Death of whitebark pine results record number of WY grizzly captures this year

Hungry grizzlies at lower elevations, find livestock, along with natural food-

Although federal grizzly bear managers have been sanguine about the the death of whitebark pine in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, the effect on the grizzlies is obvious in Wyoming. They have come down from the subalpine where the whitebark pine will never again have a good year. As federal bear managers predicted, the grizzlies have found food at lower elevations. They love bluegrass, but the trouble is cows are often standing in it.

Wyoming grizzly captures on record pace this year. Bears might be coming to lower elevations in search of food. By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Cory Hatch’s story makes the low elevation grizzly’s presence sound like a puzzle, but I changed the head because the cause is obvious.

Sept. 9, 2010. Related. Grizzly bear trapped near Cody, moved. Billings Gazette.



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  1. Craig Avatar

    So they just skip eating army cutworm moths or is it only a few Bears that do that or have learned it?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I imagine they will keep eating the cutworm moths, but that is a summer food.

    I don’t know how many bears have learned about the moths.

  3. Craig Avatar

    I thought from the show I watched they went up late summer to feed on them, but you know how accurate some of the shows are with real data.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I’m not quite sure exactly when grizzlies eat the moths except it has to from early to mid-summer when alpine flowers begin to bloom and not later than the end of alpine bloom because the moths are there for the flower’s nectar.

    There also has to be rocks, best talus, for the moths to hide under during day. As you know, the moths feed at night.

    There are supposed to be large concentrations of bears in the high Absarokas, but I wrote a guide to the area and never saw more than one bear at a time.

    There are also sometimes concentrations of other insects up high. I know the area around McDonald Peak in the Mission Mountains is closed during part of the summer so the bears can have unmolested access to vast numbers of lady beetles.

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      Three or 4 years ago, I did business with a couple in Bozeman and she was finishing up her dissertation on grizzlies and cutworm moths. A copy should be in the MSU library.

  5. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    Grizzlies in abundance dining on Cutworm Moths was one of the worst kept secrets of the middle Absarokas. I’ve seen videos done by a Middle School science teacher who’s an avid backcountry user, showing 12 or more bears on one moth slope . The anecdotal evidence was a high percentage of the ” local” bears were utilizing the moth slopes

    The emerging concern is a very sharp decrease in the numbers of returning moths , which originate in the Midwest and migrate into the Rockies in early summer. It’s theorized that increased use of pesticides , climate change , and other habitat factors in the Midwest industrialized farm country may be impacting the numbers of moths that make it to the high country. Same as with Monarch butterfly numbers falling and Neo-Tropical bird migration numbers collapsing. It’s getting much harder to be a transcontinental migrator of any species these days. The only migratory critters I’ve seen increasing their numbers in recent years are American White Pelicans, Canadian Geese ( now non-migratory in greater numbers ) and Turkey Vultures. But I’m not a researcher , just a casual observor .

    In the case of Grizzlies in my backyard, the loss of Yellowstone Lake cutthroat trout numbers, Whitebark Pine collapse, and diminished cutworm moth feedgrounds can only cause bears to roam further and lower in elevation to make up the difference for their fat and protein. Conflicts will undoubtedly increase, and a great deal of this can be laid directly at the feet of the State of Wyoming and its Game and Fish Department for not allowing grizzlies to disperse outside their immediate Yellowstone ” primary conservation area ” , which is a euphemism for a fenceless zoo.

    Lack of Dispersion , by fiat , is sorely lacking in both Grizzly and Wolf management in the Greater Yellowstone , compounding the problems.

  6. Linda Hunter Avatar

    This was in the article:

    Earlier this summer, an angler was injured in the Union Pass area by a bear that, coincidentally, bit through the man’s can of bear spray.

    I didn’t hear about this incident. Can anyone tell me what happened?
    Also are they using the same depredation incidents against bears that they use against wolf packs?

  7. Bryanto Avatar

    I once went up into the alpine in the Teton Wilderness east of Grand Teton NP in late August, and there were huge numbers of grasshoppers and Mormon Crickets ,and bear feces everywhere that apparently had been eating them,so they use a variety of alpine insects,plus many diggings for tubers,such as Bistort etc. But without a good nut crop, they will have a hard time putting on fat for the winter. One idea I’ve had is to introduce Kokanee Salmon to Jackson, Lewis and Shoshone Lakes,which spawn and die in the autumn,therefor providing a good source of fat for bears. Those lakes already have various non-native fish so it wouldn’t threaten native Cutthroat Trout.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      Can Kokanee thrive in lakes such as these where there are lake trout?

      1. Wyo Native Avatar
        Wyo Native


        The answer is yes. All you have to do is look at Flaming Gorge Res, here in southwest Wyoming to find that answer. This body of water is loaded with Trophy Lake Trout, and the best Kokanee population in the lower 48.

        The Kokanee fishing on the Flaming Gorge is so good, with many large 4+ lb fish, that there are many people around the country who now plan trips just for Kokanee fishing.

        However the Kokanee population does take some supplemental stocking since the illegal introduction of Burbot (Ling) a decade or so ago. The Burbot have been found to really decimate the Kokanee spawing beds, which has affected the natural recruitment of the fish.

      2. Ken Cole Avatar

        Yes, they could Ralph but I’m not sure that another non-native fish would be the best way to go. Kokanee are a very prolific fish and would fill the role that cutthroat did but I don’t know what other implications there would be. They are planktivores for a large portion of their lives so it is hard to say how they would affect native cutthroat.

        Who knows maybe they would benefit cutthroat because they would provide them with a source of food in the fall by providing them with eggs.

        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

          The thing about Kokanee being put into Heart and Shoshone Lakes is that they were originally fishless. Lake trout were planted in them. These fish remain today. I’m not sure how much they are fished. It would be nice of they were contributing to feeding the bears and all the other wildlife that use fish that come to the surface.

      3. JB Avatar


        I’m not sure your question is answered simply. It seems to me that there are numerous ecological factors that make a particular water body suitable for any particular species–and these generally vary.

        The potential of having Asian carp in the Great Lakes has caused a huge stir among governments and management agencies here in the Midwest. However, as invasive as these species can be given the right conditions, a fish biologist here at OSU who specializes in reproduction has recently gone on record asserting that the conditions in the Great Lakes simply are not conducive to Asian carp reproduction. They require a very specific temperature range to spawn, one that very rarely occurs in Great Lakes tributaries.

        Anyway, it is something to consider…

      4. Ralph Maughan Avatar


        As it turns out Shoshone Lake, Heart Lake and Lewis Lake have a variety of trout in addition to lake trout.

        I’d forgotten I’d caught brook trout after hiking into Shoshone Lake!

        Reading about them, Heart lake seemed like the best bet to try kokannee.

        I wonder if there is any reliable information whether the brown, brook, or cutthroat trout now in these lakes provide any real nutrition for bears.

      5. Bryanto Avatar

        The thing about Kokanee is that they die after spawning,unlike trout,therefor making an easy meal for scavenging animals. I do NOT propose introducing them to Yellowstone lake were they would likely compete with young Cutthroat for plankton,but in other lakes and reservoirs in the region that have already been stocked with non-native trout,what could it hurt? Heart lake originally had Cutthroat only,then Lake trout were introduced,and the Cutthroat population crashed,although they are still there. Kokanee might take some of the pressure off Cutthroat from Lake trout in that lake.


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