Grizzlies in the Pacific Northwest – North Cascades

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees are working to draw conclusions from some 3,000 comments on a plan to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades. The Seattle Times reports that after public meetings in six cities an environmental-impact statement is in the works and a final decision is expected in late 2017.

Read More … Restore grizzlies in Washington? Public split on idea

And then, there’s this from KING 5 News —

Let’s flip at random through some of the just-released 3,000 public comments about putting grizzly bears — the 600-pounders who used to roam the West — back in the Cascades.

Here is a commenter from Grapeview, out in Mason County:

“First of all, why? We’ve gotten along for decades just fine without them … If I (and my .44 Magnum) survive a bear attack and the bear doesn’t … How much time in the joint will I be looking at?”

Read More … Teeth bared over proposal to return grizzlies to Cascades

I usually don’t preface my writing with reference links, but in this case I thought to make an exception, if not for any other reason than to point out the invalid arguments being presented with regard to the reintroduction of the Grizzly Bear into the North Cascades Wilderness areas.

First order of business is to set the record straight — There are already grizzly bears in the North Cascades wilderness areas .. So I suppose that there won’t be any real reintroduction after all. The grizzlies are there, you just don’t see them because they are relatively solitary creatures, and they usually avoid humans as a rule.

Second order of business is to state that your chances of being gored by a buck deer or a bull elk are far greater than your chances are of even encountering a grizzly bear. Black bears pose more of a threat than grizzlies do, and there are black bears all over the place – Most recently, there have been black bear disturbances as close as Lake Goodwin in the west county. People don’t pick up their trash, and bears, being the scavengers they are, will naturally gravitate toward anything that might smell like something to eat.

When we consider improving the grizzly populations in Washington, we might do well to look at the grizzlies in Northwest Montana — Take a lesson, if you will, about how grizzlies really are, as opposed to how Hollywood has been presenting them over the past 50 some-odd years.

Here are a few facts to consider —

As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service plan (sic) to re-establish a population of grizzly bears in the North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE) here in Washington, the public needs to receive accurate information about the grizzly bear, and places like Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks are great places to use as examples in going forth with this project.

Most of what the general public knows about the grizzly bear comes from the mass media and the perception created by the American culture.

We have all seen movies where a ferocious bear is out to eat people or a nature documentaries seen where grizzlies in Alaska search for salmon in the fall. We have also been told tales when we were children where the bear is almost always the antagonists of the story. Fear and danger is what we associate with the grizzly bear.

People have been hiking in Glacier National Park, with its heavy grizzly population, for over a century. Every day during the summer months, hikers encounter grizzlies or walk by them unaware of their nearby presence. Glacier is a highly sought-out destination and right of passage for backpackers.

The one million-square-acre park is home to more than 300 grizzlies and according to Backpacker Magazine, sees 30,684 backpackers a year. With such a large population of grizzlies and so many back-country users one can’t help but wonder how many deaths in Glacier National Park grizzlies have caused? The answer might be a bit surprising. Since the creation of the park in 1910 there have only been 10 deaths associated with grizzly bears. In fact, in the entire United States there have been only 13 deaths in the wilderness associated with grizzly bears in the last ten years. This is much less than the 25 deaths caused by illnesses associated with tick bites and very near to the 12 deaths caused by black bears.

Grizzlies harm very few people who hike in heavily populated bear areas, and very few people even encounter grizzlies. According to The National Park Service (NPS), “From 1980-2011, over 90 million people visited Yellowstone National Park. During the same 32-year period, bears in the park injured 43 people. For all park visitors combined, the chances of being injured by a bear are approximately 1 in 2.1 million” (NPS, 2011).

Wildlife-Grizzly-CS06-lowBefore Europeans arrived, (sic) some 50,000 to 100,000 grizzly bears lived in the lower 48 states. Over the last 100 years, grizzly bears have been eliminated from 98% of their original range in the contiguous United States. Commercial trapping, persecution, habitat loss, and poorly regulated hunting have been the leading causes of grizzly bear declines.

Grizzly bears now survive largely in remote wilderness areas, living on less than 2% of their former range and numbering approximately 1,100 bears.

As one of only five remaining grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states, the North Cascades population is critical to the future of the species and to our region.

When you visit some of the news media sites around the Puget Sound region, and read some of the comments both for and against the grizzly, it’s not too difficult to point out those who might be the most uneducated among us when it comes to expanding the grizzly bear population in the North Cascades.

Knowledge is power, and the more one learns about the grizzly, the less apprehensive one might become with regard to maintaining the grizzly bear population in the state.

Learn more about the Grizzly Bear

Be safe in bear habitat

Black bear or grizzly? Know the Difference