Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bear Vision

Bears can see almost as well as humans, they tend to be nearsighted but have good depth perception. They have a layer of tissue called the tapetum lucidum that lies behind the retina that reflects light and improves their night vision. All bears have round pupils except giant pandas which have slits. Polar bears have a transparent eyelid (nictitating membrane) to filter snow glare and help them see underwater.

Studies have shown that bears can see colors. In a study done with giant pandas at Zoo Atlanta, it was not determined whether they could differentiate between colors but they could tell the difference between colors and gray. Being able to see colors may help bears find and distinguish ripe foods like berries, or fresh bamboo in the case of giant pandas.

For year’s people thought bears were colorblind and could not see well but research is showing this is not the case. We still have so much to learn about bears, it will be interesting to see what new things we learn in the future.

Giant Panda color vision study
Black bear and polar bear color vision study

Wendy Gardner, GBOP field specialist

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year end thank you

Last month it all came flooding back to me - why I do the work that I do.

I gave a GBOP presentation to a small group of youngsters in Mount Vernon. They were all from a neighborhood that gets special attention from an amazing man - Jon Gerondale. He's the Neighborhood Resource Officer for Mount Vernon Police in Kulshan Creek and he's worked tirelessly to being inspiring outdoor experiences to these children. Much of his work in is collaboration with North Cascades Institute (Lee Whitford), and the US Forest Service (Don Gay). Each of these people has invested time and energy into this great group of young people.

I'd had a long, tiring day by the time I arrived at the presentation venue in Kulshan Creek, but the kids re-energized me in a big way! Thank you to you all for giving me the opportunity to bring the wonder of bears to you, and for all your great "thank you" messages! Look out for bears in 2009, and of course let us know if you come across a grizzly!

Chris Morgan
Director, GBOP

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Winter Bear Idiosyncrasies

Bears have some fascinating physiological traits, several of which are manifested during their winter denning period. These include: delayed implantation of the embryo for 3-4 months following the summer breeding season, and maintenance of energy and water balance during the 3-5 month denning period.

Energy and Water Balance During Winter Denning

During winter denning, which varies in length from 3-5 months, black and grizzly bears derive all of their sustenance from their own bodies. During this denning period they do not eat, drink, urinate, defecate or exercise.

Bears break down fat tissue to create water and up to 4,000 calories per day. They break down muscle and organ tissues to create protein.

Even though bears drink no water during denning, they do not become dehydrated. In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that bears were in “almost perfect water balance” after 100 days of hibernation. The metabolism of bears is of interest to researchers because a greater understanding may yield information that helps people suffering from chronic kidney failure and other health issues.

Another unique strategy is that bears are able to take urea – a primary component of urine – and use it to build new protein. Consequently bears are able use newly created protein to restore muscle and organ tissue even when they are not eating and are losing weight, something that humans most definitely cannot do!

Delayed Embryo Implantation as an Advantageous Evolutionary Feature

Delayed implantation, or embryonic diapause, is a reproductive strategy used by nearly 100 mammals including: armadillos, bats, bears, otters and badgers, seals, walrus and kangaroos. Delayed implantation results in the embryo not immediately implanting itself in the uterus following fertilization, and instead being maintained in a state of dormancy for a period of time. As a result, the normal gestation period is extended, sometimes for many months. Because delayed implantation is found in diverse species of mammals, it is likely the result of separate evolutionary processes in response to different selective pressures.

In the case of bears, it allows the female to time the delivery of cubs so that they are born during favorable environmental conditions – so that they do not arrive too early nor too late. It also protects the mother if food is scarce, as the embryo will spontaneously abort if the mother goes into the den with inadequate food stores to carry out gestation and lactation.

Bear Haiku:

Tiny twin bear cubs
Birthed into winter’s darkness
Bellies full of milk

Brown bear sleeps soundly
Winter shifts to spring’s great thaw
And life starts anew

Nan Laney, GBOP field coordinator

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Has the Arctic melt passed the point of no return?

Why are Polar Bears falling through the sea ice? Scientists have found the first unequivocal evidence that the Arctic region is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world at least a decade before it was predicted to happen.

Climate-change researchers have found that air temperatures in the region are higher than would be normally expected during the autumn because the increased melting of the summer Arctic sea ice is accumulating heat in the ocean. The phenomenon, known as Arctic amplification, was not expected to be seen for at least another 10 or 15 years and the findings will further raise concerns that the Arctic has already passed the climatic tipping-point towards ice-free summers, beyond which it may not recover.

The Arctic is considered one of the most sensitive regions in terms of climate change and its transition to another climatic state will have a direct impact on other parts of the northern hemisphere, as well more indirect effects around the world.

Although researchers have documented a catastrophic loss of sea ice during the summer months over the past 20 years, they have not until now detected the definitive temperature signal that they could link with greenhouse-gas emissions.

However, in a study to be presented later today to the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, scientists will show that Arctic amplification has been under way for the past five years, and it will continue to intensify Arctic warming for the foreseeable future.

Computer models of the global climate have for years suggested the Arctic will warm at a faster rate than the rest of the world due to Arctic amplification but many scientists believed this effect would only become measurable in the coming decades.

The Independent

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Photo credits: Peter Evins - WWF Canada, Jonathan Hayward - AP

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Grizzly bears go island hopping

Somewhere in the mist-shrouded rainforests of northern Vancouver Island, a grizzly bear is hibernating in its winter den. And he is the source of mystery, fascination, and even fear among Island residents.

As far as anyone can remember or scientists can determine, only black bears have lived on Vancouver Island.

But this year, grizzlies have been sighted far and wide on northern Vancouver Island and the knot of smaller islands that press close against the coast between Port Hardy and Campbell River.

"This year has definitely been the busiest," Tony Hamilton, large carnivore specialist for the B.C. Ministry of Environment, said in an interview Wednesday.

"The islands are stepping stones, not separated by very much water. It makes sense. If we're going to get grizzlies coming onto Vancouver Island, this is where they'd come through."

Officials suspect three or four sub-adult male grizzlies are responsible for this year's sightings, having paddled and island-hopped their way westward from the B.C. mainland.

A grizzly was photographed at Rugged Point near Kyuquot, on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island in May, close to the time bears emerge from their dens, suggesting it had successfully hibernated on the Island.

That same bear and one or more of the others sighted in the region are likely denning this winter on the Island, too.

A hunting guide spotted another grizzly near Woss later in May, followed by a sighting from a salmon farm east of Port Hardy in June. Later that month, a grizzly was shot dead at Lagoon Cove Marina on East Cracroft Island, north of Sayward.

Grizzlies are a limited-entry hunt in B.C., which means the ones on Vancouver Island are protected. Exceptions are made where the bear represents a real threat to people or property.

The next two sightings, a week apart in July, are thought to be of the same bear: first, on Malcolm Island near Sointula, then at native-owned Cluxewe Resort near Port Hardy. Conservation officers tried unsuccessfully to trap the bear.

"My advice to the ministry is that this is natural, let it happen," said Hamilton, acknowledging some islanders are twitchy about grizzlies in their midst. "There is more sensitivity because people aren't used to it."

Hamilton argues it's unlikely grizzly bears will reach a sustaining population on Vancouver Island because sub-adult males are the ones seeking out distant new territories while the younger females tend to stay closer to the home range of their birth on the mainland.

Among the theories offered for the migration of grizzlies to Vancouver Island are that the grizzly population is expanding and that bleak coastal salmon runs have forced bears to look farther afield for food. "The truth is probably somewhere in between," Hamilton said.

Grizzlies have successfully mated with polar bears in the Arctic, but Hamilton knows of no such mating in the wild with black bears.

In 2002, a female grizzly was sighted with cubs on Hardwick Island, near Vancouver Island. The speculation is one of those cubs was shot in 2003 when it wandered into the native village of Tsulquate near Port Hardy - the first confirmed grizzly sighting on Vancouver Island.

Jeanine Johnny lives in the village and called in that bear to authorities. "They thought I was drunk, stoned," she recalled with a laugh Wednesday. "They told me to get some sleep and that it's just a black bear in its natural habitat."

Johnny used to live with grizzlies in Sparwood in southeast B.C. and isn't looking forward to their continuing presence on Vancouver Island. "It's kind of freaky for me," she said.

In 2006, another grizzly was shot by a man who feared for his granddaughter's safety at Sayward. Hamilton said there were rumours of a grizzly being shot and buried - "a shoot and shovel" - in the 1970s at Sayward, but the report was never confirmed.

Reprinted from the Financial Post.

Whale of a party

Can you count the grizzlies dining on this beached whale in Alaska?

Now that's a Thanksgiving meal.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

WDFW Director Resigns After 10 Years Service

OLYMPIA- After a decade of leadership in fostering scientific and collaborative management of state natural resources, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Jeff Koenings, Ph.D., has announced his resignation, effective Dec. 11.

"In collaboration with many other resource managers and Washington citizens, I've accomplished much of what I said I would do when I became director 10 years ago," Koenings said. "I'm proud of the progress we've made in creating a comprehensive, gravel-to-gravel system of stewardship for wild salmon, re-building relationships based on mutual trust with tribal resource co-managers, bringing a scientific focus to state fish and wildlife management and improving the department's business practices."

Over the past decade, WDFW has acquired more than 109,000 acres of land for the protection of fish and wildlife habitats, ensuring their place in the public lands portfolio for future generations of Washingtonians.

Koenings' 10-year career as WDFW director was the longest in the department's history.

"Jeff has admirably served the department and successfully navigated it through some challenging times in the last ten years," stated Gov. Chris Gregoire. "His service is appreciated."

As director, Koenings brought stability to the 1,500-plus employee agency, fostered partnerships with stakeholders, promoted a good-neighbor policy in managing state wildlife lands and secured millions of dollars in federal funding for state fish and wildlife management.

"The past 10 years have been extraordinary in terms of the diversity of challenges presented to WDFW and its leadership," Koenings said. "But through it all, conservation of the resource through science-based decision-making has been our standard. I've been fortunate to lead an incredible group of talented professionals and they will always have my respect and admiration."

Summarized from WDFW Release 12/1/08

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Grizzly - symbol of freedom

“Alive, the grizzly is a symbol of freedom
and understanding – a sign that man can
learn to conserve what is left of the earth.

Extinct, it will be another fading testimony
to things man should have learned more
about but was too preoccupied with himself
to notice.

In its beleaguered condition,
it is above all a symbol of what man is
doing to the entire planet.

If we can learn from these experiences,
and learn rationally, both the grizzly
and man may have a chance.”

Frank C. Craighead Jr.

Frank Craighead, Jr., one of the fathers of grizzly bear research in the US, was honored this last summer by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee for excellence in research and leadership in advancing grizzly bear recovery. He is noted for being one of the first to employ radio collar technology and for his publications, among them "Track of the Grizzly" and Petersons Field guides and numerours documentary films. Frank passed away in 2001, at the age of 85.

Julie L. Hopkins
photo: grizzly on katmai shore

Return of the Mexican Grizzly Bear?

The Mexican grizzly bear - Ursus arctos nelsoni: these bears were reported to be abundant in northern Mexico in the early 1900’s. There were numerous bears in the states of Baja, Sonora and Chihuahua. This subspecies of brown bear also occurred in the United States in New Mexico and Arizona. The last confirmed sightings in Mexico were in the Sierra del Nido Mountains (central Chihuahua) in the late 1950’s. There were reports of grizzly bear poisonings in the same area as late as the winter of 1964.

In May 1980, a research study was conducted as part of informal cooperative agreement between the US and Mexican governments. It revealed sufficient food and secluded habitat for grizzly bears to exist undetected.

This study yielded large tracks with blunt tipped claws, large (50 kg) overturned rocks, and a 25 minute observation of what the expert crew determined to be a grizzly bear. Jonkel (1980) concluded that due to the abundant food, isolated habitat, wariness of the bears and the grizzly bears ability to survive at low population levels, grizzly bears may still exist in Mexico.

At that time, about 20 year after the last reports of grizzlies, they could still be part of a surviving population, given the 20-25 year life span of bears. Could they still be persisting in Mexico today, 30 years later?

No one can answer that for sure. Although the official line is that “a few brown bears may still exist”. There is little or no money for national parks and reserves in Mexico. So land is set aside privately, sometimes in large tracts. In areas of privately protected land in Mexico there is talk of re-introducing the grizzly bear, Mexican wolf and bison. It’s been done for bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope. And decades ago local ranchers decided to stop killing black bears and protect them instead. Black bear populations have since rebounded.

Could we see grizzly bears living in the southern end of their range? It remains a possibility. Then there is the talk of re-introducing them back into their former range in New Mexico…


Julie L. Hopkins
Photo credit: Jan van der Crabben

Monday, November 10, 2008

Grizzly Mountain Roadsign

I ran across this road sign across from Grizzly Mountain on a trip through the North Cascades recently. I was on my way to Montana on my motorcycle, traversing some of the most beautiful wild areas in North America, on my way to a grizzly bear management meeting near Missoula. I've passed the Highway 20 road sign near Mazama on many occasions during my work with GBOP, but this time I was compelled to stop and take a picture. It's a strange thing to think that these mountains once supported a healthy population of North Cascades grizzly bears. Trapping records show that there were once probably hundreds, if not thousands of grizzly bears in this region. In fact almost 4000 hides were shipped out of the region over a 30 year period in the late 1800s. Now fewer than 20 North Cascades grizzly bears remain - in an area covering 10,000 square miles. Interestingly, the last legally killed grizzly bear was shot less than 25 miles from this road sign in the late 60's.

But times are changing. From what we have heard over the last 5 years of GBOP, it's clear that the people of Washington really do support the idea of grizzly bears returning to this ecosystem. Just about everyone we speak to across the Cascades agrees that there is room for both humans and grizzly bears on this landscape. Our most recent research shows that 79% of people "support recovery" - 54% of them "strongly".

In addition, 82% of respondents thought that the grizzly is a symbol of the American frontier and that it should be preserved as part of our national heritage. I think about that tone in a week that has been very patriotic, and it seems fitting that most people in this amazing state want to see a future for grizzly bears beyond a name on a road sign, or the peak of a mountain.

Submitted by Chris Morgan, GBOP Director

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Intestines, the Bear Facts

Many people have seen bear scat; whether it is in pictures, at a zoo or in the wild, it is usually very apparent what the bear had been eating. So how does the food get from one end of the bear to the other?

The teeth start the breakdown process of the food the bear eats. They use their teeth to hold, tear and grind food before swallowing it.

Bears have 42 teeth, except for the sloth bear that only has 40. Humans have 32 teeth.

The dental formula is:
I=3/3, C=1/1, P=3/3,M=1/2 total teeth =42

Bears are omnivores that have relatively unspecialized digestive systems similar to those of carnivores. The primary difference is that bears have an elongated digestive tract; an adaptation that allows bears more efficient digestion of vegetation than other carnivores (Herrero 1985). Unlike ruminants, bears do not have a cecum and can only poorly digest the structural components of plants (Mealey 1975). To compensate for inefficient digestion of cellulose, bears maximize the quality of vegetal food items ingested, typically foraging for plants in phenological stages of highest nutrient availability and digestibility (Herrero 1985).

It is thought that the barrel shape of the bear’s body is an indication of a long intestine. Brown bears do have a longer intestinal length than that of a black bear.

Different foods take varying amounts of time to pass through the body. Meat takes about 13 hours while clover takes about 7 hours (Pritchard and Robbins, 1990). Berry seeds pass through unbroken and are able to geminate making bear’s great seed dispersers. Nutrients are also put back into the environment as the feces break down.

These are just two reasons bears are very important to the health of the environment.

Wendy Gardner, GBOP Bear Specialist
photo credit: Dennis Ryan, person belonging to the hat was not eaten
graphic credit:(Clemens 1980; Stevens & Hume 1995)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Grizzly attitudes in Montana

I just returned from western Montana, where I appeared several places to promote my new book: Grizzly Wars: The Public Fight Over the Great Bear.

I found that local attitudes toward grizzlies differed depending on where I was. In the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula, where grizzlies have been absent for years, a resident of Salmon, just across the border in Idaho, described the stormy public hearing eight years ago over reintroducing grizzlies into the Bitterroots. The mayor warned wildlife officials at the hearing that he would charge them with murder if anyone around Salmon was killed as a result of bringing back the bears.

In Hamilton, unofficial capital of Montana's Bitterroot Valley, locals told me that grizzly opponents are still vocal, yet a silent but growing majority supports reintroduction. New residents from California and elsewhere. I was told, are moderating local attitudes.

A woman from Helena who likes to hike told me that she doesn't stay home because of grizzlies. She does not hike alone, but she and her friends hike all the time in grizzly country, and they don't wear bells or shout to avoid surprise encounters.

In Butte, a man told me that he thought the biggest problem in managing grizzlies was "too many people."

The clearest message came from a newspaper reporter I met with in Kalispell. He's been covering public land and wildlife issues for many years, spends a lot of time in the hills, and regularly reports in the local paper on grizzly bear news. Sitting between the Cabinet-Yaak and Northern Continental Divide grizzly bear recovery areas, Kalispell is familiar with grizzlies. "I know a lot of rednecks around here and none of them complain about grizzlies," he says. "If a grizzly gets into someone's chicken coop or whatever, it makes for some good bar talk, but that's all." He was surprised to hear about anti-bear attitudes elsewhere. "You'll see bumper stickers that say 'Kill Wolves', but I've never seen one about grizzlies." he insists. "They're just part of the terrain."

submitted by David Knibb, author
Grizzly Wars: The Public Fight Over the Great Bear

"Bears move to town" follow up comments

Related to the previous BLOG entry I found the following graphic in the most recent issue of High Country News interesting. This graphic is based on data from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Nevada Department of Wildlife.

Click on the above image to enlarge.

Of particular interest were the facts that bears weigh more in urban areas, and that their density per square mile is greater. For instance the density of bears in the wild is 3 per 38 square miles, but in urban areas their density was documented as 120 bears per 38 square miles. Also noted is a decrease in denning period from 100-150 days per year to 50-100 days per year in urban areas, which means that bears are out and about searching for food more of the year. Finally, the age that females first reproduce is reduced, and the numbers of cubs per birthing cycle is increased in urban areas. This increase in reproductive rate is a natural outcome of an abundant food supply – most wildlife will increase their reproductive rate when food supplies are good and reduce their reproductive rate during harder times.

This data points out a positive feedback loop that certainly we humans don’t want to promote. The fact that bears can access an abundant and easy food supply in and around residences not only contributes to challenging bear behaviors, but also increases their reproductive rate and densities. All of this is another indicator of the need to educate citizens, businesses, schools and governmental organizations to make bear attractants inaccessible.

Unfortunately, however, it only takes a few people to contribute significantly to the food conditioning of bears, and not infrequently those that contribute most to the problem are least inclined to change their behavior. Even in parts of Canada where Conservation Officers can fine people who leave non-natural foods accessible to wildlife, large numbers of bears are euthanized each year. So there is no easy answer, but certainly continued education about this issue is warranted.

Nan Laney
Skagit, Whatcom and Northern Snohomish Coordinator
Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bears abandon wilderness and move to the city

Bears are deserting traditional mountain and forest ranges and moving into towns where they scavenge for food. This attraction to 'fast food' in urban areas is luring black bears in North America to an early death, scientists have found.

Why? So many young bears are killed in traffic accidents that it is threatening the viability of wild populations.

A 10-year study in the Sierra Nevada Mountains looked at the effects a landscape changed by human activity was having on the black bear (Ursus americanus). Led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) it looked particularly at whether exposure to humans and new food resources in the form of rubbish was affecting bear life history patterns.

Scientists followed 12 female bears in an urban environment and 10 females in wild land habitats from 1997-2006. All 22 bears were sexually immature females who could be followed through their life cycle.

The study, published in the Autumn 2008 issue of the journal Human-Wildlife Conflicts, had to be limited to 10 years because by then all the urban bears had been killed in traffic accidents while six of the bears still living in the wild survived. During the study the team handled a total of 43 female bear cubs and of those 28 (65 per cent) were dead before they reached 15 months of age.

Despite the bear being a protected species in Nevada, 89 bears were killed by vehicles, 27 by agency management actions for public safety, 17 for attacks on livestock, two due to illegal killing, and 16 due to other causes - such as being humanely put down because of their poor condition.

The study found that bears who lived in urban areas weighed an average of 30 per cent more than bears in wild areas due to a diet heavily supplemented by scavenged rubbish. As a result female bears give birth at a much earlier age - on average between four and five years old, compared with seven to eight years for bears in wild areas. Some urban bears around the Lake Tahoe area even produced young as early as two to three years of age.

The scientists concluded there had been a dramatic and rapid ecological shift of bears from the wild to urban areas in only 10 years to the extent that they found only one wild bear in the Carson Range outside the state capital of Carson City where historically they had always existed.

WCS researcher Jon Beckmann, the study's lead author, said: "Urban areas are becoming the ultimate bear traps. Because of an abundant food source - namely garbage - bears are being drawn in from backcountry areas into urbanised landscapes where they meet their demise."

The WCS is studying the effects of urban sprawl on a variety of wildlife and habitats in north America and is working with local authorities to increase the use of bear-proof rubbish containers and improve education efforts to reduce human-bear conflicts.

First published in the Telegraph. Read the full story.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poor Huckleberry Crop May Lead to Fewer Bear Cubs Next Spring

I’ve noticed while hiking in the high country this late summer and fall that something is notably missing – huckleberries. I’ve done a fair amount of hiking this year – on the PCT between Rainy Pass and the Canadian border, and closer to home on the northern and southern slopes of Mount Baker. Consistently I’ve seen small huckleberry crops in the alpine areas. I know the trails on the slopes of Mount Baker well, and my estimate is that the huckleberry crops there are 5-10% of a normal fall crop, depending on location. Aspect, shade / sun and soil are influencing factors in berry yields, but mostly the poor berry crop is a reflection of the late-arriving summer and unusual weather this year.

The fact that we are having a poor berry crop this year is contributing to increased human-bear conflicts in some instances. Bears are involved in something called “hyperphagia” in the late summer and fall. Hyperphagia is essentially a feeding frenzy to put on weight for the winter denning period. When food crops are scarce, such as they have been this year, bears can find human garbage, bird feeders, orchards and compost even more attractive than when there are good natural food supplies. In my experience the years with the most human-bear conflicts are the years when natural food supplies for bears are most limited.

A poor berry crop this year will result in some bears going into their dens under their ideal weight. For females who have been bred this summer who are underweight this may mean that they will come out of the den next spring without cubs. Bears have developed an evolutionary survival strategy called “delayed implantation.” What this means is that while breeding season is May through July, the fertilized egg is not implanted until the female goes into the den in October or November. If a bred female goes into the den in poor physical condition the fertilized egg(s) will not be implanted, but will instead by sloughed off, and she will come out of the den the following spring without cubs.

Polar bears will likely suffer the same fate as receding sea ice due to global warming inhibits their ability to hunt seals. This is their primary food source and will result in decreased denning wieghts.

Interestingly I’m taking a class at the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor to meet the continuing education requirements for my teaching certificate. Last week we had a guest speaker, Dr Joe Gaydos, a veterinarian who works for SeaDoc Society, come share information with us about Mustelids. (Mustilids are the largest family of carnivores and include river otter, sea otter, mink and about 60 other species.) I was fascinated to learn that many (maybe all) Mustelids also have delayed implantation. In the case of mink, fertilized eggs are not typically implanted until 30 days after breeding, and gestation is 27-33 days. Delayed implantation obviously has survival advantages or it would not have evolved, and I find it fascinating, amazing really.

Nan Laney, GBOP field coordinator

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

You make the call- Grizzly? or Black Bear?

Each year a fair number of people report seeing a grizzly bear in the North Cascades. Some even take photos. Field biologists from the various agencies and non-profits examine these photos to try and determine if indeed they are grizzly bears or just large brown black bears.

You be the referree. These photos were all recently submitted with sighting reports.

So, what features make a big brown bear a grizzly? Black bears and grizzlies overlap in both size and color.

Grizzlies have a large, defined shoulder hump. A big block head with small looking ears. Large claws, very large indeed. A face profile that is dished.

Black bears have a small or no defined hump. Large ears compared to their head size. A long snout that has a face profile that is straight. Claws that are rather small.

Most folks do not want to go up to the bear and examine it's claws. However a good track will tell you if the bear was a black bear or a grizzly.

Learn more at the GBOP website about identifying bears.

If you see a grizz, call 1.800.WOLFBEAR or report the sighting at the GBOP website.

Alas, none of these photos can be classified as a grizzly. Therefore, they are most likely large brown black bears.

Monday, September 22, 2008


What does one do to save from extinction a creature as cantankerous and controversial as the grizzly bear? Do grizzlies still live in the North Cascades and what will it take to prevent them from dying out?

Grizzly Wars: The Public Fight Over the Great Bear, slated for publication in early October, examines these and many other questions about the contentious effort to recover grizzly bears in the Cascades and Northern Rockies, where they have been listed under the Endangered Species Act for more than 30 years.

Author David Knibb, a naturalist, lawyer, and author, shuns the role of an advocate to explain the issues. He uses the North Cascades to illustrate many of them -- how recovery areas were picked, states rights, rural and urban conflicts, hiker anxieties, genetic concerns caused by isolation, minimum viable populations, and issues about moving bears from one area to another.

From the Cascades the book broadens to look at national wildlife politics and the five other recovery areas in the Northern Rockies. Knibb examines the key issues in each, including the debate over last year's decision to remove Yellowstone's grizzlies from the list of threatened species. In the process he discusses the critical role of states, the need for links between recovery areas, distinct populations, and cooperation with Canada on bears along the border.

In a separate chapter devoted to Canada, Knibb reviews the status and challenges facing grizzlies in British Columbia and Alberta.

In a foreword, Lance Craighead praises Knibb for reporting on such a controversial topic in a "careful and admirably unbiased" way. The book also earns praise from Doug Peacock, noted bear advocate, Brock Evans, president of the Endangered Species Coalition, and others.

For more description, see the publisher's catalog at:

After mid-October Grizzly Wars will be available in bookstores, or you can order it from Eastern Washington University Press at:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dogs and People working Together to Save Bears

The Wind River Bear Institute (WRBI), together with its Partners-In-Life Program®, is an innovative program that is saving the lives of bears by changing the way they are managed and viewed by wildlife agencies and the public. The goal of this program is to reduce conflicts between humans and bears so the two can coexist in an ever shrinking world.

The WRBI uses knowledge of bear ecology and behavior to find solutions to human-bear conflicts and develop ways to prevent problems in the future. Most conflicts arise from bears getting human foods as well as pet food, livestock feed, bird seed and fruits from orchards. Bears that are habituated to people or are food conditioned are bears that have in most cases lost their fear of people; most attacks on humans have involved bears that were habituated or food conditioned.

Many people feel that “problem” bears should either be relocated or destroyed, but neither of these is a long term solution and both can be expensive and time consuming. Many “problem” bears that have been relocated return to where they were causing problems and end up being killed because the true problem, habituation and/or food conditioning, is not resolved.

Carrie Hunt, Director of the Wind River Bear Institute, developed and implemented what she calls Bear Shepherding®. This bear management technique uses Karelian Bear Dogs to teach bears how to recognize and avoid human boundaries.

Karelian Bear Dogs (KBD) originated in Finland where they were used mainly for hunting. They are extremely intelligent, fearless and have enormous energy making them a perfect match for the Partner’s In Life Program and for bear shepherding. KBD’s are a medium sized black and white dog that is very strong and muscular. They range in weight from 40-70 pounds and are 19-24 inches tall.

“The key components of the WRBI’s “Partners In Life Program” are that it emphasizes concurrent work on-site to teach people correct behaviors to reduce conflicts when living or recreating in bear country AND to rehabilitate and teach ”problem” bears correct behaviors on-site as well, through a non-lethal technique called Bear Shepherding®. This technique utilizes a strict protocol developed by WRBI to condition bears in the wild to modify undesirable behaviors that will lead to the eventual need to euthanize the bear, and as such, is the first of its kind. Bear Shepherding utilizes operant conditioning techniques where the bear learns to associate a human voice yelling “Get Out of Here Bear” with a painful or scary aversive stimulus causing it to leave or fade into cover as a wild bear should.... which teaches bears with problem behaviors to recognize and avoid human boundaries and developed sites. The Shepherding techniques teach the bears to control what happens by making correct choices. For example, when the KBDs “shepherd” a bear into appropriate cover or the bear otherwise leaves an area where it should not be, the Partners-In-Life team removes the “pressure” on the bear by recalling the KBDs. Bears may experience this training at the site of conflict or within areas they naturally inhabit, called their “home range.” This positive approach builds on the way bears operate and learn in the wild and uses their natural recognition of personal space and dominance hierarchies.

Since the Program began in 1996, several hundred bears and other wildlife conflicts have been handled annually by the Programs teams and extended Program “Family” of KBD/Handler teams. There have been no injuries to dogs, bears or handlers; a true testament to the commitment and training of both the WRBI teams and the dogs they work with.

The WRBI placed 2 of their KBD pups for use as Wildlife Service Dogs in Washington State. All dogs and owners are cared for, trained and handled, according to strict WRBI Program protocols to ensure safety and effectiveness for the Service Dog/Handler teams. The two Karelian Bear Dogs working in Washington State are both with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife employees. “Mishka” works with Bruce Richards, Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer, and “Cash” works with Rich Beausoleil, Cougar and Bear Specialist.

Wind River Bear Institute is a 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation that relies on the generous support of private donors who believe in the value of their work.

Posted by Wendy Gardner; GBOP Bear Specialist, Woodland Park Zoo keeper

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Making Interstates More Wildlife Friendly

The fiinal Environmental Impact Statement has been released for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass Project located outside of Seattle in Washington state. One facet of this project is to make this section of the interstate more wildlife friendly.

For the last few years the Washington State Dept. of Transportation has engaged several groups in the planning process to expand a section of Interstate 90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass. Among the groups has been the I-90 Bridges Coalition, a non-profit group that has spent countless hours setting up remote camera stations and doing winter tracking studies. This information has helped the WaDOT determine where wildlife are crossing this major freeway and where wildlife bridges might be placed for the best use. This has been a landmark project in the collaboration of government agencies and private groups to forward a large project to everyone's benefit.

Wildlife bridges have been proposed or installed over highways in the US, Canada, Slovenia, Germany, France and others. They are found to be well used and benificial to the wildlife and to the safety of drivers. Check out these photos.

For animals, the ability to cross I-90 and move north or south to disperse is criticaly important for all species, but especially those with large ranges like the grizzly bear. An Environmental Impact Statement gathers the best science and details the options for how best to move forward with the project. Several public meetings, at which comments will be recieved, are scheduled for September.

Here are more details:

The I-90 project will improve safety for people and wildlife from Hyak to Easton on the major east-west roadway in Washington State.

Structures for wildlife passage would be built at the 14 major wildlife crossing areas within the project. This will increase safety by reducing collissions between wildlife and vehicles, and help in connecting the wildlife habitat that is currently seperated by the highway.

Wildlife passage will be improved by:

Replacing narrow bridges and culverts with longer, wider bridges and culverts to allow wildlife to move under the highway.

Adding wildlife exclusion fences and other features to keep wildlife off the highway and direct them to safe crossing structures.

Adding 2 vegetated wildlife overpasses at strategic locations to allow animals to move over the highway.

The release of this important document is a key step in the timeline for the project, and signals that construction for the first funded phase will begin soon. The first 5 miles of the project are already funded by funds from the Washington State Legislature, and construction is to begin in 2010. There is no funding to date for the remaining 10 miles of the project, but a wide variety of voices are asking our federal congressional representatives to find funding in the upcoming Highway Reauthorization Bill.

Visit I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition to learn more about the additional funding needs for this project.

Julie L. Hopkins

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Berries, Berries and Bears

Bears lose 30% to 40% of their body weight while hibernating. It’s important that they regain this weight before returning to the den in late fall. Mountain grizzlies and black bears rely on plants for a large part of their diet and it is during berry season that much of this weight gain is accomplished.

During spring and summer bears replenish their levels of protein, but it’s during late summer and fall that large doses of carbohydrates supply the weight gain necessary for winter survival.

The US Dept of Agriculture has analyzed the nutritional value of many foods. You can view this data at their site the Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. A quick look tells why berries are an excellent source of carbohydrates and why a good berry crop during the fall is so important to the bears. The following data for a few select foods is based on 100 grams of raw material.

• Spinach, a representative green leafy food, contains 23 kCal of energy, 2.86 grams of protein, .39 grams of fat and 3.63 grams of carbohydrates.

• Blueberries, more than twice the energy value and almost four times the carbohydrate level, contains 57 kCal of energy, .74 grams of protein, .33 grams of fat and 14.49 grams of carbohydrates.

• Insects, represent a significant protein source in the summer, contain 20.6 grams of protein, 6.1 grams of fat and 3.9 grams of carbohydrates.

• Salmon makes up a large portion of the Alaskan Brown Bear’s diet. Winter killed deer and elk are important protein sources when bears first emerge from the den. Salmon and venison, almost equal in nutritional value, contains 157 kCal of energy, 21.8 grams of protein, 7.13 grams of fat and 0 grams of carbohydrates. Just about what you get from an insect!

Notice that the food available in the wild does not contain high levels of fat. Fat is generated by the bears from consuming large amounts of carbohydrates.

Additionally, blueberries are rich in Vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene as well as rich in the minerals potassium, manganese and magnesium. They are very high in fiber and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. But this is just the tip of the nutritional iceberg, for recent studies tell us that of all fresh fruits and vegetables, berries provide the most health-protecting antioxidants, those valuable elements which prevent cancer-causing cell damage and may limit the changes wrought by age related diseases.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Great Outdoors is Calling

TrailsFest serves up a jam-packed day of outdoor adventure.

Event details:
TrailsFest 2008
Saturday, July 19, 9am – 4pm
Rattlesnake Lake, North Bend

This outdoor extravaganza features clinics on everything from wilderness first aid to hiking with kids to backcountry cooking. Take a guided hike, tie a fly on, or climb a rock wall. Try out a new s’mores recipe, or hang out with packgoats. Visit the GBOP booth and say "hi", or the dozens of exhibitors, including gear companies and outdoor groups. I will be giving a "Living with Bears" talk at 2:00 at the Cedar Watershed Education Center. It's all at TrailsFest!

Been wanting to explore the North Cascades? Attend a clinic with Craig Romano, author of Day Hiking – North Cascades published by Mountaineers Books. Learn how to whip up a tasty backcountry meal in no time from the author of Freezer Bag Cooking. Want to be a responsible hiker with your dog? Check out the clinic on hiking with dogs and trail etiquette. Wanting to try backpacking? Go to Hilleberg the Tentmaker’s clinic on smart packing and learn how to take less, still be comfortable and safe, and have lots more fun!

TrailsFest is presented every summer by Washington Trails Association. Sponsors for TrailsFest 2008 include Hilleberg the Tentmaker, KPLU, Green Trails Maps, REI, CLIF Nectar, Outdoor Research, Gregory, Chaco, Teko, Helly Hansen, Erin Baker's Wholesome Baked Goods, Freezer Bag Cooking, and Marmot Mountain Works.

TrailsFest is your passport to the great outdoors this summer, and admission is free!

To get to TrailsFest, take I-90 to exit 32, then turn right on 436th Ave SE. Follow this road 2.7 miles to Rattlesnake Lake.

Julie L. (Hayes) Hopkins - GBOP field organizer

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Are you "On Track"?

One of the best ways to tell the difference between a grizzly and a black bear is to analyze a track. Grizzly tracks denote long claws and have a flat pad. The pad of a black bear is predominately curved. Detailed track ID tips can be found at the GBOP website.

These photos of a grizzly track were taken by Scott Fisher, Washington DNR, in the Pend Oreille area of eastern Washington. The first photo is a front track and the second photo is a rear track.

This photo of a black bear track was taken near Loup Loup Pass in Okanogan County.

Alas, a good track is not what you always get. Many times it is a partial track or the features of the track are distorted by the terrain. To be so heavy, bears can tread very lightly.

The above photo was sent to us as a possible grizzly track. It was passed around and the responses were quite interesting. No supporting information other than the photo was given to those responding. Judge for yourself:

“It strikes me as a black bear that is turning to its left dragging claw marks in the mud. I think I see the same holes just ahead of the toe pads that may have been the claw marks when the foot was first planted. Those marks appear to be only about 0.75 inch out from the toe. The pad width appears to be no more than 4 inches and this would suggest, if grizzly, a bear that is 2 years old or less and at least somewhat likely to be accompanied by a mother or siblings. All considered, it appears to be a black bear.” - US Fish and Wildlife Service

“Definitely a challenge. Tough to say where the bottom of the outside toe starts, which affects the line test. Also, I'm thinking the three longer claw marks may be a result of those claws being dragged, rather than the actual claw impressions. If so, then the actual claw marks are more consistent with black bear.” – Washington Dept Fish & Wildlife

“It suggests a black bear walking in slickey muck. The overall arc of the paw & toes supports this, as does the line test (allowing for slippage & sometimes toes aren't all over or all under the line). The claws most likely show up because it's in oozy goo, and the bear dragged its foot a little as it walked on. One can see the results of that on all 5 toes.” – National Park Service

“Tracking is something I can talk about, as a life-long tracker, and I agree that it is a black bear. The track has a counter-clockwise rotational torque on the foot caused by a slick surface.” - US Fish and Wildlife Service

To properly analyze a track many experts will carefully photo the track, then draw a picture and carefully measure all dimensions of the track. For a permanent record, a plaster casting can be made.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

IGBC Committee 25th Anniversary

This year is the 25th Anniversary of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC). A jovial celebration and presentation of awards on June 21 was held at the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area in Seeley Lake, Montana, north of Missoula.

What is the IGBC, you say? It is a group formed of federal and state agency representatives, established in 1983, with the goal of leading grizzly bear recovery in the lower 48 states. The committee is in charge of implementing the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan, and all management and research activities necessary to provide for recovery of the grizzly bear. They make joint recommendations to Federal agency heads and Governors. Each recovery ecosystem has its own subcommittee that reports to this executive committee.

After 2 days of business meetings there was celebration, and socializing. The 25th Anniversary Celebration was outdoors at Rich Ranch, plopped in the middle of grizzly bear territory. In fact, a short walk from the lunch tent, were grizzly bear tracks. Speakers included Gail Kimbell, Chief of the US Forest Service; Bob Barbee, Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park; and Chris Servheen, the Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator for the IGBC. But everybody was wow-ed by the keynote speaker Stan Tixier, 2nd IGBC Chairman, Retired US Forest Service and Cowboy Poet Extraordinaire. He is a long, tall cowboy and as classy as they come.

Among the award recipients was our own Chris Morgan, for achievement in communications and education. Congratulations, Chris.

GBOP was represented by Chris Morgan, Wendy Gardner and myself. We were asked to give a presentation at the business meeting and provide a booth at the celebration, which was also attended by the public. GBOP was brightly received, with lots of positive feedback, much interest and many congratulations for the good work we are doing in the North Cascades of Washington.

Julie L. (Hayes) Hopkins

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Grizzly Bear - a cowboy poem

Consider now the Grizzly Bear, there’s information I could share
About this noble, fearsome beast, of which we used to know the least
Of any mammal of its, size, carnivorous or otherwise.

Let’s classify the Grizzly Bear, because you know we really care,
Its Latin name is sure to thrill us, Ursus arctos horribilis,
It isn’t every day you see the Grizzly Bear’s taxonomy.

The western US, most of that, was its historic habitat,
Look at a map and you can see the Grizzly Bear’s geography,
Today the range in which it mates is limited to just four States.

That doesn’t count Alaska though, or Canada, just States below,
Montana has the most, you know, but Washington and Idaho,
Also Wyoming have a few, besides the San Diego Zoo.

One hundred thousand used to roam and call the western US home,
Now only one percent or less live in the lower west US,
And they’re no longer everywhere that used to host the Grizzly Bear.

The problem all across the nation is encroached civilization,
Now people play and houses go on spaces the Grizzly used to know,
The bear must now get by with less, in forests, parks and wilderness.

You ask, “What does the Grizzly eat?’ Just anything, let me repeat,
The Grizzly’s never known to fuss ‘bout food ‘cause he’s omnivorous,
There’s grass and berries, grubs a treat, and carrion, all kinds of meat.

Another Grizzly food is fish; it’s just about his favorite dish,
There’s ants and pine nuts, roots and bark, a ground squirrel and a meadowlark,
And if it has a putrid smell, the Bear enjoys it very well.

That’s why when garbage is around, or dug up from beneath the ground,
The Grizzly gets an easy meal, which constitutes a crummy deal,
For we should not, a Bear so great, with human food, habituate.

Sometimes a band of wooly sheep will tempt a Grizzly Bear to leap
Upon a lamb, perhaps a ewe, and thus enjoy a feast or two,
Sheep ranchers then may have to change to country out of Grizzly range.

When walking in the woods, take care, you may not see the Grizzly Bear,
So, whistle, sing or ring a bell; make lots of noise so they can tell
There’s people that they might avoid, but crowd their space, they’ll be annoyed.

They may attack if you’re too near, or bluff a charge to make you fear,
So stand your ground or maybe fall and roll yourself into a ball,
But one thing that you must beware: “You can’t outrun a Grizzly Bear!”

And when you camp where Grizzlies live, take extra care that you don’t give
Them easy access to your food; you’ll find the Bear extremely rude
And most aggressive to procure whatever that you don’t secure.

So hang your food away up high, but never pitch your tent nearby,
Don’t go to bed in clothes you wear to cook, because the Grizzly Bear
May sniff you out, because his nose detects the smell of food on clothes.

Grizzlies eat all summer season huge amounts and here’s the reason:
They must build up thick fat store, because for five long months or more,
Though it is hard to contemplate, they neither eat nor defecate.

As winter comes, the Bear will crave to dig a small and cozy cave,
Grizzlies practice hibernation; sows complete their odd gestation,
So cubs or born inside the dens, and bare and blind, their lives begin.

This tiny runt without much hair, you’d scarce believe a Grizzly Bear,
But they find mama’s warmth and milk, until their coats are smooth as silk,
They venture out one fine spring day, with mama showing them the way.

In fact, she teaches them it all, from early spring until late fall,
And then they dig another den, and sleep all winter long again,
The season when the cubs are two, their time with mama is all through.

And she hunts up a handsome boar, or he finds her, I’m not quite sure,
In any case, they mate in spring, and then takes place the strangest thing,
Just like suspended animation, it’s called, “delayed implantation.”

Which means, although the sow’s gestation takes two months, a strange gyration,
The tiny embryos don’t grow, until her den is under snow,
So, while in spring the two Bears mate, the pregnancy is five months late.

Grizzly Bears are solitary, all alone and always wary
Of people, even other bears, and so he rarely ever shares
His food and/or his favorite places, doesn’t care to see new faces.

It was in nineteen seventy-three, that Congress, though not all agree,
Produced a most important pact, call the Endangered Species Act,
And Grizzlies, to complete the story, are in a “threatened” category.

And so, recovery is the goal, and many actors play a role,
Their fate is up to you and me, with guidance from the IGBC,
Let’s show the world we really care, and let’s conserve the Grizzly Bear!

Provided with kind permission from Stan Tixier, cowboy poet and second chairman of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee ,IGBC, (1985-1987).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Polar bears at the Burke

Hi Seattle polar bears fans,

I thought you'd be interested in this polar bear event at the Burke museum in Seattle this coming weekend featuring Steve Kazlowski's images and a talk by my polar bear research colleague Dr Steve Amstrup.

This event "The Last Polar Bear" features stunning photography by wildlife photographer Steven Kazlowski , who has dedicated over eight years of work to bring to life the immediate reality of this most pressing environmental crisis — the devastation of the Arctic ecosystem through global warming.

The Burke offers a full day of talks and activities with something for the whole family. Join us for displays of arctic research and arctic mammals, as well as talks by leading experts on polar bears and the fight to save them.


10:30 am ~ Gallery Tour
The Last Polar Bear author and photographer Steven Kazlowski leads a 30 minute tour of the exhibit.

11:30 am ~ Burke Room Lecture
Polar Bears; How Their Lifestyles Make Them Vulnerable to Climate Change. Dr. Steven Amstrup, Research Wildlife Biologist for United States Geological Survey's Alaska Science Center, will talk about polar bear population dynamics, social structure, foraging practices, habitat preferences, and how reduced sea ice is likely to affect them.

12:30 pm ~ Gallery Tour
The Last Polar Bear author and photographer Steven Kazlowski leads a 30 minute tour of the exhibit.

1:30 pm ~ Burke Room Lecture
The whole Polar Bear truth... and nothing but the truth.

Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League, Cindy Shogan, will discuss her vehement opposition to oil drilling on the North Slope of Alaska. Learn the latest polar bear politics from a self described D.C. political addict, and hear what you can do to help protect this critical species.

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Governor proclaims official Bear Awareness Week

May 12-18 devoted to increasing awareness about the black and grizzly bears of Washington

As bears begin to emerge from winter sleep, they can be assured that Washington residents are going to be a little more informed about them this year, thanks to a new official Bear Awareness Week proclamation signed by Governor Christine Gregoire.

“Black bears and grizzly bears face very different problems here in Washington”, says Chris Morgan, ecologist and director of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project, the organization at the center of Bear Awareness Week activities. “As more and more people move into black bear habitat, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for these adaptable creatures to ignore temptations”. Temptations such as human garbage, bird seed, and fruit trees. “But for the super-rare grizzly bear it is a more grave concern - avoiding extinction”, he added.

Governor Gregoire established Bear Awareness Week to encourage people to learn more about our ursine neighbors, how to avoid conflicts with them, and to appreciate these majestic creatures in Washington - one of just four states that is wild enough to still support both species of bear.

Although there are some 25,000 black bears in Washington, fewer than 30 grizzly bears remain in the North Cacades and Selkirk Mountains. Biologists believe there may be as few as 10 individual grizzly bears in the Cascades, a ten-thousand square mile ecosystem that was designated as a grizzly bear recovery zone by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee in 1991.

Morgan and his team of local outreach staff work across the North Cascades to bring information about grizzly and black bears to people - especially those living in bear country. Dennis Ryan, GBOP’s field person in Okanogan County commented, “We were delighted when the Governor agreed to establish Bear Awareness Week. GBOP is all about distributing accurate, helpful facts about bears as broadly as possible, and this definitely helps”.

Although several grizzly bear sightings are reported each year, verification can be difficult given the elusive nature of the species. Black bears on the other hand have already been showing up in some unusual places this year. “Both Renton and Puyallup have had black bears in town, usually young bears that are still trying to establish a home range”, says Morgan, adding that there are many simple steps people can take to keep bears in the woods and out of harm’s way. For example, hanging bird feeders high, storing garbage where bears can’t get at it and putting it out as close to pick-up time as possible.

Still, serious bear conflicts are rare, and research conducted by the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project shows wide public support for grizzly bear conservation. For the US Fish and Wildlife Service, grizzly bear recovery in Washington will largely depend upon an engaged public that can base opinions on facts rather than on myths about these creatures. “It’s gratifying to see that people want to know more about grizzly bears, and generally support efforts to conserve them,” said Doug Zimmer from the Fish and Wildlife Service in Olympia.

Other outreach project supporters include, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, and Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Lisa Dabek, Director of Field Conservation at Woodland Park Zoo witnesses the popularity of bears on a regular basis. “They are one of our most popular animals here at the zoo - very charismatic ambassadors for northwest ecosystems”.

“For many”, says Chris Morgan, “that is the true essence of the bear - the spirit of the northwest”.

The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project and partners will be celebrating Bear Awareness Week with several events, listed below.

GBOP Bear Awareness Week Activities, May 12-18

Nan Laney supports the northwest side of the North Cascades 360.856.5076,

Tuesday, May 13, 7pm - presentation at Backcountry Essentials in Bellingham. The presentation will focus on the North Cascades grizzly bear – a species on the knife-edge of extinction in our own backyard.

Saturday, May 17, 6pm - dinner and presentation in Concrete with special guest Anne Braaten, Wildlife Biologist for North Cascades National Park, who will be sharing her experiences and knowledge regarding the bear shepherding techniques pioneered by Carrie Hunt of Wind River Bear Institute. GBOP’s Nan Laney will share additional information about being Bear Smart, and ways that rural residents and backcountry recreationists can prevent the human-food-conditioning of our resident black bears.

Dennis Ryan supports the northeast side of the North Cascades 509.923.2464,

Tuesday, May 13 - presentation to the Omak teachers and students at the wilderness retreat at Camp Disautel. This retreat has been held for over 50 years. This will mark the third year of GBOP's involvement.

Saturday, May 17, 9am until 3pm – ‘Bear Awareness Day’ will be sponsored by GBOP and hosted at the North Cascades Basecamp in Mazama. Join us for a day long look at bears of the North Cascades including their biology, habitat and behavior. Learn to use a remote camera, look for bear sign and be bear safe. Get an update on the status of grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades.

Julie L. (Hayes) Hopkins supports the I-90 corridor 425.223.7648,

Tuesday, May 13 – “Living with Bears” presentation at Cle Elum Middle School for the Environmental Science classes.

Thursday, May 15 – “Grizzly Bear Recovery” presentation at Evergreen College for the Protected Areas Class. Friday, May 16th, 7pm - information table at the ‘Groovin' for Grizzlies’ celebration, 7pm at Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham, sponsored by Conservation NW. This is a family event.

Wendy Gardner 206.947.2374,

Wednesday, May 14 – an information table will be set up at the Woodland Park Zoo from 10am until 2pm.

Thursday, May 15 – an information table will be set up at the Greenwood Library from 1pm until 4pm.

Background Information:

• The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP) is a non-advocacy information and education program with support from 18 government and non-government organizations: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Seattle City Light, Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, Woodland Park Zoo, Conservation Northwest, Seattle, USDA Forest Service, Defenders of Wildlife, Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, REI, National Park Service, WILDTIME Foods Grizzlies Brand, Grizzly Industrial, Canopy, Counter Assault, Living with Wildlife Foundation, Sanitary Service Company, Foothills Gazette.

• GBOP’s mission is to ‘Promote an accurate understanding of grizzly bears and their recovery in the North Cascades though community education and involvement’.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bear Awareness Day, Saturday May, 17th, 9am to 3pm

In celebration of Washington State Bear Awareness Week the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP) will sponsor a Bear Awareness Day. This event will be hosted by the North Cascades Basecamp in Mazama.

Planned activities include:
• What's in your woods?, using a remote camera - Dennis Ryan.
• Exploring bear sign, tracking and ID - Gabe Spence.
• Bear habitat, biology and behavior - Scott Fitkin, WDFW.
• Review the status of grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades.

Please bring your own bag lunch and wear clothes appropriate for short walks in the woods. Information about bear safety and being bear smart around your home will be available. There will be a demonstration of the effectiveness of bear pepper spray.

Join us for all or part of the day. Contact Dennis Ryan at or (509) 923-2464 if you have any questions or need directions. RSVP appreciated.

The North Cascades Basecamp is offering a discount for those wishing to stay the night or weekend.

Contact Josh Kerns:
North Cascades Basecamp & Lodging
255 Lost River Road, Mazama, WA 98833

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Woodland Park Zoo Bear event

The Woodland Park Zoo celebrated the fourth annual Bear Affair day on Saturday , April 5th. The day began with Zoo staff hosting a behind the scenes tour to a group of 40 folks invited by GBOP to get an opportunity to meet the 950 pound grizzly brothers, Denali and Keema, up close and personal. The bears have a profound impression on everyone they meet. The group was also treated to a tour and overview of the wolf compound.

Later that morning an unsafe campsite was setup in their compound. The bears enthusiaticly demostrated what bears do to a camp left unattended and full of food. Its amazing to watch the systematic search for items hidden in tents, sleeping bags and coolers. This year a raft was placed in their swimming area. Inside was a tasty salmon.

In the afternoon items which might atteact bears to your home were placed in their compound. Included were a greasy grill, bird food feeder and two types of garbage containers. This photo says it all. The normal garbage container was destroyed in less than 30 seconds. However, the bear resistant garbage container withstood repeated assaults by both bears and remained intact. If you live in bear country, this is definitely the type of container you need. This container is a product of UnBearable Bins.

The crowd loved the demonstration almost as much as the bears loved putting on a show. Afterward they were ready for a nap.

A news crew from King 5 TV was on hand to cover the event. They ran a segment on the evening news which highlighted the need to avoid attracting bears and creating a conflict scenerio. The segment included the bear which closed the Puyallup park for a weekend. You can view the on air segment at the KING 5 website. Harriet Allen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, gave two talks on wolf issues faced by the state during the day. All the events were attended by large crowds.

Many thanks to the Zoo staff for the flawless execution of an eventful day.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Whatcom County supports Grizzly Bear recovery in the North Cascades

The Whatcom County Council passed the following resolution on March 11th, 2008. This resolution voices support for the implementation of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan which was approved in 1997.

• Whatcom County’s wildlife and wild places are a core part of life in this beautiful county;

• The Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan encourages actions which “protect and enhance natural systems which provide economic, ecological, aesthetic, and cultural benefit (Goal 11H), and “protect and enhance natural systems that support…wildlife populations and habitat” (Goal 11J);

• There are many ecological, economic, and spiritual benefits to conserving and recovering grizzly bears and other native wildlife as an integral part of our county’s natural heritage, quality of life and identity;

• Chapter 2 of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan states that “maintaining healthy fish and wildlife populations is a vital goal in maintaining the quality of life in Whatcom County”;

• Grizzly bears are an “umbrella species” the conservation of which will benefit dozens of other plants and animals;

• The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that over $1.7 billion is spent annually in the US on wildlife watching activities, supporting more than 21,000 jobs;

• The people of Whatcom County take great pride in their county’s internationally significant wildlife legacy;

• The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the North Cascades as one of only six grizzly bear recovery zones in the lower 48 states and the only grizzly bear recovery zone outside of the Rocky Mountains;

• The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are less than 20 bears left in the North Cascades - a number too low to be self-sustaining;

• The federal government is mandated under the Endangered Species Act to protect and recover endangered wildlife populations;

• The federal North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan has been in place for a decade but has not been fully implemented;

• The State of Washington and other public and private entities have appropriated funds for a public process under federal law to implement recovery planning.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Whatcom County Council urges the United States Congress to appropriate necessary funding through the 2009 federal appropriations process and urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately implement the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan including all necessary actions identified by their biologists to recover this highly endangered grizzly bear population.

Everyone at GBOP would like to sincerely thank each member of the Whatcom County Council in supporting North Cascade Grizzly Bear recovery and their leadership role in setting an example for others to follow.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Governor Gregoire declares week of May 12 - 18 'Bear Awareness Week'

On February 28, 2008 Governor Christine Gregoire proclaimed May 12-18, 2008, as 'Bear Awareness Week' in Washington State, and urged all citizens to join in this special observance.

The proclamation stressed the following points:

• Washington’s wildlife and wild places are a core part of life in this beautiful state;

• Washington’s forests and coastlines harbor one of the largest populations of black bears in the United States, and Washington is one of only five lower 48 states that is still wild enough to harbor a small number of grizzly bears, a federally-protected threatened species, both in the North Cascades and Selkirk Mountains;

• It is in the public interest to understand the ecology, behavior, and conservation of bears, and there is an ongoing need for widespread education and outreach concerning their welfare to enable peaceful coexistence with people who live or spend time in bear country;

• The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project, in partnership with multiple government and non-government organizations, is committed to providing accurate information about bears through innovative programs that engage the public;

• There are many ecological, economic, and spiritual benefits to promoting bears as a desirable part of our state’s natural heritage;

• The people of Washington State take great pride in their state’s wildlife legacy that is internationally significant.

Special events to celebrate Bear Awareness Week and provide educational opportunities about the bears of Washington are being planned. Stay tuned to this BLOG for further details.

photo credit: Wayne Lynch

North Cascades Grizzly Bear Subcommittee Meeting, Tuesday April 22nd

The next meeting of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Subcommittee will be held at the US Forest Service Ranger Station in North Bend, Washington from 10 AM to 2:30 PM on April 22, 2008.

An agenda for the meeting will be posted on the North Cascades Recovery Ecosystem webpage of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) website at as soon as it is finalized.

North Cascades Subcommittee meetings occur several times per year on both the east and west sides of the North Cascades. The public is always invited to attend and, for interested persons, there is time allotted for providing public comment during the meeting.

Even if you are not able to make the meeting, the IGBC website is a great place to learn more about grizzly bears, the IGBC and what’s happening in the 6 recovery ecosystems in the lower 48 states.

Submitted by:
Nan Laney
Skagit, Whatcom and Northern Snohomish Coordinator
Grizzly Bear Outreach Project
Sedro-Woolley, WA

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Join GBOP at Woodland Park Zoo (April 5) and REI (April 16)

Woodland Park Zoo and GBOP are hosting the annual Bear Affair Day on Saturday, April 5th.

Also join Chris Morgan, bear biologist, director of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project and Producer of the feature documentary BEARTREK at the downtown Seattle REI on Wednesday, April 16th beginning at 7 pm.

On April 5th Woodland Park Zoo staff will give presentations at the various bear and wolf exhibits. REI and GBOP will set up a non-safe camp in the Grizzly Bear exhibit so that you can see what happens when bears encounter a camp full of food. A limited number of free WPZ tickets and behind the scene tour opportunities are available.

Contact Dennis Ryan at to sign up.

On April 16th travel from Spitzbergen to Spain, and learn how bears have struck the human imagination for thousands of years. On our own doorstep, the North American grizzly bear has garnered its fair share of acclaiming folklore. From old campfire tales to the film, Grizzly Man, accounts of the grizzly’s power, strength and grace have inspired curiosity and fear.

Come learn the truth about the elusive North Cascades grizzly bear as well as bears in wild locations like Spain, Canada, Pakistan, Ecuador, and Svalbard. REI is proud to welcome Chris Morgan, bear biologist, filmmaker, and director of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP). Chris will present a stunning, highly entertaining slide show demystifying the North Cascades grizzly bear, and it's cousins further afield. Chris Morgan has worked internationally as a biologist and educator for the last twenty years and will share his expert knowledge on bear ecology and conservation.

This will also be among the first opportunities to see footage from the feature-length documentary film 'BEARTREK' - a quest that that follows his global motorcycle adventure to the wildest places on the planet in search of unusual bear species and exotic cultures. In 2006, The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project received a grant from REI for their ongoing education efforts.

Chris Morgan, GBOP Director

Brown bears make a comeback in the mountains of Spain

The endangered brown bear, which once roamed the forests of Europe, is showing signs of recovery in one of its remaining strongholds, the Cantabrian mountains of Spain.

Small colonies of brown bears are increasing in the craggy northern cordillera of Asturias and Cantabria. After being menaced by illegal hunters and the encroaching infrastructure of tourism, numbers of fertile females have doubled in the past decade and traces of bear activity have tripled in the last two years.

A colony of 100 bears is thought to inhabit the west of the region, with another smaller colony of about 30 to the east. The reclusive animals are still on the endangered list and their long-term survival remains under threat because the number of animals remains small despite reproduction becoming consolidated in recent years.

"We would like to establish a corridor between the separate colonies to increase the bears' genetic diversity and reproductive velocity, and thereby their chances of survival," said Guillermo Palomero, head of the Santander-based Brown Bear Foundation (Fundacion Oso Pardo). "That is the only sure way of protecting them from becoming extinct."

A joint study by the foundation and Spain's environment ministry based on 16 years of observation of the bears in their natural habitat strongly recommends trying to establish a connection between the colonies, which are 30 miles apart, to safeguard the local population. While brown bear numbers have been boosted in the Pyrenees by importing animals from Slovenia, this is not an option "because Cantabria's brown bears are a pure species unique in Europe," Mr Palomero said.

The revival is partly due to more effective control of illegal hunters, or furtivos, who now face two years in jail and a fine of up to €300,000 (£230,000) for the "ecological crime" of killing a bear.

"Furtivos still exist. There may be fewer huntsmen with guns, but more traps and poison are laid for wolves and wild boars. They still do a lot of damage," said Mr Palomero. "Collaboration between the authorities and voluntary organisations has been crucial in consolidating bear populations during 2007. We mustn't drop our guard or cry victory too soon.

"The turning point was when we realised the importance of groups of females with their young cubs. While the males roam across country, the mother and her cubs stay within a defined area. We must protect them in their habitat, because they are the guarantee of the future."

Ursine history was made in the winter of 2006 when the foundation revealed that Cantabria's brown bears had stopped hibernating. The region's winters had become warmer in recent years, enabling the bears to forage for enough food all year round.

Bears are well known for their propensity to slumber through the winter to the point of biological shutdown. But their behaviour went through a revolutionary change when female brown bears with young cubs found enough nuts, acorns, chestnuts and berries on Spain's bleak northern mountainsides to make the effort of staying awake and hunting for food "energetically worthwhile".

By Elizabeth Nash in Madrid
Thursday, 28 February 2008

Wildlife and the Economy

In these sluggish economic times, we might ask “When budgets are so tight, what is the value of supporting the cost of wildlife projects?”

Actually, wildlife viewing, fishing and hunting are big business. According to a Winter 2008 report from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife:

• Washington draws 2,331,000 wildlife watchers annually – both resident and non-resident.
• Annual spending in Washington by wildlife watchers totals $1,502,311,000 (that's billions folks).
• Washington ranks 7th in the nation in spending behind California, Florida, Texas, Michigan, Georgia and New York.
• Spending increased 53 percent from 2001 to 2006.

These monies are spent on travel, food, lodging, equipment and other goods and services. The bounty is spread across the state, especially in small towns and rural areas, lending an economic boon to many areas that need it.

Beyond the aesthetic and spiritual values we feel towards nature and wildlife, those critters also contributes greatly to our economy!

Julie L. (Hayes) Hopkins
Marine and Wildlife Biologist
Threatened and Endangered Species Specialist

Cetos Research Organization. 'Working to enhance and augment conservation and management of living marine resources through research.'

Grizzly Bear Outreach Project. 'Promoting an accurate understanding of grizzly bears and their recovery in the North Cascades Ecosystem through community education and involvement.'