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The DAILY DIRT - The nitty and the gritty of outdoor news

North Cascades' Disappearing Grizzlies

Wildlife biologists argue for reintroduction to augment Washington's dwindling grizzly bear population

Bet you didn't know this: Washington has grizzlies. It just doesn't have many—the last time anyone spotted a genuine griz in the North Cascades was 15 years ago. While wildlife biologists think the population still exists, the members number probably less than 20. Surprising news, given that the area is remote enough to support astonishing recoveries for wolves, lynxes, and wolverines.

This is especially disheartening since the North Cascades represents some of the best grizzly habitat in the Lower 48; wildlife biologists think the region could support as many as 200-400 individuals. But they won't be able to make it on their own: The nearest breeding population is a similarly embattled group on the Canadian side of the border, and it's unlikely the current residents have the genetic strength to make it on their own.

Wildlife managers aren't going to take it lying down. They've offered reintroduction plans, but often get overshadowed by grizzly-superstar parks like Yellowstone and Glacier. Here's U.S.F.S. wildlife biologist Bill Gaines, a member of the North Cascades Interagency Grizzly Bear Subcommittee:
“We just don’t seem to pop up on the priority list,” Gaines says. “The delisting of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem is a hot-button issue, politically and biologically, because they’re trying to show good success for recovery efforts, so it’s a priority. And the idea of starting something new in the northwest without additional money is really difficult.”
Despite reintroduction controversy elsewhere (lookin' at you, Yellowstone wolves) North Cascades superintendent Chip Jenkins thinks the idea is a good one:
“Grizzly bears symbolize our heritage, our history, where our country has come from, and the health of our ecosystems today,” says Chip Jenkins, North Cascades’ superintendent. “Ensuring a sustainable grizzly population in the North Cascades is not just a win for the bears, but a win for the American people, because it demonstrates our ability to act to bring the best of our heritage into the future.”
So: More grizzlies in the Northwest. Would you support it?

—Ted Alvarez

Bloomberg News

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Paul Z
Jul 07, 2011

Manage the habitat for 200 in the North Cascades, if they don't have a place there where would they? Plenty of habitat for Humans, Grizz and Moose in the Cascades!

Paul Zemann
Jul 07, 2011

Manage the habitat for 200 in the North Cascades, if they don't have a place there where would they? Plenty of habitat for Humans, Grizz and Moose in the Cascades!

Bruce L.
Feb 15, 2011

A GREAT IDEA! And those who object please educate yourselves. The probability of anyone being injured or killed is very low relative to the many other risks in our daily lives. In the United States 400,000 people die from smoking related illnesses each year, 48,433 people die from motor vehicle accidents, 66 people die from a bee or wasp sting and 20 people are killed every year by domestic dogs. During the 138 year history of Yellowstone National Park, a park that has had grizzly bears since its inception, 101 people have died by drowning, 24 have fallen to their deaths, 20 have been killed in airplane crashes, and 19 have been scalded to death in hot springs. Only five people have been killed by grizzly bears. So when you go outside and pet the neighbor’s dog, as a bee flies by when you light up a cigarette and get in your car to drive to the store, know that all of these are many times more likely to kill you than a grizzly bear. Trapping records from the Hudson Bay Company show that 3,788 grizzly bear hides were shipped from trading posts in the North Cascades area between 1827 and 1859. Its people who brought the grizzly bear to the brink of extinction and its people who have the power to bring them back, and we should!

chris
Feb 08, 2011

100% support... anyone against this is responding out of selfishness because they will have to take bear precautions instead of enjoying the grizzly eradicated zone we created.

There would be plenty of grizzlies already there if is wasn't for humans killing them off over the years. Restoring the landscape to the natural setting is impossible, but at least we can try. Moose adapted to live with Grizzlies long ago - they will do fine.

Anonymous
Feb 08, 2011

Of course they should be reintroduced. They eat more grass than meat. They deserve to be restored to their historical habitat

clay
Feb 08, 2011

Of course they should be reintroduced. They eat more grass than meat. They deserve to be restored to their historical habitat

Tim M
Feb 07, 2011

Meant to say Campers will be hurt in my last line. Not Camers.

Tim M
Feb 07, 2011

Not a good idea. Grizzlies and humans should never inhabit the same space. Grizzly is a predator and quite a fearce one at that. The moose in Northern Washintgton are making a comeback. Adding more grizzly will stifle that comeback. Dont make the same mistake as the wolves in Idaho. This is real and not a zoo. Grizzly will come back as mother nature will allow. we need to keep out of it. Stop looking at it as a petting zoo. It is not. Camers "will" be hurt as they are every year. Dont do it.

Chris L from Cali
Feb 07, 2011

Yes. I'm all for reintroducing grizzlies and I hope that people will learn to inhabit the same space. What are the public reactions to this in Washington? I would expect people to be fearful of grizzly behavior and possible conflicts given an increase in population density. For a great resource about bears, try going to www.bear.org and look around.

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