Grizzlies Relegated to the Final Fragments of Wild America

Grizzly bearOver on Ralph Maughan’s blog, you can read up on the continuing saga of the government’s effort to wash its hands of responsibility for grizzly bears in the lower forty-eight states. This is not good news.

Grizzlies deserve better. They deserve to be restored to a much broader swath of their former range. We hope to hell that groups based in the Northern Rockies fight this plan with everything they’ve got.

Click here to go to the stories on Ralph’s blog.

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19 responses to “Grizzlies Relegated to the Final Fragments of Wild America

  1. I know the wolf count went down in Yellowstone itself in 2005 because of parvo. Last year they were kept down somewhat when they were invaded by the “Unknown” wolf pack that kept the females. That pack was not counted in the wolf count that year because they didn’t know they were around. They weren’t counted this year because they didn’t know where they were, and besides they didn’t have pups.
    They only count the wolves they can actually locate as I understand. Out of sight, out of count. That is why a previously unknown pack so often shows up in the spring in the states or in the park.
    One big concern I have is that when they are delisted the state of Wyoming will be required to maintain 8 packs in Yellowstone, yet I do not know of a single study that shows there is adequate food for that many packs and the required number of bears, plus lions etc that live there. We will have no control for any of those animals only the responsibility of seeing to it that there are that many.

  2. Marion, if you have read the yellowstone wolf population numbers you would know that they are not increasing in the park indefinitely. Two or three years ago the population plateaued and actually has declined for two years before increasing slightly last year. How do you feel about the fact that that has happened? Keep in mind that the yellowstone wolves are so well studied and closely looked at, it is probably one of the most accurate wolf counts in the region. Also, you may have read that in 2006 some 20000+ elk were taken by hunters in Idaho, with the elk population remaining stable for the past 6-7 years. How is it that this is possible in a state with so many wolves? Surely elk are very resilient if they can keep a stable population and recover from 20000 human kills/ year as well as however many thousand wolves are taking…

  3. C’mon guys, the Park has been managed since day 1 and it is managed now. Present management is for the maximum number of predators that can be attained by whatever means.
    As for the predators killing the sick and weak, I really don’t think 60% of the Northern Yellowstone elk herd were sick. In fact now they are composed of older cows because so many of the calves have been eaten, the replacement cows are very low.
    The wolves are back to eating calves this winter, but the last two winters they ate so many bulls that Doug Smith is doing a study to see how the weather affects their choice of bulls. He said he wasn’t blaming global warming for that choice, but…….
    Do any of you have any other numbers other than the 1.8 kill rate? I read on one of the reports that they had predicted 1.2, but that it is 1.8. I would have to go back thru all of them to find that, so I guess we will leave it there.
    As for the numbers, you are forgetting the other 4 major predators that we have in this area, they too are hungry….and they are chowing down, including the griz that are the subject of this particular thread. I don’t think there is any disagreement on the fact that the prey base is not increasing despite an increasing predator base. How can that possibly be continued indefinately?

  4. Thanks for the perspective, Frank! You make some very, very good points. I think that the wolves and the ungulates can figure this all out just fine, as they did long before we decided the whole darn thing needed to be “managed”.

  5. Another great book people might enjoy: Decade of the Wolf by Doug Smith and G. Ferguson.

    “I suspect you will disagree with this, but I think grizzly face far more problems from the ever increasing wolf numbers than anything else.”

    Yeah, I do disagree with that. I will never forget hiking in Pelican Valley a couple of years ago and watching wolves take down an elk. We were watching from quite a distance with binoculars. Within thirty minutes of the kill there were three grizzlies on it and the wolves had been driven off. Rick McIntyre says that that is very common throughout the park and almost a sure thing in heavy grizzly areas such as Pelican Valley. Bears have even been known to follow wolf packs waiting for a kill. Guess wolf kills are the “new dumps”.

    I have heard the 1.8 elk per (adult, pups considerably less) wolf, per month, figure as well. Steve is absolutely correct, however, that this is a winter figure when elk are most vulnerable and wolf caloric requirements are at their highest. During warmer weather, when elk are healthier and not bogged down by snow, wolves will rely much more heavily on other food sources: rodents, carcasses etc. Large game kills during summer and fall truly do become compensatory, sick or injured animals; as a healthy elk not bogged down in snow, can run 45 mph, whereas top speed of a healthy wolf is 35 mph.
    However, for the sake of argument, let’s use the figure of 1.8 elk per wolf per month, as if it were true year around (which it isn’t). Also assuming, for the sake of argument, a 100% adult population (which it isn’t). Given that figure times 1200 wolves (approximate N. Rockies population) times 12 months equals about 25,920 elk kills per year. Or about one third of the legal elk harvest by humans (not including poaching). If people were truly concerned with elk numbers the solution would be clear: suspend the human harvest for one year. One year. The population would skyrocket.

    Remember, human hunters don’t look for limping or obviously sick animals, so the strongest most likely to reproduce would live another year. For one year, let them eat deer! A small price to pay to save our precious herds, and insure hunting opportunities for the future.

  6. It would make sense that the kill rate would be highest at the end of winter when elk would be weakest. I bet in the summer time and into fall the kill rate goes way down.

  7. http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/annualrpt01/2001report.htm

    and under the sectionwinter studies under the part about Yellowsotne:
    quote” Winter studies: During the March winter study, wolves were observed for 261 hours from the ground. The number of days wolf packs were located from the air ranged from 10 (Yellowstone Delta) to 21 (Leopold, Rose Creek II, and Druid Peak). One hundred and eight definite or probable wolf kills were detected, including 98 elk, 2 mule deer, 1 moose, and 7 prey of unknown species. Among elk, 31 (32%) were calves, 40 (41%) were cows, 18 (18%) were bulls, 6 (6%) were of unknown sex, and 3 (3%) were of unknown sex and age. During the November-December winter study, wolves were observed for 174 hours from the ground. The number of days wolf packs were located from the air ranged from 3 (Yellowstone Delta) to 12 (Swan Lake and Leopold). Forty-one definite or probable wolf kills were detected, including 35 elk, 2 coyotes, and 4 unknown prey. Among elk, 15 (43%) of the kills were calves, 11 (31%) were cows, 6 (17%) were bulls and 3 (9%) kills were adult elk of unknown sex. Wolves that resided on the northern range averaged 1.8 elk/wolf/30-day study period during winter.” end quote.

  8. I could see a small wolf pack surviving off of 2-3 elk per month, but that seems like far too much for one wolf.

  9. Here is the Montana article from science magazine:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/315/5814/960

    I’m not sure why you should get mad at me. There are a minimum of 136 wolves in Yellowstone each eating almost 2 elk per month, say 250/month total. That would drop the elk count below 6000 by now.
    Why would you consider state G&F biologists any less credible than FWS biologists?….Or wishful thinking for that matter. It doesn’t really make any difference anyway, an endangered speices cannot be managed because of the effect on other wildlife, as I understand the law.

    [Editor’s Note: As to “credibility”, it’s not so much about credibility as it is about the need for peer-reviewed (or, if you prefer, “refereed”) scientific information. State game agencies are not neutral parties, nor are they generally focused on producing credible scientific information.]

  10. Marion, the fact that MT has areas with cow/calf ratios that are (perhaps) out-of-whack does not translate into wolves being the driving force–even if wolves happen to inhabit the same range.

    This is exactly why I am insisting that you provide peer-reviewed data that is published in a scientific journal; a report from a state game management agency does not qualify a peer-reviewed science. If Wyoming Game & Fish gets their paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, we’ll have something to talk about. Right now, all I see is a 32-page “report” from an agency that has made it clear for years that it will use any means necessary to justify eradicating wolves.

  11. Here is the elk status report form Wyoming G&F. that came out Friday:
    http://gf.state.wy.us/downloads/pdf/FinalElkCCRatios3-23-07.pdf

    I’m having trouble locating the Montana G&F report of a couple of months ago showing an 8/100 calf to cow ratio in some heavily wolf inhabited areas. I will post it as quick as I locate it again.
    FWS has elk numbers all over the place for the last couple of years, but even the best case scenario shows 6788 elk out of 19,000 left in the Northern herd going into winter. The worst was the 3649 counted last March 23, which was incomplete or inadequate anyway.
    The last count of the Norris herd was several years ago and the calf retention numbers were from 0-6 at that point. So far as I can find out the rest of the Yellowstone prey species are not being followed.

  12. Marion, any biologist worth their salt will tell you that wolves will not have any negative effect on griz. To the contrary, wolves provide a significantly greater abundance of carrion for the system, and grizzlies are one of the recipients of that bounty. Shortly after wolves returned to Yellowstone, biologists were reporting that grizzlies appeared to be leaving hibernation earlier, and some may not have hibernated at all, likely because there was such an increased abundance of protein because of wolf kills.

    You continue to posit the premise that wolves are “decimating” the prey base, but you refuse to provide any scientific evidence (in the form of peer-reviewed/published science) to support your claims. So, again, show us the money!

    Seriously, show us even one scientific journal article that supports your claim that wolves are decimating the herds. We’ve provided citations for articles that say wolves are not decimating the herds, so fair is far, right?

  13. I have never been there, so I don’t know whether there is enough habitat for them or not, or how many. Is there a lot of natural prey? A lack of ranches?
    I think the griz will do fine as things now stand unless the wolves get so numerous that they push them out. Certainly a small healthy populatiobn would be better than a larger starving sick population.

  14. Restoring the griz to central Idaho sure would have been a good help to shore up the species.

  15. Well don’t “drink”, but a cup of coffee wouldn’t be bad. Surely we could find enough to agree on to avoid throwing hot coffee at each other.
    Actually I agree with you about habitat loss, isn’t that why there are no griz in California anymore? But there are real people live in my state too, not many, but those of us who live here are not really willing to give up our homes.
    The thing is when you have single species advocates and focus, things get out of whack, and that is what is happening in Yellowstone. I suspect you will disagree with this, but I think grizzly face far more problems from the ever increasing wolf numbers than anything else. As the wolves destroy more and more of the prey base in Yellowstone, they are forcing griz out onto ranches and even homes to try to find food. That is a recipe for disaster ultimately.

  16. Actually Marion is at least partly correct on this one! Well, not entirely. I don’t think that I would call him an “environmentally friendly bear manager”, but some bonehead made the decision to close the dumps cold turkey. Dumps that the bears relied on for food. The Craigheads wanted them closed, but gradually…to wean the bears back to their natural food sources. The Craigheads rightly predicted that the bears would seek food in campgrounds and other developed areas. Human/bear conflicts went up, and many bears lost their lives as a result. There is no question that this hurt the population. Anyone visiting Yellowstone for a ten or fifteen year period was very lucky to see a griz. I too highly recommend “Track of the Grizzly”. (Marion, shall we grab a brew before I blow all this coziness with my last sentence?)
    I tend to think that the bears would have made the threatened list anyway, however, because their biggest problem was (and still is) loss of habitat.

  17. Oh really! You might want to read the history of what actually happened. Also read “Track of the Grizzly” by Frank Craighead. He was there with his twin brother John, and the Craigheads pioneered studies of the grizzlies. That book gives a very clear, albeit biased chronicle of the situation.

  18. Marion, your comments are so far out of context that they are laughable. Your ignorance is off the charts & not worthy of further comments!!

  19. Since Ralph will not allow me to comment on his page, I would like to point out that Wyoming as well as the other 2 states had a thriving population of grizzlies until we got an environmentally friendly bear manager in Yellowsotne that closed all of the dumps at one time, and then had to kill an untold number of grizzlies for getting into campgrounds, etc. It was not the people of the three states that killed off the griz, it was the NPS and their **** poor management. It made for a lot of high dollar research jobs though.
    Wyoming right now spends a million per year on grizzly bear management. In this state, we do, we don’t try to force others to do for us.