A few incidents and some grizzly expansion onto the Montana plains-

Now that the grizzly (and black) bears are mostly out into what has been a generally cold Rocky Mountain spring, there is, as always, grizzly bear news.

First a minor mauling. A college student in Pablo, Montana was mauled by a griz during the mid-morning just outside of town. Pablo is in the Flathead Valley. The student was enrolled at Salish Kootenai College (SKC), a Native American tribal college in Pablo. While the town is in the valley, it is close to the grizzly bear thick Mission Mountains that rise steeply to the town’s east. Brush and streams (as well as farmland and isolated homes) are situated between the mountains and town. The incident occurred close to campus. Story with video. 

The attack has been regarded as “defensive.” It seems likely he surprised a grizzly sow with two cubs that were in the area.

Next, the first grizzly of the year was been put down for eating too much beef on the hoof.  The death came on March 23.  This was on private land in Wyoming in Bennett Creek near Clark, Wyoming.  Little information has been given.  The data given here came from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s mortality data base. Lots of bears get killed around Clark.

As usual, grizzlies have emerged from the Rocky Mountain Front in northwest central Montana onto the adjacent plains where they eat winter killed wildlife and livestock, early grass, sedges and forbs. Almost all stay in the 4 to 10 mile zone between the abrupt Front mountains and U.S. 89.  Almost every year, and increasing so, the bears cross over the highway and continue eastward into the coulee and rolling farmland in the sparsely populated plains where human population has been declining for many years. This year two big, but yet sub-adult bears have been spotted 5 or so miles west of Conrad, Montana. Conrad is about 35 miles from the Front. Long-time spokesman and biologist for Montana FWP, Mike Madel, said that the bears probably learned of the food rich area from their mother.

Investigational grizzly bear trapping in northwest Montana beings in April to run through October.  Bears will trapped in the Blackfoot Valley, along the Rocky Mountain Front, in the Swan and Clearwater River valleys, within Glacier National Park, and in the North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River.  To prevent any post tranquilizer incidents such as the mauling death several years ago in Kitty Creek, Wyoming, warning signs will be put up in the areas to be trapped.

Montana FWP has an annual “grizzly bear wake up program.” It will be held next on Thursday, April 25, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the U.S. Forest Service’s Condon Work Center. It is a bit late but call the Swan Ecosystem Center at (406) 754-3137 to RSVP.

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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.

54 Responses to Spring grizzly bear news

  1. Robert R says:

    It’s my personal opinion but I think the grizzly is far more symbolic than the wolf.
    A good article with Madel talking about grizzlies.


    • Mike says:

      The grizzly will force many people to reconsider the “let it grow and shoot it” culture of violence that plagues white males.

      • john says:

        completely uncalled for comment,,, is there something wrong with being white or are you stereotyping all white males,,,, what a moron!

  2. Ida Lupine says:

    I think all of our wildlife is iconic and symbolic. Allowing hunting of grizzlies won’t be scientific management, if what happened to the wolf is any indication. Letting hunters loose to kill without rhyme or reason, just anything that moves, including illegal poaching, is a bad idea – unless it it restricted by scientists and biologists. That story someone posted awhile ago about a hunter shooting a mama griz in front of her cubs was stomach-turning.

    I don’t know what the answer is, if human expansion into wildlife habitat continues unabated, which it will. It is obviously a recipe for disaster, unless the ultimate goal it to remove all wildlife entirely, except for what amounts to ‘canned hunting’ for those who have no concept of what real hunting means. And for what one quoted biologist described as small ’boutique’ populations, like a zoo. Blech!

    • Robert R says:

      Ida none will admit that the national park’s are basically a zoo. Once the animals within the park’s grow beyond their carrying capacity they must expand to find their own home range.

      • JB says:


        I’m curious, in what ways do you think national parks are like zoos? Outside of being protected from hunting and trapping (in some parks), I really don’t see many similarities? Note: I’ve referred to Yellowstone as a “wilderness zoo” in the past, but that was in reference to the containment of certain animals (i.e., bison, wolves); that is, wolves and bison are allowed to roam free, so long as they stay in the zoo-park. Upon some reflection, I think there are far more differences than similarities, and most people (myself included) only make the comparison to be provocative.

        • WM says:


          Not to intrude on your exchange with Robert, but while he is contemplating an answer, let me offer that the way people are managed while in a NP very much reminds me of a zoo (at least those NP’s in which there are animals and plants that are the focus of protection). People are managed to a great degree where they go, how they go, where they stay and for how long, what they do and what they are not permitted to do. That is sort of the flip side of what the animals do while within the boundaries of the federal reserve. And, of course, the animals are to some degree managed, as well, as to where they go and what they do while they are there too (eg. how many grizzlies have you seen in a campground?).

          • JB says:

            Not an intrusion at all, WM. I think ‘people management’ is a legitimate comparison, though there’s nowhere the degree of people mgmt. that you’ll find in most zoos. My thinking was that animals are generally free to do what they want. Zoo animals–even the biggest ones–exist in pens the size of my lot (.18 acres); they are fed, their health care is provided, humans decide when they eat and breed (and who they breed with); they don’t have to kill nor hunt for food; they have virtually no risk of predation, and needn’t worry about competition. In these cases, the differences between NPs and zoos are rather stark.

            • Nancy says:

              Stark indeed JB 🙂

            • Joseph Allen says:

              In Desert Solitaire,Edward Abbey suggests a rational example of how our parks should be “people managed.” It also mentions how rangers should “range.” The chapter is called “Industrial Tourism and the National Parks.” Although Abbey’s slant was in the Southwest, it would apply to any National Park

            • Joseph Allen says:

              In Desert Solitaire,Edward Abbey suggests a rational example of how our parks should be “people managed.” It also mentions how rangers should “range.” The chapter is called “Industrial Tourism and the National Parks.” Although Abbey’s slant was in the Southwest, it would apply to any National Park

        • Robert R says:

          WM explained it better than I could, however as Jay says if you get away from the road it’s a different world, on the other hand until you get away from the roads, that is the only wilderness on the other hand motorized vehicles would not be allowed on the roads if it were true wilderness.
          Maybe I think of the parks as federals zoos because they think they act as if they have ownership of the animals within the parks.
          Just one thought on the feeding part. The elk that get fed in Jacksonhole also attacked predators so I guess you can call it what you want.

          • Ida Lupine says:

            Maybe I think of the parks as federals zoos because they think they act as if they have ownership of the animals within the parks. They do act that way. And I worry what will happen once our new Secretary of the Interior comes on board. We seem to be heading in this direction.

            All good points, Robert R. (We agree!) I think ‘getting away from the road’ is going to be more difficult as time goes on. I think if they are not federal zoos already, they will be in time. Just the amount of people that go through there.

          • JB says:

            “Maybe I think of the parks as federals zoos because they think they act as if they have ownership of the animals within the parks.”

            Robert: They do! In Kleppe v. New Mexico (426 U.S. 529, 1976) the New Mexico livestock board challenged the federal government’s authority to manage wild horses and burros, claiming that they were not items of interstate commerce. The Supreme Court unanimously reversed a lower court decision that found in favor of plaintiffs. They found that the federal government [Congress] has “complete authority over the public lands [which] includes the power to regulate and protect the wildlife living there.” (emphasis mine).

      • Ralph Maughan says:

        Fortunately grizzly bears in the lower 48 have never been managed to keep them within the boundaries of a national park, although some people and politicians have always suggested it.

        The boundaries where grizzly bears can live have not been formally constrained. I am pleased when they take up in a new area where there is food and not many conflicts, and I think people have been more tolerant of grizzlies than wolves even though the bears are a slight threat to life and limb while the wolves seem to be no threat at all.

        Public support for grizzlies throughout the areas where they live is more robust.

      • Ida Lupine says:

        Yes – I can see that if it isn’t a zoo yet, it certainly will be soon. There’re not many options.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          I should add that people are starting to dictate what it is wildlife should eat – wolves and other predators are not being allowed to hunt wild ungulates (and heaven forbid they make the mistake of eating cattle or sheep or other domesticated animals!) – seals, otters and other marine life are not supposed to eat seafood. Wild horses are not supposed to eat the grass. Even roadkill is being commandeered by humans (are we that desperate for food?) so that the scavenging birds and other animals can’t complete their designed function.

          Bison and wolves are relegated to parks only. The next step is to put up a fence of some kind around the perimeters. It will at least keep poachers and collared-wolf hunters out!

          • Ida Lupine says:

            Wait, there’s more. The are re-opening horse slaughter plants around the country so I guess this is what they plan to feed wolves and bears (just like a zoo!), because it is too adulterated to feed to humans while we still have an FDA to monitor it. (Stay tuned, tho. Certain powers that be would like to do away with it.)

          • Jay says:

            Feral horses

      • Anthony Criscola says:

        National Parks are a very small part of our public lands. Montana has one and Idaho has none. Seems like a mute point to me.

        • JB says:


          You are correct that NPs make up a relatively small (though not insignificant) percentage of federal public lands. However, for the record, MT has 8 NPS units, Idaho 9. Note: parts of Yellowstone are in all three states (WY, ID, and MT), and there area a number of historic sites also administered by NPS.

  3. Jay says:

    anybody willing to walk outside of earshot from the roads of parks like Yellowstone and Glacier knows how dissimilar these places are from zoos. The probably do seem like game parks as seen from the roads, but spend a little time on foot and you’ll realize how little you see from a windshield.

    • WM says:


      Analogies always break down at some point in the comparison. The problem with the NP’s we usually think of when comparing to zoos, get most of their use from the public in the “front country,” instead of the “back country.” Regardless, there are rules for managing people, wherever they are, for example bear cans or bear wires, and maybe even where you camp.

      • JB says:

        “The problem with the NP’s we usually think of when comparing to zoos, get most of their use from the public in the “front country,” instead of the “back country.””

        That’s not a problem, WM–it’s by design. People are purposefully “focused” on the attractions (e.g., Mammoth, Grand Prismatic, Old Faithful, Upper Falls) so that the back country stays wild. That way, those who are happy to enjoy Yellowstone from their cars (mostly) may do so, while the back country stays open for people who want a wilderness experience. The Park Service has been managing for variety in differing types of “experience opportunities” since the 1980s.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          Is there a middle country? That will be increasingly difficult. Some of us don’t want to view from the car, but we don’t want to camp in the backcountry either. Long dayhikes are nice. We do like the grand dame national park hotels of old tho. 🙂

          A lot of F&W people say that their obligation is to their ‘stakeholders’ so it is sounding more and more like a business all the time. Top that off with an Interior Secretary whose background is a CEO of a outdoor human-centric recreation company and gossip about privatizing the parks, and it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

          • Ida Lupine says:

            Or long day’s journey into night kind of hiking. 🙂

          • JB says:

            There sure is. Google “Recreation Opportunity Spectrum” and start reading. Actually, the ROS was created for the Forest Service; the Park Service uses the Visitor Experience and Resource Protection planning framework, though they are essentially the same. You would be surprised how much thought has gone into planning how people interact with NP resources. 🙂

            • Ida Lupine says:

              I’m glad. I have loved visiting, and really care about them. I don’t mean to sound shrill – but we’re a little on edge lately in my neck of the woods. 🙂

        • WM says:

          ++The Park Service has been managing for variety in differing types of “experience opportunities” since the 1980s.++

          Yes, I understand, but they still control density, where you go and when in the back-country as well.

          Again, the analogy to a zoo is loose, and to some extent refers to these constraints – and there is always the “don’t touch” the exhibits part. LOL.

          • JB says:


            Yes, they manage for density. In fact, density is one of the primary indicators that separates differing types of experience opportunities (wilderness is defined as a place with opportunities for solitude–meaning low density). And yeah, there are ‘don’t touch’ signs. They keep the morons from boiling themselves in the hot springs, or feeding themselves to the bears (though some still try, LOL).

  4. Robert R says:

    To get kind of back on subject. our black bears have not been visible. I would say there not out yet but when they first emerge they don’t get far from their den and males emerge first.
    I would like to go to the back country where I guided to see if that grizzly has survived. I remember in the spring when the elk were calving how that bear made the calving grounds his buffet and it was quite horrific site and very scary.

  5. Leslie says:

    Canadian and grizzly bear advocate Charlie Russell spent most of his life as a rancher in bear county. I find it fascinating that he recommends leaving a killed cow carcass from an old or sick cow out in the spring when bears emerge. His experience was that if he did so, the bears would eat then move on, never bothering his cattle for the rest of the season.

  6. Leslie says:

    I am absolutely against hunting bears, and especially grizzlies. Grizzlies are as intelligent as the great apes, which is proven. So, its like shooting another human then.

    Besides the moral argument, grizzlies food sources are imperiled. The white bark pines in my area alone are 90% dead. Last year in the Winds, beetles have really infested rapidly the high country and within just a few years they are at least 40% dead. We must allow grizzlies to expand their habitat if we want to keep them around.

  7. Leslie says:

    Best book I’ve read in years on grizzlies is by William Wright, written in 1910 and brought back into print by Frank Craighead. This man knows grizzlies intimately.


  8. CodyCoyote says:

    OK…I have to ask. Incident #2. I live in Cody WY and Clark is 35 miles away . WHY am I just now hearing about this Grizzly taken for depredation now, a month after it happened ? That is usually big news around here, routinely reported. Yet for some reason Wyo G&F chose not to publicize it this time. And yes, the area around Clark is a frequent Man-Bear conflict zone. It sits on the Front Range of the Absaroka and Beartooth mountain ranges in terrain that is more ” human encroachment into prime bear habitat” than a viable ranching area where bears encroach onto humans. it is semi-arid high desert with lots of Yucca, right up against towering mountains, 40 miles east of the Yellowstone Park boundary, sparsely populated by people. Clark is unincorporated. Folks move up there to ” get away from it all ” and bring a secessionist bunker mentality with them in many cases.

    Again, very odd this was not in the local press and had to be derived from a routine IGBC report.

    • Nancy says:

      CC – just went thru the Mortality Database and since 2009, over 181 grizzles have died. And many were shot by hunters, mistaken for black bear. The “I thought it was a coyote” mentality when it comes to wolves.

      • Robert R says:

        Nancy if talk hunters down give the exact number and don’t make it sound as if they killed them all! Further more some of the grizzly deaths could not be avoided, put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

        • Nancy says:

          Robert R – looks like atleast 6 grizzlies in the past 4 years were mistaken for black bears. Atleast 30 bears killed – human caused, are “under investigation” (poaching or more mistaken identity?)

          Over 30 killed in hunter related/self defense. How many bears could of lived to see another day if pepper spray had been used? (only one death referenced the use of pepper spray) That’s a LOT of bears dispatched by guns.

          The thrill of the hunt can have unfortunate consequences if you’re not paying attention to your surroundings.

          Be interesting to know how many of these incidents involved inexperienced hunters.

  9. Robert R says:

    Nancy for the fun of it take FWP’S bear identification test. Most people cannot pass it without doing the traing part.


    • Robert R says:


    • JB says:

      93% (missed one). One of the annoying thing about trying to identify from photos is you only get one angle, which may not be good for assessing the characteristics one looks for (e.g. size/shape of ears). So yeah, a few of the photos are hard to identify; but in the field you’re supposed to NOT SHOOT until and unless you’re sure.

    • Nancy says:

      Robert R – I took this test a few years ago and got 100%. This go around, I missed that last picture, got 93%.

      Fact is, with all those deaths (of grizzlies) a few minutes on the computer, shouldn’t automatically qualify someone to hunt bear or prepare them to deal with a grizzly if it suddenly appears while hunting other game.

      Maybe pepper spray courses ought to be mandatory (and required equipment) if one wants to hunt in grizzly habitat?

      Again, begs the question, how many of these bears were shot by inexperienced hunters that maybe should not of been out there in the firstplace, if they wern’t prepared to confront a bear, protecting their territory or young?

      • Robert R says:

        Nancy you opened a big can of worms.
        Inexperienced hunters,hikers wildlife watchers etc. maybe it should be required for all park visitors and anyone who goes on public land. More government control!
        JB I totally agree that the pictures are only 2D at best and I think the test gives false hopes to some who have never seen a live grizzly in the wild. Sub adults are the hardest to distinguish but there is no question about an adult grizzlies.
        You can easily see on a younger grizzly that is dark colored how mistakes could be made if closer observation is not made.

        • Nancy says:

          “Nancy you opened a big can of worms”

          I beg to differ Robert R. Haven’t we got enough problems within our own species when it comes to GUNS and “mistaken identity, self defense and under investigation” to inflict the same kind of sh+t on other species???

          • Robert R says:

            Nancy are you saying that anyone who owns a gun and or hunts has mental problems.
            I would be willing to bet the majority of weekend recreationalist are not prepared for a bear encounter.

            • Nancy says:

              Nope not saying that Robert R. BUT if one is going to do everything they can to disguise their scent, dress in camouflage

              and then sneak around in the woods, chances are they might run into a bear, minding his (or her) own business that isn’t happy about the encounter.

              I think it was one of the Craigheads that discovered bears have a comfort zone (around 200 yds) and would rather flee if they detect human scent or hear them.

              Look at all the people that hike into the backcountry ever year, counted just 3 incidents involving bears shot in the Mortality Data base over 4 years related to hikers, verses 30 bears killed by hunters and another 30 dead “under investigation”

              • Immer Treue says:


                Good point! Add to It the number of cammoed yahoos that have sounded like deer/elk, smelled like deer/elk, looked like a tree, and we’re supposedly stalked/hunted/attacked/approached/etc… By wolves.

              • Robert R says:

                Say what you want but as hunter a bowhunter I feel more closer to all animals and get closer than most would be comfortable getting. I have been on the receiving end of black bears many times and in most cases if you have the guts to call there bluff they will run off. I was walking out one night when a cub black bear came running toward me and being that I was runninrg into a cow moose and her calf I had a pocket of rocks. When I realized it was a cub bear I threw a rock and it climbed a tree. In the background I could hear the sow snapping het teeth. I never panicked and walked away, some say maybe lucky. Animals can detect fear.
                Any animal that feels threatened or cornered will protect them self and once you enter their safety zone they go into a defense mode.
                I have more fear of a cow moose than a bear and have been put in tree several times and instance I had to hit a cow on her nose to make her back off.
                You can call hunters yahoos, I don’t really care, but who is in the woods in the dark. They is more risk driving on our highways that the outdoors.
                I really think its becoming a blame game because neither side gets what they want or the way they want animals manages, so no one will never be satisfied, I’ll admit it, can anyone else do the same.

              • Immer Treue says:


                I’m not calling hunters yahoos. The folks im calling yahoos are those who are so flippin surprised when they smell and act like a deer/elk, look like a tree, and make obtuse claims when predators approach, such as the ommotion that was made about the wolf killing granny, and as ma’iingan has brought up about “treed” hunters in Wisconsin. Nothing against hunters Robert.

                This goes to you too varjostaa.

        • JB says:

          “…maybe it should be required for all park visitors and anyone who goes on public land. More government control!”

          Several years ago my wife and I did some backpacking in the back country of Yellowstone. Before getting a permit, we were required to watch a 15 minute video on bear safety. At the time I was annoyed (mostly because it was stuff we already knew); however, looking back I can see why that policy was initiated. Anyone know whether they’re still doing it?

          • savebears says:

            Yes, you are required to watch the video, either over the net or in the permit office, they also require you to watch a video in Glacier as well.

  10. Nancy says:

    “Add to it the number of cammoed yahoos that have sounded like deer/elk, smelled like deer/elk, looked like a tree, and we’re supposedly stalked/hunted/attacked/approached/etc… By wolves”

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Tony says:

      FYI, I spotted three wolves just a little south west of Shelby while hunting Pheasant last year. One was a black. It was pretty interesting hunting Pheasant in Bear and Wolf country. Kinda keeps one on his toes. Locals stated they had Griz in their back yards as well.


April 2013


‎"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