NCDE grizzly bear study deserves assured funding

The Northern Continental Divide ecosystem in northwest central Montana is the second largest grizzly population in the lower 48 states. It consists of Glacier National Park, the Great Bear, Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountains wilderness areas and several million acres of adjacent roaded and unroaded, public and private land.

A sophisticated population size study has been underway in the area using DNA analysis of bear fur snagged on numerous scent posts in the NCDE. One conclusion has been that the population size is well over 500 (good news). It seems to be more accurate and less expensive than older methods of counting grizzly populationsl

Unfortunately the funds for continuing this are not assured, and for next year they were cobbled together at the last minute.

Grizzly research deserves funding. Daily InterLake. Opinion (you can comment on this in the InterLake).






  1. Monty Avatar

    In the last Republican Presidential debate, Senator John McCain used the $3 million DNA Griz study as an example of foolish use of tax payers $’s. A politican will always use such examples–out of contect–to make a political point. Of course, McCain did not mention the billions that that are being shoveled into the “Iraq rathole”.

  2. skyrim Avatar

    Amen brother!

  3. Jean Ossorio Avatar
    Jean Ossorio

    Isn’t it odd that politicians in Western states are always railing against taxes, when many of the states in the West suck up many more dollars from Washington than they send there? News articles just covered the fact that New Mexico, for example, is the biggest suckling at the public teat, raking in $3.10 for every dollar sent to the treasury. (The national average is just about a buck.)

    Delaware, which is definitely sucking hind teat, gets only 42 cents for every dollar in federal taxes paid. Yet politicians from east coast states like Delaware are much less likely to pander to the anti-tax zealots than Westerners.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Interesting to hear that about McCain, Monty.

    I know a couple years ago many, including myself to some degree, thought highly of him.

    It’s unfair to generalize from one example, but there are so many more, and many posted on this blog, that I feel confident to say that the Republican Party is clearly an anti-science political organization.

  5. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    Q. Why are politicians, including anti-grizzly Republicans from the Western states, so supportive of this population study of grizzlies in the NCDE?

    A. An solid study of the NDCE grizzly population is a prerequisite for delisting grizzlies.

  6. Jeff Avatar

    Actually, there is nothing in the recovery plan relating to the size of the population beyond the number of allowable human-caused mortalities. Even with a ‘huge’ number of bears, that alone is not enough to consider delisting. The impetus for this study was from the local land and bear managers, not the politicians.

  7. Jeff Avatar

    Regarding the first posting, these are two different studies. The DNA-based project was conducted in 2004 to estimate population size. Since then, the State of Montana has been radio collaring bears to determine population trend. The two studies are linked, but separate. There has been no effort to continue DNA sampling post-2004, and the minimum count of grizzlies from that study is 545.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks for information, Jeff.

    So what is the current study about?

  9. Jeff Avatar

    The current study tracks the fate of collared female grizzlies (with a few males thrown in) to determine population trend (up, down, or stable). Other things include cause-specific mortality, reproductive rates, and with the GPS collars you can get into movements, resource selection, etc. The downside is it takes years to get a trend estimate, the collars are expensive and have a tendency to fail, and, of course, you have to trap a lot of bears.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It sounds like valuable information to me, but on the other hand, some people don’t like seeing bears, wolves (or any wild animal wearing a radio collar). In addition, there always seem to be some injuries and even mortalities during the process of trapping or darting the animal to have a collar emplaced.

  11. Jeff Avatar

    No argument here. I would prefer to use noninvasive techniques whenever possible, but there are some things you simply can’t get at without collaring. On the up side, the State is employing remote cameras to reduce non-target captures. I know some trappers up here who have had 0 non-target captures this year, which is great for the unlucky black bear (for example) who in previous years would have been drugged just to get out of the snare. Now they wait to activate a trap until they document a candidate bear visiting the site.

  12. Monty Avatar

    I agree Ralph, in 2000 I might have voted for McCain due to his stance on climate issues & my perception that he was a “green” republican


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan