Famous Wyoming Grizzly Cubs Raid Human Food Raise Concerns | Wyoming News

By MIKE KOSHMRL, Jackson Hole News & Guide

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) – The State of Wyoming’s call for help to Hilary Cooley, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, returned on October 18 after a weekend of strife to one end to the other.

It was a Monday, and local Wyoming Game and Fish Department workers were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of calls and disputes related to Grizzly 399, a notorious sow-bear with four half-grown cubs who roams southern Jackson Hole. . This revered 25-year-old bear has spent more time outside Grand Teton National Park than in the protected landscape since the summer, and his journeys through places like Josies Ridge, Tribal Trails and Hoback Junction prove problematic.

“We had repeated conflicts over a three or four day period, all the way down south,” Game and Fish large carnivore biologist Mike Boyce told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “Material damage, animal feed and damage to the apiary”.

During its very first known extended period south of the national park in 2020, Grizzly 399 successfully tapped human-related foods on several occasions. The grizzly’s mother and her then-months-old cubs gorged themselves on molasses-fortified grain left out for moose, touched feed, wiped out a beekeeping colony, and scooped up in a compost pile .

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But his more recent behavior has taken an even more worrying turn.

The grizzly that spawned half a dozen litters of cubs began to become more destructive and actively forage for food in residential areas.

“We are seeing a change in behavior,” Boyce said.

Since August 3, she has been involved in 10 conflicts: five times she found herself in apiaries, beekeeper honey. On the other five occasions, the grizzly family of five ate grain for livestock. There have been consequences. Several times the family has been fogged up with cracker shells, non-lethal projectiles and other means: three times by Boyce, once by a Fish and Wildlife Service official, and once by a landowner.

Knowledge of how to harness the leftover foods associated with humans is also being passed on to the next generation, said Dan Thompson, who heads Wyoming Game and Fish’s large carnivore division.

“She’s teaching four 200-pound bears this is how to get food,” Thompson said.

Next year, these cubs will be “subadults,” 2.5-year-olds who will be hunted by Grizzly 399. The writing is on the wall as to where they are likely to go once independent.

“We will be busy with them next spring. Thompson said. “I guarantee it.”

Cooley, who coordinates the management of grizzly bears throughout their range in Lower 48, is directly involved in efforts to keep Grizzly 399 alive and out of trouble until it returns to the north and stay there. Cooley has been in Jackson Hole for the past week and secured funding for someone to sit like a grizzly in the famous sea urchin family and keep them away from tough situations around the clock.

“What we do is we monitor her intensively,” Cooley told News & Guide. “I just spoke to (my employee) and he may have found a lead. It’s that sort of thing.

“This is what we do,” she said. “It’s like a 24/7 effort. “

The effort to keep an eye on Grizzly 399 is difficult as it moves fast. Much of a recent weekend she was around Hoback Junction and even on some paths up the Hoback River. On Monday morning, she was back near Jackson, looking down the slopes not far from one of the city’s most popular hikes: Josies Ridge. For most of the day on Tuesday, there were no reports of his whereabouts.

It’s almost a unanimous opinion that it’s problematic for a grizzly bear family very accustomed to humans to live on the outskirts of Jackson.

“The whole county is kind of behind in terms of waste, storage and conflict prevention,” Cooley said. “Beehives, cattle feed, open dumpsters. Almost everywhere you look, there is something.

Apiaries, for example, do not legally need to be protected from bears. Ditto for livestock feed. Enforcement of “bear conflict zones” in Teton County that require bear-proof garbage cans and bird feeder standards has been limited by understaffing.

“We’re so far behind the ball,” said Cindy Campbell, resident of Red Top Meadows. “We send her a glove to be killed.”

Several years ago, Teton County assembled a group of residents to review and complete its bear friendly rules. Unanimously, they advised expanding the county-wide garbage storage regulations and strengthening bear conflict regulations over pet food, apiaries and chicken coops. But the recommendations were never promulgated. Recently there have been petitions and a flood of emails urging Teton County to review its regulations. Last week, commissioners discussed potential reforms, suggesting they would address the issue this winter.

But grizzly advocates say changes are urgently needed.

“The stakes have gotten a little higher, haven’t they? Said Chris Colligan, Wildlife Program Coordinator for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “It is time, I think, to act on this issue. This is what I see from the movements of Grizzly 399. It is simply unacceptable for us to think that this problem will go away. “

Last winter, the Grizzly 399 did not enter its den, located 35 miles north of Jackson, until the first week of January. After a month’s stay in the South Valley, she spent the remainder of the year in the north, feeding primarily on heaps of intestines left by elk hunters and shot and lost elk.

An onset of winter, Boyce hoped, could get the elk moving, attracting hunters in force, and bringing the grizzly family north.

Until that happens, she’s in a “really shabby area,” Cooley said. Fish and Wildlife Service does not show what it plans to do with Grizzly 399 other than monitor it. There have been rumors that the federal agency is seeking to trap and equip the grizzly bear family with GPS collars to facilitate their tracking.

Cooley did not assert this plan, but said, “It’s hard to always be behind her.”

Staff at Fish and Wildlife and the state and federal agencies they coordinate with – Game and Fish, the National Park Service, the US Forest Service – have discussed the possibility of moving Grizzly 399 and its offspring, but have not found a good place. to bring it.

“There isn’t a right place no matter where you look,” Cooley said. “We are not giving details of what we are doing because of our safety and that of 399,” she said. “We just want her to go to bed safe. We don’t have bad intentions.

The decision-making regarding Grizzly 399 and what to do about its series of conflicts is extremely divisive. This is one of the reasons Game and Fish appealed for help. But another reason is that Boyce, the wardens, and other conflict-handling staff are busy caring for other bears. Overall, Jackson Hole has been tracking bear conflict in the developed parts of the valley for an average year. But there is an unprecedented change underway.

“Grizzly bears have been involved in the majority of conflicts this year,” Boyce said. “We have a conflict with the grizzly bears in the south. It was a change.

The result is that five grizzly bears conditioned on human food lost their lives. Three of these animals were blood related to Grizzly 399. Two subadult bears born to Grizzly 610 – the daughter of 399 – were stung or trapped and killed after ongoing conflicts. Then last week, Grand Teton National Park slaughtered Grizzly 962, a 4 year old female that the world famous sow raised in her previous litter. This grizzly was among those who were repeatedly fed in a Solitude Subdivision backyard in 2020. The landowner has been investigated and the grizzly’s feeding has been documented, but prosecutors feds refused to press charges after the resident said she intended to feed moose, not grizzly bears.

It’s not just the Jackson Hole grizzly bears that are doing badly in 2021, Cooley said. Already 60 deaths have been documented so far in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, according to a federal database.

“It’s a bad year for grizzly bear kills all around,” Cooley said. “Conflict, killings in defense of life, vehicle deaths, whatever you want, it’s been a really bad year.

“In fact, we had to wipe out an entire family group about a month ago,” she said. “It was a hard day’s work.”

Grizzly 399’s fame is working in his favor and will likely help him avoid the same fate.

“We certainly don’t have 24/7 monitoring of all the other bears,” Cooley said. “We recognize that she is different. She is an ambassador.

Some of Grizzly 399’s more ardent followers are of the opinion that it is best to leave the Dusky Matriarch alone and not be subjected to traps, a collar, or being forced north.

“Give it a chance for a few more weeks,” said Tom Mangelsen, Wildlife photographer for Images of Nature. “She just follows the food. Think of Winnie the Pooh, for God’s sake. Of course she will find some honey.

Still, 399 other community advocates support taking aggressive action to put the grizzly mother out of harm’s way, meaning away from the town of Jackson and the dangers of developed areas that are far from bear-proof. .

“I think she just troubled her,” said Kristin Combs, executive director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “It’s really a nightmare situation and it’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. My breath is held every day. I feel like I wake up in the morning and check this text, and I really hope I don’t get this text.

Campbell, the Red Top resident, said her main worry is that Grizzly 399 and her brood will meet a resident who is not as tolerant or enthusiastic about grizzly bears as she is. Because of this, she would argue if the Fish and Wildlife Service grabbed and sticked Ambassador Bruin to aid their monitoring efforts – if that is the plan.

“I’ve lived in this valley long enough to know that there are a lot of people out there who don’t want these bears in their backyard,” Campbell said. “I don’t want her staring at a shotgun barrel at 2 a.m. when no one knows where she is.”

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