Lewis and Clark’s First Grizzly

One of the first written grizzly bear accounts was from Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Clark recorded in his journal Sunday, May 5, 1805, “In the evening we saw a Brown or Grisley beare on a sand beech, I went out with one man Geo Drewyer & Killed the bear, which was verry large and a turrible looking animal, which we found verry hard to kill we Shot ten Balls into him before we killed him…”    It’s almost hard to wrap our minds around it but grizzly bears were plains animals at one time.  Lewis and Clark’s grizzly bear encounters began in the Dakotas.  Since then unregulated grizzly hunting continued through the 1970’s.  In 1975 the Grizzly bear became federally protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the lower 48 because altogether, grizzly bears were eliminated from 98% of their original range in the contiguous United States.

Today it’s not all gloom for this big brown bear.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of delisting grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem because populations have been steadily increasing and have reached management objectives.  States like Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho have submitted plans on how they’ll manage grizzlies once delisted.  GRIZZLY HUNTING IS PART OF THOSE PLANS AS A MANAGEMENT TOOL!

Shed Hunter Chewed On By Grizzly

Since grizzly populations are recovering and human populations expanding this has lead to increased human/grizzly encounters.  Shed hunters are no exception.  One such instance happened in early May near Cody Wyoming.  This also happens to be where grizzly bears are potentially going to be removed, or delisted, from federal protection because of increasing population size.  It was a nice spring day on the outskirts of Cody when authorities say the man was making his way through the timber.  Next thing he knew is a bear had knocked him down and bitten him on the leg and arm.  It was a surprise attack that happened quickly and ended quickly.  While making his way through the timber he may have surprised the bear in its day bed.  Since neither the bear nor the man heard each other that put them in close proximity suddenly and the bear quickly and instinctively defended itself.  The man walked himself back out to his truck and drove to the hospital.  Biologist don’t believe there is any serious risk for more attacks by this bear.  It sounds as if this was just a happen chance close encounter and the bear reacted defensively and instinctively.  The man was treated and released and didn’t need serious medical attention.  Undoubtedly this man won’t be outdone when it comes to hunting stories told around the campfire.

Bears Returning to the Plains

Montana's Rocky Mountain Front is one of the last places grizzlies are able to venture back out onto historic open prairie habitat. Photo credit The Nature Conservancy

Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front is one of the last places grizzlies are able to venture back out onto historic open prairie habitat. Photo credit The Nature Conservancy

As stated above grizzly bears were formerly a plains animal but populations have been reduced and pushed into mountainous regions making us think of them as a mountain dweller.  Expanding populations are forcing young bears to seek out new habitat.  Recently two Rocky Mountain Front grizzly bears have made their way back out to the plains.  Several sightings have been reported around the Marias River in southern Liberty County south of Chester, 87 miles north of Great Falls, Montana.  More sightings of grizzlies in former habitat are happening around their range and are an indication of growing and expanding populations.  Hunting in grizzly country takes on a whole other layer when keeping yourself safe.  It’s exciting to see a wildlife population recovering.  Be safe out there as scouting season is ramping up.

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