Monday, June 01, 2020

Wildlife Officials Discuss COVID-19's Impact On Grizzly Bears

As bear activity is picking up across northwest Montana, grizzly bear managers are juggling the uncertain and unexpected impacts of COVID-19 on wild places. On Friday, state, federal and tribal wildlife officials met remotely over Zoom for their semi-annual meeting. The group discussed how to manage the largest grizzly populations in the lower 48 states – the bears in and around Glacier National Park. Glacier National Park superintendent Jeff Mow reported last year was the second busiest on record for tourists in the park. “This year’s gonna look very, very different,” he said. The park is gearing up for a limited reopening. He expects local, Montana-based tourism to flow in, while visitors from far away will likely stay closer to home. It means a far lower human impact on wildlife than the park has seen for decades. “I don’t know what it means for grizzly bears,” Mow said. But officials said the national park’s closure has pushed more recreationists – and, potentially, their impacts on grizzlies - to other public lands. Kurt Steele is superintendent of Flathead National Forest. “We definitely are seeing an increased use, at least the Flathead National Forest ,compared to this time of year normally,” he said. Randy Arnold, regional supervisor at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the same is true on state land...MORE

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