Grizzlies in central Idaho is a politically difficult thing

Evidence is grizzly restoration would be much easier if some would just migrate in as opposed to reintroduction-

This article covers a lot of topics about grizzly recovery, bear tracking, restoration, and politics.

Grizzlies in the Bitterroot Mountains politically thorny. By Rob Cheney.  Missoulian






  1. cc Avatar

    This is a rare, well-rounded article on grizzly recovery. For those of us able and inclined to give to charities, Vital Ground seems like a worthwhile group to support:

    “Since its founding in 1990, Vital Ground has helped to protect and enhance more than 604,000 acres of wildlife habitat in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, and British Columbia” (

  2. dewey Avatar

    The dichotomy between Idaho and its next door neighbor Wyoming leaves me with great exasperation towards both states’ bear policy. My state, Wyoming , has an excess of grizzlies, by some parameters. Idaho has millions of acres of excellent habitat, but the grizz cant get there from here easily. That’s becasue Wyoming has a “Fence In” policy towards grizzlies. The artificial and political boundary of the primary conservation zone surrounding Yellowstone in the northwest quadrant of the state is virtually fenced like an imaginary zoo. Any bear that wanders outside that area is trapped and relocated back inside the zoo, or destroyed. And those mortalities do not count against the human-caused mortaltities quota for grizzly recovery, because the bears were ” out of bounds”. Tresspassing, as it were.

    It is precisely this Gaza-like containment policy that keeps grizzlies bottled up in Wyoming, preventing their natural expansion back intot heir former range and domains. Consequently , Wyoming should have grizzlies in the Pryor Mountans, the Big Horns, the southern Wind Rivers, the Wyoming and Salt River Ranges, but does not. And this island allows few corridors to nearby states for the bears to naturally traverse, especially towards Idaho…too many beet fields and farms in the way. There is no easy way for bears to travel a corridor to link up with the Unitah Mountains on the Wyoming-Utah border, or head northwest out of Greater Yellowstone towards the rest of the Northern Rockies. The bears would like to got here, but can’t, not without a lift from their human zookeepers. The trapping and relocation of errant or wayward grizzlies seldom if ever gets around to interstate travel plans. Some orphaned cubs are spayed and neutered and sent to zoos, but that’s about it.

    Which begs the question: Why aren’t Wyoming’s “surplus” grizzlies given the opportunity to populate interior Idaho , or the Bitterroots, by relocation ? The short answer is politics.

    The so-called recovery plans for Grizzlies and Wolves are political plans, not ecological frameworks. They are written of for and by people for mitigating the bears and wolves impacts on people. They are NOT written or carried out with the carnivores interests at the fore. Wyoming’s grizzly management and stalled wolf plans are based on that most worthless and useless of tools in the wildllife conservation toolbox, that being Money.

    Logistically , it would be very easy to move Wyoming’s unwanted bears a couple hundred miles west to a new home in central Idaho’s vast wilderness, where they belong. But the politicians keep getting in the way of that for petty provincial reasons…reasons that cannot be justified .

    It demonstrates how unwise we really are when it comes to ecological wildlife management . Wyoming and Idaho’s state game agency personnel and commissioners are political creatures. Their jobs depend on it. Regrettably.

  3. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Dewey, I agree with your sentiments. It is amazing how Wyoming keeps grizzlies and wolves in the zoo as you put it. There is plenty of suitable habitat available in the mountain ranges you mentioned. I agree that the “surplus” bears could be relocated to Idaho or other states.

  4. Carl Avatar

    Dewey, thanks for your informative post, I was not aware that this was occuring in WY. CC, For a relatively small organization I think Vital Ground has done a great job. I have been a long time supporter. I was actually raising a few pennies for them on Goodsearch when I checked into Ralph’s site and saw your note.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The biggest migration barrier to grizzlies in Idaho is the Sheep Experiment Station, squatting on the Continental Divide, right in the way of all migrating wildlife.

    I see the Greater Yellowstone Coalition has an alert on on the Station’s EA, the first environmental documentation they have ever had to do.

    Western Watersheds Project is also working hard on the matter.

    You can still comment on their EA

  6. Mike Avatar

    A grizzly was killed near Fish Creek in the Bitterroots a couple years back. Perhaps that bear was key to this whole thing. Also, there were a couple confirmed sightings in the Sapphire range a couple years back. That’s not too ar from the Selway-Bitteroot at all. It would have to cross the Bitterroot Valley though…..probbaly up near Sula to not be bothered.


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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