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Grizzly Bears

Male Adult Grizzly Killed Grand Teton Grizzly Blondie’s Three Cubs

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A male grizzly bear has likely killed three cubs of a popular female grizzly in Grand Teton National Park, park officials said this week.

Grizzly 793, also known as “Blondie,” was last seen with her three cubs on Friday night, according to Jack Bayles, who runs the “Team 399” website.

On Saturday morning, a bear thought to be Blondie was seen moving rapidly around an area in the park.

“The thought is that Blondie lost her cubs to a male bear on Friday night or early Saturday morning and was looking for them,” Bayles said on social media this week.

Bayles told one of his social media followers that a male bear was likely cause of the cubs’ demise.

“It is the single leading cause of baby bears,” Bayles said.

Males can kill young animals for a variety of reasons, including having the ability to mate with a mother who is no longer nursing, a need for food or a lack of resources for the entire den.

Initially, Bayles was unsure if the lone grizzly was Blondie or her daughter, grizzly 1063, also known as “Fritter,” but said park officials confirmed Fritter still had her collar, so the solo grizzly must have been Blondie.

According to Bayles, Blondie is around 13 years old, meaning she has another 5 to 10 years of life, although grizzly 399 is 26 years old. She has had several cubs throughout her lifetime so far.

Neither Bayles nor Grand Teton spokesman Jeremy Barnum returned Cowboy State Daily’s requests for comment on Thursday.

While not quite as famous as her fellow Grand Teton resident grizzly 399, Blondie is one of the most famous bears in the park and is one of its most popular, if elusive, attractions.

In late May, a female grizzly bear and her mate attacked a 3-year-old bear, causing injuries severe enough that the National Park Service decided to euthanize the animal.

Utah photographer Julie Argyle said at the time that bear 815 and her male mate attacked the 3-year-old bear after the sub-adult wouldn’t leave an area.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of 815 being aggressive like this,” Argyle said. “But the situation is that it’s mating season, food sources are scarce and it’s her territory.”

She believed that the mother bear was attempting to frighten the bear away from the area, but when the male bear entered the altercation, things became deadly.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily at the time that it is not uncommon for mother bears and their mates to attack their young.

“As the overall density of grizzly bears has increased within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, we see more instances of what we call ‘intraspecific strife’ such as this,” he said. “These natural occurrences are another indicator of density dependence that is exhibited when a population is at carrying capacity.”

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Grizzly Bear Attacked By Mother, Mate In Yellowstone; National Park Service Euthanize

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A young female grizzly bear was attacked and mortally wounded by its mother and the mother’s mate over the weekend in Yellowstone National Park, a Utah photographer told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

Julie Argyle said bear 815 and her male mate attacked the 3-year-old bear after the sub-adult wouldn’t leave an area.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of 815 being aggressive like this,” Argyle said. “But the situation is that it’s mating season, food sources are scarce and it’s her territory.”

She believed that the mother bear was attempting to frighten the bear away from the area, but when the male bear entered the altercation, things became deadly.

Argyle noted that the two older bears actually did not kill the younger one, but left it injured to the point she was euthanized by the National Park Service.

“Her injuries were too much for her to handle and she was suffering in an awful way so the National Park Service put her down in an effort to end her suffering,” she said.

She added that the young bear had been kicked out of its den by bear 815 last summer, so it has been on its own for a year.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily that it is not uncommon for mother bears and their mates to attack their young.

“As the overall density of grizzly bears has increased within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, we see more instances of what we call ‘intraspecific strife’ such as this,” he said. “These natural occurrences are another indicator of density dependence that is exhibited when a population is at carrying capacity.”

Argyle posted about the bear’s death on her wildlife photography page in order to bring awareness to the fact that the wildlife people see in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are exactly that – wild.

“This is a natural thing, it just happened to occur close to a road where people saw it,” she said. “I think this is a great wake up call for people who try to get too close to these animals. We’re viewing them as something that isn’t a wild animal and they definitely are.”

According to the Yellowstone Grizzly Project, bear 815 was collared by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team in 2015. At the time of her capture, there were no cubs present, but she was seen with three in 2016.

Yellowstone officials did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment by publication time on Monday.

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Man Stumbles On To Grizzly While Hiking in Yellowstone; Acts Smart, Does Not Get Mauled

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Wyoming Game and Fish Department bear biologist is praising a hiker for his reaction to a close encounter with a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park on Monday, saying the man did the right thing by staying far back from the animal.

Stan Mills is a hiker who regularly posts about his Yellowstone excursions on YouTube and on Tuesday, he uploaded a video in which he had a “friendly” grizzly bear encounter inside of the park.

“Friendly” meaning that Mills didn’t get his head ripped-off. But he was much closer to the bear than he should have been — less than 30 yards.

He said he didn’t intend to get so close. He just came upon the grizzly. Or, more accurately, it the grizzly came upon him.

“I was sitting in the rain under my poncho just kinda gazing off into the distance while resting under a tree when I took a look to my left,” Mills said on his YouTube channel.

“I immediately saw a grizzly walking towards me. I was not very visible to the bear because I was under my poncho but the grizzly finally spotted me from the movement I was making while going after my bear spay and then my camera,” he said.

An experienced hiker, Mills said he knew that one should never get within 100 yards of a bear but when surprise encounters happen, “you have no choice and you have to do the right thing.”

“As most people know, my thinking is to never do anything that can upset a grizzly. So I moved away at the opportune time. It turned out to be another great experience in the backcountry of Yellowstone,” he said.

“The Right Thing”

Dan Thompson, large carnivore biologist for the state Game and Fish Department, told Cowboy State Daily that Mills did the right thing by staying away from the bear and filming it from a reasonable distance.

“You’re trying to dissuade a surprise encounter,” Thompson said. “So if you see the bear to begin with, that’s a good thing. You don’t want to act aggressively toward a bear just standing there, because then they might act aggressively back.”

That’s similar to what noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich said when discussing the grizzly encounter a group of cyclists had only two days before in Glacier National Park. Except those cyclists were less than 10 yards away from a grizzly.

“Because they stayed calm, everything turned out ok,” Ulrich said.

Thompson said that while it is incredible to see wildlife such as grizzlies or moose out in the open, those recreating outdoors need to be aware of their surroundings and be prepared of a potential encounter, including carrying bear spray.

If not, it could mean negative consequences for both a person and the wild animal.

“Most people are really good about it, but there are some bad apples that take advantage of the scenario,” Thompson said.

This is not the first time Mills has encountered a grizzly in the park, as evidenced by some of his most popular videos which include grizzly footage.

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Grizzly Joins Cyclists on Bike Ride In Montana, Everyone Survives

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
All photos and video courtesy Maureen Gerber

It wasn’t what Maureen Gerber expected when she went out on her day-after-birthday ride along the “Going-To-The-Sun” Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park with her husband and two friends Sunday.

But it was a bike ride she wouldn’t forget.  

The foursome had ridden 13 miles up to where the road was still closed due to snow and were heading back down when they were joined by a grizzly going the other way.

There was no real way to pass the bear, Gerber said.  No way around it either. On one side of the road, there was a river.  On the other side, all woods — thick woods. No cell service.



Gerber’s husband and his friend, who were in front of Gerber and another woman by a few hundred yards, had spotted the grizzly.  They went back up the road to let their wives know.

They weren’t alone.  Others had spotted the grizzly, too, and stopped.  

The group, about 15, including some children, decided to pull over at an expanded shoulder and barricade themselves behind their bikes.

“So we put our bikes down and got behind them while others stood up with their bear spray and we all made noise,” Gerber said.

“It was pretty scary,” she said.


The bear, meanwhile, looked at the cyclists but didn’t appear to give them much thought as he meandered past them.

“We were just sitting there,” Gerber said.  “Everyone was shaking.”

Except her husband. Although vigilant with bear spray in hand, he steadily took a video of the bear walking past the group.

Gerber thought the bear seemed sleepy — like he just awakened from hibernation.

“He was kind of dopey, you know?” she said. 



Not everyone is that fortunate. There has already been a fatality from a grizzly bear encounter earlier this year in Montana. And last year, a woman was dragged out of her sleeping bag by a grizzly in the middle of the night about 140 miles south of Glacier National Park.

Noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich said the group of bicyclists did exactly the right thing. Confronting a grizzly is the last thing one should do, he said.

“That might work with a cow or a deer,” Ulrich said. “But trying to scare off a grizzly is a bad strategy.”

He said by making “consistent noise,” not making any sudden moves, and portraying calm is what one should do in that situation.

“The last thing you want to do is jump out and try to startle a grizzly in an attempt to show dominance,” Ulrich said. “You will get slaughtered — and fast. Trust me on this.”

Throwing one of your colleagues in the grizzly’s path is another strategy, he said, but not preferred.

“More than once, I’ve been in a situation where the easiest thing to do was to shoot my friend in the knee and get out of there,” he said. “But that’s not the ideal solution. That should be your last resource.”

As for the bear encounter, Gerber said it was humbling.

Originally from New Jersey, she said she was surprised to hear from her friends who have lived in Montana their entire lives that they’ve never been that close to a grizzly.

“These guys have lived out here for 60 years and they tell me they’ve never come that close,” Gerber said. “I guess because I’m originally from the East Coast, I thought this happened all the time.  I guess it was a big deal.”

The Game and Fish Department was not available for comment.

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Grizzly Who Killed Montana Man Will Not Be Pursued, Officials Say

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The grizzly bear believed responsible for killing a Montana man last week will not be pursued or tracked down because it is not believed to be a predatory attack, officials said on Monday.

Craig Clouatre, 40, was discovered dead on Friday after failing to return from a hike in the Absaroka Mountains where he and a friend were hunting for antler sheds.

Park County (Montana) Sheriff Brad Bichler said there was no evidence that the attack was predatory in nature.

“This doesn’t appear to be an attack where the bear sought out the person,” Bichler told the Associated Press on Monday.  “It wasn’t like the bear came down into a campground and nabbed someone.”

Grizzly attacks are not uncommon in the area. Just under a year ago, a West Yellowstone, Montana man was mauled to death two miles west of the Wyoming state line.

Authorities believe in that case, the grizzly was defending a moose carcass. 

Last July, a woman was dragged from her tent in the middle of the night by a 400-pound male grizzly.

Awakened by her screams, two campers tried to intervene to save the woman by spraying the grizzly with bear spray but were unsuccessful as the woman died shortly after the attack.

In a Facebook post on Sunday morning, Bichler asked the community to be respectful of Clouatre’s family and not to speculate on the page.

“I visited with Craig’s wife this morning and she has reiterated  to me that she and the family understand that Craig loved to be in wild places and was well aware of the risks involved with that,” Bichler said.

“With all of that being said, we have had some topics come up in regards to this tragedy that would be better suited to be discussed outside this social media platform,” he said.

A GoFundMe page has been set-up to support Clouatre’s family. So far more than $95,000 has been raised.

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First Grizzly Spotted At Grand Teton National Park, Other Bears Following Suit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The first grizzly bear sighting at Grand Teton National Park occurred last week, as many male bears begin to emerge from hibernation across the country.

The first sighting in the park was reported on March 13, Grand Teton officials said.

Adult male grizzlies typically emerge from hibernation around this time of year, while females and their young leave the den around April or early May.

The most famous mother bear in Wyoming, Grizzly 399, and her four cubs likely won’t emerge from their den for another few weeks.

Experts believe the mother grizzly will likely send her four youngest cubs out of the den this year once they leave hibernation.

“They’ll come out of the den together,” Dan Thompson, large carnivore biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, previously told Cowboy State Daily. “They’ll spend some time together for a while, but with 2-year-olds, usually they (the mama bear) will kick them off, especially when breeding starts in June, and they’ll go their separate ways.”

But Thompson said that this particular grizzly doesn’t always do what’s expected.

“This parent in particular seems to change things very quickly,” he said.

Bear 399 will be 26 years old this year and Thompson noted that she may be reaching the end of her child-bearing years.

“That’s pretty old for a bear to produce, and be able to forage for them,” he said. “We have documented two females with cubs of the year at age 25 — 399 would have been 24 when she had the four cubs (in 2020).”

When bears leave their dens, they search for food and often scavenge animals carcasses. Bears might display aggressive behavior during this time, if encountered while feeding.

“Bear season has begun, how it ends depends on all of us,” said Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins. “We welcome the community led effort to work across boundaries to protect bears in Jackson Hole, and we need everyone’s help to remove unsecured attractants from the valley.”

The first Yellowstone National Park grizzly sighting occurred earlier this month.

There are estimated to be more than 1,000 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

A beloved male grizzly known as “Boo” recently awakened from hibernation at the Kicking Horse Bear Refuge in British Columbia, Canada. This is Boo’s 20th spring.

Black bears were spotted coming out of hibernation, and getting into mischief, at a home in New Hampshire, according to news outlet WMUR.

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Wildlife Group Criticizes Wyoming Game And Fish For 30 Grizzly Kills In 2021

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is being criticized by a wildlife organization for killing 30 grizzly bears in 2021.

The department released its annual grizzly bear report this week, which showed 45 bears were captured in 2021 in 49 separate incidents. Four bears were captured more than once.

Of those 45 bears, 30 were killed by the department, with at least one being killed due to its sick and emaciated state.

In 2020, only 18 grizzlies were killed by the department, while in 2018, 32 were killed.

The report said that 17 of the 30 bears killed were found outside of the demographic monitoring area, the area considered suitable for the long-term viability of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Bears are killed after the department receives authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “after careful and thorough deliberation taking into account multiple factors unique to each conflict situation.” Reasons for killing grizzlies include that they have grown used to getting food from human sources or that they have killed livestock.

The Center for Biological Diversity spokeswoman Andrea Zaccardi told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that it was disappointing to see the department chose to kill so many bears last year.

“Lethal removal of a grizzly bear is supposed to be a last resort,” she said. “But more than 50% of the bears that were captured were killed. So that kind of struck me as not using removal as a last resort.”

Game and Fish biologist Dan Thompson said it is never ideal when the department has to kill a bear.

“We do a lot of work to try to not capture or kill a bear,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “But the fact of the matter is with a healthy, robust, increasing grizzly population and more human use of areas that grizzly bears now occupy, there’s an increased conflict potential.”

Thompson pointed out that the department has actually seen a significant decrease in certain grizzly conflicts, such as the bears getting into garbage or causing property damage, in the last decade.

However, a significant increase in grizzly killings of livestock has occurred, Thompson said. He added the bears see livestock as a tasty and easy meal.

“You can’t capture all the work that’s done to mitigate the conflicts in the report,” he said. “The real meat of what is done throughout the course of the year is talking to livestock producers and working with people to reduce conflict potential.”

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Time To Wake Up: Yellowstone Has First Grizzly Bear Sighting Of 2022

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Although the calendar says spring is less than two weeks away, Wyomingites know better. We’re nowhere close.

But one grizzly in Yellowstone is far more optimistic and is embracing the potential of a seasonal change. The adult bear was spotted by a pilot on Monday walking in a meadow in the west-central portion of the park.

Actually, it’s not unusual for grizzlies to be spotted this early. Last year, the first reported sighting was on March 13.

Male grizzlies come out of hibernation in early while females wait until April and May to head-out.

As always, park officials are urging the public to use caution around bears lest they become statistics.

“When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter,” the park service said. “Sometimes, bears will react aggressively to encounters with people when feeding on carcasses.”

In other words, stay away from the bears. They aren’t interested in making friends.

On popular Yellowstone Facebook pages, the conversation immediately turned to the most famous bear in the world “399” and her four cubs.

Biologists say it will be a few weeks before they emerge and when they do, it’s not likely they will stay together as a family for very long.

“They’ll come out of the den together,” said Dan Thompson, large carnivore biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “They’ll spend some time together for a while, but with 2-year-olds, usually they (the mama bear) will kick them off, especially when breeding starts in June, and they’ll go their separate ways.”

But Thompson told Cowboy State Daily that this particular grizzly doesn’t always do what’s expected.

“This parent in particular seems to change things very quickly,” he said.

Bear 399 will be 26 years old this year, and Thompson noted that she may be reaching the end of her child-bearing years.

“That’s pretty old for a bear to produce, and be able to forage for them,” he said. “We have documented two females with cubs of the year at age 25 — 399 would have been 24 when she had the four cubs of the year.”

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Organizations Have Mixed Reaction To Gordon’s Attempt To Delist Grizzlies

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Conservation organizations had a mixed response to Gov. Mark Gordon’s request for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from the endangered species list.

Some, like the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, applauded Gordon’s move to officially file the petition Tuesday after months of discussion of the issue.

“This organization and our members are confident in the careful management plan and protections that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has put forth to carry the grizzly bear into our future,” Jessi Johnson, government affairs director for the WWF, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “The grizzly bear population has well surpassed delisting objectives. Support of science-based management is a cornerstone of the Federation’s mission and we look forward to working with the WGFD to ensure that sportsmen put their best foot forward for the future of grizzly bears, grizzly bear management, and grizzly bear hunting in this state.”

The Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association said the move was “about time.”

“Of course we are in favor,” President Sy Gilliland told Cowboy State Daily. “Management of Wyoming’s wildlife belongs in the hands of the Wyoming Game & Fish Department.”

However, not all wildlife organizations were in favor of the delisting.

Andrea Zaccardi, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, called the request an attack on grizzlies.

“This outrageous request from Wyoming’s governor is the latest attack on animals like grizzly bears by states that see them as little more than targets for trophy hunters,” Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said on Tuesday. “There is no science to back the claim that grizzlies no longer need protection. Federal officials need to send a clear message by swiftly rejecting this request.”

On Tuesday, Gordon officially petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the endangered species list and put their management in the hands of the surrounding states.

The petition, filed with the support of Idaho and Montana, states that grizzly bears in the region have been fully recovered, as defined by federal guidelines, since 2003.

All three members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation support delisting, with all three of them introducing some type of related legislation in Congress.

The FWS has 90 days to review the petition. At that time, the petition can be denied or approved for additional review.

If approved, the FWS can take up to 12 months to further review and analyze the state’s request and come to a final decision. 

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Gordon Submits Petition To Remove Grizzlies From Endangered Species List

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon on Tuesday officially petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the endangered species list and put their management in the hands of the surrounding states.

The petition, filed with the support of Idaho and Montana, states that grizzly bears in the region have been fully recovered, as defined by federal guidelines, since 2003.

“This is an extraordinary and monumental success story for species recovery and should be celebrated,” Gordon said. “The GYE grizzly bear is ready to join the ranks of the bald eagle, American alligator, peregrine falcon and brown pelican as receiving proper recognition as a thriving, recovered and stable species.”

Gordon reiterated there is no biological or legal reason to keep ecosystem’s grizzly on the Endangered Species List. Data shows that the grizzly population totals more than 1,000 in the region, exceeding the requirements for a recovered, viable population.

“Grizzly bears in the GYE are fully recovered and their management is now best entrusted to the experienced and capable institutions of the states. After all, Wyoming has invested more than $52 million and dedicated countless hours of Game and Fish expertise to reach this point,” Governor Gordon said. “We’re optimistic the Service will view the petition favorably, and we look forward to working with them on delisting.”

The FWS has 90 days to review the petition. At that time, the petition can be denied or approved for additional review.

If approved, the FWS can take up to 12 months to further review and analyze the state’s request and come to a final decision. 

In September, Gordon said he was confident the federal government would side with the states in removing the GYE bears from the list.

“I am optimistic,” he said at the time. “This administration … continues to talk about the science and how we need to follow the science, Wyoming has the very best science so I’ll take them at their word.”

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.

Grizzly bears were removed briefly from the endangered species list in 2017, but a federal judge ordered them to be returned to the list, returning management of the animals to the federal government.

Wyoming’s delegation — U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney — are also unanimous in their support of removing the grizzly from the endangered species at.

Cheney introduced legislation called the “Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2021,” which would empower states to manage their grizzly populations based on science. Barrasso and Lummis have offered the same legislation in the Senate.

Bears have become so populous in the park and Yellowstone area that it is common for tourists to encounter them every summer. 

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Yellowstone-Area Grizzly Deaths Approach Record

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

Grizzly bears are dying at a record pace in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, but wildlife officials say that’s a sign of a population that has reached its carrying capacity. The leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team said this week that, despite the deaths, the grizzly population appears to be growing.

There have been 63 known grizzly bear mortalities in the three-state area in 2021, according to the study team, with 42 deaths reported inside the primary conservation area for the species.

Of the deaths within the Demographic Monitoring Area (DMA), 30 were in Wyoming, including 18 euthanized in management decisions. There were also 21 deaths reported outside the DMA, including 13 management removals in Wyoming.

In 2018, a record 32 grizzly bears were euthanized in Wyoming in management decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That record could be challenged this year. The most recent report of known and suspected grizzly bear mortalities was published Nov. 4 and the ongoing hunting season, plus the species’ natural drive to fill up before hibernation, typically brings additional human-bear conflicts.

The Fish and Wildlife Service makes all final management decisions on relocations and removals of grizzly bears while they are listed for protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore team leader Dan Thompson isn’t pleased with the sole focus on the number of deaths and removals.

“The use of the term ‘record’ or ‘record high’ is always used when talking about mortality, or removals,” he pointed out. “I never hear the term ‘record high’ when we give the highest population estimate … since tracking them in the 1970s, or highest occupied range of grizzly bears in the GYE since perhaps the 1800s.”

“Records without context lead to false narratives,” Thompson said, adding, “One thing that is continually lost is that there is a focus on mortality, but we don’t talk about reproduction and the several hundred cubs that are born every year and overall high survival rates.”

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team estimates the current population inside the DMA at 1,069 bears, which is a record high population estimate from the team, although the team changed how it makes the estimates in the spring. The low side of their estimate is 953 bears, with a high of 1,184.

Population estimates are not kept outside the conservation zone, but grizzly bears euthanized outside the DMA account for about a third of all lethal removals, according to Frank van Manen, leader of the study team.

Despite the recent removals inside the DMA, van Manen said data shows an increasing population in the ecosystem.

“If you look at the dependent yearling cubs, there are well over 300, and that indicates really solid recruitment into this population,” he said at a Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee meeting Monday.

Overall mortality is still within set limits for the species, he said. “Our mortality rates were below a threshold of 5.7% for independent females and 8.1% of independent males.”

The subcommittee works in cooperation with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, an interdisciplinary group of scientists and biologists responsible for long-term monitoring and research efforts on grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The team was formed by the Department of the Interior in 1973, with representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department, and the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. 

The interagency approach was used to ensure consistency in data collection and allows for combining limited resources to address needs throughout grizzly bear habitat. However, they are not a governing body or legal authority, said Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Jennifer Fortin-Noreus.

While managers are sometimes forced to turn to euthanizations, there are several non-lethal programs in progress including electric fencing and hazing efforts.

Mike Foster, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in Wyoming, said his agency is working on a hazing wagon to help control conflicts.

“It will help for the first few days or a week until we can figure out something else to do,” he said.

Cody Regional Health

Foster picked up the idea from the Park County Predator Management Advisory Board, including board member Shane Smith of Powell. Solar panels power the trailers, which are set by timers to activate periodically during the night. Building the apparatus in the back of a trailer allows it to be moved to fields as needed to stem livestock losses.

Meanwhile, “We’ve strung miles and miles of electric fence around chicken coops, and feed yards and pig pens, and you name it,” said Jim White, Idaho Department of Fish and Game regional supervisor.

He added that, “this non lethal work has prevented a tremendous amount of damage and saved a lot of control work.”

Public comments sought for changes to grizzly bear conservation strategy

As more and more visitors pour into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the need for services and developed spaces increases. More development might seem to be a conflict for officials charged with conserving grizzly bears and their habitat, but they are aware of the needs of the ever- increasing stream of humanity heading this direction and what it means to the endangered species.

Soon the two efforts will meet, as proposed policy changes in the region’s conservation strategy are likely to be updated for the first time in more than a dozen years. The changes allow for more overnight visitors, improvements in developed areas and along roads, as well as other changes to infrastructure within core grizzly bear habitat known as the Demographic Monitoring Area (DMA).

The Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team is poised to have a final vote on changes this spring, after a working draft was presented for public comment during the group’s fall session on Tuesday.

Those seeking to comment on the draft revisions for Chapter 3 have had lots of time to consider their input. The debate has been active since 2016 and seemingly lingering in bureaucracy since.

About 98% of grizzly habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the boundaries of the recovery zone falls within the borders of national parks and forests. The proposed plan gains ground without a net loss of grizzly habitat, said Jennifer Fortin-Noreus, biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

The change is in how developed areas are calculated. Instead of requiring mitigation for every change of one of hundreds of points on a map, each development is measured by its actual footprint. Space for further development is realized within the spatial constraints of the footprints. 

The undeveloped areas “aren’t areas of secure habitat [for grizzlies] at this point,” Fortin-Noreus said. “[Footprints] more accurately define human presence and management intent.”

She also pointed out that, while managers are in charge of protecting habitat, they can’t turn off the increasing stream of visitors.

“We don’t control increased visitation on the national forest,” she said. “We don’t have some automatic way to tell people to stop coming.”

The plan allows for some development without actually requiring the use of tracts of non-developed land. “It gives us the management tools to focus some of our use and concentration in those [realized] areas, and perhaps not in our dispersed sites that can cause more impact,” Fortin-Noreus said.

Those working on the plan see a lot of upside for managers and visitors alike.

“I think it is a really good product,” said Tricia O’Connor, supervisor of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. 

“[It] is trying to thread that needle around, having some management flexibility around developed sites, but doing it carefully with some oversight so that it’s not just you can do whatever you want, wherever you want.”

While the plan was discussed in a public, online meeting, the committee didn’t take formal public comments after the presentation, but did take questions. Bonnie Rice, senior representative for the Sierra Club’s Greater Yellowstone/Northern Rockies campaign, Rice was the only member of the public to speak during the open mic period. She said that more people making overnight stays “obviously raises the number of potential conflicts.”

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Yellowstone Grizzly Population At Record High

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has never been larger than it is now.

That’s according to the supervisor for the large carnivore section of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily that new methods of counting wildlife have resulted in a more accurate estimate of the number of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).

“Through a lot of analysis, and empirical data, we were able to revise those parameters to be more reflective of the actual population size,” he said, “which is 1,069 grizzly bears in the demographic monitoring area.” The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem demographic monitoring area encompasses Northwest Wyoming and parts of Montana and Idaho.

Thompson said the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee reported the new numbers, based on data collected over the summer, to Game and Fish Department officials in a meeting earlier this week.

He said even though previous estimates set the area’s grizzly population at 700 to 750 bears, the methods previously used to count the bears under-reported the actual population. 

“It’s important to relay that the population hasn’t jumped up by several hundred,” Thompson clarified. “It’s just the numbers that we are reporting are more reflective of what is real, based on the data we’ve been collecting for decades.”

Cowboy State Daily reported just a few weeks ago that there have been more grizzly bears killed this year than in previous years – but Thompson said that the actual mortality rate is in line with the higher population.

“This is the highest number of grizzly bears we’ve reported in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem since we started counting them in the 1970s,” Thompson noted. “The successful recovery of grizzly bears is demonstrated by the highest amount of occupied range in the GYE since potentially the 1800s. And so I think there’s a focus on the mortality aspect, and people tend to forget that this is a reflection of more bears, and more bears in new places, and that there’s also more bears being born.”

From the standpoint of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Thompson said the population of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is an ecological success story.

“These bears are biologically recovered and they have been for multiple years,” he said. “And that’s why we support delisting the population to celebrate the successful recovery of the population.”

For years, federal lawsuits have argued whether or not grizzly bears should be taken off the endangered species list. As of this writing, the species is still protected. 

But Thompson said keeping the bears on the list goes against the intent of the Endangered Species Act.

“The intent is to provide the protections needed to recover that specific species or that specific population,” he explained. “And that has been done in the GYE for grizzly bears – and we should be celebrating.”

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Woman Gets Jail Time For Getting Too Close to Grizzly Bears

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Illinois woman who was caught on video getting too close to grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park earlier this year received four days in jail as punishment this week.

Samantha R. Dehring, 25, pleaded guilty to willfully remaining, approaching, and photographing wildlife within 100 yards. The other count, feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentionally disturbing wildlife, was dismissed.

Dehring appeared in front of Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming on Wednesday for her change of plea and sentencing hearing.

She was sentenced to four days in custody, one-year of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, a $1,000 community service payment to the Yellowstone Forever Wildlife Protection Fund, a $30 court processing fee and a $10 assessment.

Dehring also received a one-year ban from Yellowstone National Park.  

According to the violation notices, Dehring was at Roaring Mountain in Yellowstone National Park on May 10, when visitors noticed a sow grizzly and her three cubs.

While other visitors slowly backed off and got into their vehicles, Dehring remained. She continued to take pictures as the sow bluff charged her.  

“Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are, indeed, wild. The park is not a zoo where animals  can be viewed within the safety of a fenced enclosure. They roam freely in their natural habitat  and when threatened will react accordingly,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray.  “Approaching a sow grizzly with cubs is absolutely foolish. Here, pure luck is why Dehring is a  criminal defendant and not a mauled tourist.” 

According to the National Park Service, a bluff charge is the more common type of charge and is meant to scare or intimidate. If a bluff charge is about to happen, a person is supposed to slowly back away from the bear while waving their arms above their head and speaking to the bear in a calm voice.

People should not run when a bear bluff charges, because it may trigger the animal to attack.

According to Yellowstone National Park regulations, when an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space. Stay 25 yards away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves.

If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity.

This case was investigated by Yellowstone National Park Rangers and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.

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Man Who Was Mauled By Grizzly Killed Bear, Game And Fish Kills Her Cubs

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man who was mauled by a grizzly bear over the weekend near Cody actually killed the female grizzly that attacked him, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced Tuesday.

Around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the sheriff’s office’s communications division received a report from an injured hunter. The 45-year-old man told dispatchers that he had been mauled by a grizzly, sustained injuries and needed assistance.

The unidentified man had been elk hunting west of Cody and was attacked after a sudden encounter at close range with the female grizzly who had two cubs with her.

The injured hunter and his hunting partner killed the adult grizzly and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, in coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, later killed the two cubs, the Game and Fish Department said.

“The safety of outdoor recreationists is always at the forefront of our minds,” said Cody Regional Wildlife Supervisor Dan Smith for Wyoming Game and Fish. “Our thoughts are with the individual who was injured and we wish him a full and speedy recovery.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service, also offered its condolences to the injured hunter.

“The service sends our thoughts to the injured individual as he recovers,” said Dan Coil, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The service partners with states to manage grizzly bears in grizzly country and appreciates Wyoming Game and Fish responding to the incident.”

The man was around five miles from U.S. Highway 14 when he called in the report of the attack. Upon notification, the Game and Fish Department immediately responded to the scene.

Park County Search and Rescue, a Guardian helicopter from Riverton and a Cody Regional Health ambulance were all immediately paged to respond. The injured hunter was transported out of the wilderness with the rest of his hunting party and met the search and rescue team Saturday morning near the Shoshone River. He was treated and then flown by helicopter to a Billings hospital.

His injuries are reported not to be life threatening.

The incident is still under investigation and under the direction of Fish and Wildlife.

Grizzly bears in Wyoming and the lower 48 states are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Service continues to work collaboratively with Wyoming and other states in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to manage grizzly bears.

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Man Mauled By Grizzly Near Cody Over Weekend

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man was mauled by a grizzly bear near Cody over the weekend, the Park County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.

Around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the sheriff’s office’s communications division received a report from an injured hunter. The 45-year-old man told dispatchers that he had been mauled by a grizzly, sustained injuries and needed assistance.

He was around five miles from U.S. Highway 14 when he called in the report.

Park County Search and Rescue, a Guardian helicopter from Riverton and a Cody Regional Health ambulance were all immediately paged to respond. During this time, the injured hunter made the decision to ride out of the wilderness with the rest of his hunting party to meet emergency responders.

The search and rescue team contacted him around 9:30 a.m. on the north side of the Shoshone River. Thirty minutes later, the hunter and ground team arrived at the staging area and he was treated by emergency personnel.

He was transported by helicopter to Billings for further care.

The mauling is currently under investigation by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

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Three Bears Hit By Cars Last Week Between Cody & Yellowstone

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Record traffic and an increased presence of bears on the highway between Cody and Yellowstone National Park are being blamed in part for the deaths of two bears, including one grizzly, earlier this month.

Three bears were hit by cars between Sept. 10 and 12 and two died, according to Luke Ellsbury, a large carnivore biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“We initially had a call on Friday morning (Sept. 10) of a grizzly bear that was hit on the North Fork, struck by a vehicle,” he said. “Upon investigation, we found it was a young female grizzly bear, 5 to 6 years old, had not had cubs that we knew of and didn’t look like she currently had cubs. 

“And so that led to the next day, on Saturday morning (Sept. 11), where we received a report of a black bear that had been hit on the North Fork, it appeared to be an adult male black bear,” he continued. “It was probably feeding the chokecherries along the road there.”

Ellsbury said a third bear was hit by a vehicle Sunday, Sept. 12, but it bounded away from the scene of the collision.

“It ran down the hill out of a patch of chokecherries, trying to cross the highway,” he said, “and as it did it ran into the side of their camper, then rolled down the side of the camper, and then got up and ran over to the other side of the road and into the brush.”

Berries and chokecherries are prime foods for bears trying to put on weight for the winter. But when chokecherry bushes grow close to the road, that increases the hazards for bears — and for vehicles, Ellsbury said.

“This is the time of year where bears come out of the high country to the lower country in search of foods, and especially along the North Fork, chokecherries,” he said. “And so there’s a lot of chokecherries along the river corridors, the stream beds. And this was a really good year for chokecherry production. So we’re seeing, in the last week, a big influx of both black bears and grizzly bears along those corridors. And people need to just be aware that there’s a really high use in that area.”

The increase in the population of bears is also a contributing factor to the dangerous conditions on Wyoming highways. 

Ellsbury, who was born and raised in Cody, said he’s seen firsthand the effects of the growing bear population.

“All carnivore populations in this area have really gone up in the last, especially 20, years,” he said. “We see grizzly bears not only expanding in numbers, but in range. So they’re coming further and further out into the base, and we’re seeing them in areas that they probably haven’t been in 100 years. And so it’s just kind of the bonus of having a good recovery, just part of that success story.”

A distraction for drivers on the highway between Cody and Yellowstone lately has been sightings of a pair of grizzly cubs that seem to be motherless. But Ellsbury said as far as wildlife officials can tell, the grizzly bear that was killed on Sept. 10 did not have cubs of her own.

“Actually, she was hit a day after these cubs showed up on their own,” he said. “We’re not currently aware of what the situation was that led to them being orphaned, although it does appear now that there’s been enough time that they are on their own. But we do not know the circumstances behind that.”

Ellsbury cautioned drivers — especially at night — that the highway can be a dangerous place. 

“The first two vehicle strikes happened in the middle of the night,” he pointed out. “We’re not exactly sure at what times they did, but they were at night. The third incident happened about mid-morning on Sunday.”

When drivers do experience wildlife collisions, they should be reported to the local sheriff’s department, the Game and Fish Department or the Forest Service, if the incident occurred in one of Wyoming’s national forests.

“People need to just be aware that not just bears, but a lot of wildlife is along the highway,” he urged. “They just need to be vigilant and watch their speeds, keep their speeds slow, and just keep an eye out.”

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Gordon Optimistic Grizzlies Will Be Removed From Endangered Species Act

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming will try once again to gain the authority to manage the grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Gov. Mark Gordon said Thursday he is confident the federal government will side with the state.

Referring several times to the catchphrase “Follow the science” used frequently by the Biden administration, Gordon announced during a news conference the state is filing a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to win the right to manage the bears inside its borders.

“I am optimistic,” he said. “If this administration, which continues to talk about the science and how we need to follow the science, Wyoming has the very best science so I’ll take them at their word.”

During his news conference, Gordon said the state will submit a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking for Yellowstone grizzlies to be removed from the endangered species list, clearing the way for state management of the animals. The Fish and Wildlife Service has 90 days to issue a recommendation on the petition and then will have a full year to make a decision on the request.

Grizzly bears were removed briefly from the endangered species list in 2017, but a federal judge ordered them to be returned to the list, returning management of the animals to the federal government.

Agreement

There is agreement between the state and federal government on some of the requirements to remove the bears from the list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does consider Yellowstone’s grizzlies “biologically recovered,” with the bear’s population meeting recovery goals in 2003.

Today, estimates set the number of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem at more than 1,000 — which is nearly 10 times what it was when the bear was first listed under the Endangered Species Act.

And this doesn’t count the number of bears outside of the area, which is believed to be significant. 

The push for delisting has been ongoing for years.

In 2015, President Obama’s Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said he was in favor of it.

Two years later, delisting did occur under the Trump administration, but only briefly. The courts intervened, relisted the animal, and management authority went back to the federal government.

Changes

Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik said the State of Wyoming has addressed the concerns expressed by the court in its 2017 ruling, giving him confidence the State will be victorious.

“We were very, very close to the finish line [in 2017],” Nesvik said. “I think if we make these changes, I’m optimistic that once they evaluate the petition based on science and its merits, that we will prevail.”

Those changes, according to a release from the governor’s office, include:

  • Amending grizzly bear management policies that will adjust the annual management and mortality targets.
  • Using the updated population model now adopted by grizzly bear experts.
  • Ensuring the bear’s long-term genetic health and and providing for translocation of bears into the population, as needed to maintain genetic diversity.

Geography

The third point, however, does not mean other parts of Wyoming could see a reintroduction of the grizzly. 

Nesvik said only the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is large enough to sustain the population.

“Frankly, there’s really not a lot of other places where grizzly bears could do well and be successful because of other uses,” he said pointing to the Big Horn mountains as an example.

Because of the agricultural and recreational interests, there’s not enough space there, he said, that would keep the grizzly “out of trouble.”

“Grizzly bears need large tracts of unroaded areas, without a lot of other use in order to be successful. If they get close to those other kind of human uses, they find themselves in trouble,” he said.

That trouble can lead to death, Nesvik said stating that the department has had to kill up to 35 grizzlies per year.

Management

Through sound management practices, including hunting, the grizzly population can be managed at a sustainable level and fewer negative interactions with humans would likely occur, he said.

Noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich praised the governor on Thursday.

“I applaud the governor for his actions today,” Ulrich said. “The grizzly has successfully rebounded to the point where they are encroaching on areas that just can’t handle it. I wouldn’t be surprised if grizzlies will be roaming the streets of Pinedale soon if we don’t manage them correctly.”

Others weren’t as supportive. Award-winning wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen told the Casper Star Tribune if delisting occurs, a legal battle would probably result.

“We’ll fight it again, just like we have the last two or three times,” he said. “It’s just frustrating that we keep going through this,” he said.

Federal Support

The governor has a lot of support in Washington. Members of the congressional delegations from Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho are in favor of the move — even on the Democratic side.

Back in April, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, told Montana Public Radio, “The grizzly populations in Yellowstone and the Northern Continental Divide are recovered, and the folks at Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks have shown they are more than capable of managing the Yellowstone grizzlies.”

Wyoming’s delegation — U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, are also unanimous in their support of removing the grizzly from the endangered species at.

Cheney introduced legislation called the “Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2021,” which would empower states to manage their grizzly populations based on science. Barrasso and Lummis have offered the same legislation in the Senate.

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Motherless Grizzly Cubs In Danger On North Fork Highway

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

At least two bears were killed in vehicle collisions on the North Fork Highway over the weekend as visitors continue to flood into Yellowstone National Park. And the lives of two young cubs, now alone in the Shoshone National Forest, hang in the balance.

A grizzly bear sow was struck and killed Friday and a black bear was killed Saturday in the late season rush to visit the park. Bears are gathering in the North Fork corridor of the Shoshone River east of Yellowstone, feeding on a bumper crop of chokecherries, said Luke Ellsbury, large carnivore biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Coincidently, two cubs of the year have been seen frequenting the area surrounding the two-lane highway, apparently without a mother to guide them. Tests conducted on the sow killed Friday found the animal was not the cubs’ mother, but there is some speculation their mother might also have been hit by a vehicle and its body has yet to be found.

The cubs continue to draw a crowd along U.S. Highway 14/16/20, but their future is fairly grim, Ellsbury said.

“Survival for cubs of the year without a mother is pretty low,” he said Tuesday. 

The Game and Fish Department has considered its limited options and currently has no plans to attempt to capture the cubs.

“There’s nowhere to take them,” Ellsbury said.

There are very few facilities with room for grizzlies, John Heine, director of the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, in West Yellowstone, Montana, told the Tribune for a recent story. Once a grizzly is taken on, it’s a “lifetime commitment — and it’s rare a spot opens up for an addition to a zoo,” he said. “There are not enough spots available.” 

If the Game and Fish is forced to capture the abandoned cubs, they would have to be euthanized. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ultimately makes the final decisions on what happens to grizzly bears because they are a federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act.

The spectacle is causing a bear jam, and yet traffic is still moving fast through the area, placing wildlife and people in jeopardy, Ellsbury said.

Wildlife photographer Tim O’Leary found the grizzly sow killed Friday and dragged it off the road.

“With my photography, there’s two things that I try to avoid: power lines and roads,” he said.

But O’Leary intentionally photographed the cubs while they were on the North Fork Highway because “this story must be told,” he said. 

He’s afraid the cubs and other bears will be hit and killed as they circle between the river, berry bushes and cover.

“Traffic is just flying through there,” O’Leary said.

Yellowstone National Park has been breaking attendance records every month this summer. In August, 921,844 recreation vists were counted in the park, roughly 40,000 visits more than the same month last year. It’s easy to blame tourists, he said, but there are many locals driving way too fast through the area as well.

“If they put up a sign about bears on the road and to slow down, I think that would help,” he said.

Biologists for Game and Fish are often tasked with euthanizing grizzly bears. So far this year, the U.S. Geological Survey reports 25 grizzly bears have been put down for frequenting agricultural areas, killing sheep and cattle, for property damage, obtaining numerous food rewards, repeated bold behavior at guest lodges and trailheads, and property damage while searching for food. Fifteen of those killed were inside habitat deemed suitable by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and known as the Demographic Monitoring Area (DMA). Eleven more grizzly bears were euthanized outside of the DMA.

More grizzlies could meet the same fate due to increasing conflicts in the fall and the growing population of the large predator species.

“It’s that time of year when conflicts increase as grizzly bears are looking for food sources,” Ellsbury said.

The department has moved several bears this year, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find safe areas. In the past decade, there have been fewer bears moved, according to Dan Thompson, who heads up the large carnivore section for the Game and Fish.

“The ability to find available habitat is more difficult as the species has reached its carrying capacity inside core habitat,” he said. 

It’s especially difficult now as more people are seeking outdoor recreation during the pandemic.

“The thing we’re dealing with now is, 20 years ago relocation was a lot different because there weren’t near as many bears,” Thompson said. “There was more open home range areas, and you could move a bear and find a place for it to live. Nowadays, it’s just hard to do that.”

The Game and Fish Department captured and relocated an adult male grizzly bear on Saturday, according to a Tuesday press release. The bear was captured for killing cattle on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment north of Pinedale and relocated to the Five Mile Creek drainage, approximately 5 miles from Yellowstone’s East Entrance.

“Bears that are considered a threat to human safety are not relocated,” the release said, adding that grizzly bear relocation is a management tool that’s “critical to the management of the population.”

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Grizzly Bear Deaths On The Rise In 2021

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

It’s been a tough year for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. As of Wednesday, 27 individuals had been euthanized due to conflicts with humans, killed by other bears, hit by cars or drowned in canals so far in 2021.

Another five carcasses have been found that are suspected to have died in late 2020, bringing the total number to 32 known or probable deaths reported this year. That’s more than the 30 grizzly bear deaths reported in all of 2020 — and there are still several months left before the species typically hibernates, including the time period when hunters will be out in the backcountry areas.

Dry conditions mean the bruins might be more aggressive in search of food, said Luke Ellsbury, large carnivore biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“Drought means a busier fall because bears will be more food-stressed,” Ellsbury said, adding, “We’re busier than average this year.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes the call on management actions for the species due to being listed for federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. But Game and Fish biologists are tasked with capturing, moving or euthanizing bears selected to be relocated or removed from the ecosystem.

So far this year, 17 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have been euthanized including 16 in Wyoming. A total of 13 grizzlies were euthanized last year, with nine in Wyoming, in a year that saw a below-average number of lethal removals.

Cody Regional Health

Bears are captured when they become aggressive, kill livestock or receive food rewards and become accustomed to people. Wildlife managers attempt to move grizzlies to more suitable areas when possible.

For instance, on July 23, the department relocated a subadult female to the Five Mile Creek drainage — about 5 miles from Yellowstone National Park’s East Entrance — after it killed cattle on a grazing allotment north of Pinedale.

When relocation is warranted, the department says it considers a bear’s age, sex and the type of conflict it was involved in, as well as potential human activity in the vicinity of the relocation site. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Game and Fish Department say they will not move dangerous bears or those that repeatedly kill livestock or cause conflicts.

“Game and Fish continues to stress the importance of the public’s responsibility in bear management and the importance of keeping all attractants (food items, garbage, horse feed, bird seed, and others) unavailable to bears,” the department says. “Reducing attractants available to bears reduces human-bear conflicts.”

Every known or probable grizzly bear death is tracked by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team team while the species remains listed for federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. In a change to the grizzly bear mortality statistics reporting process, the team has moved its grizzly bear mortality statistics in anticipation of an update to the U.S. Geological Survey website.

New reports are now available in a downloadable PDF document. The reports can be found at on.doi.gov/3xTzgoZ.

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Montana Wildlife Officials Kill Grizzly Suspected of Fatally Attacking Woman

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Montana wildlife officials shot and killed a grizzly bear early Friday morning that was believed to have dragged a woman from her tent in Montana earlier this week and killed her.

The bear was killed less than two miles from Ovando, a Montana town of fewer than 100 people and the place the woman was killed Tuesday morning.

“Last night, the Powell County Sheriff’s Office took a report from a resident who came home and found her door ripped off and large claw marks were present,” the sheriff’s office said on Facebook Friday. “A short time later a male grizzly bear was killed in the area.”

The bear was killed after being caught raiding a chicken coop in an attack similar to one that occurred the night the woman was killed.

Given the proximity to Tuesday’s attack and the evidence found at the scene, Montana Fish, Wildlife &Parks officials believe the bear killed was the same one that attacked the woman, who was staying in a tent outside of an Ovando museum the night she was killed. However, offiicials said confirming DNA analysis will take a few days.

“Based on the size of the bear, the color of the bear and the nature of the chicken coop raids, we’re confident we’ve got the offending bear,” FWP spokesman Greg Lemon told CBS on Friday morning.

“We hope to make positive identification within the next couple of days,” Powell County officials said. “Early indications are that this is likely the bear that was involved in Tuesday’s attack.”

On the night the camper was killed, a chicken coop in the Ovando area was raided by the bear. Another coop was raided by a bear on Wednesday night, about 48 hours after the attack in Ovando. FWP specialists set a trap at a third coop on Thursday and USDA Wildlife Services specialists were monitoring the trap Thursday night when the bear approached and was shot.

Wildlife Services specialists were assisting at the request of FWP officials, anticipating the bear would return to the coop. They used night vision technology to aid in shooting the bear.

DNA samples from the bear will be compared to samples taken from the scene of the fatal attack Tuesday to confirm it was the responsible bear.

In the meantime, FWP staff will remain vigilant and keep at least one trap set near the first chicken coop that was raided on the outskirts of Ovando.

According to the Powell County, Montana, Sheriff’s Office, three campers were spending the night in their tents outside of an Ovando museum Tuesday.

At approximately 3 a.m., a 400-pound male grizzly awakened the campers, but ran away.

The campers removed food from their tents and secured it in an area designated for food storage before going back to bed. While Lemon said this could have been a reason for the bear being interested in the victim’s tent, it was still unusual for it to be so aggressive.

A security camera at a business a block away captured footage of the bear at 3:15 a.m.

Fifteen minutes later, two people in a tent were awakened by screams as the grizzly returned and pulled the victim out of her tent.

The campers sprayed the grizzly with bear spray, causing it to retreat. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to CBS, the victim was a 65-year-old Chico, California, resident named Leah Davis Lokan.

According to CBS, Lokan was an experienced outdoorswoman and cyclist who was on a mountain biking trip. She and her party were camped by Ovando’s post office early Tuesday when she was attacked.

Friends described Lokan as a free spirit, competitive and adventuresome who was aware of the dangers she faced on the trip.

Lemon told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that one of the wildlife specialists’ biggest concerns about the bear was its lack of fear of people and populated areas, not a common trait in wild animals.

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Montana Wildlife Officials Concerned Killer Grizzly Didn’t Show Fear of People

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are concerned that a grizzly bear believed to be responsible for killing a woman earlier this week showed no fear of humans or populated areas in the hours before the attack occurred.

Greg Lemon, spokesman for the department, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that officials are still looking for the grizzly that pulled the 65-year-old woman out of her tent Tuesday morning and killed her near Ovando, Montana.

“We’ve got traps out and some folks out in the area searching for him,” Lemon said. “We flew in helicopters around the area and looked on the ground, but we didn’t come up with anything.”

However, a video taken of the bear the night of the attack is of high enough quality that officials believe they could identify the bear when and if it is captured.

Plus, FWP officials have taken DNA samples from the victim, which can help them identify the bear.

Lemon noted it is incredibly rare for a bear to kill a person, especially unprovoked, adding that in his memory, the last time a bear attacked a person without provocation was a decade ago in a campground near Yellowstone National Park.

“In the vast majority of instances, the bears are doing what they normally do, such as protecting their cubs or a food source,” Lemon said. “It’s unfortunate when people get hurt, but most grizzly encounters don’t end in injury to the bear or the human.”

He added it was unusual the bear didn’t seem to have much fear of humans or populated places, since it came back to the campground after being chased away and also went into Ovando to look for other food sources.

According to the Powell County, Montana, Sheriff’s Office, three campers were spending the night in their tents outside of an Ovando museum Tuesday.

At approximately 3 a.m., a 400-pound male grizzly awakened the campers, but ran away.

The campers removed food from their tents and secured it in an area designated for food storage before going back to bed. While Lemon said this could have been a reason for the bear being interested in the victim’s tent, it was still unusual for it to be so aggressive.

A security camera at a business a block away captured footage of the bear at 3:15 a.m.

Fifteen minutes later, two people in a tent were awakened by screams as the grizzly returned and pulled the victim out of her tent.

The campers sprayed the grizzly with bear spray, causing it to retreat. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials said the bear at some point in the evening killed and ate several chickens after breaking into a chicken coop in the town.

The bear will be killed if FWP officials manage to catch him. If not, they will keep his DNA sample on file and hope there are no more aggressive encounters between the bear and livestock, pets or humans.

“This isn’t our typical response when we have a bear encounter, but given the circumstances and the bear’s behavior, this just isn’t acceptable,” Lemon said.

All campsites in Ovando will be closed until Sunday. 

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Search Continues For Grizzly Who Ripped Woman Out of Tent And Killed Her

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A full-on search continued on Wednesday for a grizzly bear in Montana who dragged a 65-year-old woman out of her tent in the middle of the night and killed her.

But after two days of intensive search efforts, including the use of helicopters and infrared technology, the bear has escaped without a trace.

Terrifying details of the attack emerged on Wednesday when Montana wildlife authorities and law enforcement personnel discussed the events which led up to the fatal attack of Leah Davis Lokan of Chico, California.

According to the Powell County, Montana, Sheriff’s Office, three campers were spending the night in the town of Ovando, Montana, inside their tents outside of a local museum.

At approximately 3 a.m., a 400-pound male grizzly awakened the campers but ran away.

The campers removed food from their tents and secured it in an area designated for food storage before going back to bed.

A security camera at a local business a block away captured footage of the bear at 3:15 a.m.

Fifteen minutes later, two people in a tent were awakened by screams as the grizzly returned and pulled the victim out of her tent.

The campers sprayed the grizzly with bear spray, causing it to retreat.

At 4:14 a.m., the sheriff’s office received it first 911 call regarding the attack.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials said the bear at some point in the evening killed and ate several chickens after breaking into a chicken coop in the town.

That location, officials said, gives them the best opportunity to locate the grizzly.

“At this point, our best chance for catching this bear will be culvert traps set in the area near the chicken coop where the bear killed and ate several chickens,” said Randy Arnold, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional supervisor in Missoula.

DNA of the bear was acquired by wildlife personnel and will be used to compare it against any bear they are able to capture.

A spokesman for Fish, Wildlife, & Parks said if the bear is captured, it will be killed.

“This is just devastating,” Ray Francis, an Ovando resident, told The Associated Press. “This is a big biking community and I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

A local store owner, Tiffanie Zavarelli, said the incident has “shaken the town.”

“We’re all in contact with one another and my husband and I want to let the community know that we care and that we’re here if they need anything at all,” she said.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out the family and friends of the victim. Many thanks to the residents that assisted in the search and pulled together to support the first responders, the Powell County Sheriff’s Office and the Fish Wildlife and Parks as we worked to process the scene and conduct the searches,” a spokesperson from the Powell County Sheriff’s Office said.

All campsites in Ovando will be closed until Sunday. 

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Grizzly Kills Camper In Montana, Officials Still Hunting For Animal

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A person was killed early Tuesday morning by a grizzly bear near a small town in northwestern Montana, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.

The bear still hadn’t been caught as of Tuesday morning. A video camera from a local business caught footage of a grizzly on Monday night, and a bear also got into a chicken coop in the area.

“There was an earlier contact with the bear prior to the event,” Sheriff Gavin Roselles told the Associated Press. “The bear basically came back into the campsite. It wandered into a campsite a couple different times.”

The attack occurred at about 3:30am near Ovando, a town of about 50 residents in Montana’s Blackfoot Valley area. Bears are common in the area.

Nearby campers called 911 during the attack and local medical personnel were unsuccessful in reviving the victim.

The bear left the scene, authorities said, after a camper in the area used bear spray.

“Our first concern is the community’s wellbeing. The next step is to find the bear,” FWP spokesman Greg Lemon said.

The identity of the victim was not immediately released and an investigation into the attack was being conducted Tuesday.

Officials didn’t say exactly where the attack occurred, but the local sheriff said other people were camping in the vicinity. Lemon also said the victim was part of a group on a bike trip.

“All indications are that this encounter was with a grizzly bear, and that a team of law enforcement and state wildlife specialists are searching for the bear,” Roselles told NBC Montana.

A team of wildlife and law enforcement personnel have begun a search for the grizzly near the town of Ovando.

“We have traffic control in place for crime scene management and we’re getting ready to look for the bear,” Roselles said. “We’ve alerted campsites in the immediate area, but we don’t anticipate threats to other people in the area. We’re not encouraging people to come into the area.”

In April, a backcountry guide was killed by a grizzly bear while fishing along the Yellowstone National Park border in southwestern Montana.

In 2016, an off-duty U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer was fatally mauled in the region after he collided with a grizzly while mountain biking in Flathead National Forest.

A young black bear was killed by Montana FWP officials in June after breaking into a home while its residents weren’t home.

A woman was killed by a black bear in Colorado earlier this year.

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Felicia And Grizzly Cubs Avoid Death Row as Fish & Wildlife Service Says Hazing Is Working

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It looks like Grizzly Bear 863, better known as Felicia, and her cubs will live to see another day.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported on Monday that the two-week intensive hazing operation to keep the celebrity bear and her family away from the highway on Togwotee Pass has been successful.

That means the agency won’t kill the bears as officials suggested was a possibility due to Felicia’s proclivity to approach vehicles and people in search of food.

The Fish and Wildlife Service thanked members of the public for not stopping on the highway to watch wildlife during the hazing period but added that making lasting changes in the bear’s behavior will require a long-term effort.

“The public’s avoidance of the area in recent days has contributed to the ability of wildlife managers to conduct operations safely and productively,” the U.S. Fish & Wildlife said in a release.

“However, Grizzly 863’s healthy fear of people and vehicles will continue only if the public avoids the area and practices responsible wildlife viewing behavior,” it said.

In the lexicon of the criminal justice system, the successful hazing doesn’t mean the bears have been removed from death row.

It only means that they have received a temporary pardon. They could still receive a death sentence. It is up to the public to keep the bears alive.

“By avoiding stopping on or along the highway, approaching, or feeding bears, the public can minimize the need to escalate the severity of management options for the bear,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

But this time it didn’t mention the word “euthanasia.”

When the organization did raise that prospect earlier this month, it was a public relations fiasco with nationwide press coverage and nearly 75,000 people signing a petition to stop “the murder of this bear and her two cubs” as it was written on the change.org website.

What happens now?

The agency said it would continue to monitor the bears and will engage in “limited hazing efforts” in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service, the Wyoming Highway Patrol and the Wyoming Game & Fish Department.

As for intervention by a volunteer group — or “posse” —  to monitor the highway and to intervene when people fall back on old habits, the Fish and Wildlife Service said that would be a bad idea and likely make things worse.

“The Service and partners have determined this option is not viable due to significant safety concerns,” it said. “Highway 26/287 is a major arterial highway for western Wyoming. The agencies involved concur that any attempt to facilitate viewing would encourage unsafe conditions along this already busy highway.”

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Grizzly Relocated In Grand Teton Due to People Feeding It

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A young adult male grizzly bear had to be relocated within Grand Teton National Park this week after obtaining human in two incidents earlier this month.

On June 11, a visitor reported that a grizzly bear walked through a Grassy Lake Road campsite, sniffed a picnic table and unoccupied tent, which it then put its paws on. No damage was done to the tent. 

Visitors yelled at the bear and it ran away.

The next day, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a report of people feeding a grizzly bear from their vehicle south of the Lizard Creek Campground.

On June 13, there was a report of a grizzly gaining access to unattended trash and a drink at a campsite.

Both incidents are under investigation, although one person was cited for improper food storage, which carries a mandatory court appearance.

Later on June 13, the grizzly was captured and collared. He is a young male around 2.5 years old. All reports and evidence indicate he was the bear involved in each incident.

Park spokewoman Denise Germann told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the decision was made to relocate the bear to try and break the cycle it had developed of approaching humans in hopes of some kind of food reward.

She added that it was irresponsible for people to feed grizzlies, either directly or indirectly.

“When people take these actions, there are consequences, many of which are for the bear, who can either be relocated or removed,” Germann said. “It’s an awesome opportunity to come to the park and see a bear in the wild, but we also have to be good stewards of the land, which includes not feeding wildlife.”

The bear was relocated on June 15 to the west side of Jackson Lake.

Bears that obtain human food may lose their natural fear of humans and may seek out humans and human-developed areas as an easy source of food. 

As a result, bear may become aggressive toward people and may have to be killed.

The proper storage of food items and responsible picnicking are vitally important in bear country. Picnickers should only have out the items they plan to use immediately so that if a bear approaches, food items can be quickly gathered and the opportunity for the bear to receive a food reward is removed. 

Visitors should store food and scented items in bear-resistant food lockers that are located throughout the park or in a hard-sided vehicle. Deposit trash in bear-resistant receptacles and do not burn waste in fire rings or leave litter in campsites.

“Feeding wildlife is illegal and dangerous, and we take these incidents very seriously,” park superintendent Chip Jenkins said. “The impacts of irresponsible behavior can have very negative effects for humans and wildlife.” 

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Black Bear Escapes Charging Grizzly Bear With ‘Powerful Exit Strategy’

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Heeding proper bear advice is important. It can be a matter of life or death.

Thinking it’s possible to outrun a bear is fraught with peril.

A video shared on Tuesday by Glacier National Park shows why attempting to run from a bear is a bad idea.

The video showed what could have been a nasty confrontation between a grizzly bear and a black bear.

The National Park Service describes the encounter as a battle for food. It’s still not plentiful, so battles over a food source happens often.

That means, as horrible as it sounds, a bear can be the equivalent of a cheeseburger for another bear.

In this case, a much larger grizzly goes after a black bear, but the black bear does not turn into a cheeseburger.

That’s because of — as the Park Service describes it — the black bear’s exit strategy: climbing.

The black bear escaped up a tree.  And although the grizzly acted like it was going to follow the black bear up, it couldn’t.  Although it gave the viewing public a thrill.

Glacier National Park described the difference of the two bears like this:

“The short, sharp claws of the black bear are ideal for tree climbing. The grizzly’s longer, duller claws are great for digging, but poor for climbing—especially because an adult grizzly is substantially heavier than a black bear,” the Park Service said.

It’s a fantastic video and a great lesson for humans who think they can outsmart bears.

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Grizzly Hazing To Occur on Togwotee Pass Because Of Irresponsible Human Behavior

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By staff reports, Cowboy State Daily

As a result of continued harassment by wildlife viewers creating unsafe conditions on Togwotee Pass in Wyoming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and partners plan to conduct targeted hazing operations on grizzly bear 863. 

The Service and partners ask the public to avoid the area if possible and not interfere with these management operations, currently planned for the remainder of June 2021. Allowing wildlife experts to address this issue uninterrupted will increase the chances of this management tactic being successful.

People and cars dangerously close to a grizzly bear on U.S. Highway 26/287, creating unsafe conditions for people and wildlife. Credit: Todd Stiles/U.S. Forest Service

This operation will be conducted alongside partners at the U.S. Forest Service, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Highway Patrol, and Wyoming Game & Fish Department. 

Approaching, disturbing, or feeding bears – as is occurring on Togwotee Pass – is extremely dangerous to both humans and bears. 

These actions habituate animals to human development and can lead to dangerous human conditioned behavior. When this happens, bears may become aggressive and threaten human safety. 

If hazing does not resolve conflicts on Togwotee Pass, escalating management options include relocation and possibly euthanasia. By avoiding approaching or feeding bears, the public can help ensure that the need for such significant management options is unnecessary.

A female grizzly bear, known as “863” by wildlife managers and “Felicia” by public observers, and her two cubs have become habituated to the roadside along Highway 26/287. 

As more people become aware of these bears and stop to approach them, it creates unsafe conditions for people and wildlife. The public’s help is needed to ensure the continued safety of these bears and people passing through the area.

The Service and our partners continue to raise calls to the public to stay safe and help keep grizzly bears wild (see: USFWS and Partners Urge Responsible Grizzly Bear Viewing in Togwotee Pass Area, As Grizzly Bears Emerge from Dens, USFWS Urges Public to Stay Safe and Keep Bears Wild, and Multi-agency Effort to Maintain Safety of Grizzly Bears and People). 

The Service again reminds residents and visitors that approaching, feeding, or otherwise disturbing grizzly bears poses a significant threat to humans and bears, in addition to being a federal offense under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, and other partners are unified in our approach and committed to ensuring safe conditions for people and wildlife. To achieve this goal, we need your help. Please remember to:

Never approach bears; always remain at least 100 yards (300 feet) away, or about the length of a football field

Practice ethical wildlife viewing by remaining a safe distance and never disturbing natural behaviors – if an animal notices you and/or changes their behavior or actions, you are too close

Never feed, leave food for, or make food accessible to bears

Obey traffic signs, laws, and regulations – stop only in designated pull-off areas

Follow the direction of wildlife management officials, do not interfere with or approach hazing operations

Additional grizzly bear safety information is available from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee for residents, hunters, hikers/campers, farmers/ranchers, and wildlife watchers.

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Wyoming Game and Fish: Don’t Fight Grizzlies

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is reminding people that no matter how tough they might think they are, a grizzly bear is tougher.

Always.

A recent national poll conducted by YouGov America showed what animals Americans thought they could defeat in a fight, and about 6% of respondents believed they could definitely win in a fight against a grizzly bear.

This group of people obviously has never seen the film “Grizzly Man,” about a bear enthusiast who claimed to have won the trust of certain brown bears and was later killed by one.

Nonetheless, the Game and Fish department reminded people that even though it might sound cool to take part in a cage match with a grizzly, no one should ever fight bears — or any animal, for that matter.

“The Wyoming Game and Fish Department views human-wildlife conflicts very seriously, and interactions between humans and grizzlies can be extremely dangerous,” Game and Fish Spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “Seeking out conflict with any wildlife is not only dangerous but irresponsible as well.

“Obviously, Game and Fish does not support anyone instigating a fight with bears (or any wildlife) and urges people to educate themselves on bear safety and take extra steps to avoid conflicts,” she continued

The top three animals people thought they could beat in a fight were a rat (72% thought they could win), a house cat (69%) and a goose (61%).

Admittedly, grizzlies were the animal the fewest people thought they could beat. Lions, elephants and gorillas were selected as the underdog by 8% of those responding. Crocodiles (9%) and wolves (12%) were also selected as more likely to be bested in a match with a human.

Noted outdoor enthusiast and Pinedale resident Paul Ulrich, who has had multiple encounters with bears, said anyone who thinks they can take a grizzly is an “idiot.”

“A few years ago, I was about 20 yards away from a 1,200-pound grizzly bear and if it wasn’t for my bear spray, it wouldn’t have been pretty,” Ulrich said. “I think I would have been fine because I’m in shape but my buddy is a 300 pounder and that bear was looking at him like a double cheeseburger.”

Ulrich said the bear spray stopped the grizzly and allowed he and his friend to get to their pickup truck in time to escape.

“These bears are not only fast but they’re nimble,” Ulrich said. “My friend is slow, fat, and uncoordinated. That bear would have chopped him up like a food processor.”

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Hiker Injured By Bear In Yellowstone, First Incident of 2021

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man was attacked Friday morning by a bear while hiking in Yellowstone National Park, according to park officials.

Park officials said the unidentified 39-year-old man was attacked while hiking alone on the Beaver Ponds Trail at Mammoth Hot Springs. The incident occurred around 1.5 miles from the trailhead that originates from the Old Gardiner Road.

The man told park officials he was hiking when he encountered what he believed to be two grizzly bears. One attacked him and he sustained significant injuries to his lower extremities, but was able to hike out on his own.

The hiker was transported to the Livingston, Montana, Hospital by park ambulance.

The Beaver Ponds Trail was closed until further notice. Bear management staff swept the trail Friday morning to ensure no hikers were on it.

Park officials are advising those hiking in Yellowstone to stay at least 100 yards away from bears at all times and carry bear spray.

The last bear-human conflict in the park occurred in June 2020, when a grizzly knocked a woman to the ground and scratched her thigh.

The woman was hiking alone when she encountered two grizzlies at close range. The female bear knocked her down despite the woman’s attempt to use bear spray.

When the woman fell, she also received minor injuries to her face. She declined medical attention.

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National Park Service Investigating Woman Charged By Grizzly In Yellowstone

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A woman in Yellowstone National Park who appeared to disregard National Park Service rules by approaching wildlife is under investigation by federal authorities.

The National Park Service is asking the public to help identify a woman who was charged by a female grizzly bear after walking up to the animal with her phone to film it.

Video of the encounter captured onlookers’ gasps when the grizzly rushed the woman who calmly walked away after the bear’s charge.

The Park Service describes the suspect as a white woman in her mid-30s with brown hair, heavyset, and wearing black clothing.

According to the statement, the violation occurred on May 10 at around 4:45pm.

Commenters on Yellowstone National Park’s Facebook page had little sympathy for the woman.

“If they didn’t euthanize the bears, I would fully support them eating a few tourists each year,” wrote Ken Weisz.

“People really just act like they are seeing squirrels at their local park. She’s lucky she didn’t get yeeted out of existence,” said Shiloh Barksdale.

“I guess this Darwin Award recipient thinks she’s at a petting zoo,” Lacy Teel said. “She’s lucky to be alive and lucky she didn’t cause the death of this mother and her cubs.”

There have been many high-profile bear attacks so far in 2021, some fatal.

A woman was killed by a black bear near Durango, Colorado in April and a Montana man was mauled to death by a grizzly near Yellowstone earlier this month.

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Highway Patrol To Ticket Drivers Who Pull Over To Look At Bears On Togwotee Pass

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Staff reports

Despite a concerted multi-agency effort to provide safe wildlife viewing of grizzly bears frequenting U.S. Highway 26 near Togwotee Pass, officials are now planning to step-up management efforts in order to maintain the safety of both wildlife and people.

“What started as just a handful of people occasionally watching a sow grizzly bear and her cubs has now turned into large crowds of people getting out of their illegally parked vehicles, creating a serious safety issue along this busy highway due to vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed as they pass by,” said Lieutenant Matt Brackin with the Wyoming Highway Patrol. 

“This is not like a national park where motorists are traveling at much lower speeds and expecting to see wildlife with the public pulled over to wildlife watch. This is a major highway with numerous large semi-tractor trailers that can’t stop in short order to avoid stopped vehicles or excited pedestrians that are criss-crossing the road. It has become a significant safety issue.” 

Wyoming state troopers plan to start citing individuals who have illegally parked their vehicles along the highway rather than parking in a designated legal pull-out.

Wyoming Game and Fish officials have begun to haze the sow grizzly bear and her cubs away from the road when conditions allow it to be done safely for both the bears and people. “Hazing wildlife away from busy highways and other areas of human development is a commonly-used practice to prevent a wildlife-vehicle collision or a dangerous encounter between people and wildlife,” said Dan Thompson, Large Carnivore Supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

“As an agency, we promote safe and ethical viewing of wildlife, but unfortunately this has escalated into a situation that is not safe for people or the grizzly bears. Bears occasionally seen from a road are much different than bears that frequent these areas and become habituated to people. When allowed to persist, it only increases the likelihood for either people or bears to behave poorly, which can result in a human injury or death, or the grizzly bear having to be euthanized.”

All of the agencies involved are in consensus that these management actions are necessary for the safety of grizzly bears and people. People are reminded to heed all signs along the road and follow the direction of authorities from the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, Wyoming Highway Patrol, U.S. Forest Service and Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

“The efforts to recover our grizzly bear populations have afforded people unprecedented opportunity to see and photograph bears on a regular basis in northwest Wyoming,” said Thompson. “But with that comes the responsibility to do it safely and ethically for the benefit of both grizzly bears and people.”

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Tolerance Key To Grizzly Bear Conservation, Game and Fish Dept Says

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

Education is the top priority in Wyoming’s $55 million, decades-long battle to recover and conserve grizzly bears. The success of the Bear Wise program — the department’s large carnivore educational outreach program — has helped keep both bears and people safe, according to state officials. But the department is at a crossroads: Its goal of building tolerance among landowners and residents is in jeopardy of wearing thin as conflicts continue to increase.

“Tolerance goes down as conflicts go up,” Brian DeBolt, large carnivore conflict coordinator for the department, told the Game and Fish Commission in April.

In many ways, DeBolt and the rest of the large carnivore team find themselves in a tight spot. The federal government calls all the shots while the species is listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Despite being deemed recovered for years by a federal conservation governing body, efforts to delist the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzlies have been unsuccessful, while bears keep spreading out into areas fraught with conflict. At the same time, more visitors from outside the Yellowstone ecosystem — many who haven’t seen the messaging from Bear Wise Wyoming — are pouring in, hoping to get a glimpse of the charismatic critters.

DeBolt and large carnivore team supervisor Dan Thompson — considered the state’s top experts — outlined the pressing issues of livestock depredation and aggressive bears in residential neighborhoods at the commission’s April 22 meeting. They also heralded recently improved removal rates and educational opportunities seized despite the pandemic.

“A huge component of having large carnivores on the landscape is managing conflicts,” Thompson said.

There were 208 conflicts with grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 2020, with 50% occurring on private property.

Thompson and DeBolt spoke to the Game and Fish’s governing body as the first grizzly attack of the year was hitting newsstands. Carl Mock, a backcountry guide from West Yellowstone, Montana, was mauled by a grizzly bear during a solo fishing trip on the Madison River just outside of Yellowstone National Park. The 40-year-old Mock died two days later, on April 17.

The bear is believed to have been defending a nearby food cache — a natural defense mechanism for the species — as a moose carcass was located near the scene of the attack. The bear was later killed as it charged a large contingent of officials responding to the scene.

Bear spray residue found on Mock’s clothing suggested he tried to ward off the attack, The Associated Press reported. Mock usually carried a pistol in addition to the spray, but didn’t that day. By the time rescuers reached him, he was propped up at the base of a tree with his canister of spray in one hand and his other hand missing — lost in the battle with the bruin.

Mock wasn’t just a statistic to be bantered around in the constant debate over management protocols, Thompson said. Nor was Mark Uptain, a guide killed in the Teton wilderness in 2018, or any of the deaths and injuries that have unfolded in recent years. They were family members and friends.

But the attacks, hyped in big headlines in some publications, also become ammunition used by some to demonize the species, the recovery efforts of the state and federal government, and predator management as a whole. 

“I understand their frustration,” Thompson said. “It is very tough, because we’ve asked the public to trust in us. And we’ve done everything we can to recover and prove that we’ve recovered grizzly bears. But we’re still dealing with a listed population.”

He said tolerance is impossible to quantify, but when a person gets injured or killed, “it obviously impacts the general thought process of a lot of people about grizzly bears in the [Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem].”

Wyoming’s large carnivore team walks a narrow line between protecting humans and protecting the predator species unique to our ecosystem.

“There’s international interest and scrutiny on what we do,” Thompson said.

Wolves, mountain lions and bears have all been misunderstood while being displaced by the fragmented habitat of progress, he said. There were still bounties on mountain lions deep into the 20th century in the U.S., offering hard currency to anyone willing to shoot the species, with no limits or regulations. 

Thompson told commissioners that the department’s proactive measures to inform and educate the public are “very critical” to large carnivore management. The Game and Fish’s large carnivore team started with just a few people, he said, but has expanded to 10 full-time employees and several temporary hires, “just to be able to deal with these things as the population expands.”

The official estimate of grizzlies within the Demographic Monitoring Area — an area deemed as suitable bear habitat — is about 730 bears. However, drawing from population data presented by the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, Thompson said there are likely more than 1,000 of the predators in that area, “and have been since 2015.”

Officials refuse to give an educated estimate as to how many additional bears have moved outside the monitoring area, but based on the growing footprint of the bear, many guess there are hundreds more; reported grizzly conflicts outside the boundaries of the DMA span a region the size of New Jersey.

However, critics question such population “guesstimates” and some claim higher estimates will result in more grizzly deaths, including eventual hunting of the species. While grizzly bear hunts have become a flashpoint in debates over delisting, Thompson points out that the state manages the hunting of black bears, wolves and mountain lions, all of which are steadily increasing in population.

“Without the public buying in, without public support and tolerance for these species, we can’t move forward,” he said. “That’s why we make a huge effort to understand all the different perspectives from the public — from those who adore [predators], to those who hate them.”

The Bear Wise and loss mitigation programs remain important parts of building tolerance, Thompson said. The department has paid millions in compensation for livestock lost to predators and is constantly looking for ways to get its messages out to residents and visitors. The program is seeking to expand bear spray giveaways and educational efforts as COVID-19 vaccinations make it possible for officials to schedule live events.

“My message to the public is to do everything you can to be safe, and do everything you can to protect yourself,” Thompson said.

Despite the many critics from communities in grizzly habitat and around the globe, he considers all opinions valid as the debate rages.

“I’ve always said that we can use [the passion for the species] to our advantage,” he said. “I’d rather have interest than apathy.”

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Lummis Promotes Grizzly Delisting While Questioning Biden Nominee

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

After questioning President Joe Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis remains unsure about whether she will vote to confirm the woman to the post, according to her office.

An aide to Lummis to the senator said while Lummis appreciated Shannon Estenoz’ statements during a Senate committee hearing that the state management of grizzly bears is central to continuing the species’ recovery.

“Wyoming, Idaho and Montana first achieved all of the grizzly bear’s recovery objectives set by the federal government in 1997, more than 24 years ago,” the aide said. “The committee will vote on Estenoz’s nomination in coming weeks (the date has yet to be determined). Sen. Lummis is still considering how she will vote on her nomination.”

Lummis asked Estenoz during the hearing whether grizzlies should be removed from the Endangered Species List, given the fact the recovery of the bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the greatest success stories of the Endangered Species Act.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Bush administration, the Obama administration and the Trump administration’s all agreed that the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population has recovered and should be delisted,” Lummis said. “Do you believe we should keep species on the list?”

Estenoz agreed that the Yellowstone area grizzly “is doing very, very well.”

“I believe when species meet the definition of delisting or down-listing, then we should delist or down-list,” Estenoz said.

“It’s really important for folks to feel supported and listened to and that we have the right tools in the toolbox to help folks live and exist with a recovering predator species, and state management and state expertise as I said before is absolutely central to this approach,” she said.

Estenoz said if she is confirmed, she will prioritize working with communities to “recover,” or delist, predators in particular.

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.

Lummis is a sponsor of the Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2021, which would remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the Endangered Species List and shift management of the grizzlies to wildlife scientists in the states. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

Bears have become so populous in the park and Yellowstone area that it is common for tourists to encounter them every summer. This week, a woman was charged by a grizzly while filming three bears running around.

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Tourist Season Begins: Woman Charged By Grizzly Bear In Yellowstone

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

It might be still winter-like in some parts of Wyoming, but summer has officially arrived at Yellowstone National Park with the season’s first encounter between a park visitor and a grizzly bear.

Thankfully it didn’t go nearly as badly as it could have, but still, why do people keep getting so close to wild animals? Is the close-up video that worth it? Did you not watch “Grizzly Man?”

A video shared by NBC Montana shows a woman recording three grizzly bears at a relatively short distance. As the bears run around, one charges toward her, causing her to put her phone down and walk back toward her vehicle.

“Darcie Addington took this from the safety of her vehicle,” the tweet by the TV station said. “She doesn’t know the other woman, but says several people warned her. Remember to give bears at least 100 yards of space.”

According to the National Park Service, a bluff charge is the more common type of charge and is meant to scare or intimidate. If a bluff charge is about to happen, a person is supposed to slowly back away from the bear while waving their arms above their head and speaking to the bear in a calm voice.

People should not run when a bear bluff charges, because it may trigger the animal to attack.

Late last month, a woman near Durango, Colorado was mauled and killed by a black bear when she was out walking her dogs.

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Female Grizzly Killed West of Wyoming; $40,000 Reward Offered

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By staff reports, Cowboy State Daily

A $40,000 reward has been offered for information in the the killing of a female grizzly bear in Idaho in an area about 10 miles west of Yellowstone National Park.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department on Monday announced the killing of the grizzly which authorities believe occurred in mid-March at the Pole Bridge Campground and also resulted in the death of her 6 to 8 week cub.

“The loss of a reproductive female grizzly is a real tragedy,” Regional Conservation Officer Doug Petersen said. “Someone out there knows what happened to this bear and we are asking them to come forward and share that information with us.”

Officials found the bear, which was shot numerous times, partially submerged in the Little Warm River after receiving a mortality signal from its collar. The cub was later discovered in the bear’s den.

This is the third shooting of a grizzly in the area in the last 10 months. 

In September of 2020 an adult male grizzly was shot and killed in Coyote Meadows followed by the shooting of a young male bear in November that was discovered near the Cold Springs Road. All three cases remain under investigation.

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West Yellowstone Man Dies After Being Attacked by Grizzly

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A West Yellowstone man died Saturday after being attacked by a grizzly bear two days earlier.

Friends and family of Carl Mock, 40, announced his death on Saturday on a GoFundMe page which was originally set-up to pay for his medical bills.

Officials said the bear attack on the backcountry guide occurred on Thursday near the Baker’s Hole campground area, approximately 3 miles north of the West Yellowstone entrance of Yellowstone National Park and 2 miles west of the Wyoming state line.

Mock was taken to an Idaho Falls hospital with significant scalp and facial injuries. According to the GoFundMe page, Mock succumbed to his injuries after suffering a “massive” stroke.

“This comes as a terrible shock and is heartbreaking to everyone, since both of his surgeries went so well,” said Keith Johnson, organizer of the fundraising effort.

“All of the money that is being donated on this page… will be given to the family to help cover the medical bills and the funeral costs,” Johnson said.

Officials with the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department said Mock had bear spray, but it was unclear if he was able to deploy it during the attack.

An older male grizzly was shot and killed on Friday while game wardens and bear specialists were conducting an investigation at the scene of the attack.

“They yelled and made continuous noise as they walked toward the site to haze away any bears in the area,” the department said in a release. “Before they reached the site, a bear began charging the group.”

“Despite multiple attempts by all seven people to haze away the bear, it continued its charge. Due to this immediate safety risk, the bear was shot and died about 20 yards from the group,” the department said.

The U.S. Forest Service issued an emergency public-safety closure in the area Thursday afternoon. The closure remains in effect.

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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 Attack Victim Says Grizzlies Are “Apex Killing Machines” & Need to be Delisted

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Shanun Rammell and his wife had chased the grizzly off of their property twice in a yearlong span before the attack.

And after the attack, Rammell is convinced the bears don’t need the protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act.

“You get a lot of people who think these are cute, cuddly teddy bears, but they’re apex killing machines,” he told Cowboy State Daily.

“This is a problem and (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) are here to protect the bears at all costs,” he continued. “This isn’t a grizzly’s habitat anymore.”

The Montana native lives in a secluded area of Choteau, Montana. When he got a tip from a neighbor last summer that the bear was back on his land a third time, he went looking for it.

He confronted the bear in an abandoned shed on his property, and thankfully lived to tell the tale, something not every person who encounters a grizzly can attest to.

The bear threw him around like a ragdoll, all while his wife and one of his 10 children were watching.

His wife, Jamie Rammell, tried to run over the bear with their vehicle, but it ran off when it heard the engine turn over.

Nine days later, the bear returned, coming close to attacking one of Rammell’s daughters.

“I was in a Fish and Game truck after the bear attacked my daughter and they wouldn’t kill the bear,” Rammell said. “He’s still out, wandering around. I haven’t seen him, but one of my neighbors saw him around Thanksgiving.”

The attack on Rammell was one of the few bear attacks to take place in far-eastern Montana in more than 100 years.

For nearly a year, Rammell has been working with Montana legislators to help get the grizzly bear taken off the endangered species list, noting how the species is no longer threatened and is actually found in abundance in the region.

“There’s just way too many of them,” he said. “When they’re cruising 50 miles away in the prairie, there’s a problem. All they do now is kill cattle and sheep and tear barn doors off to get to grains.”

Many Wyoming officials agree with Rammell about delisting grizzlies, but they probably haven’t been as close to a grizzly’s claws as he has.

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended that no change be made to the to the grizzlies’ status as threatened under the Endangered Species Act for at least five years.

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

“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 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-review 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.

Rammell called the decision to keep the grizzlies on the endangered species list “all politics.”

He has seen the damage that has been done to the species by trying to keep them on the threatened list (such as overpopulation and a lack of food), and believes states need to manage the bear population.

“It’s all about who you know,” he said. “My daughter is still having nightmares about the attack.”

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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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Cat Urbigkit: Grizzly Bears, Cattle, and the Tangled Web of Activism

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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

In more of the same-old-predictable strategy, there have been two notices of intent to sue over conflicts between grizzly bears and cattle in the Upper Green River region of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Here’s a quick overview of that issue, then we’re taking a deep dive into who is threatening to sue.

Grizzly Decision

As the Forest Service authorized continued livestock grazing in the Upper Green, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Biological Opinion concluded: “In this biological opinion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) concludes that the anticipated adverse effects resulting from the issuance of grazing permits by the Forest for the Upper Green River Rangeland Project (the proposed action) for a period of 10 years (2019 through 2028) will not jeopardize the continued existence of the grizzly bear.

The Service reached this conclusion after reviewing the rangewide status of the species, the environmental baseline within the action area, and evaluating the effects of the proposed action and cumulative effects. The grizzly bear population within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has exceeded recovery goals and continues to expand into new locations, including into the Allotments.

The recovery and continued population expansion has occurred concurrent with the Forest implementing many of the actions described in the FEIS. This means historical activities, which are comparable to the proposed action, have had little to no discernible effect on the population’s trend toward recovery, and we do not expect continuation of these activities to reverse the trend.

“Based on population trends and the number of removals over the last nine years, the incidental take statement exempts a total of 72 grizzly bear mortalities over the 10-year timeframe of the proposed action. … Although we anticipate some level of take of grizzly bears primarily due to management removal within the allotments, it is our opinion that the proposed action will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of grizzly bears.”

Grizzly Bears country

Notice to Sue

The first notice of intent to sue comes from the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, and Western Watersheds Project (WWP).

The second notice comes from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club.

While most of these groups are familiar, a few aren’t so recognizable. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies is an admittedly small group based in Montana, with one staffer (Michael Garrity) and with a Board of Advisors that includes Earth First! co-founder Howie Wolke (who spent six months in a Sublette County jail a few decades ago after pulling up survey stakes for a drilling location in the Hoback), and anti-grazing activist and writer George Wuerthner. So that group is a good fit with their partners at WWP.

Y2U

The Yellowstone to Uintas Connection (Y2U) is a relatively new name, so I did a quick internet search that took me down a rabbit hole. Y2U opposes livestock grazing in the Upper Green.

According to an article, Jason Christensen is the Y2U director, and is the foster son of anti-grazing activist John Carter.

Carter served on the board of WWP for years, and is now part of an effort to get the US Forest Service to regulate the use of livestock guardian dogs as part of livestock grazing permits, and is pushing for state laws requiring working dogs be spayed, neutered, microchipped, undergo mandatory veterinary checks, etc. Considering Carter’s long-time activism against livestock grazing, some may hold skepticism for his motivations.

The article noted that Carter lives “with his dogs on a 824-acre conservation easement created by Y2U in Paris, Canyon Idaho. The property, dubbed Kiesha’s Preserve is explained on the website kieshapreserve.org.” That website notes: “Going forward, as we acquire additional funding, more land will be purchased and set aside in conservation easements. This will ensure permanent protection of the Preserve and enable it to continue to provide essential ecosystem services to the surrounding communities.”

The Preserve

The preserve appears to be mostly serving as a private preserve for Carter, but it accepts financial contributions which its website notes are not tax deductible. The preserve website adds, “You can also support our work with our partner Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, for example, our Forest and BLM road closure and fencing projects. These are tax-deductible.”

Thus,Y2U uses tax-deductible contributions to retrofit the preserve’s fences for Carter’s private playground. And one of the Y2U board members is a fencing contractor. According to the preserve’s website, they’ve spent about $150,000 on the preserve’s fences so far.

Who is on the board of Y2U? The eight-member board includes: John Carter; retired Florida real estate saleswoman Susan Warren; Warren’s Alaska-based son Guy Warren; retired Utah State University wildlife ecologist turned cattle-critic Barrie Gilbert of Canada; Paris, Idaho-based fencing company owner Jeremiah Mattson; political activist Jack Greene of Utah; and two other people who also serve on both the board and staff.

The Y2U six-member staff includes three people who also serve on the board. John Carter is listed as both a staff member and a board member. Carter’s foster son Jason Christensen, the director of the organization, is a staff member also, as is his wife Kandis.

According to Y2U’s 2018 tax filing (the most recent year available), Carter’s son and daughter-in-law were paid staff members for the organization, and of the organization’s $90,000 in revenue received that tax year, $70,000 went to salaries or other compensation for staff, while another $4,000 went to professional fees or payments to independent contractors.

Who owns the Preserve?

That Carter lives on a 824-acre preserve “created by Y2U” (a group that Carter founded, and for which he serves on both board and staff, and two of his family members are also listed as staff) was intriguing, so I searched further. Y2U claims that it “created” the preserve, and “manages” the reserve where Carter lives. But recent tax documents indicate Carter still owns the property.

I found a document that Carter had written that describes his purchasing a 20-acre rural subdivision parcel, then was disgruntled that other people could do the same, so he started buying more parcels.

The undated prospectus document explains “I am seeking funding to retire the development rights and place the property into a conservation easement.” Carter provided a sworn statement to a federal court about his ownership of the preserve last year.

In a 2017 letter to the U.S. Forest Service from the Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, Y2U noted it also represented “KM Ranch LLC, owner of 914 acres of private land along the Paris Canyon trailing route to the project area. Most of this property is set aside in a conservation easement to protect and restore the winter range and sage grouse habitat that occurs therein.”

According to Utah public records, KM Ranch, LLC was registered in Utah from 2007 through 2016, doing business as Kiesha’s Reserve, and was voluntarily dissolved at that time, at which point it became registered as a business entity in Idaho.

John Carter is the registered agent for KM Ranch, LLC in both states. While in Utah, the mailing address for this business entity was the same as Y2U’s address, and in Idaho, the address between the business entity, John Carter, Kiesha’s Preserve, and Y2U are all the same.

It is unclear what entity holds a conservation easement for the preserve property. Idaho tax records reveal tax assessments were issued to KM Ranch, LLC in 2018, covering about 12 parcels totaling 867 acres, and mailed to the Carter/Kiesha’s Preserve/Y2U address in Paris, Idaho.

Y2U’s website claims Kiesha’s Preserve totals 1,034 acres protected through conservation easements and “The preserve is now managed by Yellowstone to Uintas Connection.”

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

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