the sardine can.” Van Manen thinks they are overflowing from the can into new territory where conflicts with livestock abound, and that today we are seeing the largest Yellowstone grizzly bear population size since listed as a threatened species in 1975.

 

This is bullshit. Climate change has already decimated key Yellowstone grizzly foods, especially whitebark pine nuts (which is now functionally extinct as a food source for bears), and has lowered the carrying capacity of the habitat through drought and rising temperatures (for a scientific discussion, click on the Grizzly-Sardine-Can link below).

 

Bears are ranging out of the Yellowstone core area, but it’s because there’s not enough food there. Hence, the density of grizzlies has decreased. The population of Yellowstone bears has not increased for 15 years and has probably declined since 2007—coincidentally the date of the tipping point for methane release in the Arctic, the commencement of abrupt climate change, and the sudden death of whitebark pine trees in Yellowstone. Is there any chance these events could be related? You bet your ass.

 

http://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/02/colorado-black-bear-management/ 

http://www.sltrib.com/home/5130361-155/grizzly-bear-habitat-to-expand-in

http://www.grizzlytimes.org/single-post/2015/12/17/Grizzly-Sardine-Can-Blues

 

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Yellowstone grizzly bear involved in hiker's death

http://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/news/15054.htm

DO NOT LET THE GOVERNMENT KILL THIS BEAR:

We need to honor this hiker and let the mother bear roam wild. The reason: Mother grizzlies never intentionally kill humans; they don't care about us, only the safety of their cubs. The hiker surprised the sow grizzly. We will never know exactly how but likely she was on a day bed and he got too close. The hiker had wounds on his arms, indicating he probably fought back, an understandable but bad reaction to a mother bear to whom resistance means her cubs are still in danger. We don't know why she made contact; close proximity possibly made worse by running. Running or trying to climb a tree after a mother grizzly with cubs is the worst choice, followed by fighting back. Apparently, the hiker's body was cached and fed upon. This most disturbing of consequences needs to seen in context of the natural world of the bear. Anything dead out there is Yellowstone this time of year is seen as a most valuable food source during the lean times of summer. Witness past bison carcasses in Hayden Valley where humans got too close, then in turn were eaten too. Once dead, a human is like any other animal. If several grizzlies are around, the most dominant animal, often a big male, will appropriate the carcass. So if a mother bear killed a human in perceived defense of her cubs, that doesn't mean she cached or fed on the body. The salient point here: This mother bear is no more likely to repeat this most natural of aggressions--kill, or consume a human--than any other mother grizzly bear in the world. The feds are more nervous about litigation and bad press than public safety. The only way to totally protect the public from wild bears and insure safety for park visitors is to kill off all the grizzlies. the federal agencies don't want that any more than we do. Help them clarify their thinking. This was a defensive natural act for a wild grizzly. It will probably never happen again to this mother bear, though of course it might--and that is the great value of wilderness and their risky animals. The hiker was experienced, knew the area well and loved to take this hike. His now missing opinion is what would have mattered to me: What would he have wanted for the fate of this bear?

Doug Peacock, 8-8-2016, Northern Yellowstone

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Yellowstone Wilderness Under Siege

The only reason you can still find wild country in Yellowstone National Park is because people don't go there. Whether it's benign neglect, remoteness or that the park service simply forgot to build a trail into these pockets, it all adds up to tiny, precious and vulnerable wilderness.

The biggest threats today are the Loomis/Bishop Paddling Bill (see Todd Wilkinson link below) and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team who have announced plans to intensify grizzly trapping, snaring and tranquilizing in the most "remote" parts of the Yellowstone ecosystem. This unimaginative practice constitutes unnecessary, highly invasive and unproductive science that has already resulted in many dead bears and at least one killed human. It's simplistic and yeilds no significant data, yet high-tech in that helicopters are used in these most "remote' areas of Yellowstone. When you see a flock of choppers like dragonflies hovering around some distant peak in Yellowstone, you know it's a grizzly trapping operation. And why? The Interagency Team has already unanimously voted to remove federal protections from Yellowstone's grizzlies (Delisting) and all this useless harassment of bears is only aimed at the hope the team's findings will support removing these bears from protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Please bug your favorite official/politician to stop this waste of resources and serious threat to both grizzly bears and the wild habitats they need for survival.

Doug Peacock, Ajo, AZ

See Todd Wilkinson, Paddlers should avoid misusing hero's words (Jackson Hole News)

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