Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Grizzlies Return, With Strings Attached
Russell Talmo, a bear management technician, greeted John and Leanne Hayne at their ranch on the windswept edge of this tiny town with a gift: a can of pepper spray to ward off grizzly bears. Ms. Hayne worries that she will encounter a grizzly when she walks to the post office, half a mile from home. “One day I opened the back door, and there was one there and it stood up on its hind legs,” she said. “It’s eerie and primal and it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. That’s when I decided I should carry pepper spray.” The bears here in Montana can be whoppers, too. Occasionally, they exceed 800 pounds, the biggest that grizzly bears get outside Alaska. The record here for a captured bear is 860 pounds. So it goes these days along the Rocky Mountain Front, where the high plains rise to meet the sculptured peaks of the Northern Rockies, south of Glacier National Park. In 1975, when grizzly bears were listed here in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem as threatened — a less restrictive form of protection than endangered — there were 200 to 300 grizzlies. Now, there are more than 900 in the ecosystem, and the population increases 2 to 3 percent each year. It is the largest population of grizzlies in the lower 48. After more than three decades of recovery efforts, though, they are coming down from their refuge and greatly expanding their range. “Bears are recolonizing their grassland habitat,” said a pleased Mr. Talmo. “They are showing up in places where they haven’t been seen in generations.” Last year a grizzly bear killed chickens near Loma, Mont., a farming community 175 miles from the mountains, the farthest east a grizzly is known to have traveled in the last century. People there were shocked. It was the bear’s second offense, and it was tracked down, trapped and euthanized. In May, a rancher near Fairfield, Mont., a town also on the plains, shot two grizzlies that had killed seven of his sheep. Shooting an endangered species, unless in defense of a human life, is illegal, and he was fined $2,000 in federal court. Because of the growth of the grizzly population, United States Fish and Wildlife Service officials are writing a plan to manage the bear if its protected status as threatened, under the Endangered Species Act, is lifted. Such a change is probably at least a few years away. Still, said Christopher Servheen, the service’s grizzly bear recovery coordinator since 1981, “they’re recovered, they’re doing well, they are pushing out in all directions.”...more