The only reason I am even going to bring this up is because this issue is so close to home. A grizzly bear was euthanized after it attacked and consumed (i.e. ATE) a Yellowstone Park employee. This has drawn plenty of attention to the subject of predator management and the plight of grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. As I sit here in camp after a long day on a mule deer scouting trip I can’t help but think about some of the facts related to this incident and some of what is really going on in the big picture with predator management and wildlife conservation as a whole.
The bear in question for this incident was a 20 year old sow. According to my research that is an old bear, who, if I had to take a guess either finally got tired of running from tourists armed with flash photography, or was in need of an easy meal to feed her cubs. Maybe even both are a little bit true but the reality is that she actually consumed a human and was likely to make more meals of hikers if she lived longer. What is worse is that all bears learn their behaviors from their mothers and she was teaching her young to eat humans. That is ultimately why this bear was euthanized.
Now what would lead an older bear to attack and eat a human when there is no previous record of incidents with this bear? My guess is that competition for food from other bears and even the wolves had made life a little bit more than she could handle. The northern Yellowstone elk herd has declined dramatically and is only starting to show improvements in numbers now that wolf seasons have been in play in Montana and Idaho for several seasons. This means fewer calves that are available for the bear to hunt and more predators who are fighting for them.
In the midst of all of this there have been several other incidents that haven’t made headlines. In Idaho a 2 year old male grizzly made the fatal decision to visit the backyard of some locals. The decision proved fatal for the bear when he charged the family and had to be shot by the residents of the home. Bad decision for the bear and even worse for the family and a pain for the game and fish officers who had to spend money and man hours to investigate the incident.
Those of us that hunt in griz country understand how to work around bears in their environment. However, the common hiker/weekend recreator may not. Five miles from Cody, Wyoming a grizzly bear has been making the rounds visiting trash cans. This is not a behavior that usually ends well for grizzly bears. Often times they end up being trapped and then moved to a more remote location or they end up being euthanized after having more than one incident.
A popular hiking destination 20 minutes from Powell was shut down in May and for parts of June this spring when 2 sows with cubs were found to be living there. This historically hasn’t been a place where sows raise cubs but when there is more than one raising cubs there one would assume they believed it to be a safe place to protect them from boars who kill them off.
The common denominator in all of these stories is that the bears are expanding their territory in search of food and sanctuary. If you want to have healthy apex predators who don’t have conflicts with humans you have to hunt them. If we want to see these conflicts reduced the time has come to hunt these bears and see them turn into the next success produced by the North American Model of Wildlife conservation. It has worked for every other species until the ESA gets involved , why not let it work for old humpy too?
P.S. Make sure your subscription is current to EBJ! We will be drawing the winner for our Southern Colorado elk hunt soon!