1st Grizzly in Idaho Bitterroot in 61 years
Author: teddygirl | Saturday October 20, 2007
The following is from Defenders of Wildlife, an organization that protects all native wild animals and plants in their natural communities.
The first grizzly bear in 61 years on the Idaho side of the Bitterroot ecosystem was confirmed over the Labor Day holiday by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials. The bear was mistakenly killed three miles from the Montana border by a hunter who was hunting for black bear.
“The presence of a healthy adult grizzly bear on the Idaho side of the Bitterroot ecosystem is an encouraging development in the grizzly bear’s recovery story,” said Minette Glaser, Northern Rockies Representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “It’s a shame that we had to find out that this bear was living in the area because it was mistakenly killed there, but what it means for the species overall is hugely significant.”
Grizzly bears were once common in the Bitterroot ecosystem, but have been non-existent since 1946. The area is ideal habitat for grizzly bears because of ample food sources, the vast acreage of federally protected land and the low likelihood of conflicts with humans. For these reasons, the Bitterroot ecosystem was identified as one of six Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones in the lower 48 by FWS.
“Grizzlies couldn’t ask for a better home than the Bitterroot ecosystem. It has nearly 4 million acres of federally designated wilderness, very few roads and to top it all off there is very little cattle grazing, not much potential for oil, gas and mineral development and little pressure to harvest timber,” said Glaser.
Defenders of Wildlife has been working to help grizzly bears recolonize the Bitterroot ecosystem through strategic placement of projects to reduce conflicts between bears and humans in the crucial corridors that connect this area with existing bear populations. In addition, they have reached out to the timber and labor industries and crafted a proposal to foster recovery that enjoys widespread public support. Called the “citizen management alternative,” it called for a committee composed of wildlife professionals and local citizens to manage grizzlies with the goal of restoring grizzly bears while minimizing impacts on local economies and communities. The Bush administration has refused to implement this popular solution.
Dispersal of the grizzly into the Bitterroot ecosystem has been a key goal of Defenders of Wildlife’s grizzly bear recovery program because it could increase the total number of grizzlies in the lower 48 states by a third and eventually provide a crucial linkage between bear populations in the Cabinet/Yaak, northern Continental Divide and Yellowstone ecosystems.
“Defenders is elated to see that at least one bear has found its way back into the Bitterroot ecosystem because this means there could already be more in the area or some on their way,” said Glaser. “If the grizzly is truly reclaiming some of its old habitat, hunters and guides should be mindful of Fish and Wildlife Service’s warning to be sure it is a black bear before they shoot and notify the agency immediately if they spot a grizzly.”
For more information, visit Defenders of Wildlife