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Grizzly Incident Count

Elky Welky

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The last few years it's been a couple of grizzly incidents in the lower 48 a year. Before that, one every few years. Before that, it was incredibly rare.

So for Hunttalkers out there, what do you think? Is it increased hunter days? Larger grizzly populations? Failure to enforce the ESA and delist a recovered species? Lack of food? Irresponsible or ignorant humans?

Also, they always list the exact same advice at the end of these articles: "when in grizzly country, do everything you can to be in a group, make noise, carry bear spray, wear dinner bells, announce to the world that you are in the woods." Exactly what a good hunter is not going to be doing, if they want to have any success in the field. So what, exactly, should be done?

"So far this year, 50 grizzly bear mortalities have been recorded by the Inter-Agency Grizzly Bear Study Team in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Of these, 13 are under investigation: six in Wyoming, four in Montana and three in Idaho."

"The most recent incident in Montana was just outside Gardiner in Beattie Gulch where a hunter shot a bear at close range. Prior to that, anglers shot a bear in nearby Tom Miner Basin and two men hunting near Whitefish were charged and shot the grizzly. Both of those incidents occurred in August. In September, a hunter wounded a male bear with a shotgun blast while bird hunting near Freezout Lake. The bear was never found.

In addition, a female hiker near West Yellowstone was killed in a grizzly bear mauling in July. The bear was later killed after it broke into a home seeking food. On Sept. 8, a man tracking a wounded deer by Big Sky was mauled and seriously injured. In June, a black bear hunter shot a grizzly after being charged south of Ennis. In May, a grizzly was found shot dead near Noxon."

https://billingsgazette.com/outdoor...a28167c6c.html#tracking-source=home-top-story
 
Not sure what needs to be done… it really is a complex issue. I also don’t know if hunting is really going to magically help limit human-bear encounters… im sure it would have an effect, but if a hunter or hiker stumbles across a sow with cubs or a boar near his food I really don’t think they are going to run away, hunted or not. Would love to talk to a biologist though and pick their brain about the matter. Bears have really fascinated me as of late. They’re crazy adaptable and living near the front has really opened my eyes to their recovery. A lot of it could also be due to increased human presence in their eco spaces coupled with their resurgence in habitat.
 
I feel like it's less a function of a higher number of grizzlies and more a function of a higher number of humans recreating and hunting in bear habitat. Partly an increased number of resident/non-resident hunters. Most of these conflicts occurred during hunting seasons.

And it seems to me the majority of incidents this year resulted in the person killing the bear. People aren't using bear spray. Personally I think it's best to carry both bear spray and a gun...when you kill the bear, not only have you failed to teach that bear anything about avoiding humans, but you reduced the bear population, set delisting back, and gave additional anti-delisting fodder to the bear conservation people.
 
I feel like it's less a function of a higher number of grizzlies and more a function of a higher number of humans recreating and hunting in bear habitat. Partly an increased number of resident/non-resident hunters. Most of these conflicts occurred during hunting seasons.

And it seems to me the majority of incidents this year resulted in the person killing the bear. People aren't using bear spray. Personally I think it's best to carry both bear spray and a gun...when you kill the bear, not only have you failed to teach that bear anything about avoiding humans, but you reduced the bear population, set delisting back, and gave additional anti-delisting fodder to the bear conservation people.
But you lived to tell about it.
 
But you lived to tell about it.
Sure. And you probably would have as well if you'd used bear spray instead.

I did say I carry both. Bear spray, and if that fails (as it did in Banff), use the gun. But most people this year didn't use or even carry bear spray at all.
 
I feel like it's less a function of a higher number of grizzlies and more a function of a higher number of humans recreating and hunting in bear habitat. Partly an increased number of resident/non-resident hunters. Most of these conflicts occurred during hunting seasons.

And it seems to me the majority of incidents this year resulted in the person killing the bear. People aren't using bear spray. Personally I think it's best to carry both bear spray and a gun...when you kill the bear, not only have you failed to teach that bear anything about avoiding humans, but you reduced the bear population, set delisting back, and gave additional anti-delisting fodder to the bear conservation people.
The family of the couple that was found dead after a grizzly pulled them out of their tent might suggest otherwise on the bear spray.

To each their own, but I'm not worried about teaching a bear a lesson. I just want to survive the encounter. If killing the bear ensures I don't end up mauled, then it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make...
 
The family of the couple that was found dead after a grizzly pulled them out of their tent might suggest otherwise on the bear spray.

To each their own, but I'm not worried about teaching a bear a lesson. I just want to survive the encounter. If killing the bear ensures I don't end up mauled, then it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make...
And that is why grizzlies will never be delisted.

I'm not going to have this argument again, nobody on here is a believer in bear spray (except the Alaskan who adamantly recommended it over a gun based on personal experience, but not sure I'm going to be able to find that post again). But being trigger-happy and stubborn is going to guarantee we never get grizzlies delisted.
 
And that is why grizzlies will never be delisted.

I'm not going to have this argument again, nobody on here is a believer in bear spray (except the Alaskan who adamantly recommended it over a gun based on personal experience, but not sure I'm going to be able to find that post again). But being trigger-happy and stubborn is going to guarantee we never get grizzlies delisted.
Well, for what it's worth, I have a second cousin who lives in AK with her husband. They only carry pistols. Why would they want to carry bear spray also? By the time the bear is close enough to spray, you're not going to have time to give up on the spray and reach for a gun instead...

I think you have a sense of self preservation mixed up with " being trigger happy and stubborn"
 
Well, for what it's worth, I have a second cousin who lives in AK with her husband. They only carry pistols. Why would they want to carry bear spray also? By the time the bear is close enough to spray, you're not going to have time to give up on the spray and reach for a gun instead...

I think you have a sense of self preservation mixed up with " being trigger happy and stubborn"
I think you have a stubborn reluctance to use (or even bother with) a non-lethal, highly effective deterrent mixed up with a "sense of self preservation".
 
So, back to the original discussion, its pretty easy to deduce that it's a combination of higher human usage of bear area lands, and an impressive success of grizzly reestablishment. Looking at the numbers, not sure why there is such a roadblock to opening hunting seasons in a few grizzly areas.
 
I think it's got to be, by far, due to the vast increase in the number of grizzly bears. Bears are showing up places that they haven't been in 100 years, and now people live in those places.
I'm not sure that I buy the idea that more people recreating is a major part of the problem. Actually here in NW Montana, human access to much of grizzly country is much more limited than it was back 40 years ago. Many of the forest service roads that hunters used to drive, have been closed for so long, that you can't even walk them, because they are so overgrown. So lots of areas that 40 years ago saw lots of people, see very few people today.
If there are 10 times more bears, your probably 10 times more likely to run into one.
 
Before inreach, before social media, before cell phones, i bet people just went "missing" more often. But yes, there's also more bears less habitat every year.
 
The family of the couple that was found dead after a grizzly pulled them out of their tent might suggest otherwise on the bear spray.

To each their own, but I'm not worried about teaching a bear a lesson. I just want to survive the encounter. If killing the bear ensures I don't end up mauled, then it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make...
I have an opposite perspective, I know bear spray works from personal experience after 30 years in Alaska.
And I've seen how many bullets it takes to kill a grizzly bear if the first shot is not in the brain or spine, both small moving targets.
 
So, back to the original discussion, its pretty easy to deduce that it's a combination of higher human usage of bear area lands, and an impressive success of grizzly reestablishment. Looking at the numbers, not sure why there is such a roadblock to opening hunting seasons in a few grizzly areas.
Another potential reason is primary food source declining. For example, declining whitebark pine in some areas.

Another example, due to the drought and low berry production last year there was a sow and 2 cubs in December
still roaming the CSKT Bison Range near Charlo and they was videoed on shown on the local news.
I found large bear tracks in the snow hunting pheasants in 2 drainages 20-miles apart in late December last year.
 
I've also been thinking about the numerous in grizzly encounters this year, and while griz numbers have increased, I think that @156256Wenaha and @YukonGold are probably on the right track that it is more a function of the drastic increase of humans living, recreating, and expanding into former griz range. Certainly griz are returning to former range, which may not offer the same opportunities for food and shelter and is now occupied by humans.

Using Flathead County and the NCDE bears as an example, Flathead County population increased from about 60,000 people in 1990, to 83,000 in 2005, up to over 108,000 in 2021. These are somewhat arbitrarily (other than increased bear protection with the end of hunting) selected dates, so the first 15 years the human population increased by about 23k and the second set of 15 years by 45k.

Estimated 453 bears in the NCDE in 1995, 765 bears in 2005, and 1,114 estimated in 2021. So while humans increased by 45k, bear numbers increased by 350 over the last 15 years.

Visitation to Glacier National Park, and more recently overflow onto adjacent National Forest Lands, has also increased over the same time period. From the 1990's to early 2010's, roughly 2 million people visited to the park. With the exception of the pandemic, since 2016 visitation is much closer to, or exceeds, 3 million. An additional million people are recreating and impacting the landscape.

I also agree with some other posters that high bear mortalities will decrease the likelihood of a season on bears.

This is obviously a complex issue with no clear, simple solution.


Bear population source: https://fwp.mt.gov/binaries/content...ncde_grizzly_population_trend_report_2021.pdf
Park visitation: https://www.nationalparked.com/glacier/visitation-statistics
 
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