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Bears Emerge from Slumber in Greater Yellowstone

As bruins make spring entrance in GYE, federal agencies announce reintroduction of grizzlies to North Cascades

As grizzly bears emerge in Greater Yellowstone, the U.S. Interior Department announced it plans to restore grizzlies to the North Cascades, according to a recent statement. "The last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in the U.S. portion of the North Cascades ecosystem was in 1996," the statement said. Photo by Addy Falgoust/NPS
As grizzly bears emerge in Greater Yellowstone, the U.S. Interior Department announced it plans to restore grizzlies to the North Cascades, according to a recent statement. "The last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in the U.S. portion of the North Cascades ecosystem was in 1996," the statement said. Photo by Addy Falgoust/NPS
by Julia Barton

The days are getting longer, buds are sprouting, wildlife babies of all sorts are being born, and bears are waking up from their long winter’s nap. It’s officially springtime in Greater Yellowstone.

On a given year, bears typically leave their dens between mid-March and early May, according to the National Park Service, with adult males appearing a few weeks before females and cubs. Yellowstone National Park confirmed its first grizzly sighting on March 3, a few days earlier than in recent years.

In late April, world-famous Grizzly 399 was spotted with her rotund yearling cub Spirit outside of Jackson, Wyoming, the Jackson Hole News and Guide reported. The 28-year-old matriarch has now produced 18 cubs, and more than two dozen descend in her bloodline.

Both grizzly and black bear populations are closely monitored across the GYE, as mandated by the Endangered Species Act. Biologists with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team and Yellowstone National Park along with state wildlife management agencies in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho routinely capture bears between May 1 and October 31 for scientific monitoring, and this year is no different.

“Monitoring of grizzly bear distribution and other activities are vital to ongoing recovery of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem,” a recent park press release stated.

The scientific data gathered through capturing bears helps paint a picture of overall population health, survival rate and distribution, according to Frank T. Van Manen, the wildlife biologist who leads the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team and who spoke with Mountain Journal for an article published in January. Captures last year revealed the heaviest grizzly found in the park since 1977, weighing in at more than 700 pounds.
The National Park Service encourages residents living in bear country to secure attractants such as garbage, livestock feed, compost and bird feeders to avoid conflict with bears.
Authorities often use natural attractants, such as roadkill deer and elk, to lure bears to nonlethal traps, and will clearly mark areas near traps to deter the public from recreating in the area. Yellowstone emphasized in the press release the importance of heeding these signs to stay safe in and around the park.

As snow melts and weather warms up, the reemergence of bears in Greater Yellowstone serves as an important reminder to live and recreate responsibly in bear country. The Park Service encourages residents living in bear country to secure attractants such as garbage, livestock feed, compost and bird feeders to avoid conflict with bears. Recreationists are similarly advised to be bear aware by properly storing food and other attractants, making noise, traveling in groups and carrying bear spray. Maintaining a minimum distance of 100 yards from bears or wolves, even while inside a vehicle, is mandated by federal law.


Federal agencies to reintroduce grizzlies to North Cascades
 
Although spring in Greater Yellowstone is synonymous with grizzlies reentering the landscape, there are many places across the species’ native range where the bears haven’t been seen for decades. In northwestern Washington and southern British Columbia, that’s about to change.
Grizzlies haven't been documented in the North Cascades since 1996. Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS
Grizzlies haven't been documented in the North Cascades since 1996. Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service issued a joint decision last month to begin active restoration efforts for grizzlies in the North Cascades Ecosystem, which was listed among five other grizzly bear recovery zones in the species’ 1975 endangered species listing. No grizzly has been documented in the area since 1996, according to a Park Service release on the decision.

"We are going to once again see grizzly bears on the landscape, restoring an important thread in the fabric of the North Cascades," Don Striker, the superintendent of North Cascades National Park Service Complex, said in the release.

The plan is to translocate between three and seven grizzlies annually from British Columbia, Montana, or Wyoming to the area, with the aim of establishing an initial population of 25 bears over a period of five to 10 years.

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Mountain Journal is the only nonprofit, public-interest journalism organization of its kind dedicated to covering the wildlife and wild lands of Greater Yellowstone. We take pride in our work, yet to keep bold, independent journalism free, we need your support. Please donate here. Thank you.

Julia Barton
About Julia Barton

Julia Barton is a freelance journalist and communications specialist based out of Bozeman. A Montana native, she earned a journalism degree from the University of Southern California and reports on the environment, outdoor recreation and the arts.
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