Sloppy food storage habituates grizzly bear at or near private campground west of West Yellowstone-

Soda pop, garbage, food in coolers, and bird seed kills female grizzly.

Story in the Bozeman Chronicle. By Daniel Person.

Does anyone know which private campground this was?

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

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.

149 Responses to Montana FWP euthanizes grizzly bear that “frequented” campground

  1. jon says:

    stupid and irresponsible people giving a bear a death sentence. These people need to be charged and fined.

    • Jon I realize it is easy to hate people and love animals instead, but it usually that people are focused on something else when stuff like this happens. Hating them isn’t a way to help them focus on animals when they are camping. Rules and regulations are not as strong in shaping human behavior as first hand experience. Rather than fines it would be wonderful if we could have these people attend the death of the bear, get pictures of it or somehow experience it.

  2. skyrim says:

    dunno for certain which campground but Baker’s Hole comes to mind. In the past they have had their share of bears/problem bears.

    • Mike says:

      Baker’s Hole is a USFS campground, though. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they had issues, too.

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Bakers Hole is not a private campground.

      • Salle says:

        And it is located North of the town. the only private campground out the west side of West Yellowstone is the KOA. Further down in the comments someone pointed out the volume of trash and visitors who use this place is an issue in itself for the bears in the area. All the other campgrounds in the area are USFS land and then there are a considerable number of “primitive” camping areas nearby.

        There is also a situation of what I call “willful habituation” where someone purposely feeds the wildlife and even considers those animals possessions. this could well be a factor in this case as there is a person who is known for this activity yet nothing is done to deter them. I think it is a case of willful ignorance on the part of authority figures and so nothing is done except that bears find their way into town and get into trouble like in this case.

  3. Elk275 says:

    There are three private campgrounds in the Greater West Yellowstone area or a approximate radius of 5 miles.

    Madison Arm Campground
    Lionshead Campground
    Madison Arm Resort

    West Yellowstone proper is a 160 acre parcel that was created as an enterance to the west gate over a hundred years ago. It appears that the railroad was given land when they bought the train into West Yellowstone. There is an additonal 200 acres subdivision north and adjacent to the community which is for single family homes and was created in the early 80’s. I do not know the history of this subdivision and how the land was patented from the USA.

    Within a 10 miles distance there are a number of subdivisons and private holdings. The bear could have gotten in touble at private homes and/or campgrounds. I am sure the bear was eating any human food that was not properly stored, he just got caught in the campground

    Now Jon are we going to go the guilty campground and copied the guest list for the last 3 years and send everyone who stay in that campground a ticket. Things do not work that way.

    • Salle says:

      Madison Arm campground and the resort are the same place which is located five miles out on the Madison Arm. Lion’s Head Resort is at least eight miles from town and the KOA is 6.5 miles west of town. Further up Targhee Pass are some other places but the point is, there is a high volume of tourist population, most of whom aren’t savvy about bears and/or other wildlife.

      Someone mentioned to me yesterday, we were talking about this latest bear killing, that calling YNP a “park” gives the impression, to many, that this is something akin to Disneyland or Six Flags or the city park with a zoo. When people get to West Yellowstone they ask a lot of questions that anyone who had a clue about the place would know better than to ask. things like: “When do they let the bears out?” or “When do they turn on the geysers?” and “Where’s the nearest Walmart?” They don’t notice that they drove for hours without seeing a single store over 1500sqft since they last saw the Interstate… So why should it matter if they leave the garbage and coolers outside? someone gets paid to pick up the garbage, or so they believe, and then there’s the “just this once” element that takes place several thousand times a day…

      As an old buddy used to tell me, “…if people had to actually suffer the consequences of their actions we’d have a smaller, smarter population of humans…” Or something very much like that.

      And to add to that,

      “[We are] mistaking value for cost.” (Paul Simon, 2011).

  4. JC says:

    My daughter works at the KOA Campground just west of West Yellowstone, and her boyfriend does night security there. They told me yesterday that FWP captured a grizzly that had been frequenting the KOA. No confirmation that it was the grizzly that was killed, but it seems likely.

    • JC says:

      I might add that they also told me that they get around 1200 people a night staying there during peak. That’s a lot of garbage to manage. They also call the FWP to write tickets to those who violate bear restrictions by doing things like leaving coolers out or not cleaning up after meals. When a ticket is written, the KOA evicts the camper.

  5. Why is it called euthanizing?
    The animals was neither sick nor old.
    Why not call it what is is?
    “Montana FWP kills grizzly bear that “frequented” campground”

    Animal euthanasia (from the Greek meaning “good death”) is the act of putting to death painlessly an animal suffering from an incurable, painful, disease.

    • william huard says:

      It’s just like a lion or rhino shot in an enclosure being called an active management hunt in South Africa. It almost sounds ethical

      • jon says:

        Does it irk anyone else when people say harvest? Harvest is killing. Why don’t they just say killing? It’s like they are trying to hide what it really being done here and that is killing. When you shoot a wolf or cougar, you are killing it, not harvesting it.

        • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

          The use of “harvest” has been discussed on this blog for years and among wildlife enthusiasts for decades. Not a new issue. The us of “harvest” refers to the wildlife management principle of “harvestable surplus” and the emphasis that this use of the public wildlife resource is socially sanctioned and managed as a sustained benefit of society.

          • Alan says:

            I have no problem with folks who hunt for food, though I do consider it a bit barbaric; but a term like “harvestable surplus” is repugnant to me. These are living, breathing creatures; born into this world just as I was, eating and breathing just as I do, feeling just as I do. Born something other than human through no fault of its own. Though nearly everything kills in order to live (even a deer will chew a shrub down to the ground and kill it), at least as human beings we should be able to appreciate the fact that something is dying so that we may live.

        • Mike says:

          Jon – it’s a word used by poeple who feel a tinge of shame at what they’re doing, and kind of want to go about the same path without feeling guilt or remorse. These are the people who never have trouble falling alseep, because their levels of self awareness have never grown.

          The rest of us carry them into the future.

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            It would be as rediculous and presumptuous for me to explain what hunters (e.g.) mean when using the term “harvest” as it is for you. Your opinion is clear and instructive for it’s contribution to this brief discussion. The hunters that I have first hand experience and knowledge of (myself included) use the term “harvest” with pride – for the reasons I explained in my previous post.

          • william huard says:

            I didn’t think sociopaths felt remorse or guilt. They sure think they are smarter than everyone else. It’s too bad we couldn’t have an “inbred” management hunt. There’s a “surplus” in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana

          • jon says:

            From George Wuerthner,

            “Personally, I don’t use the word “harvest” when talking about killing wildlife. That kind of terminology in my mind minimizes what is being done–the killing of another creature–and I think words like “harvest” desensitizes one to what is happening.”

          • jon says:

            LOL @ William’s comment

          • Elk275 says:


            Not only is there a surplus of “inbred” in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, but there is a surplus of “inbred” everywhere in the USA and the world. There is a surplus of “inbred” in your state, Jon’s state and Mike’s- state. I have spent over two years total time traveling the world with my own money, there is a surplus worldwide.

            If that bear was “killed” because of sloppy campers in West Yellowstone, over 90% of those campers were from out of the the tri state area.

    • Alan says:

      Why is it called “harvesting”? The hunter does not plant or nurture the animals he kills.
      These terms are used because they are more palatable to the general public.
      I’ve started correcting folks now when they say that they saw wolves kill an elk. I say, “Oh, you mean they ‘harvested’ an elk?”

      • jon says:

        very good point alan,

        Mark, when a wolf kills an elk. is the wolf harvesting the elk or killing it?

        • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

          jon –
          Of course not; wildlife “harvest” is a human concept used to describe a use of a common trust wildlife resource that is socially approved and managed for sustained benefits to society. Harvest remains a relevant and useful term because hunting wildlife, including wolves and bears, is one of a number of beneficial uses of our wildlife resource, each of which is mutually compatible, serves the needs of our society and provides desired social benefits from our wildlife resource.

          • william huard says:

            Do you have those talking points memorized or do you read from a specific IDFG memo? The BS is flying today. Harvest is a term used to sanitize our brutal treatment of animals. Would you consider “sport killing” a sustained benefit to society?

          • Harley says:

            Why do you have it out for Mark? Just curious. From what I can see, and I could be completely wrong, but from what I’ve seen, the man looks like he’s just trying to do his job. Sometimes, through your posts, I can just see that forehead vein throbbing with your anger. Is it Mark specifically or is it anyone associated with his job?

          • Phil says:

            Harley: Because Mark defends to the fullest extent anything and everything that the Fish and Game does that harms individual animals within a species, and the species as a whole. Whether it is needed or not, moral or not, ethical or not, the defense of his organization by using a persuasive argument to make us believe that the Fish and Game functions for the betterment of wildlife (or even mankind) is purely shady.

          • william huard says:

            And to add to Phil’s point. Mr Gamblin was no where to be found when the “secret” internal document about IDFG’s real intentions with the Idaho wolf population (remember the remove wolves from Idaho by any means necessary) Now that the Idaho wolf slaughter is eminent and Idaho will get their way (without a fair chase ethical hunt) Gamblin is here to report back to IDFG how the public is reacting and to add the IDFG propaganda line when necessary, ie sustainable and viable wolf populations etc

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            You are somewhat off topic with your “sport killing” question, but it’s easy to answer. As you ask it, you imply that there is such a thing as “sport killing”, something I have no knowledge of in the lexicon of wildlife management or responsible wildlife policy – which the concept of wildlife “harvest” belongs to. Just the same, I’ll assume that you pose a hypothetical question about the act of taking life as a means of recreational gratification and further, could that recreational gratification be considered a socially accepted beneficial use of public wildlife? My personal opinions are less important, but I’m confident that my values are in synch with the majority of Idahoans – that killing, taking of life purely for personal gratification would be repulsive. Which makes your question irrelevant because the North American tradition of hunting and the values that tradition is based on emphasizes respect for each species and each individual animal that is hunted. The tradition has always emphasized the responsibility to kill cleanly, quickly, humanely – the antithesis of your implication that “sport killing” could be somehow connected to the topic at hand.

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            What secret internal document are you referring to? The Idaho wolf management plan, objectives and management alternatives to achieve those objectives have been openly described and discussed for the last couple of years.

          • Jay says:

            So explain coyote derbies and rodent plinking, Mark? That is killing for “sport”.

          • PointsWest says:

            Jay…I used to kill ground squirrels. We never called it sport but we enjoyed doing it. I suppose I would compete with my brother as to who was the best shot so it could be defined as sport. It sharpened my hunting and shooting skills tremendously. The land owners were grateful we killed the squirrels.

          • william huard says:

            First of all I am not Phil, and Phil is not me. I asked a very straight forward question about sport killing while we were all on the subject of “harvest”.
            “The tradition has always emphasized the responsibility to kill cleanly, quickly, and humanely”
            That’s pretty good mark because for the last year wolf supporters have had to endure the gut shooting and SSS comments because your constituents couldn’t get to sport kill wolves.

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            Sorry William, your’s and Phil’s comments become indestinguishable. Not my intention to lump you together and I respect your desire to maintain your individuality.
            Your endurance of threats, boasts, and rumors of illegal activity (gut shooting wolves, SSS, etc.) is another digression/diversion away from the topic at hand. It has nothing to do with the concept of wildlife harvest, or the ethical principles of the North American tradition of hunting.

        • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

          Good question. I don’t pretend that the disagreement, discomfort and strong objections to North American hunting in all of it’s traditions – is clear cut or unambiguous. Points West provides his personal experience (below) with the example I’ll focus on. Shooting coyotes and other predators, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, jack rabbits, etc. is a long condoned and ethusiastically pursued activity for many North American hunters, for generations. It has always been condoned and promoted as a beneficial form of hunting for controlling wildlife depredations. In the case of coyotes, pelts are often harvested. In the examples of prairie dogs, ground squirrels, jack rabbits – those animals are rarely eaten or otherwise used by hunters.

          • Jay says:

            So because it’s condoned in certain circles, does that make it right? Which of the 7 principles of the N. Am. Wild. Management model does blood sport best adhere to? You can shoot at a target just as easily to practice marksmanship, but targets don’t spray blood and squirm when hit, so obviously not as satisfying to that crowd. I’d be curious to know what the rodent population response was to recreation plinkers? I’d bet that it makes zero difference. If rodents were really such a problem, why not leave the coyotes alone–after all, they eat tons of rodents?

          • JB says:

            Jay, Mark:

            I think the tension here is the result of wildlife management’s inability (and lack of desire) to regulate based upon hunter’s motivation. Many people strongly object to the notion of killing for “fun”, which certainly happens in predator derbies and rodent shoots (again, I will plug the documentary “Killing Coyote”). Yet, wildlife management views these events as legitimate population control for so-called “nuisance” species. How do you sort out the folks who kill for fun from those who kill for “sport” or to reduce what they perceive to be an overabundant population?

            This situation puts hunters and wildlife managers in a pinch, as they have no mechanism for “weeding out” the people who kill for pleasure or out of spite from those who seek to reduce damages from a species or who pursue these animals for what most would view as legitimate purposes.

            – – – –

            “Shooting coyotes and other predators, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, jack rabbits, etc. is a long condoned and enthusiastically pursued activity for many North American hunters, for generations”

            Many morally reprehensible activities have been “enthusiastically pursued” in the past. The mere fact that a behavior has been allowed or condoned in the past is not adequate to establish its legitimacy.

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            Jay – not condoned in certain circles. The tradition of hunting coyotes, prairie dogs, etc. is long with the support of society because society has considered the removal or reduction in numbers of those animals to be a benefit to other human resource benefits. Constructive use of coyote pelts is further evidence of a non-frivolous hunting purpose(North American Model precept). As said, this like many social controveries has a lot of ambiguity and even more passion tied to it.

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            JB – “Many morally reprehensible activities have been “enthusiastically pursued” in the past. The mere fact that a behavior has been allowed or condoned in the past is not adequate to establish its legitimacy.”

            There are indeed examples of “morally reprehensible activities” that were once condoned by society and later condemned and made legally illegitimate. It may be that some day hunting coyotes, ground squirrels, etc. will become another example, in some or all states. For the time being, most states (all?) have not chosen to make that distinction and those ethical judgements are left to individuals to follow as their conscience guides them.

          • JB says:


            Personally, I am happy to reserve judgment on such practices. My point, of course, was that you cannot defend a behavior simply by saying that it has occurred in the past. Whether a behavior is deemed ethical in society has nothing to do with its past occurrence.

            I would also add that I have never seen any published research on public support of predator derbies, however, I am quite familiar with the published research on other predator management techniques. I am relatively safe in saying that a number of wildlife management practices are not supported or only conditionally supported in our society. In fact, I would argue that ballot initiatives regarding trapping (for example) largely resulted from wildlife management’s refusal to accept restrictions in the face of mounting public opposition.

      • SEAK Mossback says:

        Having used the term “harvest” for many years related to fish, I don’t view it as implying nurturing, etc. It basically implies that there was some beneficial consumptive use, as opposed to killing something just to be rid of it. In commercial fisheries, harvest and catch are synonymous, but in sport catch statistics it is necessary to separate “harvest” (fish killed and presumably used) as opposed to total “catch” that includes both harvest and fish that were released.

        What harvest does not imply to me is that all sustainable reproductive goals of the population and other values were met. The spawning escapement of a salmon population may have fallen under the biological escapement goal in a particular year, but all of the fish removed (“killed”) would still be part of the harvest. The “Total Allowable Harvest” (TAH), or the difference between the population size and the spawning escapement goal, is the term that a captures the idea of sustainability. However, the actual immediate objective is the escapement goal, not any target level of harvest — although the escapement goal is generally established with the objective of maximizing harvest over the long-term.

        I personally have a major issue with “harvesting” old growth forest by the clear-cutting method. It impacts many other values for centuries and is an inherently unsustainable activity if the objective is to maintain those other values (or often even sustainable harvest of quality wood, given growth rates and the rotation schedules that have usually been used in planning). However, it still qualifies as “harvest” whether the trees are used for pulp, as most were for many years, or music wood — one small entrepreneur supplied all the spruce for a major guitar company for many years from logs that washed up from rafts on their way to the pulp mill. . In any case, while it may in some ways bear more resemblance to “mining” than “harvesting” I would still not expect foresters to call unsustainable clear-cutting “killing”.

        As far as wolves killing or “harvesting” elk, I think it is pretty clear in management lingo that “harvest” refers to human use. However, there may be philosophical questions worth pondering. In one way of looking at it, wolf advocates may vicariously view elk killed by wolves part of their own allowable “harvest”, consumed in the way they prefer. Another view apparently carried by some cultures in history and a few hunters today, is that humans and wolves have equal standing and their use is equivalent and impossible to rationalize differently from “brother wolf”. On the other extreme, a viewpoint that emerged in the 1970s holds that modern humans are essentially goretex-clad aliens from outer space and, being an exotic species, have no place in the natural world. We need to leave natural processes entirely alone and concentrate on producing our own organic tofu using hydroponics’ agriculture. An increasing counter to that view is a short-term, human-centric view that we have the power, ability and mandate to manage and exploit the entire world beneficially on a high-intensity agricultural basis — sort of a return toward 1950s techno-arrogance (or innocence?). Whether the term “harvest” is restricted to humans or not, it is clearly in our interest to objectively understand and account for the rest of the system. How much and where we should actively manage it will continue to be the subject of scientific and philosophical debate.

  6. william huard says:

    After emailing Larry Rudolph from SCI for over a year I finally got a reply today….. I emailed him this week and forwarded the “how trophy hunting destroys conservation” article. His reply:
    Bill- maybe someday we can have a rational discussion, I’m afraid you’re only getting one distorted side of the issue…… All the best Larry

    Now there’s a sociopath

  7. PointsWest says:

    William Huard writes: “It’s too bad we couldn’t have an “inbred” management hunt. There’s a “surplus” in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana”

    Are you advocating murder again William? You seem to advocate murder as a remedy to things you don’t like on a regular basis. When we speak of the common traits of a sociopath, lets be sure to include the trait of frequently advocating MURDER as a remedy to problems.

  8. PointsWest says:

    Something that needs to considered in this discussion is that there are several “town bears” around West Yellowstone and there have been “town bears” there since the 1920’s. I know. My parents and sister lived there for many years.

    West Yellowstone was hacked out of heavy timber and this heavy timber was not good bear habitat. Most of the bears, at least the black bears, live there because the town is a food source…a human food source. Apparently, there are a least a few grizzlies that are also “town bears” and depend entirely on the town and human food for survival. These bears would not exist if it were not for the town. They are a little bit like rats (non-pejorative) where they are almost completely dependent on humans.

    So when one kills a “town bear” they are not really reducing the wild and healthy population of bears. They are killing an animal that, by nature, should not be there.

    I agree that something needs to be done to prevent bears from becoming habituated to humans and human food sources. I am not too worried about killing town bears. If you built a good bear fence around West Yellowstone, nearly all of the town bears would die anyway. I doubt but a few could survive in the wild after spending several years as “town bears” and dependent on humans for survival.

    So let’s say West Yellowstone was required to build a bear fence around the town. What would happen to all the “town bears”? Is anyone here ready to fork over the money required to keep them alive? …or do we just advocate murder here?

    • Jay says:

      What a bunch of crap! The bears are there because there’s easy food–take the food away, and the bears go back to foraging the way they’re supposed to. They are taking advantage of the laziness and wastefulness of humans.

      • PointsWest says:

        How much experience do you have with the bears in West Yellowstone?

        • Jay says:

          How many bears have you definitely proved to have died as a result of the bear fence constructed around town?

          • PointsWest says:

            It is a well known fact that when you remove habitat that animals die. When real estate is developed on winter habitat for deer near Vail, CO, those animals die. They don’t move down the valley to new winter habitat because that habitat is already being used by other deer. When the habitat is removed, they die and never return.

            The same is true of artificial habitat such as the town of West Yellowstone. That artificial habit supports a number of bears. When it is removed by an enclosure, the bears won’t just move on to the next town. They won’t just move to other nearby habitat since that habitat is likely taken by other bears.

            There is another problem. These bears that have survived on garbage their entire lives may not know how to survive in natural habitat. They may not know how to forage for food and remember, they will be competing with other bears.

          • Jay says:

            Again, where’s your definitive proof that bears will die due to being excluded from town? The exact thing you’re talking about happened back in the sixties when the Park Service closed the dumps. Bears accustomed to dumpster diving went back to foraging like they were supposed to. You don’t seem to know much about grizzly behavior–bears are quite tolerant of each other, so being kicked out of town is not a death sentence. Read the Craighead’s book (Track of the Grizzly)–you’d see that bears are quite capable of going back to doing bear things and readjusting to natural foods when the garbage bins are taken away.

          • Phil says:

            PointWest: I see your point, but in this case you are not removing the habitat away from the bears. In your example all you are doing is prohibiting them from a certain habitat and directing them back to their natural one. Eventually, the bears would turn right back to their wild instincts and consume the food that they are meant to. This would be a forced action by the bears.

          • PointsWest says:

            I disagree. I can remember when they removed the roadside begging bears from the Park. Nothing worked. They ended up secretly killing them. They were, in theory, translocating them. This is very hard to do, however. There was a case in Idaho where a black bear was translocated 300 miles south. It returned by crossing the Salmon River, the Clearwater River and about five mountain ranges. What they did in Yellowstone was translocate them just outside of the Park but dropped them about 3,000 feet. I know because I worked for the Targhee NF and we would find dead bears still in the cargo netting.

            I think if you enclosed West Yellowstone, some of the black bears would survive, but in general and over time, the town bears would perish and there would be far fewer bears in the area.

          • Jay says:

            Oh Jesus–the “dropping problem bears from helicopters” story! Your credibility is gone…

          • PointsWest says:

            Why? Everyone in the Targhee knew about it.

          • PointsWest says:

            You can believe whatever you want Jay but please do not infer that I am lying.

          • PointsWest says:

            …and by the way Jay, I lived near Yellowstone when they closed the dumps and removed the roadside bears. I know all about it. You the one who is in the dark. You did not know that they killed many of these bears. Anyone in the Targee or Park Service or who knew what was going on knows that the roadside bears and dump bears were killed. They just hid the fact because people like you would have create problems and they didn’t want to deal with you.

          • Jay says:

            You might actually believe that nonsense, so no, I’m not calling you a liar. Just gullible.

            Hundreds of dollars an hour for a helicopter, plus man hours in capturing and handling all these “problem bears”, just to fly them off and drop them, along with a several hundred dollar cargo net? That’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard (and not the first time I’ve heard it). You truly think the NPS had a secret “bear bombing” program? Too funny!

          • PointsWest says:

            Jay…people who worked in the Targhee found these dead bears. I can remember at least two separate ocassions. One was on the north face of Sawtell and the other was in Black Canyon. I later saw the cargo net on Sawtell but someone had taken the dead bear.

            Now face reality!

          • PointsWest says:

            …also, one of the scientists had friends in the Park service and he told us all what was going on. The Park service could not afford to translocate bears because, unless you move them 500 miles, they are back in a couple of months. They could not kill them due to public outrage. So darting them and translocating them just across Park lines for a nice little air-drop solved the problem. They did it to save money!

          • Jay says:

            Do you know how ridiculous you sound? Spending thousands to fly a bear off only to drop it from 3000 feet to save money? Particularly in light of the fact they had absolutely zero problem with killing bears back then by trapping and shooting? Now that is logic at its finest! Friends of friends that worked with somebody who new a scientist that said that’s what they are doing? Cargo nets lying on hillsides? Tell you what–you come up with one tiniest, little itsy-bitsy piece of corrobarating evidence, and I’ll reconsider that you are the definition of the word gullible.

            Ok, gotta go, I’m off to find bigfoot…

          • Jay says:

            “Someone had taken the bear”…must’ve been those black-ops NPS crack commandos coming in to “clean up” the evidence. I guess they weren’t too crack of a squad though, considering they forgot to take the cargo net.

          • WM says:


            I don’t know how much experience you actually have with bears. But, I can offer somewhat similar corroboration to PW’s assertion about problem bears simply disappearing (don’t know about the net part).

            When I was in college I worked for the USFS on the east side of Mt. Rainier, not far from Goose Prairie where Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas had a summer home.

            There are heavily used FS campgrounds all over on the upper Naches and American Rivers. The camper garbage generated over the summer weekends was substantial, and of course, placed by campers in the old galvanized green painted cans that the bears always predictably visited, during the night. Only black bears there, but lots of them. The garbage was then transported to a dump site. Guess what? Even more bears visiting the dump. Heck they lived there year round, except for hibernation – the pickings were so good. End result, way higher density of bears than the natural habitat would support.

            People complained about the bears. I don’t recall many injuries but lots of smashed coolers and trashed tents from summer through elk hunting season.

            The FS eventually solved the problem and went from those green cans to dumpsters with snap locks, and a waste management hauler had a contract to service all the campgrounds. The regional dumps were closed. The bears, food-conditioned and habituated, started to range out looking for meals in summer homes, more aggressively in tents, and even back country work camps for summer crews marking trees for harvest, or engineering roads.

            The bear population eventually thinned out, but it took about five years, or so. The bears ranged out in search of natural food, but being human food conditioned bears, but that wasn’t much of a solution for many. They just went where the people were.

            The larger number of problem bears just “mysteriously” disappeared. WA Game and Fish as it was known in the 1970’s, just quietly worked the problem with the FS and local home owners. Sometimes G&F relocated them, but that was costly and really didn’t solve the problem because they came back, necessitating another long trip with the chopper or in a culvert trailer. So, mostly just they just shot them. They told the FS, if you have got bear that won’t go away you can shoot it, but don’t say anything, and for god sake don’t just wound one!

            How do I know this? We had problem bears in our remote camps (12 guys in the crew and about a four hour walk and drive out if our properly stored food got hit by bears) not five miles as the crow flies, from where one of the old dumps was. I had a rifle under my cot all summer. I won’t tell the rest of the story on this forum – at least today.

          • Jay says:

            WM–I’m not arguing the fact that bears were killed back then. On the contrary, it’s well documented that the Park Service was killing the shit out of them. And they weren’t trying to cover it up. Their policy of closing the dumps and making the bears go cold turkey without some kind of phasing out of the dumps was what got the Craighead’s essentially kicked out when they butted heads over the issue. That said, to suggest that it was a cost saver to capture a bear, then contract a pilot and helicopter to fly it off and splat it on the rocks to save money, is patently stupid. A 50 cent bullet is a hell of a lot cheaper, and back then the NPS had no qualms in using said bullet to take of bears.

          • WM says:


            I miss Bob “Action” Jackson, backcountry YNP ranger who used to comment here. He would be able to offer some insight on PW’s comments, I think.

          • Jay says:

            No doubt Bob would have some interesting anecdotes to go along with the subject.

          • PointsWest says:

            Jay writes: “Do you know how ridiculous you sound? Spending thousands to fly a bear off only to drop it from 3000 feet to save money? Particularly in light of the fact they had absolutely zero problem with killing bears back then by trapping and shooting?”

            Jay…no they did not shoot bears in the 70’s. Where in the hell do you get that? They could not kill Park bears due to public opinion (people like you) and to translocate them 500 miles away would have been very expensive. If you move a bear 100 miles, it just comes back. To translocate them to where they will not come back is an expensive operation. You are then talking about trucking them hundreds of miles away…maybe 500 miles.

            To get them out of the Park for an air drop is only 15 minutes in a helicopter. They could do several in a day. It was a way to get rid of them without anyone seeing. I heard about first hand and I saw the cargo net. I don’t know what else I can say.

            And you’re twisting what I said. It was not a friend of a friend…it was a co-worker who had friends in the Park Service and several other co-workers saw the dead bears. I saw a cargo net on the north face of Sawtell just a couple of days later.

            Please tell us what makes you such an authority on bears or on the Park Service that you can ridicule what I say. What is the basis of your authority…you can tell by the way it sounds! …you’re psychic? Please tell us how you know.

          • Jay says:

            PW–you are completely ingnorant. Do some reading before spouting off. YNP destroyed numerous bears in the park in the 70’s. “They could not kill park bears due to public opinion..”. Really? You haven’t the foggiest clue what you’re talking about. Here, try reading something before opening your mouth:

          • PointsWest says:

            Look everybody, Jay proved me to be “ingnorant” because he found a document on the Internet written a decade after the fact by people who were not there.

            Jay, I said it was secret. Do you think the Park Service is going to secretly kill bears and then publish a truthful document about it years later?

            Someone here is “ingnorant” but it is not me.

            …and OK…they killed “incorrigible” bears but they did not kill (not with public knowledge) the many roadside bears. They killed a few “incorrigle” bears and they still kill a few “incorrigible” bears today. I knew that and should have been more clear. I read about every summer. But public sentiment would not allow them to kill the roadside bears and the dump bears in the 70’s. They killed them secretly.

            If you will notice in this document that the numbers of black bears listed as “translocated” is about four times the number of those listed as killed. I would like to know to where these bears were translocated to because it if was withing 300 miles of their original location, they would have come back in a couple of months.

            What I said and what I am still saying is that most of those listed as “translocated outside the Park” were air dropped within 5 miles of Park boundries to save money because it would have been terribly expensive to translocate them 500 miles.

          • PointsWest says:

            …and back to the original discussion, Park managers knew that roadside bears and dump bears would probably not survive if translocated anyway, and so made the decision to secretly kill them to save money.

            Why waste money to appease the “ingnorant.”

          • Elk275 says:

            I do not have time to write this morning as I just purchased a 14 year John Mule, one could not ask for a sweeter mule and I must get some reports out today. Phil is it unethical to use a mule hunting? I know that dogs are a no no with you.


            My question to you is what is your hands on ground experience with bears in Yellowstone Park in the time frame being talked about? Just what I thought, none. I bet you were not even born in 1970. You have no creditability unless you were there, Points West was there and so was I. I was 17 in 1968 for the first part of the summer I worked as a ski patrolman on the Twin Lakes headwall on the Beartooth Highway and the second part of the summer I spent in Yellowstone Park. In 1968, one could see between 10 to 30 black bears during an average 3 day trip around the park. In 1970, I worked for the US Park Service. Everyday we would travel, from Mammoth, some where into the interior of the park. The entire summer of 1970 we never a black bear on the road. The only bears our crew saw that summer were grizzlies. Our boss was Johnny Columbo and he had been working in Yellowstone every summer since after the war. It was different, 2 years earlier they were black bears everywhere

            The question with the tourists and soon with the crew was where were the bears. One day after he knew us and could trust us, he told the crew that the bears had been trapped, taken to a dump and killed. In the latter part of the summer, he pointed various dumps the bears had been taken to. One day we had some refuse to dispose of and we were driving down the Hayen Valley and he pull into a service road, one of us unlocked the gate and locked it after both of our trucks passed through. We had a quick lecture about never returning and never mentioning this to anyone. Several miles down the road we came to the dump and ……………………….. Oh,I am not suppose to mention this to anyone.

          • Jay says:

            PW–you are a buffoon…like talking to a 4 year old. The fact the Park Service was killing bears is documented in several places, including the Craigheads (who you probably have never even heard of since you are so clueless as to the history of research in the Park), not to mention by Yellowstone Nation Park’s VERY OWN Bear Biologist ( How’s that for top secret?

            Elk, actually I was born before 1970, and the fact that I wasn’t physically in that location doesn’t mean that every book and scientific article I’ve read that fully documents the management practices of the time–including destroying numerous grizzly and black bears–is wrong, now does it? So don’t pull the “I was there” card, because you weren’t directly involved with bear management, now were you?

            “Jay, I said it was secret. Do you think the Park Service is going to secretly kill bears and then publish a truthful document about it years later?”

            Wtf are you talking about? Is that like reverse psychology logic on the park’s part? “Nope, we didn’t really kill any bears, and here’s a document that say we did, but obviously it’s a lie because we would never kill bears…”

            Your logic defies explanation. So with that, I leave you with your insane, super top-secret NPS “bear bombing” eradication program myth to continue to spread around to those dumb enough to believe that the Park Service secretly didn’t kill any bears and then published that they did to cover their tracks.

          • PointsWest says:

            Jay…name calling is not going to win you any arguments. I’m sorry, I simply do not have much respect for your opinions. You can be as condescending as you like, but it means nothing to me.

            Actually, my family knew the Craigheads and some people we did business with knew them very well and the Craigheads often at their ranch in Island Park. I saw their documentary on grizzlies when it first aired. My dad knew the guy. I think we had their book around for several years. I never read it but my father and his friends did and it was discussed at length in our house.

            Again…we’ve yet to here your superior credentials. What makes you such an authority on bears, on Yellowstone, on me, or on anything else?

          • PointsWest says:

            And Jay…you need to go back and read what I said. I am not going to take your bait and explain everything a second time like I care about your opinions.

          • Jay says:

            One of the most informative books on Yellowstone bears, and you didn’t read it, and yet you’re on here claiming to know all about bear management in the Park…that says it all right there. You question why I’m such an authority on Yellowstone bears, but when I point out proof of how completely wrong you are (to paraphase, you said YNP didn’t kill ANY bears due to public opinion opposing it) with journal articles, you blow it off BS because–even though it was written by park service people–“they weren’t there”. So I think the real question is, what makes you an authority when you are shown to be wrong time after time? You are fact challenged and yet insist that you’re right. The fact is, I’ve read a great deal on bears, and grizzlies in particular–that doesn’t necessarily make me an authority, but I have no problem refuting bullshit when I see it. You eventually changed your story (and I paraphrase again) by saying, “oh, I didn’t mean they didn’t kill bears. Just the roadside bears that were slated for a super-secret death-by-helicopter program.” So yeah, I stand by my statement that you are logically challenged–bringing facts to you is like trying to teach calculus to a 3-year-old.

            Tell you what–I’ll give your “theory” credit, if you go along with mine that Elvis is alive and well, and working as a greeter at the Great Falls Wal Mart. After all, I’ve seen him, and everybody in Great Falls knows about it, which is about as much evidence as you’ve provided for your theory.

          • PointsWest says:

            …you read a book?

        • PointsWest says:

          …and this kill off of bears was in the 70’s and not the 60’s. I can remember going to the West Yellowstone dump in about 1967 and seeing three or four Grizzlies eating garbage there.

          • Elk275 says:


            Did you ever consider that something’s and events that went on during those years were not put in a book or even recorded. There could have been confidentially agreements that would have precluded certain information from being discussed or published. Or maybe the authors at that time did not want to write and publish certain instances and situations that happened to protect themselves or others. There may have been things that happen that the Craigheads were unaware of or only knew from hear say. Not everyone knows everything that happens. Something’s are best left unsaid.

          • Jay says:

            Yes, I fully realize not everthing behind the scenes makes it to print. That said, are you willing to accept that some things have simple explanations, and aren’t a big conspiracy theory (e.g., maybe it really was a government spy balloon found in N.M, and not a flying saucer)?

          • Elk275 says:



            I really do not know what to think anymore. I can only verify what I see, and that may be an illusion. What I read is someone editorial. As I get older, my hearing is not what it use to be.

          • Jay says:

            Fair enough elk, I know where you’re coming from. Maybe my viewpoint isn’t shared, but I’m a person of evidence and proof, and not inclined to believe urban myths supported by nothing but “I knew somebody…” or “I saw a net…”. Show me a picture of a dead bear with trauma indicating falling from a long distance, and I’ll reconsider my stance.

    • Pointswest; If there have been town bears there since 1920 why do away with them? Obviously these long term town bears have found a way to co-exist with humans so why do we need to kill them if they have been there all that time?

      • PointsWest says:

        Why do away with them? …because they get into trouble and get killed. That is my point. We can solve the problem with enclosures around the town and campgrounds but that is also killing bears because those dependent on human food will perish.

        The truth is I think most people in West Yellowstone like their “town bears” and see them as a tourist draw. Bears in West Yellowstone are like icons…have been for years. Many of the businesses in West Yellowstone are named after bears.

        • mikarooni says:

          PointsWest, it’s often a bit hard for me to know how to take, much less comment on, a lot of your stuff. You often seem to be all over the philosophical map… kind of over to one side one minute and then listing back over to the other side the next minute.

          • PointsWest says:

            In this case of the bears around West Yellowstone, I do not have strong opinions except that I do not believe the answer is to start advocating murder.

            Idealy, I would say build an enclosure around West Yellowstone and let all the bears dependent on human food die (a few might survive). But I agree with Linda that they are not really hurting much. A few will enivitably become a danger, however, and will need to be killed. I just wanted to point out that these are bears that, by nature, should not be there and I believe this changes the ethics of killing them.

      • SEAK Mossback says:

        Assuming these are dependent food-habituated bears in West Yellowstone, the argument is somewhat the same as the Craigheads made for not closing the park dumps to grizzlies cold turkey, when generations had become habituated to them. If people can tolerate bears doing that, then human refuse can simply become one more food source for them like any other. In that case, the NPS differed strongly and closed all the dumps, sending the grizzlies elsewhere including campgrounds and , after going through the motions of transplanting them to the backcountry, killed many of them. It’s difficult to ever quit feeding them – but if society wants to put out food for them in perpetuity and tolerate the results, then it can be done. In towns, no doubt some people develop an enthusiasm for it or are just careless, while their neighbors don’t want anything to do with it — so bears are typically constantly drawn in and killed.

        Another example is feeding of polar bears at the village of Kaktovik. People in the town of only 300 or so usually kill and drag ashore 3 bowhead whales annually on the spit next to town, which amounts to an unbelievable amount of whale meat per capita — and I’m not sure how fond the 15% of residents who are non-native are of it. So the bears get a lot of food for many months. In fact, it appeared that people were digging up old squares of it out of their permafrost storage areas under their houses and putting it on the spit in August well before the September hunt, in anticipation of getting fresh stuff — and the bears were also showing up in August. Further west, the Feds had been requiring Barrow residents to bury the whale carcasses and were making noises about doing the same on Barter Island, to considerable local opposition as the polar bears don’t seem to bother much (leave lots of paw prints on airplanes and things, but have retracted claws and less tendency to chew on things than grizzlies) and they have created a magnet for tourists and photographers. One can more easily rationalize it compared with garbage dumps because it is natural food at least, and probably went on to some extent for 1,000s of years, but it is still food habituation. Generally, however, feeding bears nowadays is anathema.

    • JEFF E says:

      seems that the killing of the bears that scavenged the dumps or begged at the roadside is pretty much an open secret. Every time my family went to Yellowstone growing up we fed the bears bread out of the wing windows. that is just what you did in Yellowstone then. I even remember a reader board in Ashton reminding you to buy your bread for the bears here. Several years later when talking with my parents, and on more than one occasion, about when we would take those trips and the bears my Dad would comment about how all the bears were killed off and you could not see any anymore.

  9. Mike says:

    Vegetables are “harvested”. Animals are killed. Anything else is a distortion. When you end the life of a creature that can see, think, and feel, you are killing it.

    Be especially wary of people using words like “values” and “socially sanctioned”. Germany used that kind of wording too back in the buildup to and during WW II.

    • jon says:

      Agreed 100%

      it’s killing no matter how you spin it.

      • Mike says:

        Jon –
        Also note that those who often use terms such as “accepted values” or “socially sanctioned” have trouble explaining why they act this way on an individual basis, and immediately try to associate themselves with a larger group of people at a feeble attempt to justify their actions. It’s a common tactic of people who perhaps have a hint that what they’re doing isn’t really the right thing. They’ll try and convince themselves anyway they can to avoid critical self-awareness and/or guilt. Those hunter campfire sessions with bottles of whisky and brusque talk about manly things such as motors and guns serves more than just one purpose as truth evasion. We all know what it means when men have to try and come off as manly as possible. These are the same ones who likely have feelings deep down they try and hide with alcohol and manly endeavors. They also hide guilt this way, never facing it. Rather than talk about that bullet taking off half the head of a doe, they take a shot of whiskey and make crude jokes. It’s easier not to question, to not think.

        These people lack the self-awareness and the confidence to move beyond these childish behaviors and stances, so they trap themselves in these personas for life, moving about day to day constantly afraid of other people and animals that can bite. They live this way and they pass this fear down to their kids, and their kids pass it down to their kids. It’s a fear that maybe shooting stuff isn’t a way to go through life or maybe they might be gay, maybe the U.N. is taking over the world with secret armies.

        An evolved human being always questions their actions as they go through life. “Am I doing the right thing? Have I put myself in that guy’s shoes?” If you’re not asking these questions, you’re not growing as a human being.

        • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

          This is close to becoming a futile exercise – as in aguing religion. Your views are relevant, as your personal views, but your suggestion that the North American tradition of hunting, the more narrow topic of the concept of wildlife “harvest” and other principles of hunting and wildlife management are somehow not supported as social norms in our society or otherwise could be considered to be socially disfunctional is without merit. If your thesis had merit, hunting would not be a legally sanctioned in all 50 states and U.S. territories, nor would the tradition of hunting in North America continue to be supported by a strong majority of U.S. citizens, throughout our history to the present.

          • Alan says:

            I tend to disagree that “the tradition of hunting in North America continue(s) to be supported by a strong majority of U.S. citizens”. When brought to a vote in a state like Idaho or Montana, of course the majority support hunting. Yet in a state like California (with a population many times that of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana combined), where mountain lion populations continue to grow along with (the still occasional) conflicts, voters constantly give cougar hunting the thumbs down.
            I think that in reality the “strong majority of U.S. citizens” simply do not give hunting a second thought. It is not relevant to their lives. In large cities, where one would expect the most opposition to hunting, is exactly where folks would be the least likely to give it a thought.
            I would say that, at best, the majority of Americans ‘tacitly’ support hunting as something that happens somewhere, but not here, and they have more important things to worry about.
            harvest: 1)The act or process of gathering a crop. 2)The crop thus gathered. 3)The amount or measure of the crop gathered. 4)The time or season of such gathering…American Heritage Dictionary.
            Whether the use of the term is proper or not, and it may well be in a colloquial or even biology usage, isn’t even the point. Its use in this sense is objectionable to some because it sanitizes killing and makes it sound like elk, deer and other animals are simply mankind’s ‘crop’, no better than a wheat field or an apple tree, rather than living, breathing creatures every bit as alive as you or me. Mark is right, though. It is like arguing religion.
            I know that a fisherman was killed at one of these private camps (Madison Arms, maybe) back in the early eighties, but have there been other, more recent, maulings in any of these campgrounds? It does seem that, if bears are hanging around a lot, someone is not doing their job (campground hosts, Forest Service? I don’t know.) But thousands of people camp in the campgrounds inside Yellowstone every year, where rules are strictly enforced, and bears are rarely seen in and around camp (hazed when they are), and problems even rarer.

          • JB says:

            “Game management is the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use.” (A. Leopold. 1933. Game Management. The University of Wisconsin Press).

            There is no question that “harvest” is the preferred and accepted term for the killing of wildlife for recreational purposes. However, there is also no question that this term is used to “sanitize” (or make more palatable) the act of killing.

            True story: Several years ago I ran a survey to determine public support for wolf management. The state agency (which did not sponsor the research) objected to our use of the term “kill” to describe what would be done to wolves in response to livestock depredation. They wanted us to use the word “euthanize”. They specifically told us that the word “kill” invoked too much negative imagery. After consulting with FWS personnel, we responded that the word “euthanize” was not appropriate for describing what would be done to wolves that killed livestock. Specifically, the most common form of lethal control was to shoot the animal with buckshot from a helicopter, which does not comply with the American Veterinary Associations guidelines on euthanasia (see link below).

            Terms like “depredation”, “euthanize”, and “harvest” are purposefully used to sanitize the act of killing, just as terms like “murder” and “massacre” are used to make killing sound more horrific. So both sides are equally guilty, in my opinion.

            AVA’s guidelines on euthanasia can be found here:

          • Alan says:

            And, of course, the wolves “killed” livestock (thereby invoking a negative feeling toward wolves), yet the the wolves would be “euthanized” (avoiding a negative feeling toward themselves). Just like Democrats support an increase in revenue, while Republicans oppose a tax hike.

      • WM says:

        So, jon,

        If, in a medical procedure, certain live cells are “harvested” for culture or other analysis, and as a consequence they die, is that also killing? Or, is it harvest?

        The term harvest is widely accepted throughout scientific disciplines as the term of art. It is a verb and a noun, which seems to have broad application, for crops that have ripened. We have, of course, been down this path before. And, of course, wildlife or agriculatural management as a discipline, as has been pointed out above, has been using the term for quite sometime.

        So, just a thought here, should we all adjust our vocabulary for you and Mike, so you don’t get upset, and ask those who are engaged in science and wildlife management to do the same?

        Maybe you ought petition the National Science Foundation or National Acadamy of Sciences for such distinctions.

    • PointsWest says:

      What animals was Germany killing in the build up to WWII?

  10. says:

    Like so many other aspects in the American society, also the American understanding of “hunting” leaves foreigners at a loss. Nowhere else has hunting such deep roots in a society as in the US and equally nowhere have the many different facets of hunting such a bitter aftertaste. While you can just smile at these rather naïve scenes in many American movies where the now middle aged hero remembers, with tears in his eyes, the place where he went hunting with his dad for the first time, you no longer smile about the excesses hunting in America also offers. Just to name the infamous coyote killing contests as an example of all these aspects of hunting, that are of course perfectly legal, but on the edge of being ethic. The dubious honor of the Americans being the number one global trophy hunter nation – yes, I know, closely followed by the Germans – makes you shiver, not smile. Remember the worst stereotype of all, the overweight, sweat dripping, half drunk, fat guy shooting at something from the platform of his pickup. Far too many proof that stereotype. Isn´t hunting in the US today more an obsession than a tradition? Isn´t it more related to that fetishism for weapons, also so deeply rooted in your society, than with the long and honest history of food acquisition? Now, to avoid any misunderstanding, I´m going to meet my local hunter next weekend. Need to buy some venison…… And I´m glad that our hunters here, besides having their own traditional hunter´s jargon, do not “harvest” anything but maybe the salad in their garden.

    • PointsWest says:

      Among my family and friends back in Idaho, we “killed” deer and we “killed” elk. We might say, “let’s go up on Fall River Ridge and see if we can ‘kill’ some elk. If we killed more that two elk, we might brag to our friends and family that we “butchered” them. We liked killing.

  11. SAP says:

    Two thoughts:

    1) Ralph, that’s an incorrect use of the term “habituates” in the subtitle. I’m being a little nit-picky, but “habituated” and “food-conditioned” are two very different but oft-related states for a bear.

    Most food-conditioned bears (those that have received positive reinforcement in the form of anthropogenic foods) are also habituated to humans (they exhibit little or no response to humans, vehicles, &c. because these stimuli were never followed directly with negative or positive reinforcement, unless they were being fed directly by people, rather than just finding people food in people-dominated areas).

    There are, however, many “habituated” bears that are not food conditioned — they are just used to people, roads, vehicles, but never receive food rewards that cause them to seek out unnatural foods in human-dominated areas.

    Unless we want to invent a new label for bears that show little response to people yet are not receiving unnatural food rewards, we need to use the term “habituated” correctly.

    2) I agree with PW that YNP likely killed way more bears than they have records for. District Rangers inside the park had a lot of latitude to handle things their own way. There are many anecdotes, some false, about how these bears were killed.

    As for the Park Service’s concern for its public image: keep in mind that YNP was embroiled in a very public and bitter fight with John & Frank Craighead over whether and how to close the dumps. There is a lot of confusion over what happened during the dump closure period and who predicted what. Basically, though, the Craigheads were widely known and respected — Americans knew about these guys via National Geographic and other exposure.

    YNP did not want to be the bad guys and have the Craigheads saying “told ya so!” about closing the dumps. So, they caught a lot of bears that were pillaging campgrounds in search of what they knew as food, and made a show of “relocating” these bears. I think dropping them from helicopters was probably very rare, but have to assume PW knows what he saw west of the Park. More often, bears were probably released in places they were unlikely to survive in — they would be shot by hunters or sheepherders.

    Keep in mind also that this era was marked by GNP’s “Night of the Grizzlies,” as well as a fatality near Old Faithful in 1972. Park Service was running scared and trying to really keep a lid on bear problems.

    • PointsWest says:

      What are the chances of finding even one air-dropped bear in the vast area surrounding the park…and we in the Targhee found two.

    • Phil says:

      SAP and PW: What situational bears are you speaking of? Is it the 3 strikes and you’re out bears, or bears prior to that 3rd strike? During my first internship working at the zoo, the two grizzly bears I worked with were rescue bears from YNP. They were in the category of 3rd strike bears and were planned to be euthanized if they could not find a zoo or sanctuary to take them in.

      • SAP says:

        Phil – do you mean what bears were being killed back in the 1970s in Yellowstone?

        I can’t answer that. I think it was any bear that ventured into a campground or was begging along the roadside, but I do not know.

        • PointsWest says:

          I’ll give it a rest when the many superior minds posting in this thread stop infering that I am lying or hat I am too ignorant to understand what I saw with my two eyes.

          If people are going to post in here that anything they don’t like to hear is a “rual myth” it will become very boring very quickly.

          • JB says:

            PW: There are lots of things that people post here that I “don’t like to hear”, but as far as I know, this is the first time I’ve used the phrase “rural myth”, so you can stop pretending like this is some pervasive trend. I used the phrase “rural myth” to be contrasted with “urban myths” (or legends)–there was NO implication of superiority. Finally, I was laughing about yet another “black helicopter” story about wildlife. You are free to believe whatever you like, but I have heard too many, no far too many black helicopter stories from people who swore they (or someone they knew) saw it with their own eyes, not to get a kick out of another one.

            – – – –
            FYI: I would swear that, in 2003, while driving through the Wasatch NF in northern Utah, I saw a wolf cross the road directly in front of me. However, I am also aware that the probability is much greater that I misinterpreted what I saw. Consequently, whenever I relay the story, I am careful to convey an appropriate level of uncertainty.

          • mikarooni says:

            “If people are going to post in here that anything they don’t like to hear is a “rual myth” it will become very boring very quickly.” That sounds like just another rural myth to me.

      • PointsWest says:

        I believe the Park Service has always killed bears that show aggression towards humans. They labeled them (Nazi-like) as “incorrigible” bears and kill them. They still do this…kill bears who show aggression towards humans. I was speaking, however, of the many roadside bears and dump bears (and campground bears for that matter) that were fixtures of Yellowstone for so many years and had never shown aggression towards humans. These are black bears. They began disappearing in the 70’s. The Park Service claimed they were all being translocated from the Park but, as mentioned, people who worked for the Targhee National Forest found two different bears still in cargo netting that were dead. I too was working for the Targhee and I saw the cargo net in one case. Someone had taken the dead bear. One of the scientists working for the Targhee had friends in the Park Service. He told us that these bears were being intentionally killed by the Park Service. He said it was too expensive to translocate (reasons discussed earlier) and so the Park Service was air-dropping the bears in the Targhee and elsewhere just outside the Park to intentionally kill them. They were telling the public that these bears were being translocated because many people were emotionally attached to these bears (all black bears)and the public would have protested the killing of these bears.

        I don’t know why they went to the trouble of air lifting them. I only know that they did. Maybe it made a great show to have rented the helicopter and to have many people witness a bear being carried off to the promised land in a high-tech helicopter. This was an era when most Americans did not know that President Roosevelt had been handicapped. It was an era when politicians had mistresses and the press covered it up on there behalf.

        As to how many bears were killed by air-drop, I have no idea. I have always suspected the number to be in the dozens, however, because I know how unlikely it was that two were discovered. I also know that there were dozens of road side bears, dump bears, and campground bears that all disappeared in just a few years. Everyone talked about the disappearance of all the black bears that had been everywhere a few years earlier.

        • Jay says:

          And I have a bigfoot living in my garage.

          • PointsWest says:

            Are you calling me a liar Jay?

          • PointsWest says:

            Calling names, casting insults, and being condescending does not prove anything Jay.

          • JB says:

            Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve gotten a good laugh out of this whole conversation. You see, here in Ohio there is a pervasive and persistent rumor among rural folk that the Ohio DOW has been dropping rattlesnakes from helicopters. Difference is, apparently the ODOW saw fit to give them parachutes instead of just dropping them on the rocks. [I suppose Midwesterners have always been a tad more civilized than you cowboys?] I laugh every time I think of some poor wildlifer sitting in a [black, of course] helicopter trying to tie a toy parachute to a rattlesnake without getting bitten!

            My other favorite myth involves airlifting cougars in black helicopters to remote areas of Michigan [though I later learned that other states have the same story] in order to control the deer population. LOL! Rural myths are a hoot!

          • PointsWest says:

            JB…it is not a rural myth. I live in Los Angeles and have lived here for 11 years. I have not lived in Idaho for nearly 40 years. Almost no one working for the Targhee was from Idaho. My three closest crew-mates were from Minneapolis, Seattle, and Oakland. Our supervisor was from Seattle. These were the people that saw the dead bears and cargo netting and they were not “rural.” All but one were in college and all of the supervisor and scientists in the Targhee (Island Park Ranger Station) were college educated, some with PhDs.

            It that what this is about…because I was there and lived in the area I am “rural” and am ignorant and uneducated? ..that people from Chicago or Sacramento even Boise get on here and have an automatic superiority complex over anyone who seems to be from the GYE?

            You live in a dream world.

          • PointsWest says:

            Everyone on the east coast thinks people from Ohio are ignorant and when they visit the east coast, people there will not give them the time of day. I know. I know many New Yorkers and Jerseyites!

          • JB says:


            #1. The myth is “rural” because of where it is alleged to have happened and who spreads it. It has nothing to do with me feeling superior. Every wildlife manager I know can tell you a dozen rural myths involving wildlife off the top of their heads.

            #2. I live in a “dream world”? That’s rich! I am not the one who is alleging a secret conspiracy involving the federal government and helicopters dropping bears into the sides of mountains.

            #3. What people on the east coast believe about people from Ohio is of no concern of mine. I’ve lived in Utah, California, Minnesota, Ohio and Michigan. I’ve long since given up any identity tied to any particular place. Moreover, place-based politics are kind of amusing to me (note: the people who hate Ohioans the most live in a city just three hours to the north and care waaaay too much about football).

            #4. Give it a rest, will you?

          • mikarooni says:

            A federal government helicopter dropped a bigfoot wrapped in cargo netting on my rural garage just last month; but, he survived and is living in there now …at least until he finishes his dissertation and gets his PhD.

          • JB says:

            He’s hit you up to, eh? Jay must have finally kicked him out of the garage. Better start keeping track of your booze.

          • WM says:

            Maybe Ralph can persuade Bob Jackson to come back and make a guest comment (since I think Ken pissed him off with a bison comment about 8 months back, or so). He can put this flying bears in cargo nets thing to rest in short order.

            As for Bigfoot, I’ve got a little hair and some poop tied up in a couple of baggies in the freezer, that I am sure is from Bigfoot. I ‘ve been waiting for the right time to spring the news, but since he’s now in Mik’s garage working on his dissertation and preparing for orals, there’s really no point.

  12. Phil says:

    Elk: I am not to familiar with the use of “Mules” for hunting, so please fill me in. Also, you can’t ask Jay a question and answer it for him without his response.

    PW: “no they did not shoot bears in the 70′s. Where in the hell do you get that? They could not kill Park bears due to public opinion (people like you) and to translocate them 500 miles away would have been very expensive.” Apparently public view was more important and taken into consideration back in the 70s then it is right now. I was not around yet in that era, but from what I got out of your comment it seems likely.

    peter: Great post. Just to add to it, I believe many wildlife issues from the hunter’s side are not directed towards the species at hand, but rather towards the individuals who want to protect those species who are perceived to be against hunters and hunting. I believe you are correct in that it may be the case that hunting now is more of an obsession than a tradition. A tradition is using that elk and deer for an important purpose that is a sole means of survival and not posing with the head and antlers with a silly smirk, or taking “revenge” (R-Simpson) on predators.

    • Elk275 says:

      Phil, mules are for transportation the same as horses.

      • Phil says:

        If that is the only case of using them, than what would be the problem with it? Mules are used for the same reasons for tourists and I do not see a problem with it. A hunting dog is directly used to track and help the hunter make an easy kill. I see the function of the mule compared to the dog completely different.

        • Elk275 says:

          Phil there is nothing wrong with using dogs to hunt with. I do not own a dog only a mule and a older horse which I am going to sell shortly.

          I was just talking with a lady friend whos hobby is Springers and Cockers, she has 5 and wants to win a National Champinship one day. She uses them for pheasant, huns and grouse hunting. What is wrong with that. The dog finds and flushes the bird and she shoots, dead bird, dog fleches the dead bird and off they go to the next bird. I have never hunted with her as I would be afraid of hurting a dog. Hunting dogs have been used for thousands of years.

          You may not like it but dogs and bird hunting are not going to change. Get use to it.

          • jon says:

            That is your own personal opinion. To others, there is something wrong with it and that is why it has been banned in some places.

          • PointsWest says:

            That is a mean thing to do to dogs because dogs love to hunt!

          • jon says:

            wm, i never said anything about birds.

          • Phil says:

            Elk: You may believe that there is nothing wrong with using dogs to hunt, but I believe there is. I just don’t think the hunter is using his/her hunting expertise when they are letting their dog do the search and chase methods of the hunt. It also takes the “fair chase” method of the animal being hunted. For example, when Canada goose hunting how fair is it for the Canadian goose to escape being hunted when it is the dog(s) who tracks the flock through scent and scare them to fly as the hunter is willing and waiting to take one down? For a Canada goose, because their wing-loading is huge they do not have that quick accelerated flight that some other birds have.

          • Elk275 says:


            ++For example, when Canada goose hunting how fair is it for the Canadian goose to escape being hunted when it is the dog(s) who tracks the flock through scent and scare them to fly as the hunter is willing and waiting to take one down? For a Canada goose, because their wing-loading is huge they do not have that quick accelerated flight that some other birds have.++

            Phil you are like a number of other people on this board who’s intentions may be good but have so little knowledge about what they are writing about. The above statement is something that I have never heard about, read about or seen. Canada Geese are not hunted that way. Canada Geese would not be out in a field concealed and allow a dog and hunter to walk up and shoot. It may have happen, but not very many times.

            Canada geese are hunted from a blind with decoys generally in grain fields where they have been observed or known to feed in. The dogs purpose is to retrieve the goose when shot. I have never hunted over decoys nor do I care to hunt Canada geese, I have shot them and do not care to pick them and I do not like to eat them. This becomes another problems with you over calls and decoys. But you know what, it is a time honor tradition, a ethical and accepted method of hunting; I do not see it every changing as long as hunting is legal.

            The few Canada geese that I have shot have been along the Yellowstone or Big Horn Rivers and where shot while duck hunting. They were shot as they passed overhead, the use of dogs are to retrieve them from the rivers if they would fall into the river or are wounded and glide into the river. It takes at large, strong lab to swim those rivers or any large fast moving western river. Besides dogs love to go hunting and hunters who own dogs own them because they want hunt with they dog. This is the way things are done.

            You have your opinion and I have mind opinion, I respect that, but your opinion is worthless if the example used does not exist.

        • PointsWest says:

          Sometimes, I would take my dog hunting because he loved to go and would beg.

          • Elk275 says:


            Nowhere has birdhunting with dogs been banned that I know of in the USA. Mountain lions in CA,OR and WA, but the Rocky Mountain States Mountain Lions can be hunted with dogs and there is no way that Western States are going to ban lion hunting with dogs.

          • jon says:

            Elk, they already did. Washington and Oregon.

          • Harley says:


            I’ve heard of them banning, like fox hunting but not using dogs for bird hunting, but then again, I’m here in the midwest and it’s kind of a big thing, bird hunting and using the dogs.

          • bret says:

            jon – hound hunting for cougars was allowed in select GMU’s in Washington State.

          • Elk275 says:

            ++Nowhere has birdhunting with dogs been banned that I know of in the USA++

            I said bird hunting, bird hunting not lion hunting.

            Either of those states has banned general bird hunting with dogs.

          • WM says:


            Before you go spouting off more of your knowledge of non-facts, dogs have been used and still are used for bird hunting in WA and OR, and most other states, I believe with few limitations. Dogs can be used to either hold (point) birds, flush (make them fly) or retrieve (pick up a downed bird from land or water, as in a duck). Each role is a bit different. Some dogs are bred to do all these tasks very well.

            My golden retriever does none of these things because he is, by my wife’s choice, a city dog. He does not like loud noises, and hides under the bed in thunderstorms. We still love him, though.

            Got any more of your dog facts to share with us?

    • SAP says:

      Phil – regarding public sentiment in the 1970s versus today, I think there is way more pro-bear pressure now than ever.

      See my earlier comment about YNP vs Craigheads in the Dump Controversy. Not sure that it was so much public opinion they were worried about; rather, I think it was YNP managers who were loathe to prove the Craigheads right (Craighead position was that dump closures would lead to a lot of bear deaths). Sure, it would have been way cheaper and quicker to just shoot offending bears wherever they found them. By pretending to relocate them, YNP could act like they were keeping bears alive even after they were in conflicts.

      • SEAK Mossback says:

        And why not? It also made life so much more interesting for those of us camped in remote areas like the SE Arm to watch a helicopter hover into a meadow less than 1/4 mile away with a yellow bag hanging underneath — and depart minutes later without it. Back in the day before bear spray, when grizzlies were less common in the flesh and more so in the imagination, allowing a young camper’s mind to focus on that most primeval equation: grizzly encounter=death.

        • PointsWest says:

          From what I can remember, the Targhee NF scientist who had the friends in the Park Service said the reason they were secretly killing bears was because the Park Service feared puplic opinion. Specifically he said something like, “they’re all worried about ‘touri’ getting upset at Mr. Ranger for killing Yogi The Bear.”

          “Touri” (pronouced tour-I as in fungi) was the affectionate term people in the Targhee used for tourists and/or the general public.

          • PointsWest says:

            Jay…be advised that you will not find the terms “touri,” “Mr. Ranger,” or “Yogi The Bear” used in any documents published by the Department of the Interior National Park Service or by the USDA National Forest Service.

            …just want to clear that you so you don’t get confused again.

  13. jon says:

    elk, you said this.

    “but the Rocky Mountain States Mountain Lions can be hunted with dogs and there is no way that Western States are going to ban lion hunting with dogs.”

    I just named 2 states that don’t allow hound hunting of lions. brett has corrected me that in some places in WA they allow it, but for the most part, one would consider it banned. California which is also a western state last time I checked doesn’t allow hound hunting nor hunting of mt. lions. You already know that though.

    • Tim says:

      Mt. Lions are Hunted in California, Oregon, and Washington by the state. They are also hunted by the tribes that reside in those states. They also use hounds for research studies in Washington. That Mt. lion that was roaming a park in Seattle last year was also treed with hounds.

  14. Nancy says:

    +The question with the tourists and soon with the crew was where were the bears?+

    Elk – While in the “big” city of Dillon today (waiting to hear from my mechanic the verdict on why my rig was acting up/out) I spent some time talking to a longtime, local sheep rancher (also waiting to hear the verdict of his rig) He and I had had some heated words in the past (which I think I’d mentioned in a previous post) about wolves but the talk this time (since wolves didn’t appear to be a problem… at the moment) involved grizzles.

    He has sheep in the Gravelly Range and it seems there are two grizzles making trouble there. When I said “grizzles in the Gravelly? Is that part of their normal territory?

    His response was ” Well, ya know, the “Park” (as in Yellowstone) hauls problem bears out when they can’t deal with them anymore and dumps them in other areas of Montana”


    • Elk275 says:


      Game wardens, park rangers and biologist sulk around when they have a culvert bear trap cover up at both ends. Somewhere, someplace they have their own private “Area 51”. They are so secret.

      Grizzlies have naturally moved into the Gravely Range from the Madison/Gallatin Range through Reynolds Pass or crossed the Madison Valley floor. Archery season starts in less than 6 week and several hunters unknown to them are going to get scratched and bit by mid October.

      I do love lamb but those sheep are preventing the re establishment of mountain sheep in the Greenhorns.

      Good luck with your truck, car repairs can and do take money.

    • SAP says:

      Nancy – grizzlies have been gradually recolonizing the Gravellies since the late 1980s. There was a male grizzly killing the same guy’s sheep up there in about 1986.

      In the mid-90s, there was a female grizzly who at one point was south of Jackson Hole, then she went back to Yellowstone and over to the Gravellies. If I remember correctly, one of her subadult offspring turned up dead of unknown cause in the Gravellies in 1998 (I’ll have to look that up to confirm year and lineage).

      Since then, we’ve been seeing more grizzlies up there. It’s likely some grizzlies spend most of their year in the Gravellies and Snowcrests.

      Grizzlies walk there on their own; the Park Service is not hauling bears out there. Those rumors have been around a long, long time.

      Did you friend elaborate more about the sheep conflicts, or does he just suspect something is going on?

      The Gravellies — even with a roughly 90 percent decline in cone-bearing whitebark pines — are excellent grizzly habitat. Not much “rock and ice,” just a great diversity of highly usable habitat.

      As long as bears can safely navigate the 25 or so miles between the park and the Gravellies (and much of that country in between is wilderness or easement-protected private land), they’re going to keep recolonizing the Gravelly Range.

      • Nancy says:

        From the conversation SAP – he suspected something was going on. And yes, even in my area, the rumors have persisted for years everytime a “bad” bear rakes a screen door or trashes a BBQ ……”must be a transplant from Yellowstone”

        Elk – gonna be a few hundred on the rig – catalytic converter is shot and on top of that, the rear axle seal needs to be replaced……….

        When it rains, it pours!!

        • SEAK Mossback says:

          Nancy –
          If the operator’s name starts with H —, I know his brother (H – Sr.’s that is) pretty well — he put in something like 47 years with NMFS in Juneau, and was the guy to stick with when traveling in major cities like Vancouver, as he always knows the best places to eat. Anyway, I heard plenty of stories about sheep herding out of Dillon from that angle — seem to recall the grizzly that had a long history of problems and being handled, and eventually killed a camper at West (reported in the media to have been deranged by frequent exposure to “angel dust”) ended up in his allotment for a while, whether transported directly there or not.

          • Nancy says:

            Nope, not an “H” in the first or last name Seak.

            But this rancher did mention a griz causing problems awhile back in his allotment (which brought about the “park dumped bears” comment) He claimed with reach, this griz was over 11 feet tall…. He said it took four darts by the local WF/WS? authorities to finally put him out.

            But then you have to keep in mind, anybody thats lived out here for more than a few years, knows the actual facts of events, are often distorted, depending on who you’re trying to impress 🙂

    • Timz,

      Thank you!

      These are the two currently most famous grizzly bears in the GYE.

      So most likely sow 399 gave a cub to her daughter (sow 610) to raise (or maybe the cub liked her older sister better 😉 ) The article also mentions a less likely possibility.

  15. JC says:

    I hate to try and bring this post back on point, but the word from the KOA outside West Yellowstone is that the bear that was trapped and killed was a 2-year old and was part of a three bear group including a sibling 2-year old and the mother.

    The other two are still frequenting the area and stand to be trapped and killed, too.


July 2011


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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