Friday, November 4, 2011

Greater Yellowstone grizzlies: 'The road to recovery'

Courtesy photo/Neale Blank
Written by Gib Mathers
Powell Tribune

A grizzly bear takes five near Indian Pond in Yellowstone National Park. The grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has enjoyed a remarkable recovery in recent decades. But, with the recent spate of grizzly bear attacks on humans, officials and others plan to escalate the bear safety message hoping to curb nasty encounters with the bruins.

Population rebound a ‘success story’
(Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series exploring the history of grizzly bear recovery efforts in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.)

The grizzly bear population rebound in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem “is probably the biggest success story in endangered species recovery in the last 100 years,” said Mark Bruscino, bear management program supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Although the bears’ habitat has been depleted significantly in the last 100 years or more, today’s grizzly population has stabilized in the ecosystem after plunging to fewer than 100 bears in the 1970s. This year’s count is conservatively estimated at nearly 600 grizzlies.

Yellowstone National Park was one of the last sanctuaries for grizzlies in the lower 48 states, said an Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2008 report, “Grizzly Bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: From Garbage, Controversy and Decline to Recovery.”

Historically, seeing grizzly and black bears was a choice attraction for sightseers to Yellowstone National Park. By the 1880s, visitors assembled to observe the bruins devouring garbage dumped behind park hotels. By 1910, black bears learned to mooch food from tourists in wagons. In 1907 park staff were killing some grizzly and black bears due to human-bear conflicts, said the report.