Grizzly bears reportedly spotted near Independence Pass, Colorado ! ?

It has just been reported that 2 hunters who are experienced with the visual differences between black and grizzly bears say have seen three grizzly bears near Independence Pass, Colorado.

Grizzlies are thought to be extinct in Colorado, with the last killed in 1979 (even though it was thought to be extinct in the state then).

There has been speculation about grizzlies in state ever since the appearance of the 1979 grizzly in the south San Juan Mountains. I read Ghost Grizzlies by David Petersen, and hoped. Other books about possible Colorado grizzlies have been published.

Colorado Division of Wildlife News Release.

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As comments and the news have developed, I would hope, but I am pretty skeptical if these were grizzly bears.

Here is the latest, this time the Denver Post. “Officials comb hills for grizzly.

Added Oct. 3. Hibernation will soon end search for possible Colorado grizzlies. Now a dead link.

Yellowstone wolf population rebounds; still below pop. of 2003 and 2004.

Last year the Yellowstone wolf population suffered a big decline due to very high pup mortality in addition to the normal annual attrition of yearling and adult wolves.

Last year they counted 118 wolves in 12 groups in Yellowstone at mid-year.
At year’s end, it was 116 ±2 in 11-13 packs. This was later revised 118 wolves in 16 packs in Yellowstone. Only 19 pups had survived to Dec. 31, 2005.
Back at the end of 2004, it was 171 wolves in 16 groups in Yellowstone.

This year the mid-year Yellowstone count is 143 wolves in 14 groups. This includes 76 pups!

The Yellowstone wolf population is still below that of 2004 and even 2003 (157 wolves at year’s end).

I think these data show how fast a wolf population can grow or sink, with the major factor being pup survival rate more than control killing or death of adult wolves.

Wolf population growing in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

On Sept. 22, Ed Bangs sent out email giving the mid-year population esimates for wolves in the 3 state experimental wolf recovery area. The news media are now picking up the story.

Most of the media are taking an unreflective straight approach, saying the wolf population is up by 20%. Yesterday, however, the Idaho State Journal called me, and I give some perspective. Read Idaho State Journal article.

Two wolf population estimates are made each year. One is at mid-year (now). The most important one is at year end (and usually released about March). Mid-year estimates are very preliminary. Year end estimates should be compared to year-end estimates. What most of the media is doing is comparing this year’s mid-year estimate to the end of 2005 estimate. This is wrong because a number of wolves will die between now and the end of the year. It might be just a couple per cent. It might be ten per cent or more. On the other hand, they will discover more wolves between now and the end of the year.

The mid-year count is really an underestimate. Last year they counted 912 wolves at mid-year and 1020 wolves at the end of the year! Because all wolves are born in April and May, the additional 108 wolves were all new discoveries.

It should be noted that Bangs hardly helped clarify the data. He simply wrote:

These estimates indicate the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population continues to grow in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and all known wolf packs reside in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Preliminary mid-year estimates indicate a total of about 1,229 wolves, in 158 packs, with at least 87 potential breeding pairs. This represents an overall wolf population growth rate of over 20% since last year’s interagency official December 31, 2005 mid-winter wolf population estimate of 1,020 wolves in 132 packs and 71 breeding pairs qualifying as breeding pairs.

He did give detailed pack data, however, and I will try to present that in readable form.

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Sept. 29. Mike Stark of the Billings Gazette has been covering issues like this for quite a while, and has the knowledge to do a good job. Article.

Larry Craig throws cold water all over CIEDRA, Owyhee Initiative.

Senator Craig would not sandbag his fellow Republicans just before the elections, especially in view of the fact that a large majority of Idahoans indicate they support the efforts of Republican congressman Mike Simpson (ID, 2nd district) to create a large Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness (with side payments to anti-wilderness interests).

Idaho’s other US Senator, Republican Mike Crapo, has always supported consensus building efforts to defuse conservation controversies. His Owyhee Initiative, however, is his first success.

Senator Craig was polite about it, but he proved to be the same man he has always been. He dislikes Wilderness just as he always has. He doesn’t want cooperation on these issues, and he is going to either kill these bills after the election or turn them into flat-out anti-conservation vehicles. He has built his career on polarization on public land issues. He favors extractive interests, period. I don’t think he is cynical. He is a true believer. All he needed to change was his public tone slightly for the course of one hearing in his committee.

Read the article in the Idaho Statesman today, “Craig still has doubts about wilderness bills. Senator plans to work for compromises on Boulder-White Clouds, Owyhee bills.” In fact, the proposals represent years of negotiations and compromises. To say there needs to be compromise on bills that are entirely the product of compromise, is an oxymoron.

So these conservation bills are dead in fact if not in name. The question is will the media and the groups that entered into the compromise realize that before the elections?

Sept. 28 late. The Friday edition of the Idaho Mountain Express  just went on-line and Greg Stahl has a story on the hearing. 

Stahl thinks Craig didn’t “tip his hand,” although my impression was that his comments said a lot about his position and likely future action. Here is the article. “Idaho wilderness bills begin Senate voyage. Craig speaks cautious words about CIEDRA.

Colorado rural area solves its chronic bear problem simply.

All they had to do was stop feeding them! It would seem obvious, but it seems to have taken 40 years to figure it out.

Read about it in the Summit Daily News.

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