|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Montana's grizzly populations steadily move east to former plains habitatWhen most people picture a hulking grizzly, they envision him roaring in a remote mountain canyon, stalking salmon beside an Alaskan river cutting through tundra and willows, or possibly answering questions around the BACKPACKER office. The probably don't envision him (or her) tromping about in the wide open plains of Middle America.
“Thirty or forty years ago the bears were persecuted when they came out of the mountains,” said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We’ve tried to build tolerance with the people that live, work and recreate with bears,” he explained. “Those things together result in fewer mortalities, which results in more cub production and more bears.”Prairies offer ideal habitat for grizzlies, and are often full of chokecherries and buffalo berries when the mountains are barren. More grizzlies are apt to learn about the plains from their mothers and continue to expand into this new, fertile territory. One young male nearly made it to the Missouri River by following the protected corridor of canyons along the Teton River. He was only caught after killing a sheep on a farm near the ranching community of Loma, northeast of Great Falls, Mont.