It's been a rough year for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. With over 40 bear moralities in the last year (more than 7% of the total population), there is good reason for concern.
This hit home with us today when we learned that one of the yearling grizzly bears that frequented our stretch of the Yellowstone River this fall (and our garden and apple trees) was found dead floating in the Ashton Reservoir in Idaho.
The bears were frequent visitors and we were all (guests and residents) thrilled to see them! Their mother had been shot by a hunter the fall before and it was amazing just to see that they had survived. To think that they had made it through a round of hibernation and a summer of no human conflicts with only themselves to rely on was inspiring.
While it was exciting to see these young bears, it was also troublesome. The bears began to show up during the middle part of the day and didn't show a normal fear of humans. We have had other grizzly bears on the property - especially in the fall - but these two bears began to be such frequent visitors that it seemed inevitable that they would get into human food (garbage) or hurt someone if left to their own devices.
The state of Montana captured these bears on our neighbor's property and asked the National Park Service to relocate them into the wild country near Yellowstone Lake in late September. After their relocation, Idaho Fish and Game reported that, "Despite their close proximity to people, the bears never threatened anyone or got into garbage. The cubs then left the Yellowstone Lake area; this fall they worked their way into Idaho where their locations became difficult to track."
As of this morning, the male bear has been found dead and it is assumed that the female, who they are unable to locate, is also dead. I'll spare you the pictures that accompanied the release. You can read the press release from the Idaho Fish and Game Department HERE. A reward is being offered for information about the incident.
Stephen Herrero wrote the book Grizzly Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, and I've been fortunate enough to make his kind acquaintance. If you are worried about traveling in bear country, or just like a good scare, this is the book for you. What I think you'll find, however, is that most people who live with bears consider it to be an honor. It doesn't stop us from enjoying wilderness, rather, it makes us very aware of where we fit into things. We don't often forget to pay attention!
"Those who have packed far up into grizzly country know that the presence of even one grizzly on the land elevates the mountains, deepens the canyons, chills the winds, brightens the stars, darkens the forest, and quickens the pulse of all who enter it. They know that when a bear dies, something sacred in every living thing interconnected with that realm... also dies." - John Murray
A sad end to two very beautiful creatures.
We were privileged to see them.