Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Bear population doing OK (but bear mortality up)-
Male grizzly death limits have been exceeded this year-
BOZEMAN – The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) comprised of state and federal agencies that monitor grizzly bear population trends in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, reports there were 44 unduplicated females with cubs of the year counted in the Yellowstone Ecosystem during 2008. There were 84 cubs observed with these 44 females during initial observations. Numbers of unique females with cubs tend to decrease in years following good cub production. Fifty females were counted in 2007, the second highest ever recorded, so the slight decline in 2008 was anticipated.
Population estimates are derived from counts of females with cubs. This year’s estimate of 596 bears was
higher than last years estimate of 571. Trend information suggests the population continues to grow at about 4% annually.
The IGBST also reports that the mortality threshold for grizzly bears has been exceeded. “This year is turning
out to be a particularly bad year for grizzly bear mortality in the Yellowstone Ecosystem,” said Chuck Schwartz, leader of the study team. Schwartz indicated that 39 bears have died this year, including 7 anagement removals, 17 associated with hunting, 6 from natural causes, 5 from other human activities, and 4 where cause of death could not be determined. Two additional bears were reported as being wounded, but could not be confirmed as dead” Schwartz noted that the male mortality limits have been exceeded and that female limits could be exceeded if an additional female bear is shot by a hunter. If both male and female mortality limits are exceeded in 2008, this will be the first year that these limits have been exceeded since 2000. Schwartz said, “We still have 2-4 weeks when bears will be out of their dens actively feeding during an on going deer and elk hunting season. We encourage hunters to be especially careful this year. We can’t afford to lose any more bears if at all possible!”
Seeds from whitebark pine cones are an important fall food for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The whitebark pine cone crop was poor throughout the ecosystem this fall. As a result, grizzly bears are searching for alternative foods, which may include elk and deer meat. Hunters should be aware of this and make every effort to avoid encounters with grizzly bears. To date, there have been several conflicts between grizzly bears and hunters and two have resulted in human injuries. Hunters must make every effort to secure their game meat the same day they harvest it, and at a minimum try to hang the carcass away from the gut pile. In many situations involving a close encounter, bear spray is an effective alternative to deadly force. Hunters should also try to avoid hunting alone. Securing food and keeping a clean camp are a must this year!
The Yellowstone grizzly bear was delisted in April, 2007. The Conservation Strategy which guides management of grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone area established mortality limits for male and female bears. If female limits are exceeded in 2 consecutive years or 3 consecutive years for males, the strategy requires the managing agencies and the study team to complete a biology and management review. Neither the male or female limits have been exceeded for consecutive years; however it is important that every effort is made to reduce any additional mortalities in 2008. The review would determine the causes and consequences of exceeding mortality limits and make recommendations to the agencies on how to minimize them. If limits are continually exceeded it could result in a relisting of the bear under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The Yellowstone Grizzly Coordinating Committee (YGCC), formally Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee, will hold their annual fall meeting in conjunction with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, November 12-14 at the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort, West Yellowstone, Montana. The YGCC includes representatives from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks; the Shoshone, Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, Gallatin, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, and Custer National Forests; the wildlife management agencies of the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and the U.S. Geological Survey.