Thursday, January 27, 2011

Montana Senate Bill 143 Follow-Up

Trying to dig up more information on this bill, I sent e-mails to Montana Senator Debby Barrett, who is pushing the bill, Montana FWP, who is opposing the bill, and Doug Peacock, who is a Montana native and who knows more about the battle over the grizzly than anyone else. In my e-mails to Barrett and the FWP, I suggested using supplemental feeding as an alternative to bullets in order to solve the problem bear issue, despite the insistence of wildlife managers that "a fed bear is a dead bear". Not surprisingly, I received no repsonse from either party.

Doug Peacock, on the other hand, did reply and I'm pleased to say that his response was encouraging. He said that the state has no authority to act unless the feds first de-list the grizzly and it stands up to several court challenges. He's pretty confident that it's just hot air. While I agree that it won't happen overnight, I'm not sure that I'm as confident as he is. With bears expanding their home ranges in search of food, the clash with a misinformed and uneducated public could have grim consequences. It's a situation that's going to be hard to predict. Now more news info is coming out about what the situation will be the summer and the push to remove the grizzly's protection. This recent article from The Missoulian expands on that a bit more:

I get the feeling that this summer is going to be quite a ride.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Montana Rules Against the Grizzly

In a stunning move, a Montana Senate committee heard a proposal last week to change state policy and say that the grizzly population is sufficiently healthy in order to allow trapping and killing of the bears to limit conflicts with people and livestock. With public pressure due to the increased loss of sheep and farm animals to the bears, Republican Senator Debby Barrett is calling for the removal of federal protections for the grizzly so that a certain number of the bears can be killed as part of new management practices. She says that due to the growing number of grizzlies in the state, such policy is necessary. At the recent proposal hearing, none of the bill's opponents even bothered to speak against it.

Is this really necessary? With the great number of animal sanctuaries around the world, can't so-called problem bears be sent to some of those places rather than trapped and destroyed? Several states have had near 100% success rates in using supplemental feeding to deter rogue black bears from neighborhoods, so why can't the same be done for hungry grizzlies? Charlie Russell tried it on his ranch in Alberta to keep grizzlies away from his livestock and his attempts were successful! But, hey, why put some actual thought and creativity into wildlife management practices - and dare to defy the old ideologies - when the standard boneheaded techniques are such crowd-pleasers? Then again, maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about.

Either way, I'm compiling some of this information and alternate solutions and will be mass e-mailing it soon. I'm also going to see if I can get some thoughts from Doug Peacock on this situation, since Montana is his home state. I'll post any responses as soon as I receive them. Meantime, you can read the full article here:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two Black Bear Cubs Born Online

After last winter's phenomenon of Lily the Black Bear - in which a webcam in her den broadcast the birth of her cub Hope to thousands of viewers across the internet - Dr. Lynn Rogers and his team at Ely, Minnesota's North American Bear Center were determined to capture lightning in a bottle again this year, especially when it became apparent that Lily would likely be giving birth again.

Once Lily and Hope settled on their new den, Lynn and his researchers set up the new dencam, and today - with almost 10,000 viewers watching - Lily gave birth to two new cubs, one at 1:51 P.M. and the other at 3:03 P.M Central Time. Her back was turned to the camera to keep the cubs sheltered from the cold at the den entrance so there wasn't much to be seen and there still isn't. It could, in fact, be another month before the cubs are even seen on the camera.

In the last year, Lily has amassed over 100,000 fans on Facebook and that number will likely increase now that the birth of the new cubs is receiving so much media attention. The opportunity to watch Lily behaving like an animal and not like a monster has done a lot to help to tear down misconceptions about black bears and build public support for them. So many donations have poured in to the NABC as a result that it's almost eliminated their $700,000 debt!

Activity in the den seems to have settled down now, so two cubs may be the limit this year. The only way to know for sure is to keep watching. They can be seen at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Doug Peacock Interview

A new interview with Doug Peacock in which he elaborates on the current crisis facing the grizzly bear, as discussed in my post "The Fall of the Grizzly" (Saturday November 6, 2010), and tells a bit of his own story. This is a grim situation, doubly so because so far the winter temperatures in Yellowstone this year have continued to be above average. It's hard to say how things will play out this summer but a greater public tolerance of the grizzly and its needs will be necessary to see it through.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

One-Year Anniversary

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the Where the Bear Walks blog and I can't help but sit back and reflect on what a remarkable year it's been. What began as a simple hobby - a place to keep track of all of the fascinating things I had been discovering about bears - quickly became my life's work. It led me back to my old stomping grounds in Alaska for an opportunity to work up close with captive bears, an opportunity that took my understanding of them to a completely different level and showed me things I had previously only imagined. It also put me in touch with several bear people who I greatly admire, such as Doug Peacock, Casey Anderson, Stephen Stringham, Charlie Russell, and Else Poulsen....some of whom have invited me to attend the annual Bear Care Conference which will be held in Canada this October. That was an invitation that I wasn't expecting to get but I can't say that I should really be surprised at this point.

Yes, a lot has happened and yet some things almost feel the same. When I started last year, the whole world was watching a black bear named Lily give birth to a cub live on the internet via webcam, launching a phenomenon that would help do more for bears than anything else in recent years. Now as I sit here writing this anniversary post, I'm watching Lily asleep in her new den with her cub while the world holds its breath, waiting to see if any new arrivals will be joining them this winter.

So what does the future hold? Obviously my work with bears will continue in some form or another. This whole experience has come together so perfectly and so easily that I honestly can't believe that any of it has been coincidence....and the pieces are still coming together. I won't go into specifics right now. Instead I'll just say that there are several possibilities on the horizon, any and all of which would be great for my "bear resume". Pondering these, I can't help but think about the second anniversary of this blog....and wonder where I'll be and what I'll have done by then.