Grizzly bear managers recommend delisting in Yellowstone

2013-12-12T05:45:00Z 2014-10-03T14:24:22Z Grizzly bear managers recommend delisting in Yellowstone missoulian.com

With new research showing grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park are going strong, Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee members unanimously called for ending federal protection of their namesake animal.

“This is not a decision to delist the grizzly,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly recovery coordinator Chris Servheen said after the vote was taken Wednesday. “It’s a recommendation to write a new rule.”

Higher authorities in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may decide by early January whether to follow the IGBC recommendation, made near the end of a two-day meeting in Missoula.

If the federal government believes Yellowstone grizzly populations are no longer threatened under the Endangered Species Act, a new management rule might be drafted within six months. It would then be published in the Federal Register and receive public comment before a final version is enacted.

Between 629 and 740 grizzly bears live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which includes parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Federal authorities tried to delist Yellowstone grizzlies in 2007, but U.S. District Judge Don Molloy ruled the science was incomplete on how dependent grizzlies were on whitebark pine nuts as a food source.

Whitebark pine trees produce high-protein seeds in their cones that grizzly bears often use as a fall food source. The tree species has been ravaged by a fungus called blister rust as well as by mountain pine beetles. About 74 percent of the mature, cone-producing whitebark stands are dead in the Yellowstone area.

Opponents of the 2007 delisting plan argued in court that the FWS didn’t account for the loss of whitebark nuts when determining that Yellowstone grizzlies were strong enough to go under state management. But a new study released Wednesday refuted those claims.

Instead, the grizzly’s omnivorous eating habits allow it to adapt to changing food sources without changing its home range size, U.S. Geological Survey researcher Frank van Manen said. While whitebark nuts and cutthroat trout have faded from the food supply, the bears have found other things to thrive on.

Van Manen said the Yellowstone grizzly population grew 4 percent to 7 percent between 1983 and 2001, but has leveled off to between 0.3 percent and 2.2 percent in the past decade.

That flattening trend line reflects two things, van Manen said. First, the area appears to have reached its carrying capacity for grizzlies. And when that happens, it’s harder for cubs to grow up because other adults outcompete or kill them.

The research found bears were eating more meat as pine nuts and fish sources declined. It also found little change in bears’ body fat or movement patterns connected to the loss of whitebark supplies. And while the number of bears killed by people has grown, the percentage of human-caused deaths has remained stable as the population has grown.

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A number of people at Wednesday’s meeting objected to the report’s findings. Louisa Willcox of the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the whitebark conclusions, saying other studies show the bears to be much more dependent on the trees.

“We know the wheels are falling off the wagon in terms of habitat changes in the Yellowstone,” Willcox said. “We’re asking you to take a more precautionary approach, in the spirit of the Endangered Species Act.”

And Christine Wilcox of the Natural Resources Defense Council criticized the report’s incomplete review process. She said it should have gone through a complete peer review and publication before being presented to the IGBC.

Van Manen acknowledged the report had not had a complete public examination. But he added it had passed two internal peer reviews, and would be completely published before the Fish and Wildlife Service was finished drafting a potential delisting rule.

Paul Fielder of Thompson Falls told the committee it should keep public opinion in mind as it worked out its science. A majority of people in his area, which includes the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly recovery zone, were opposed to further relocations of grizzlies there.

“You’ve got to have a little political support,” Fielder said. “It’s local citizenry that makes projects like this work or not work.”

Servheen also worried about public and political backing for bear recovery. While the science and agency oversight has been critical over the past 33 years of the IGBC’s existence, the general public needed to be respected as well.

“If we don’t delist when the bears are recovered, that public and political support will evaporate,” Servheen said. “We have to signal a touchdown has been made.”

Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Jim Unsworth added he didn’t want to see grizzlies wind up in the same trouble as wolves.

“Wolves met their recovery goals in 2002-2003,” Unsworth said. “But then we went into litigation over delisting, and we lost a whole bunch of people who were in the middle of the road on the issue.”

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife manager Ken McDonald added states have already been spending millions of dollars managing grizzly bear conflicts and habitat. Taking full control from the federal government would help local people feel more in charge of local issues, he said.

“There’s a misperception that we’re just going to open it up and do whatever we want,” McDonald said. “There are still going to be mortality thresholds to respect, habitat management, road density standards and conflict management. Day-to-day, a person wouldn’t see much change.”

McDonald added a public hunt could be part of the package. But they would be strictly regulated and tied to bear survival thresholds, similar to how trophy species like moose and bighorn sheep are handled.

“The majority of funding for bear management right now has come from hunting license dollars,” McDonald said. “Sportsmen have footed the majority of the bill on recovery. There are a few who would like to see a return on that investment.”

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

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(20) Comments

  1. Chad Fleming
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    Chad Fleming - May 12, 2014 7:30 am
    I don't live in the Yellowstone area but i have followed this story for many decades reading up on both sides of peoples views and all the research and i was wondering if they were doing anything to restock the trout in the creeks and rivers which is in the grizzlies diet? I know farmers are worried about the bears. By the was lots of trophy grizzlies in Alaska to hunt. I think right now hunting grizzlies in the Yellowstone area is a bad ideal. I worry about people safety and property damage and lost of live stock and crops but things can be done to keep bears out like electric fencing. Boars killing cubs is so true, same with black bears, populations get too high bears do manage bears. I read since wolves were introduced elk have moved to other areas allowing willows and berry plants for the bears to grow. Personally i feel grizzlies need to remain protected for now, i would like to them to spread out to repopulate other wooded areas. i'd be happy with a 10.000 bear count over a wide area before any hunting be allowed to assure they can sustain a healthy population. We deal with Polar bears up here. I know many hunters but i do not hunt myself, most hunters are not trigger happy, it's just the odd one who makes it look bad for everyone.
  2. Objective observer
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    Objective observer - December 14, 2013 5:43 am
    Thanks for the laugh oldie.
  3. wolvesrock
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    wolvesrock - December 13, 2013 6:29 pm
    Wow. The bears are taking over all these states. We have an apocalypse with 700 grizzlies in several states. What will we do? How long will it take for these hunters and poachers to bring the numbers down so they have to be put back on the endangered species list?
  4. wolvesrock
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    wolvesrock - December 13, 2013 6:17 pm
    Come on. The same attitude is in these states that was there when they brought the animals to near extinction before. No willingness to coexist with fencing, livestock guardian dogs, range riders or just appreciation and stop moving into their territory. Idaho already has some competition set up to kill wolves and coyotes. You aren't even hunting for food and you act like you live in the dark ages. There are more tourists than hunters yet who runs things in these states? The hunters. Trophy hunters. A hobby. That's why this sweetie pie will keep on speaking up for the protection of grizzlies and wolves because of such an attitude by these states.
  5. BSPiLG
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    BSPiLG - December 12, 2013 6:21 pm
    True boar/cub facts.

    How do you propose creating legislation to only allow "mature boars" to be killed? You REALLY believe all griz hunters can determine male/female from a distance through scope? So when hunters "accidentilly" kill a younger or female griz - saying they "swore it was mature male" that this will actually help prevent extinction?

    Extinction was caused by corrupt, moronic, greedy, ego-maniacal hunters. These folk will intentionally avoid any laws and shoot what they want, and later easily lie to avoid consequences.... all the while the extinction threat reoccurs and we have to start rebuilding again.

    Your fact is correct. Your idea to "only kill mature male griz" is also, theoretically, a helpful solution --- but not at all realistic and easily applied to human behavior.

    Nobody is trashing hunters/hunting --- we all need these laws to prevent the already existing historic pattern of MORONIC, greedy, selfish slaughters.

  6. BSPiLG
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    BSPiLG - December 12, 2013 6:11 pm
    So you did NOT read (&/or comprehend) the article? You have some hallucination that "cronies" falsified griz data which led to their need for protection?

    Logical observance of historical facts/patterns dictates that before griz are allowed to be hunted again, much work (and factual science/proof research) needs to occur to ensure the past slaughter is avoided. WHEN that occurs, new hunting measures will be implemented. We hunters firmly agree with that - b/c there are too many corrupt morons who completely lack wisdom, who love to completely obliterate what everyone enjoys... all to satisfy their own selfish, egomaniacal greed.

    Nobody is bashing hunters here, Sherlock -- just preventing already proven corrupt/criminal slaughters.

    Chill.

    Why such rageful desire to attack persons while completely ignoring the FACTS of the issue? So strange.
  7. BSPiLG
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    BSPiLG - December 12, 2013 5:52 pm
    Mc Donalds?

    Politics is ALWAYS about money/power, sweetiepie. As discussed above, persons are trying to take efforts to BEST avoid negative political abuses, by choosing the BEST means to protect the Griz and not let the situation devolve into one like the Wolf-conflict hell.

    Just b/c politics is completely moronic & illogical does not mean such forces are weak - political/PR games & powers have existed since beg o' 'time', and will always continue to be the most MAJOR issue in any group/community decisions. Don't discount political issues - you have to learn the gameplay and work the 'powers' to BEST support one's goal.

    Our opinion : best to side on protection measures with wide safety margin of decades of proven science facts. Agree the corrupt humans can/will murder the griz no matter what "hunting regulations" exist. A "bear trophy" HIGHLY attracts just that type of egomaniacal, corrupt, greedy, rageful, malfunctioning brains. But can't just make the decisions (sadly) based only on science - "political, PR issues" do play a major part and have to be "well played".
  8. oldie
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    oldie - December 12, 2013 4:20 pm
    jus wundrin...that's what you call a level playing field huh? Large caliber weapons?

    What do you think you would need to gain a slight edge on the level playing field?
    How about a 88 millimeter canon? An F-16 maybe? You don't really want to be taking too many chances with a grizzly bear ya, Rambo? jus wundrin.
  9. jus wundrin
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    jus wundrin - December 12, 2013 2:53 pm
    The extreme environmentalists?
  10. jus wundrin
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    jus wundrin - December 12, 2013 2:53 pm
    "The fact that you're not the apex predator when you head into the woods is good."

    Thats why we carry large caliber weapons in order to "level the playing field".
  11. Dubs
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    Dubs - December 12, 2013 2:39 pm
    If they don't delist the bears in Yellowstone, what little credibility the ESA ever had is down the tubes. They can whine all they want but every ecosystem will only hold so many animals, no matter what species they are. Thee are more areas in Montana where they have reached maximum saturation--the Rocky Mountain Front and the Swan Valley to name a few.
  12. Chuck Feney
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    Chuck Feney - December 12, 2013 1:53 pm
    Fact: Big mature boars kill cubs whenever possible to bring the sow into season.
    Fact: Harvesting big mature boars leads to a larger numbers of bears surviving cubhood.
    No creature kills more bears than big mature boars.
  13. DavidStalling
    Report Abuse
    DavidStalling - December 12, 2013 1:42 pm
    THE BEAR MARKET: MAKE A KILLING ON YOUR INVESTMENT?

    “The majority of funding for bear management right now has come from hunting license dollars,” McDonald said. “Sportsmen have footed the majority of the bill on recovery. There are a few who would like to see a return on that investment.”

    Sadly that may be true, for some. Then again, some of us hunters don't perceive wildlife conservation as a business. The only "return" on my "investment" I want to see is healthy, functioning ecosystems. Or, as Aldo Leopold so aptly put it, to "preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.” The opportunity to hunt elk and deer is a nice, sustainable benefit derived from healthy landscapes, and (since grizzies are an apex predator, or "umbrella" or "keystone" species as they are often called) protecting grizzly habitat protects most everything, entire watersheds, including healthy forests, meadows and rivers; including habitat for trout, elk, deer, mountain goats and bighorns. I don't "invest" in such things expecting to kill a grizzly.

    That's my interest, and I hope my interest continues to grow. THE BEAR MARKET: MAKE A KILLING ON YOUR INVESTMENT?

    “The majority of funding for bear management right now has come from hunting license dollars,” McDonald said. “Sportsmen have footed the majority of the bill on recovery. There are a few who would like to see a return on that investment.”

    Sadly that may be true, for some. Then again, some of us hunters don't perceive wildlife conservation as a business. The only "return" on my "investment" I want to see is healthy, functioning ecosystems. Or, as Aldo Leopold so aptly put it, to "preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.” The opportunity to hunt elk and deer is a nice, sustainable benefit derived from healthy landscapes, and (since grizzies are an apex predator, or "umbrella" or "keystone" species as they are often called) protecting grizzly habitat protects most everything, entire watersheds, including healthy forests, meadows and rivers; including habitat for trout, elk, deer, mountain goats and bighorns. I don't "invest" in such things expecting to kill a grizzly.

    That's my interest, and I hope my interest continues to grow.
  14. Objective observer
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    Objective observer - December 12, 2013 12:26 pm
    "Of course ,these unelected bureaucrats want to keep their racquet going!"

    Did you read the article? The bear managers are recommending removal from the threatened status which opens up the possibility for a hunting season.

    "We have so many grizzly bears now it is extremely dangerous just to go into the back country in states like Wyoming." Baloney. And what a whiner. The fact that you're not the apex predator when you head into the woods is good.
  15. wolvesrock
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    wolvesrock - December 12, 2013 10:43 am
    Since these states did so well before and hunted these creatures to near extinction before so that they had to be put on the endangered species list, what makes anyone think they won't do the same thing again? This is all about money and who has power in these states. Guess who does.
  16. Kuato
    Report Abuse
    Kuato - December 12, 2013 10:17 am
    Another huge unconstitutional misuse of the ESA ! We have so many grizzly bears now it is extremely dangerous just to go into the back country in states like Wyoming. Of course ,these unelected bureaucrats want to keep their racquet going! We need a hunting season to manage these bears, right now.
  17. doc
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    doc - December 12, 2013 9:51 am
    Is it a coincidence that two people named Wilcox are opponents of this recommendation? Also, I live in Wyoming and can attest to the fact that the range of the Grizzly is far beyond the park boundries.
  18. Roger
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    Roger - December 12, 2013 8:45 am
    No matter how many bears or wolves there are, some radicals will never accept the fact that the species have recovered.
  19. troutcreek
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    troutcreek - December 11, 2013 10:01 pm
    Paul Fielder does not speak for Thompson Falls. Many of us would welcome more grizzly bears. Paul Fielder is new to Thompson Falls yet he and his wife somehow think they speak for all residents. Go back where you came from.
  20. elkguy
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    elkguy - December 11, 2013 3:31 pm
    And once again Molloy and his phony environmentalist cronies are proven to be full of it.
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