The "grizzly-whisperer" and Old Man Lake female
Carrie Hunt has had great success but one “too friendly” griz is going to die-
Michael Jamison of the Missoulian has written a most interesting article about a so far gentle old Glacier Park sow who has resisted all efforts, including the most sophisticated (bear shepherding), to stop approaching people. It may be because the bear was not “shepherded” for two years.
Grizzly sow in Glacier will be killed. By Michael Jamison.
Added on 8/18/09. Grizzly sow, yearling cub killed in Glacier National Park. By Michael Jamison. Missoulian.
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.
40 Responses to The "grizzly-whisperer" and Old Man Lake female
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why cant we find an answer to this bears dilemma close the campsites we are in her land i think weneed to find another answer,why dont we move her to yellostone backcountry or just keep conditioning her we will raise money to fund this
Can’t private groups raise $ to help pay for C. Hunt to come back and reinforce this bear to stay away. That is really sad that there are not enough resources to save an American Icon but we can pour Millions a Day overseas to wars and other Diplomatic interventions
Apparently a major problem not just what she is doing herself. It is that she teaches her cubs that coming up to people is OK.
I say this assuming the article is correct about the cub’s behavior.
This is a sad thing to have happen, but there probably are not many alternatives. It is too bad they couldn’t place her in a zoo or someplace like that, but then again, is it right to confine a bear that has roamed free for 17 years? Don’t get me wrong, I am not against zoos.
Why don’t they send her to McNeil River where such bears ARE tolerated by people. There are other spots in Alaska that would welcome her. I have known bears like her and they really mean no harm . . it is the people who are problem. People shouldn’t be allowed to be around habituated bears without a knowledgeable guide. Perhaps they could hire a bear guide for the campground.
This could be a turned into a very positive situation if handled with outside the box thinking.
Shut down the area, IMHO. This is not a zoo, but a wild preserve. Two Medicine is my favorite area in Glacier and I Can tell you that the Old Man Lake campground is not in a good lcoation. This situation is IMHO a people problem, not a bear problem.
Call Glacier and let them know this plan is no good:
Punch 0 to get to op.
Linda, if they took her to Alaska wouldn’t there be a risk of genetic pollution since they are two different subspecies?
Any “wildlife management” problem is, at its root, about people. Collectively, “we” find the risk posed by this bear to be intolerable, even though she has yet to show overt aggression.
There have been other grizzlies with similar behaviors who ended up killing folks; GNP would likely have to settle a tort claim if she ends up killing or maiming someone (cf. Bear 15 outside YNP in ’83).
I don’t have my Herrero book handy, but it seems there was a guy killed in GNP in maybe 1980, likely by a habituated-previously-nonagressive male grizzly. That kind of thing sticks with a risk-averse agency that has to operate in a politically-charged, litigious context. (I’m offerring an explanation, not a justification, of the decision-making process that will kill this grizzly.)
I am sorry that this grizzly will meet an unjust fate, slain by our dominionistic, eliminate-all-risk culture. But as for spending lots of $$$ to “save” her (life sentence instead of capital punishment) or kill her in an elaborate way by hauling her to McNeil River, the same money could be used to secure private land habitat or keep many grizzLies out of trouble (bear-resistant cans, education, &c.). It will always be cheaper & more effective to work proactively, than to try to “re-condition” a habituated or food-conditioned bear.
This is a deplorable decision. Humans have lots of places to live and recreate. We are talking about removing a bear and cubs from their home territory so VISITORS will Not feel threatened. A 17 year old bear who has caused no real problems and doubtless has raised other cubs Who do not seem to be causing problems. THis is a bad decision
I doubt transferring her anywhere would be a humane solution, particularly somewhere distant and different like McNeil River that already has a dense population of predominantly larger bears and a very different environment. An older, smaller animal from a different area would find it very tough there.
Bears, like people, have tremendous variation in their personalities and a small minority that are naturally unafraid of people present a challenge for us fragile beings who can’t stand up to physical contact. A similar sow lived at the headwaters of a nearby river where I spend 10 days in late October every year. She had distinctive blond upper pelage and snow white ears (in contrast to the predominant dark brown color in this area) but her most distinctive trait was an inherent absence of fear of us right from the first encounter when she simply tried to walk right up to me in 1985. It was quite alarming, as was having her walk through the guy strings of our tent or fish just 15 feet outside the screen or suddenly step out of the brush and wade into a seine load of cohos we were trying to sample. I mentioned her to a local guide in 1989 and found out later he took a Texan up there the next fall. She was standing behind a log when the guy shot and he somehow missed but must have sprayed enough wood on her that she fled without giving him another chance. After that, we found other ways to deal with the problem. We applied flares and cracker shells when she approached too close and the USFS finally let us put in a wall tent where we could sleep soundly. Brown bears, more so than blacks, seem able to accept and abide by limits we set for extended periods of time. We began looking forward to the possibility of seeing her each year, admired her superb skill as a fisherman and watched her raise three sets of cubs. She eventually grew more timid, probably because of advancing age and the presence of considerably larger, more aggressive bears on the river. She would take at least three quick jumps before turning around with the typical “Oh, its just you!” reaction. I haven’t seen her in about 4 years but still notice hints of her color and boldness in newer generations.
If funds could be gathered privately, it sounds like further aversion work on the Glacier Park sow would be best (and perhaps rethinking the campground location) but transplantation would likely be less humane than shooting her and, as Ralph says, it is important not to condition more cubs in a heavily populated park.
I found this story incredible sad. We are not losing one bear but three and two to a zoo no less.
Why not close the area when she is in it.
We are the ones in her territory not the other way around.
I do agree about keeping people safe but removing people not the bear should be the solution.
I have sent $50 to start a fund to try to save this precious grizzly mom. If she is hazed more aggressively, perhaps that will teach her to stay away from people. People should sign a release that they are entering at their own risk and exempt the park and bear of responsibility should she turn violent and maul or kill a hiker or camper. This should be practiced in all parks, as bears will be bears and intruding humans should bear the responsibility of any dire outcomes, not the bears or parks.
Sap you stated: It will always be cheaper & more effective to work proactively, than to try to “re-condition” a habituated or food-conditioned bear.
I am not so sure we understand bears well enough for this to be a flat true statement. A bear who is comfortable around people is not automatically dangerous, just like humans who are comfortable around bears. There is a paper
which explores the possibility that habituated bears are LESS dangerous to humans as long as they are not food conditioned.
This is in accordance with what I have experienced with bears I knew in Alaska. It is possible that we have a basic misunderstanding of a bear like this in the lower 48 states and do not make allowances for the possible good outcome of bears who adapt to human presence in their territory.
Also, no research that I know of has been done on transporting bears to other places . . who is to say then, that a bear from Glacier would have a poor reception in Alaska . . no one knows that even it it seems like common sense to some of you I maintain there is a lot we don’t know yet about bears and I hope we learn more before we manage them out of existence.
From what I know of dogs and bear conditioning is that cracker rounds and bean bags are used first ….. and then only after the bear turns tail and a ways off. The dogs are then released to chase after. This is because the bear dogs are a breed that attachs themselves to the bear if they are close enough to get to them…and thus one ends up with dead dogs.
Without knowing all the details in this case I’d say the Park is not doing its job in continued work on this sow, not that a dog needs to be involved to make this bear stay away from people.
The reason for this may be that the Park does not have enough personel to do the job, the ones suppose to be doing it are scared of bears, don’t like to camp or stake out or would rather stay at their desks. Thus they bring in a contract person.
Since these contractors have to provide their own insurance supposedly the Park has reduced liability and tort claims.
Is the previous work that good? Has the success rate been that notable? Maybe, maybe not, but I’d have to say the Park has a vested interest in promoting a contractors “history” because a “proven track record” by the contractor means, again, the Park has less chance of tort claims and law suits by any affected public hurt by any bear.
What any public entity (in this case Glacier) needs to be looking into before hiring contractors or helping the contractor pitch for money from the public is finding out if the contractor is non profit or a for profit organization or company. Then they need to find out if that “company”, if non profit, is using the illusion of non profit sales pitch to the public to solicit funds or services when they may not be. Then they need to find out if this “company” has handled their present and past employees in a “fair manner”.
In otherwords what is the track record for output or personnel?? If a public entity does not do this check up they can even be more liable than they ever thought they would be.
Where I worked in Yellowstone the bear biologist personnel handled “problem bears”. They were very effective in this. They staked out campgrounds and when a bear in the back country was causing problems they staked out these locations immediately. Cracker rounds and bean bags were used with good affect. If a bear slips by these direct person measures a culvert trap was flown in to live trap the bear if needed. Then it is hauled to a different location.
Yes, Yellowstone had a three strikes and your out program but being on top of the issue alleviated a lot of this bear termination need.
If this Glacier bear is going to be in a known location then the Park has the responsibility to do something, not relinquish this responsibility to an outside contractor. There is too much time delay. It is like punishing a kid a month after the incident instead of right after it happens.
Dogs, as I said, are only the last of three steps. It is like sending the kids after the bully after you have already beaten him up and you kick him in the butt and say get. Put a shock collar on the kids pursueing the bloodied bully and then when they get too close, and might get hurt, you sap them and tell them to come back.
It is not quite as simple as that but you get my point. What I see here is Glacier Park shirking their responsibilities and then having a handy excuse for eliminating the problem they created.
After the word got around I was catching a fair number of poachers I had people approach me who wanted me to contract (go in business ) with them to catch poachers for public entities. Kind of like mercenary soldiers. I was a bit flattered at first but then realized the govt. should be doing their own poaching patrol. To contract this out meant they would not be training people or putting rangers in a position to learn and carry out effective patrol on a long term basis.
This is the same for any bear control. If the biologist is scared to stake out on his own on problem bears then he should either hire in house somebody who isn’t scared… or if he is the one with that resonsibility then he needs to transfer out.
Glacier is always going to have bear “problems”. They need a solid inhouse program to deal with any bear problem IMMEDIATELY, not contract out so someone can round up some favorite dogs and drive to that location.
From what I read of the Park staff having “three contentuous hours” trying to handle that bear means they weren’t doing the job before on this bear. Three hours means one had a comedy of sorts. Then they just threw up their hands…and the contractor chimed in with “if only I had the money to do follow up”. To follow this scenario would be like me as a poacher getter contractor saying “yup, them guys ben a poaching and the park can’t stop it. Thus without me getting the contract I guess we are just going to have to let them red necks keep right on a doing what they were”. No, if the conviction against poaching is there, I’d be telling the Park staff how they can do it on with whatever they can scrimp together to get it done. If the contractor actually cares more about bears than their dogs, horses or whatever they use then they try to do what they can also. if that doesn’t work then maybe join the NPS to do it the right way.
I am as critical of govt. as anyone I know but I still believe in the structure and purpose of PUBLIC SERVANTS. To farm out these duties (as compared to using them for instructors and teachers) to private contractors is just making the govt. and the skills they need less effective in the long run.
Think of private contractors doing military soldiering in Iraq and you get my point. it all gets way out of hand and there are too many conflicting purposes to deal with.
In the first paragraph I meant to say cracker rounds and bean bags are used first…and then when the bear turns tail and well away the dogs are cut loose. Rounds and bags are used right away, not waiting to use till after the bear turns tail.
Many people have called GNP to complain, but they keep responding with “aw shick,s, it’s so darn hard”.
I said this on my own site, but there is something particularly disturbing about this “Minority Report” style of animal management where we feel we can predict the future and persecute without any crime ever being committed. “Minority Report” was a Tom Cruise film in which powerful psychics could see the future and predict crimes before they even happened, created a perfect crime-free society.
How is the management of the Old Man Lake sow any different?
The campground itself is in a berry patch! That should tell you quite a lot.
I suggest people also call the Columbia Falls chamber of commerce and let them know about this:
Columbia Falls Area Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 312
Columbia Falls, Montana 59912
I have absolutely no problem cancelling my GLacier visit this year if this kill is carried out. That will leave a very sour taste in my mouth as I hike the Two Medicine country where this great bear roamed.
There is no if! The rangers are in the back country with high powered weapons and dart guns, even Carrie Hunt who is one of the strongest proponents of non-lethal management has stated this is the only solution given the circumstances, folks it is going to happen and the cubs will be taken to the Bronx zoo, if they can capture them…
Mike, I guess you will not be visiting Glacier next season…hope you find someplace that satisfies you as much..
By the way, the C. Falls chamber carries no weight with the park, so calling them is going to get you a “Thank your for calling, your concerns have been noted”
Mike I guess you will have to make other plans, I just received this in Email….:
Grizzly Bear Killed 300 Yards from Occupied Oldman Lake Campground
One yearling captured; other yearling died during tranquilizing operation
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – True to her nickname, the “Oldman Lake Bear,” the
female grizzly bear that park personnel have been tracking in recent days
and her two yearling cubs were observed Monday afternoon, August 17 about
300 yards away from, and heading towards, the backcountry campground at
Oldman Lake. After descending from Pitamakan Pass, two park rangers armed
with rifles, simultaneously shot and humanely-killed the adult bear at
approximately 4:3- p.m. Monday, Glacier National Park officials report.
Rangers were about to close the backcountry campground when they spotted
the bear family group. Backpackers were in the Oldman Lake campground when
rangers spotted the bear heading that way.
Park rangers were at Pitamakan Pass hiking south from Morning Star Lake
toward Oldman Lake when the group of three observed the female and her two
yearling cubs traveling the family group’s previously observed route into
the backcountry campground at Oldman Lake.
After the female was killed, rangers arranged for helicopter support and to
retrieve drugs to dart and tranquilize the two yearlings that remained in
the vicinity. The yearlings were darted over an hour later. One cub died
shortly after being tranquilized. Rangers attempted to resuscitate the
yearling by performing mouth to nose CPR, but to no avail.
“The unintended death of this yearling grizzly is a very unfortunate
outcome of a very difficult operation. The National Park Service will
conduct a thorough review of the cause of death of the yearling, but we are
also relieved to have captured the other yearling.” A necropsy (animal
autopsy) will be performed after the carcass of the dead yearling is
transported to the state laboratory in Bozeman.
“Unfortunately, this entire family group of grizzly bears had become overly
familiar with humans.” Cartwright explained that this is a condition in
which a bear repeatedly and purposefully approaches humans in a
non-defensive situation. Cartwright added, “Park resource personnel worked
to keep this bear and her offspring in the wild for five years, but given
her most recent display of over-familiarity in combination with her history
of habituation, we determined that the three grizzlies posed an
unacceptable threat to human health and safety; and therefore, needed to be
removed from the park.” The bears had been closely monitored in recent
weeks. The decision to remove the bears came only after a thorough review
of events and the bears’ overt “conditioned” behavior toward human contact.
Glacier National Park’s internationally-vetted Bear Management Plan and
Guidelines specifies that conditioned bears that display over familiarity
must be removed from the wild population. No zoos or other
federally-authorized captive facilities were willing to take an adult bear
at this time.
Documented encounters this July indicated that the female was highly
conditioned to humans as defined by Glacier National Park’s Bear Management
Plan and Guidelines. That, coupled with the female’s history of human
interaction dating back to 2004, led park managers to determine that the
bear posed an unacceptable risk to public safety, and needed to be removed
in accordance with the park’s Bear Management Plan and Guidelines.
Glacier’s bear management policy is to maintain natural population dynamics
and, to the extent possible, promote natural behavior in the presence of
humans. So far in 2009, three separate incidents had been documented
wherein the female grizzly exhibited behavior that could be classified as
“repeatedly and purposefully approaches humans in a non- defensive
situation.” The female was again demonstrating this same behavior on
Monday afternoon when she was shot and killed approaching Oldman Lake
campground. “Given the possibility that her offspring had learned this
type of overly-familiar behavior and the diminished chance of their
survival, we simply could not leave the yearlings in the wild. We deeply
regret the loss of the one cub, but are thankful that the other yearling
will soon be transported to the Bronx Zoo,” Cartwright stated.
The female had frequented the Morning Star and Old Man Lake backcountry
campgrounds, both in the Two Medicine/Cut Bank area repeatedly since 2004.
During that time, the female grizzly produced two sets of offspring.
Throughout this time, both the mother grizzly and her offspring approached
hikers, forcing hikers off trails, came into cooking areas while people
yelled and waved their arms at the bears, and sniffed at tents during the
night. Numerous efforts were attempted to haze the female and her
offspring away from backcountry campsites. Since 2004, a variety of
aversive conditioning techniques were used to discourage the bear and her
young from human interactions. Aversive conditioning is the application of
negative reinforcement aimed at behavior modification. Rangers used
noise, Karelian Bear Dogs, and other non-lethal stimuli to encourage the
grizzly to keep away from humans and backcountry campgrounds.
“Every effort was made to deal with the bear’s conditioning to humans in a
non-lethal manner; however, in accordance with Glacier National Park’s
widely reviewed Bear Management Plan and Guidelines, the NPS could no
longer allow this overly-conditioned bear to remain in the population and
pose a potential risk the safety of the park’s visitors,” said Cartwright.
“Glacier National Park’s Bear Management Plan and Guidelines are dynamic
management tools that receive periodic international peer review. The
plan and guidelines clearly state the conditions of how we manage Glacier’s
bear populations, both black and grizzlies. These tools also reflect the
best available knowledge and management techniques that bear managers can
employ,” said Cartwright. “As a protected species under the Endangered
Species Act, the decision to remove the family of grizzlies was not taken
lightly, but was the result of Glacier’s ongoing coordination with the U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service, the agency charged with administering the
Endangered Species Act.“
What constitutes how an animal is killed humanely with one rifle shot over another? I would like to know because I killed 140 buffalo this winter with rifles. Did I do it the wrong way. Were my shots possibly inhumane?
The fact Glacier PR would even categorize a killing makes me have no credibility in their spin on any story. Maybe the rangers waited until the cubs turned their eyes…ya thats it.
You were not there, as nobody else on this blog was there when you killed the Bison, and I really don’t think they care if they have credibility with you or anyone else, except of the people involved in the choice to take this action…
What a complete waste. They should of closed the backcoutry campground a long time ago. I would also lke to know why bob jackson kiled 140 bison with a rifle. Sounds like you are not one of the good guys
Keith the back country has been closed many times, over the last 5 years in this situation..I would suspect that Bob killed Bison, because that is what he does as part of his living as a Bison Rancher…
Not that I agree with the action taken, it would do a lot of people some good to do some research on the subject of this bear and her offspring as to why the action was taken, this particular bear has had a concentrated effort to avoid this action…
Then they should of kept the area closed, after all the bears live there we don’t. In human animal conflicts animals always loose even in their home territory. I frequently am in the backcountry. I am always aware that I am the visitor and yeild to wildlife at all costs. I do not expect nor do I want Anything managed to make it safer for people at the expense of wildlife. The loss of a breeding female and a cub is unacceptable. If bob is a Bison rancher then I apologize for calling him into question
Keith if it were only that simple, we would not read about sad stories of this nature…, you may very well accept the risks associated with back country travel, but if you were killed and eaten, would your family? Often times, I have talked to people who have ended up getting killed or maimed and guess what their family didn’t accept that outcome, despite your wishes…on all sides of this issue, there were no winners…
I have been injured in the backcountry but not by a bear. I accept responsibility for my actions and my mistakes and my friends and family accept that I am resposibe for my own fate. I do understand this is not the case for everyone.Liabilty and legal action to many times dictate actions that are against common sense and fairness. I do agree there are no winners here but I do not believe we should stand by and say or do nothing.
Next year when I am not working I want to go see Carrie Hunt and see what she does with bears. . . I have wondered about this for a long time. I have read about it but want to see it in action. There are a lot of things I don’t understand about dogs and humans . . . and a lot of things I don’t understand about bears. But, I can’t wrap my mind around killing a bear because it was too friendly.
“At McNeil River Falls State Game Sanctuary, in over 28 years and roughly 60,000 encounters between brown bears and people,a bear has never injured a person,nor has a bear had to be removed or killed.”
I keep thinking of two bears I got to know at Redoubt Bay lodge. . one was female and really loved posing for the camera. She would wait until people showed up and start performing. The other one named James by the guides would approach people while he was a sub-adult, mainly we think to get a good sniff. He touched people twice that I know of, but never charged, never swatted or ate human food. The fisherman who fish the nearby cove are used to fishing with brown bears within 10 feet of them and no one thinks this is unusual. People who guided there came to believe that the bears who were used to people and their quirky ways were safer to run into on the trail because they weren’t surprised or threatened and acted cool around people as long at the people were not too obnoxious. . like trying to run up to them or crowding them for pictures. I would rather run into James on a trail any day over a bear I didn’t know. So now they have this bear who was like that, but perceived as dangerous even though she apparently didn’t get fed or was not aggressive. That’s speculation on my part and perhaps someone will find out specific behaviors which made her dangerous other than being friendly . . like Save Bears said we weren’t there nor do we have all the facts. . but I can’t help react to the facts they gave us.
Alaska is a completely different place, things are managed very differently and tolerance is a completely different thing in Alaska than it is in the lower 48…In no way do I condone this action by the park service, but knowing some of those involved in the choice to do it, I can say, it was not an action taken lightly, I am sure there are tears in the eyes of many who work in Glacier this evening.
I do hope, that they learn and use this for a learning experience, and alter our management in the future…
The bears are dead, there is no changing that, if we don’t learn, then we have really lost a lot…
I was making a cynical comment concerning Glaciers Public Affairs office spin on the “compassion” involved in the “humanely” shot bear. That was all. I know very well what folks on the ground think in most cases.
Ok Bob, I guess I didn’t quite understand your response..
Thanks Save Bears . . I know it darn it. I have read Jack Olsen’s night of the Grizzlies many times and also the stories about the Craighead studies and I know that history has a little to do with this too, and they probably have no choice based on things in the lower 48 with the back country plaintiffs hiking into everywhere. I do understand . . I just don’t want to. So thanks for listening to me vent.
PS. Bob Jackson will you email me at email@example.com about where to get good bison meat. Thanks.
So they ended up killing the cub with tranq.
I was due to be in Glacier in September for some documentation work. I wil be cancelling that trip in all likelyhood. I have no desire to tread a path that has been “certified safe” for me by OD’ing a cub bear and gunning down a sow that never so much as bluff charged a human. I like to see proof before things like invading countires and yes, even killing wild animals that have a track record of showing no aggression. What’s next? Taking out great whites in the ocean because they can bite us? Well, don’t go swimming then. It’s the ocean! That’s what it does. It is no different in the mountains except we get around better on land.
This is some sick, arrogant garbage on display here in terms of the park actions.
I just heard a small bit on the news about a bear attack in Aspen or Vail. From what I think I heard, the bear broke into her home and scratched her up a little bit. On the news they stated it was a grizzly. I think that’s a little hard to believe but one never knows for sure.
Has anyone heard about this yet?
Cobra, if that bear was a grizzly then it would be the first one confirmed in Colorado in 30 years. If so that is a lousy way to discover one.
Anyone know where the cub went?
save bears–Bears in Alaska are no different than bears in Glacier, Yellowstone, or anywhere else. They adapt to specific situations.
As I recall, a grizzly was spotted by hunters near Aspen last year. There may have been some mention of it on this site.
This is sad killing a bear in it’s own territory, move the camp ground ,not kill the bear. Why is always killing the last resort. I cannot agree with you ,save bears, or anyone who thinks killing is a last resort..Again I add this is their territory, not ours,we are their to enjoy “wildlife”,at our own risk. That is why it is called wildlife, nature in all it’s glory,we should not be permitted to shape what is wild, that is my two cents.P.S. for McDonalds,they made enough money on fat filled burgers,now make something good like grilled fish, or a nice low fat grilled chicken sandwich.