Grizzlies home on range – again

For all those discouraged folks out there, I think this f- – – – ing wonderful!

Grizzlies home on range – again. By Karl Puckett. Great Falls Tribune Staff Writer.

Is anyone interested that grizzlies are abundant enough and northern Montana empty enough that grizzlies are spilling out onto the plains?





  1. Mike Avatar

    I think it’s amazing! I love that part of the country, it is very scenic and the wildlife is outstanding. I spent a day on the RMF near choteau on the way to Glacier trying to photoraph golden eagles. It really is surprising to think of all that prairie, and that grizzles and other animals we think of as “forest mountain” are actually out wandering out in that.

  2. Virginia Avatar

    So the grizzly bear is the state animal of Montana! Who would have thought? There is obviously no love or respect for their state animal by the citizens of Montana. I wonder if those ranchers are going to be forced to monitor their livestock more with the grizzly expanding its range. Another novel idea!

  3. Doug Avatar

    Montana and the feds, along with local landowners, need to do more work to prepare people in these areas for more grizzlies. I know the Nature Conservancy has been doing good work in preserving habitat and partnering with ranchers. I’d like to see a quasi-national park established in some part of the RMfront, where more native wildlife could take advantage of another ecosystem with differing food sources, while still incorporating some private land ownership and profit. Would be REAL hard to strike that balance though, would be great to have some managed bison herds out there that have more of a natural interplay with the other players in the ecosystem. How about it Bob Jackson? I know Ted Turner has been quite successful in having his bison herds co-exist with predators, thus more closely mimicking natural conditions while still allowing some profit/private ownership. Grizzlies along the Missouri again? jees that would be great!

  4. monty Avatar

    It would be wonderful if more of the grasslands, east of the “front”, were in pubic ownership. It’s mostly dry unproductive lands that is very poor cattle country. It’s too bad that the Buffalo Commons idea–bringing back the bison, in lieu of cattle, is not politicaly possible. I have always believed that if 25 percent of every state was in a “wild condition” we would have a healthier culture because it would demonstrate that our species accepts the reality that the earth & it’s resources are finite!. “Urbanization” degrades both the natural world & the human condition!

    I didn’t know that the grizzly is the state animal of this so? I do know that the state animal of California is the grizzly which is a joke as the last grizzly in California killed around 1900.

  5. nabeki Avatar

    This is wonderful news for the Great Bear. I hope they keep on going to the Missouri. How amazing would that be? If only people will be tolerant of them. This is their home range, they evolved on the plains. Go griz!!!

  6. nabeki Avatar

    monty Says:
    I didn’t know that the grizzly is the state animal of this so?
    State Animal – Grizzly Bear

    Montana is really the only one of the “lower” forty-eight states that has a grizzly population. By its very size, strength, and beauty, the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) represents an awesome spectacle. Montana itself shares that same characteristic.

  7. Elk275 Avatar

    ++So the grizzly bear is the state animal of Montana! Who would have thought? There is obviously no love or respect for their state animal by the citizens of Montana.++

    That is a half truth. Montana is a state divided. One half has no love or respect for the Grizzly, their only respect is for the Bobcat. The other half have total respect for the Grizzly.

    In the end of November the Grizzlies are going to thump the Bobcats and go on to win the national championship. It is very difficult being a lover of Grizzlies in a Bobcat town.

  8. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Elk275, I think that is the only love for a grizzly that Montana has. 🙂

    I liked how the article said that just because bears are seen does not mean there is a problem.

  9. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    Yes, I think it would be good, very good, for griz and buffalo to again be on the Plains. And it is physically possible. Politicallly, it depends on economic returns to the residents of that area.

    The Poppers of Bison Commons idea explored this and said a lot more money would be made if the ranchers did switch from cattle to bison. tourism alone would make it viable. I agree with them.

    Visually, animals in the Plains and Grasslands makes for much better “eye” viewing. i’d say this is because evolution had man in places more adapted to Plains than mts.

    But to do all this the catch is management, not placement. Humans have been horrible managers of wildlife, especially grazers. Todays big game academics and field biologists are at best kindergarden level. If you have seen the movie Tropic Thunder think of the character, Simple Jack, and you get the idea of what most all those biolgists look like in any meetings involving bison, elk or deer.

    Ted Turner, I think has good intentions but his advisors are former cattlemen. thus all his herds are raised like cattle. Not a good source for restoration. But of course the american praierie foundation’s American Serengetti on Mt.’s Missouri Breaks is of the same mentality. The bison they put on these lands in functionality would be similar to transplanting a bunch of 5 year old kids onto lands and then seeing how they would grow in to ecological sustainable populations. Neither Turners nor the Prairie Foundations animals have a chance in hell to establish functioning ecosystems in 100 years.

    As for bears, if there is to be functional numbers on grasslands without functional bison and elk populations there needs to be some massive plantings of native tubers and other edible vegetative sources for this true omnivore. othewrwise livestock depradations will be their ruin.

    A lot of this food source, so many forbs and broad leaves, got brushed and mowed by ranchers who thought it was just “weeds”. Most of the rest got trampled by cattle.

    Plains griz did have some fabulous lives in fertile areas of good grazer populations. They had so much food they didn’t even have to hibernate….just drag a bunch of grass together, curl up in a ball, sleep for a couple weeks and wait till the blizzard blew over.

    Yes, the view would be fantastic if functional herbivores and its predators would be allowed to live “under new management”. As it is now your biologists don’t have a clue of how to manage for it.

  10. Jeff Avatar

    Being a child of the plains I always imagined the great bears miles from their mountain refuge. It makes me optimistic about Wyoming bears crossing the red desert to Colorado the country south of Jackson (Wyoming and Salt River Ranges down the Grayback) to the Unitas of Utah are even more possible. Could any of the numerous bears in the Cody area cross the basin to the Bighorns?

  11. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    All incremental geographic increase will be dependent on the reach of similar food sources or generational time to learn to eat other sources of food. Elimination of man in itself does not means bears once again can move to where ever they want.

    Thus seasonal runs onto the “prairie” will be limited to seasons where food sources such as familiar berries being ripe occurs. Its either learn the vegetative food above and below ground over time or start living on a carnivorous food source. Omnivores can eat meat instinctively but need training to partake of the plant community.

    The domestic sheep forbidden fruit this one scouting bear ate is indicative of what this animal was limited to in ability to find foods from lack of ancestoral learning.

    Hopefully there are studies being done on what the bears heading out of the foothills are learning to eat.

  12. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Jeff, I think you will see grizzlies in the Uintas and the Bighorns before Colorado. Grizzles would probably have to be restored to Colorado.

    Bob, I too would love to see the Buffalo Commons. It would be great to restore a portion of the plains to what it used to be.

  13. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Bob & Doug – the Breaks are a truly wonderful place. My experience is late April and early May. You can go days out there and NEVER see another person. Usually too early for cattle and not too much interest in wild turkeys. It is green then also – sorry for the diversion. For bears you have a thriving elk herd, mulies and antelope – either direct kill or leftovers from the hunters. Also, could the bears not scavenge along the river for fish and freshwater mussels etc? Not sure about this, how about the reservior fluctuations providing for large areas of fertile vegetation to grow and bears to graze – this is certainly the case with the drawdown of the last decade.

  14. bigbrowntrout Avatar

    There is obviously no love or respect for their state animal by the citizens of Montana

    Virginia- sounds like you know alot about Montana. Take it from someone who lives here. There is plenty of love and respect for the great bear. Just not maybe be all. Dont try to pigeon hole everyone in the state as wildlife hating rednecks. We deal with bears every year, when we hunt, hike, mountain bike and spend countless days in Yellowstone.

  15. Virginia Avatar

    bigbrowntrout: I have lived in northwestern Wyoming all of my life and, yes, have spent lots of time in Montana. I have followed wildlife and conservation issues in both states all of my life and I think I probably have a good idea of the attitudes of many Montanans toward wildlife and related issues. I am relieved to hear that “there is plenty of love and respect for the great bear.”

  16. dewey Avatar

    Not just upper Montana. The Wyoming Game and Fish was trying to trap a collared female Grizzly along the Shoshone River near Ralston Wyoming last week, a small town between Cody and Powell about 20 miles from the Absaroka front in irrigated land amid the badlands of the northern Big Horn Basin. There have also been unconfirmed sightings of Grizzlies in the Pryor Mountains south of Billings MT. If I find out more about that Ralston incident and a couple of other lowland Grizzly trap and relocate operations near Cody , I’ll post back. I also believe that undocumented Griz have crossed the Wind River from the Owl Creek Mountains west of Thermopolis into the southern Big Horns . Wolves certainly have reentered the Big Horns .

  17. Doug Avatar

    Dewey – Please do post back, I’d not heard about grizzlies making tracks towards the Bighorns and Pryor Mts, but I’d assumed soemthing like this might occur at some point. Seems like the Pryors would be easier to get to, as far as avoiding humans, but it seemed like a lot of cattle when I drove thru that area last year. Lots of mixed forest/open areas that would seemingly be good though.
    The Bighorns I’d think would be good to, but any population would be fairly isolated, and could those mountains really accomodate more than 10-20 bears?
    Anyone with more knowledge of those areas care to weigh in on the food sources, topography, human development, and possible conflicts in the Bighrons and Pryor mountains? This site is such a godsend to keep up on these exciting (and too often troubling) developments! Thanks to the community!

  18. buck Avatar

    hi doug
    i guess i am in a posision to comment on the bighorn mountains as our ranch while growing up was right at the base of bald mountain just west of buffalo.
    as kids me and my brother had full run of this range from just south of kc all the way to the montana state line.
    i can personally attest that grizzlies were not only present but a small pack of wolves also had run of the same ground we did as kids. whether this was a good thing or not i will leave to you to decide.
    i personally would hate to see more grizzlies there, the bighorns are vastly diffrent than the rockys in the fact that they are not nearly as rugged and are great for a great source of hunting and fishing for the whole family. one can take his kids into the back country despite the roadless inicitive and still enjoy a SAFE experience. you still need to take the necissary precautions while camping but the chance of a bear dragging you out of your tent and eating you in the middle of the night is not nearly as great as it is in the sunlight basin area up around the cody area.
    i guess after seeing the damage done by the wolf and griz population and their competition for avalible food resources on the deer and moose and elk populations ( not to mention the other preditor species like this example
    it was finaly determined this lion was starving to death in what used to be a land of plenty.
    it’s kinda heartbreaking to think that the reason the griz is on the plains is becouse after the wolf introduction they have eaten themselves out of house and home

  19. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The grizzlies on the Rocky Mountain Front are fat, with record sized bears being produced. They don’t go out on the plains because other bears or wolves have eaten the food.

  20. jimbob Avatar

    “Montana is the only state with the combination of bears and habitat…’. Wish that wasn’t true. Arizona was once home to Grizzlies (less than 60 years ago) and I wish it was again. Sure rather see them than cows….which is the reason they are gone!

  21. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Dewey, I think it will be a matter of time before grizzlies do renter former haunts like you mentioned. As you mentioned, wolves have done it as well. I think the Owl Creeks are where the last wolf in Wyoming was shot before reintroduction. I think what the states of Wyoming and Montana need to do is educate the communities in these areas about grizzly dispersal.

  22. buck Avatar

    i haft to agree with you up to a point ralph. during the early elk calving season and while the fishing is good they can sure put on a lot of weight eating all those fresh born elk calves and spawning trout, unfortunitly later on in the year when they graze and suppliment their feeding with other feed that the other carnivors use regularly as a food supply their weight begins to drop off and in turn with the added wolf pressure from the previous winter kills ( the wolves best hunting time) the rest of the eco system starts to struggle. dont believe me ??? start watching the coyote activity
    all i am saying is that that otherwise healthy mountain lion is definity feeling the pressure of lack of feed, and i would prefer not to see that happen in the big horns. at present it’s still a wonderful place to back to nature SAFELY. it would be a shame to lose our access to it.
    yes it’s great to see the bears make such a great stand at a come back, and ill do all i can to help them, but like anything else if given a chance, unless disease or natural selection takes over and interupts the stress they are putting other species under now, the wandering into the low lands during their search for food due to lack of room and mid summer feed will more and more put that recovery at risk. i dont want to see all the hard work go for naught.
    i guess my advice is get in there, see for yourself and keep an open mind, try to see into the future what will happen due to what is happening now instead of sitting in front of the computer and reading someone elses opinion. I have and its quite an experience, i recomend it highly
    please dont believe me, go find out for yourself, get off the beaten path and into the back country, watch and learn, then dont take anyones elses word for anything. make your own common sense conclusions
    mine included


  23. buck Avatar

    went on a search, i thought i was a lone voice till i found it


  24. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    This post is about the Rocky Mountain Front. You seem to be talking about Yellowstone.

    You don’t need to tell me to get off the beaten path because I have been doing it for 40 years. I think you need to be sure you know where the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana is.

  25. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Jimbob, there are other states that could have the combination of bears and cover than Montana has, they just won’t reintroduce them.

  26. buck Avatar

    i apologize ralph, my initial reply was for jeff concerning the bears crossing into the bighorn as per his post above , sorry if you misunderstood.
    Jeff Says:
    November 2, 2009 at 9:39 PM
    Being a child of the plains I always imagined the great bears miles from their mountain refuge. It makes me optimistic about Wyoming bears crossing the red desert to Colorado the country south of Jackson (Wyoming and Salt River Ranges down the Grayback) to the Unitas of Utah are even more possible. Could any of the numerous bears in the Cody area cross the basin to the Bighorns?

  27. buck Avatar

    oops sorry, i ment doug AND jeff

  28. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I see you found one of Robert Fanning’s conspiracy theory articles.

    I wouldn’t take this seriously, but maybe he will show up and comment. He does every so often.

  29. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I couldn’t take him seriously.

  30. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I couldn’t take him seriously, especially if he is giving credibility to Balyeat.

  31. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    I go by what you said about finding your own conclusions. It seems you must be too surrounded by others of the same bias to make use of what you prescribe.

    A lot of us on this blog are or have been “out there” a lot. I was in the backcountry of Yellowstone for over 30 years, staying five months at a time…. some years where I didn’t make it any closer than 19 miles to the closest road. I hiked and rode 60-70,000 miles during this time. I “lived it” not just “got back there”.

    I come to totally different conclusion than you and your like kind comrades as to what is happening to elk because of wolves. What I saw happening was hunter kills go way up after wolves were reintroduced…and a G&F organization who did nothing to halt the slaughter.

    What I saw was wolves causing dysfunctional elk herds to “pack up” no different than one sees where peoples under stress of war move to common refugee camps. In Thorofare these massed elk were so easy to locate, hunt and kill. The outfitters griped because the wolves were moving elk from the spots they’d glassed the night before, but at the same time all those elk secure areas, those dense forested and down timber areas, where elk could live in forever by circling but never leaving, were now being flushed out.

    The outfitters knew why this was happening but another hunter and another $5 grand was more important. The outfitters shot out their resident “seed stock” and the G&F did nothing about it except blame the wolves for killing the elk.

    Buck, there is a functional non hunted resident Yellowstone elk herd of 300 before wolves and 300 after wolves. I patrolled this area all the time. Now if those wolves were that much of a killer why did those elk numbers not plummet? And to take it one step further why were there so many elk and wolves Pre Whiteman…and even after Whiteman when it was repeatedly recorded of these grand amounts of grazers?

    Yes, think independent of others and you may have a chance to veer a bit off your fellow comrades.

  32. buck Avatar

    hi guys
    i seem to have accidently hijacked the thread, believe me it was not intentional.
    i will say i dont think fannings theory is able to totally hold water, and untill i discovered his site i didn’t realize anyone had put any of it in words. but that being said i have also observed a few of the same things he has, althou i think he is overstating it quite a bit. as mentioned i thought i was a lone voice as to the observation of the lower rung preditors plight becouse i was not surrounded by ” others of the same bias ”
    i cant speak to how things are going on the rocky mountain front since i have never spent time there. just that i would hope what has happened in ynp doesn,t follow suite into the bighorns. at present the elk herds their are healthy and able to pack up when threatened, just like they do naturally, the mountain lions, coyotes, and other preditors are surviving well, all this is likely to change if the exsisting wolf and bear population is added to. and i would hate to see that happen. in my humble opinion clouds peak wilderness is in far better shape than ynp ever was becouse no one has put their managment agenda ahead of commons sense.
    if the keysone preditors population were to double on both the east and west side of the bighorn faces becouse the griz/wolf dynamic changed, im afraid not only the prey would suffer, but so would the other preditor species and so would the ability of people to be able to enjoy these beautiful mountains.
    thanks everyone for being so patient and letting me vent my observations, ill go back to just watching and lurking here so the thread can continue as it should- on the rockys


  33. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Your thoughts are welcome, buck. Did you say you lived at the base of Bighorns? I’ve only been there once, but know the part of Wyoming to the west and southwest well.

  34. buck Avatar

    yes ralph
    easy description of where it was is as you come down 14A and just break out of the mountains going into buffalo if you look south you will see fort mckinney ( now the wy soldior and sailors home), if you look past the fort and clear creek you can see the north side of our old ranch. the only place closer was the thom place
    it was a easy ride thru the game preserve at the fort up the river into the hills above, once their a kid could travel for miles, north south or east. It,s a wonder to me know that the folks would let us cover all that country as we were no more than eight or nine years old at the time up till we were in out late teens. and you know how boys are, we had to stick our nose into every hole and soak out fishing line in every little creek from the hole in the wall plumb up to the crow reservation and over to the thermop drainage.
    it was great fun and im just glad we survived it , now thou i only get there seasonally.

  35. Doug Avatar

    Wouldn’t you like others to experience the smae things you did when you were a kid? I think having wolves and grizzlies in an area rarely can put you in danger, and mostly heightens your awareness and enjoyment of the ecosystem. I appreciate your insight on what it was like back in the day. Thanks!

  36. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    you could have not put it any better.

  37. buck Avatar

    hi doug
    sorry but i respetfully disagree, having two keystone preditors ( one that operates year round ) will definitly put people at risk, especially a couple of young kids running around like a couple of wild indians lol. the risk i fear will come from two sources primarily. the yearling sow griz with cubs and other lower level preditor species that are despretly searching for either fresh game or carcases to scavange from. (theirs nothing like having a bear in camp at 2:00 AM and your not even in a tent) try camping in the sunlight basin area (or crandall area north of cody) one time if you dont believe me
    as far as having others enjoy the same things as i did as kids is exactly my point, they are able to today becouse of things have changed little if at all since i was a kid, I am unsure how long ago you thought i was talking about but remember this was only 20 or so years ago, and our yearly trips back into the bighorns continue in the summer months these days into my old haunts. far as i can tell things are as safe as they ever were.
    i wasn’t sure how to take that comment about back in the day ha ha , even at the ripe old old age of 47 i can can still outhike and out ride most of the whipper snappers i see kicking around up in the hills lol.


  38. buck Avatar

    here jeff
    here’s a article on the bear that has been down the willwood
    also in the nov 10th issue of the powell tribune a motion detector camera on the end of a house snapped a pic of the griz in the driveway of phyllis preator on road 19 1/2.
    WAY to close to town now to be letting kids walk around unescorted.

  39. dewey Avatar

    A followup to a post I made on November 3. Wyoming Game and Fish killed the 3-year old collared female Grizzly near the small town of Ralston WY that had eluded them for almost 3 weeks after being reported there on October 26. This bear, which had previous been trapped and relocated three times, was deemed habituated and the killing necessary , although it is very unclear if she was involved in any ” incidents” this time around. The area where te bear had been frequenting was the riparian zone of the Shoshone River between Cody and Powell WY , just north of the McCullough Peaks badland hills. A brief Google Earth check puts the site of her capture as being 14 miles from the area’s prominent landmark Heart Mountain, 23 miles from Pat O’Hara Mountain on the Absaroka front range, and 32 miles from the Absaroka wilderness boundary ; all well away from the mountains and well into the cultivated lands and Big Horn Basin low country. The site is 33 miles SSW of the Pryor Mountains and 48 miles west of the Big Horn Mountains. It might be worth noting that several farmers in the Heart Mountain area have been reporting unusual numbers of Elk on their pastures already , following the intense cold and snowstorms of early October that ruined the area’s sugar beet crop. Elk have been taking up yearround residence away from the Absarokas further out into the Big Horn Basin in recent years, in areas where they have not been seen for many decades if ever.

    Even though this young female Grizzly had a radio collar, it still eluded Wyo Game and Fish for weeks even though she remained in the same area.

    A sidebar: I still have not heard any more info about an incident over a month ago where a Cody elk hunt outfitter guiding a paid hunter near the Yellowstone Park boundary in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Shoshone River somehow killed a grizzly bear. It was initially reported that this was not a self-defense incident since the bear was a ways off and it’s not clear who did the shooting or even if the bear was charging or otherwise threatening the outfitter and hunter, or had laid claim to an elk carcass. There has been nothing more said of this one. That and the relative lack of info on other human-grizzly conflicts and bear mortality in the Cody area disturb me. A grizzly was trapped and relocated recently when it killed a Shetland pony near Cody.

    Grizzly denning time cannot come soon enough this year.


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Ralph Maughan