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COVID-19 Has Changed The Way Large Carnivore Education Is Taught

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

The past 12 months have been tough for Dusty Lasseter. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of his efforts at a critical time in the grizzly bear education business.

Between the record number of visitors to Yellowstone National Park in the final two months of 2020 and the recent upswing in interest in outdoor activities sparked by the pandemic, 2021 could be yet another record year for tourism in northwest Wyoming. At the same time, officials in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho report grizzly populations that are continuing to grow and expand outside what is considered suitable habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“I think the toughest thing with COVID was not having face-to-face interaction and presentations with the public,” said Lasseter, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Bear Wise education coordinator.

The program typically reaches thousands, teaching both residents and visitors the importance of learning to safely live and recreate in grizzly bear habitat.

“It really limited our ability to give presentations to the public and host groups of people,” he said. “Even our one-on-one interactions at a booth in an event — those were all just canceled.”

Education has proven to be an important tool in grizzly conflict mitigation. Statistics show positive changes over time — especially on private property. There was a time when the highest percentage of conflicts were due to unsecured attractants. Lasseter helped lead the charge to make landowners and residents aware of the issue and now it’s barely a blip on the radar. Of the 208 conflicts reported by Wyoming officials last year, only two came from unsecured attractants.

Yet, while the lessons are effective with residents, reaching the increasing wave of tourists flocking to the area is difficult. One example can be seen at Yellowstone. A recent survey showed only 19% of individual day hikers carry bear spray and 44% travel in groups of two or more. At the same time, surveys of those who travel deeper into the back country — which requires a permit and gives officials opportunities to provide education — showed 64% of individuals carried bear spray and 84% of groups had at least one can.

With expansion of the species’ footprint in the ecosystem — both in immediate areas and recently in population bases such as Red Lodge, Montana — education is increasingly important. Montana’s 10-year average for conflicts is 81, but the state recorded 101 conflicts in 2020. About 20% of those conflicts were well outside the boundaries of suitable habitat known as the Demographic Monitoring Area (DMA) in the Beartooth Mountain range near Red Lodge. Conflict areas are expanding in Wyoming as well, said Game and Fish large carnivore section supervisor Dan Thompson.

“We have a lot more people using [grizzly bear] habitat that aren’t used to recreating in those areas,” he said Thursday at the virtual spring meeting of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee (YES) of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. It’s a group tasked with conservation efforts for the species inside the DMA.

“We have an area the size of the state of New Jersey occupied outside what we consider suitable habitat for grizzly bears right now,” Thompson said. “So that obviously increases that chance for conflict.”

Education is important in these areas, he said. About 50% of all conflicts reported last year happened on private property. The department has been working for decades to work with landowners, expanding educational programs into new areas as the species’ footprint expands.

But last year the department was forced to improvise and adapt. Giveaways of free bear spray moved from in-person handouts to non-contact drive-thrus. Lessons normally presented in person were translated to social media posts and online projects. And the Game and Fish is working closer with non-government organizations to present education to groups likely to see conflicts, such as area hunters.

In one project, the department teamed up with the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association (WYOGA) to produce a new video aimed at educating back country hunters. The video, scheduled to debut this week, attempts to teach grizzly bear behavior so hunters know how to best avoid and mitigate conflicts.

“It’s hopefully a template for the future. It’s really well done and something we’re going to also be using as we move forward,” Thompson said.

Park County Commissioner Lee Livingston, who also sits on the board of directors at WYOGA, said the project is being tweaked before its release. He’s hopeful the video will decrease the danger back country recreationalists face in grizzly habitat and result in less mortality for the species.

Lasseter, who appears in WYOGA’s video, said changes made during this past year will continue in future educational efforts.

“We’re really focusing on providing more video material for folks so they can [view educational content] from the comfort of their home,” he said, adding, “COVID really changed my mindset on how important it is to show people their behavior because people have so few interactions with bears on the landscape. There’s just a ton of value in teaching people bear behavior in videos.”

The availability of online educational content may help get the word out to visitors as well, he said. “A lot of people will be searching for resources before they get here. They’ll be looking at videos online and, hopefully, we can direct them to our Bear Wise information on the Game and Fish site.”

Game and Fish is also expanding bear spray giveaways into other communities this coming summer, including in Lander, Dubois and Jackson. And, with continued success in vaccinations, Lasseter hopes to once again be able to get back to in-person training.

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Grizzly 399 And Her Four Cubs Are Out And About

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If there is a bear more celebrated than 25-year-old Grizzly 399 (and her four cubs), we’re not aware of it.

So let the celebration begin, because 399 and her brood are awake and seem to be doing well.

Credit to our friends over at Mountain Journal for letting us know about it.

They report that 399 was spotted on Thursday morning in a couple unspecified locations but probably in or near Grand Teton National Park.

“They all appear well — though a bit thin — which is to be expected after a long winter slumber,” the journal writes.

The publication opined that some thought the bears wouldn’t emerge from hibernation for a couple more weeks.

But once they’re out, they’re out.

The last time Cowboy State Daily reported on 399 was on Jan. 5 when the Wyoming Game and Fish Department thought the bears had gone to their den for hibernation. 

It was a little later than usual but that was because the family had stumbled on to many gut-piles in the area.

“Staying out a little longer for this high-protein food source has proven pretty productive for grizzly 399 and her offspring,” department spokesman Mark Gocke said.

399 dropped her radio collar years ago, so agencies have to rely on sightings to know where and how she is.

Although it’s exciting to know that 399 is back at it, we hope that she and her cubs are given plenty of space by curious observers.

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Grizzlies Recommended For Threatened Listing, Wyoming Officials Disagree

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming officials are disagreeing with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommendation to leave grizzly bears on the threatened wildlife list for at least five more years.

Last week, the agency recommended that no change be made to the to the grizzlies’ status as threatened under the Endangered Species Act for at least five years, which will allow for a status review.

But Wyoming officials maintain the recommendation is not based in the reality of what is happening with the bears in the park.

“The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem bear population is booming, growing from as few as 136  bears during early recovery periods to potentially more than 1,000 in the ecosystem today,” said Brian Nesvik, director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “The traditional range has expanded beyond what is considered biological and socially suitable habitats by 7,738 square miles. Yet, it remains listed because of endless federal lawsuits litigated in courts outside of Wyoming and disengagement from what is happening on-the-ground in our state.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s recommendation to leave the bears on the list came after a thorough review of the best available science, the agency said in a statement, which was informed by an independently peer-reviews species status assessment.

The recommendation did confirm that grizzly populations in the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems are biologically recovered. However, the five-year status review would allow for assessment of the species as a whole across the 48 contiguous states.

The assessment will evaluate the species’ current needs, conditions and threats, as well as modeling future scenarios. The remaining challenges with their threatened status include limited habitat connectivity, management of access by motorized vehicles, human-caused mortality and uncertainty surrounding future conservation efforts in some ecosystems, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Grizzlies were originally listed as threatened in 1975 and then removed from the endangered species list in 2017 by the Fish and Wildlife Service, which cited a significant increase in bear populations.

However, in 2018, a federal court reversed the agency’s decision.

Nesvik said the decision to continue to list the bears as threatened ignores the progress that has been made in their recovery.

“By all federally mandated criteria and scientific measures, the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has reached and exceeded recovery status for more than 20 years,” he said. “Over the last 40 years, Wyoming has contributed over $50 million to meet the high-bar required for delisting. These contributions have come largely from hunters and anglers.”

Gov. Mark Gordon agreed with Nesvik’s sentiments and is backing a proposal by the state’s congressional delegation to remove the bears from the endangered species list.

“The governor is supportive of the legislation introduced by our (congressional) delegation that would de-list grizzly bears,” Gordon’s spokesman Michael Pearlman told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “Wyoming’s grizzly bears have been biologically recovered for more than a decade, and therefore the state should be managing the species.”

U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso have joined U.S. senators from Idaho and Montana in introducing legislation to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list.

In late February, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney reintroduced a bill to Congress that would remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list and prevent them from being considered threatened or endangered wildlife in the future.

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Delisting & Hunting Grizzlies Best For Bears and People, Officials Say

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A congressional proposal to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list would benefit the bears and humans, according to hunters and the state Game and Fish Department.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, joined by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, is sponsoring legislation to “delist” the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzlies and put their management in the hands of state wildlife officials.

Joe Kondelis is the president of the Western Bear Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and development of bears, bear habitat, and bear hunting in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. 

In his opinion, the legislation is welcome.

“The only way we’re going to get the grizzly bear delisted, in my opinion, is to do it federally, because time has proven that anti-delisting groups litigating and suing prevent putting it into state management,” Kondelis said.

The politics of delisting are frustrating for Kondelis and his organization, he said.

“I think the struggles have been — we have one criteria for a species, until that criteria is met… and then society changes that,” he said. “The scientists and the managers haven’t changed it, but public perception changes, and then all of us who live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have to suffer.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Director, Brian Nesvik, in the December issue of the department’s magazine “Wyoming Wildlife,” expressed his own frustration in the slow-moving inner workings of politics when it comes to the management of the burly bruins.

“Despite the fact that the population is recovered by all scientific measures and has been for nearly 20 years, the state is not allowed to implement its grizzly bear management plans,” Nesvik wrote. 

Kondelis said his organization is also advocating for state management of the bears, rather than putting them under the auspices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“If we could move into state management we would have more flexibility to manage the population for health and sustainability,” he noted. 

In the “Wyoming Wildlife” article, Nesvik detailed the efforts that have been made by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for grizzlies and other species, pointing to success in the recovery of the grey wolf population, which is thriving even after four years of legal hunting in Wyoming.

Hunting, as a matter of fact, is one of the key tools used in wildlife population management, according to Nesvik.

“Our time-tested model for managing many wildlife species in North America, including large carnivores, has always included hunting,” he wrote.

Kondelis’ organization agrees.

The Western Bear Foundation, based in Cody, is both a hunter advocacy group and a bear conservation organization. With around 500 volunteer members comprised of representatives from most states, the Foundation has a vested interest in the survival of the species.

“Are we doing enough at the state level to ensure there’s a future for bears on our landscape, for not only hunters to enjoy but for everyone to enjoy?” Kondelis asked. “With that comes proper sound management and using science to basically guide our decisions as far as management goes.”

Kondelis said he knows many sportsmen and others who recreate in the northern Continental Divide ecosystem who have had encounters with grizzly and other bears.

“It’s becoming part of the lexicon out West,” he said. 

He added that the estimates that are being reported regarding the bear population are most likely on the conservative side and are likely skewed by the fact animals are wandering more and more outside their traditional habitat.

“These bears are moving out of their native ranges and into new areas that they’ve never been since the settlers came over,” he said. “And so that’s where the trouble has been lately — not in the demographic monitoring area as much as it has been outside of that.”

Lummis introduced the Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2021 Barrasso and fellow U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho and Steve Daines of Montana. The companion version of this legislation was previously introduced in the House by Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

In 1975, there were 136 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In 2019, there were 728 bears, evidence of an effective conservation effort. At this point, grizzly numbers have been in the 700s for a number of years. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team’s analysis suggests that the park is at or near its ecological carrying capacity for grizzly bears.

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Lummis, Barrasso Introduce Bill to Delist Grizzlies From Endangered Species List

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso have joined U.S. senators from Idaho and Montana in introducing legislation to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list.

The Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2021 would remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the endangered species list and shift management of the grizzlies from the federal government to wildlife scientists in the states.

“By all scientific measures, the grizzly bears of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are fully recovered,” Lummis said. “Reproductive numbers are stable and the population is at or near its max capacity for the habitat. It’s time to remove the grizzlies in this area from the Endangered Species List and allow wildlife scientists in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho to manage the populations according to science.”

U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana are co-sponsoring the bill with Lummis and Barrasso.

“Grizzly bears are an essential part of the ecosystem of Wyoming, but keeping them listed hurts their populations more than it helps them,” Lummis said. “Wildlife managers that live near the bears and study them closely have a better idea of population parameters than bureaucrats in Washington. It’s time to delist the grizzly in our area and let science dictate our wildlife policy.”

Barrasso added the grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem are thriving and no longer need protection under the Endangered Species Act, and that has been the case for years.

“Even President Obama’s Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed with me that the grizzly bear should be delisted in 2015,” Barrasso said. “The state of Wyoming should be in charge of managing the bear population. Wyoming’s good work and sound management practices should be given an opportunity to demonstrate success. Seeing states successfully implement recovery efforts is just one of the many reasons I am working to improve the Endangered Species Act.”

In 1975, when grizzlies were first listed on the endangered species list, there were 136 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In 2019, there were 728 bears.

Grizzly numbers have been in the 700s for a number of years. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team’s analysis suggested that the park is at or near its ecological carrying capacity for grizzly bears, according to information provided by Lummis.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed grizzlies from the endangered species list, citing a significant increase in bear populations and a doubling of their range land. A federal court in 2018, ruling on a lawsuit filed by environmental groups and Indian tribes, reversed the agency’s decision.

Some organizations across Wyoming praised the legislation proposed by the senators.

““It is time for all to recognize the grizzly bear has already achieved healthy, robust population, has reached overpopulation for its available range and to manage it as such,” the Park County Board of Commissioners said. “It is time for the federal government to uphold its end of the agreement made with the people who live and recreate in Park County and delist the grizzly bear, and we feel the passage of this bill will do just that.”

The Wyoming Outfitters and Guides’ Association echoed these sentiments, saying it is long past time to delist the bears.

“Long overdue is the need to delist the grizzly bear, a species whose recovery has been realized for nearly a decade now, yet whose removal from endangered species classification has been inappropriately forestalled by activist environmental organizations,” the group said.

However, some conservation groups do not agree.

“It’s disturbing to see Western lawmakers try to blatantly sidestep the science showing that grizzly bears should remain federal protected under the Endangered Species Act,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.  “We’re hopeful this bill dies a quick death in Congress.”

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition opposed a resolution approved in Wyoming’s Legislature in 2019 asking that Congress act to remove the grizzlies from the endangered species list and that the federal government give the state more money to manage the bears until they could be delisted.

“This injects politics and divisiveness into what should be a thoughtful, science-based process,” the group said when the resolution was considered. “The other, we could support, asking Congress for more funding for Wyoming’s grizzly bear management program. Because both asks were placed in the single resolution, we opposed this resolution. However, GYC has on its own supported and continues to ask our congressional delegation to fully fund the ESA to make it even more effective.

This bill by Lummis and Barrasso is similar to one introduced earlier in the legislative session in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In late February, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney reintroduced a bill to Congress that would remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list and prevent them from being considered threatened or endangered wildlife in the future.

Cheney’s bill would direct the Department of the Interior to re-issue its 2017 decision to remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the endangered species list and prohibit further judicial review of this decision. It would also turn management of the grizzlies over to the states.

No action has been taken on the bill.

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First Grizzly Bear Of 2021 Spotted In Yellowstone

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park has documented its first bear sighting of the year, it announced Tuesday.

On Saturday, a pilot supporting park wildlife studies observed a grizzly from the air. The pilot saw the bear interact with wolves at a carcass in the northern part of the park.

While this is the first bear sighting of the 2021, tracks have been seen on several occasions in the last two weeks. This comes almost one week later than the first sighting of 2020, which occurred on March 7.

Male grizzlies come out of hibernation in early March. Female with cubs usually emerge in April and early May.

“When bears first emerge from hibernation, they look for carcasses at lower elevations and spring vegetation in thermal meadows and south-facing slopes or nourishment,” said Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management biologist.

While this may be good news for wildlife enthusiasts, it may bring up different emotions for people who have been attacked by bears like the Choteau, Montana, man who nearly had his head ripped off by a grizzly last July.

Shannun Rammel said he heard there was a grizzly bear around his property and when he saw the door of an abandoned shed open, he snuck up to it only to find the bear he was looking for. The bear was not impressed and subsequently attacked Rammel.

If it wasn’t for his quick-thinking wife who tried to run over the bear in her truck, he may not have lived through the incident.

When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter. Sometimes, bears will react aggressively while feeding on carcasses.

All of Yellowstone National Park is bear country: from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful.

The chances for encounters between bears and visitors are slim right now — the park’s winter season ended Monday and it is not scheduled to open for the spring season until mid-April and early May.

Nonetheless, the park is reminding any visitors to protect themselves and the bears by following certain guidelines:

  • Prepare for a bear encounter.
  • Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and make sure it’s accessible.
  • Stay alert.
  • Hike or ski in groups of three or more, stay on maintained trails, and make noise. Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn, or at night.
  • Do not run if you encounter a bear.
  • Stay 100 yards (91 m) away from black and grizzly bears. Use binoculars, a telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look.
  • Store food, garbage, barbecue grills, and other attractants in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes.
  • Report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately.
  • Learn more about bear safety.

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations.

Bear spray has proven effective in deterring bears defending cubs and food sources. It can also reduce the number of bears killed by people in self-defense.

The park restricts certain visitor activities in locations where there is a high density of elk and bison carcasses and lots of bears.

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Cheney Reintroduces Bill to Delist Grizzlies As “Threatened Wildlife”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney recently reintroduced a bill to Congress that would remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list and prevent them from being considered threatened or endangered wildlife in the future.

Last week, Cheney reintroduced the Grizzly Bear State Management Act, a follow-up to a bill introduced by her retired colleague, U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, in 2019.

“This legislation would return the management of the grizzly to the state-level, where it belongs,” Cheney said. “The federal government or unelected judges and bureaucrats should not be in the business of telling us how to operate. The state and people of Wyoming know what’s best for Wyoming.”

The bill would direct the Department of the Interior to re-issue its 2017 decision to remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the endangered species list and prohibit further judicial review of this decision. It would also turn management of the grizzlies over to the states.

“The bill would also stop the abuse of the court system by environmental extremists and safeguard the scientifically proven delisting determination so that politically-motivated conservations cannot take advantage of that process,” Cheney said.

The grizzly bear was first listed on the federal threatened species list in 1975.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed grizzlies from the endangered species list, citing a significant increase in bear populations and a doubling of their range land.

“I was proud to work on this legislation for years with Sen. Enzi and will continue to fight for it in the House of Representatives while working with my colleagues to fight for Wyoming’s statutory right to manage our wildlife,” Cheney said.

Enzi previously argued that while proper management of grizzly bears is critical to protecting the species, it is also critical to protect people from potential attacks, along with the species that grizzly bears prey on.

“As the grizzly bear population has increased in Wyoming, so has the danger these animals pose to livestock, property and to humans,” Enzi said. “That’s why I believe the authority to manage the species needs to be turned over to the states. I have often found that states are better suited to address these kinds of issues because they are more familiar with the unique needs of their own communities and ecosystems.”

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26 Grizzlies Captured, 18 Euthanized in Wyoming Last Year

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department captured 26 grizzly bears and euthanized 18 of them throughout 2020.

The department detailed the capture of the bears in its annual report on bear captures, relocations and removals in northwest Wyoming.

Over 2020, the department captured 26 bears in 27 different events (one bear was captured twice) in an attempt to prevent or resolve conflicts. Of the 26 bears capture, 18 were male and eight were female.

Over the year, 13 captures were a result of a bear killing livestock (primarily cattle) and the other 13 were related to bears obtaining food rewards or frequenting developed sites, the report said.

Of the captures, 15 took place in Park County, more than half. Five were in Sublette County, three were in Fremont County and two each were in Hot Springs and Teton counties.

The nine bears that were relocated were released on U.S. Forest Service lands in Park, Teton and Fremont counties, according to the report.

One bear was captured twice. The grizzly was captured first in July in Teton County and moved to Park County. After being captured a second time in Park county in August, the bear was euthanized, in part because of its aggressive behavior.

Bears are euthanized if they have a history of conflicts with humans, a known association with humans or they are deemed unsuitable to live in the wild.

The report detailed all 27 of the captures, which began in April and wrapped up in November.

According to a previous report July 27 to Aug. 21, six different grizzlies were captured southeast of the Moran Junction, with five of them being collared.

Information from the collared grizzlies provides data on survival, reproduction, distribution, habitat use and movements of the population.

Each summer, Game and Fish Department biologists and other researchers conduct grizzly bear observation flights to document grizzly numbers, distribution and reproduction. These observation flights have been conducted in the greater Yellowstone area since the 1990s.

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Grizzly 168 Was One of Four Yellowstone Grizzlies to Live Past 30

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A grizzly that was captured and euthanized last summer was recently discovered to be the oldest-known grizzly in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

At 34, the male grizzly identified as “Grizzly 168” was one of four that Wyoming Game and Fish biologists have found that have lived more than three decades. Usually, females tend to live longer.

“We keep a life history of every animal we’ve ever handled, and we’ve studied more than 1,000 bears,” Game and Fish large carnivore section supervisor Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “We only know of four bears that have lived 30-plus years. It’s a pretty rare occurrence.”

Grizzlies have an average lifespan of 20 to 25 years, Thompson said.

Grizzly 168 was captured last July after preying on calves and was ultimately euthanized due to its age and relatively poor health. The bear’s teeth had mostly fallen out or worn away, leaving three large nubs in its mouth.

Thompson said the bear’s omnivore lifestyle was the likely reason it had managed to stay alive so long. Instead of only relying on fresh meat for their diets, bears can subsist on plants, bugs and around 70 more types of food found in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

The Yellowstone ecosystem has numerous bears in their 20s that are still doing pretty well, Thompson said.

“I think it speaks to the life history and behavioral strategies of grizzly bears,” Thompson said. “They’re honestly the epitome of opportunism and resiliency. They’re so adaptable.”

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Game and Fish: Grizzly 399, Cubs Likely Back In Their Den

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grizzly 399 and her four cubs are likely back in their den after being spotted on New Year’s Day, a Wyoming Game and Fish spokesman said Tuesday.

Spokesman Mark Gocke told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that although most collared grizzly bears in the Jackson region head for their dens around late November or early December, this isn’t the first time 399 has stayed out later than most.

“It seems she has learned to take advantage of the remains from late season elk hunts in the area,” Gocke said.

While the elk hunts in Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge ended mid-December, 399 and her cubs have spent the last three weeks in some of the more remote areas of the refuge to feed on gut-piles and the remains of elk carcasses left in the field.

“Staying out a little longer for this high-protein food source has proven pretty productive for grizzly 399 and her offspring,” Gocke said.

Because 399 dropped her radio collar, the Game and Fish department can’t track her movements like other bears in the area, so it relies on eyewitness reports.

The last report of the bear family came in on Friday, when it was spotted in the northern area of Grand Teton heading toward an area where 399 has denned in the past.

“We are presuming they have denned up now,” he said. “Grizzly bears will often dig new dens from one year to the next, so we don’t know exactly where she will den, but this would generally align with what she has done in the past as far as location and timing.”

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