SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – February 2005

The Grizzly Detective: Tracking Bears in the Bitterroots

America's preeminent bear tracker backpacks Idaho's most remote wilderness looking for signs of the lost grizzlies of the Bitterroots--and winds up staring at the great bruin's future.

by: Doug Peacock


We glass the terrain. To the north, beyond Stanley Butte, lie the drainages we investigated two years ago. Somewhere down there, under a Buick-size slab of coarse talus, we found an opening into a den. The tiny chamber flickered with reflected light, like a seaside grotto. A scat sample we collected also failed to turn up identification, but we suspected black bear. Grizzlies tend to dig dens-near timberline, under trees, on north-facing slopes--at these latitudes. Black bears are more likely to use talus slopes.

From the pass, we descend east into the North and South Link Lakes drainages. Rumor has it an unauthorized trail has been cut in this area and we want to check it out.

We drop down and find spot fires simmering in lower Three Links Creek. To the north lie the Lizard Lakes, a chain of basins perfect for grizzlies in summer and fall. But instead of finding bears, we make a different discovery: a fresh trail extension that isn't on our map, probably cut by a hunting outfitter, snaking along the crest, directly overlooking these basins. From up there, hunters have clear sightlines into these open bowls. I later find out that hundreds of miles of new trail have been cut here since the last maps were made.

Nearly all participants in the reintroduction debate have long believed that the Bitterroot's huge core of mountain wilderness was sufficiently secure for grizzly survival--and we began this hike still convinced that was true. Now I'm not so sure.

Hunters aren't allowed in national parks, but they can shoot elk and black bears anywhere in this wilderness. Gunshots, paradoxically, attract bears. When hunters shoot elk, they leave behind an immense gut pile, which is a strong bear magnet. Though grizzlies innately avoid humans, they're also drawn to a ready feast, and they begin to associate muzzle blasts with food. From there, it's a huge temptation for hunters. I've followed cases through the years where outfitters in Yellowstone's surrounding national forests were caught shooting grizzly cubs. They often got away with judicial slaps on the wrist; in some parts of the West, illegal bear killing is practically a socially sanctioned activity.



Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

David Holwick
Feb 10, 2011

I believe the reason grizzlies need a land connection to Canada is for genetic diversity. If a group of animals becomes too isolated, genetic birth defects appear and the population can die out. It has happened to a group of lions in a volcanic caldera in Africa.

Long Time Reader
Feb 10, 2011

Why? Why do the Grizzlies need to connect with the other bears from other places?

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Gear
Ruined jacket in dryer
Posted On: Sep 01, 2014
Submitted By: SWest
Trailhead Register
Stick is fine
Posted On: Sep 01, 2014
Submitted By: eyebp

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions