Female griz trapped in apple orchard near Ashton, ID (update)

Apples are natural griz food, though apple orchards are human planted-

If you want to attract bears to your property, an effective way is to plant some apple trees. Of course, most plant them to harvest apples for human use. Bears don’t pick the apples neatly. They usually break tree limbs.

A 300 pound sow grizzly was trapped a week ago a few miles northeast of Ashton, Idaho. It was in an apple orchard right on the edge of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). I was close to this location 3 weeks ago looking for bears or their sign. The place is full of bears this year. This is just as predicted with the failure of higher altitude foods such as the whitebark pine nuts.

This bear was relocated by Idaho Fish and Game as she had no record of conflicts with humans or their property.

We have to wonder if deliberate planting of apples and the like for bears might not be a way of conserving grizzly numbers if traditional foods continue to decline?

The official grizzly mortality database for the GYE is still 21 dead bears — no reported deaths since September. However, it might be that incidents have not yet been added to the federal website database due to the recent government shutdown.  Pending additions, so far this is a year for low grizzly mortalities.

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10/26 Update

There have been an amazing number of news stories about this apple eating grizzly bear. They usually have a headline that reads something like “Grizzly with a taste for apples captured.”

Now a black bear has been captured in an apple orchard near Lava Hot Springs (resort town) in SE Idaho. Once again it is described in headlines as a bear with a “taste for apples.”

This is “pack journalism.” There is nothing at all unique about bears having a taste for apples. Probably all bears will eat apples if they come across them. Actual news would be a bear that turned up his nose at apples.






  1. Leslie Avatar

    Every year I have grizzly bears on my choke cherries. I’ve been deliberately planting more natives that fruit, such as Amelanchier, Sorbus, and blue Elderberries. If you live in the wild with bears, you might as well help them out a bit. They come at night, and are quite respectful even when in hyperphagia.

    One interesting note is that with all this beetle kill in my area, I’ve noticed a rapid growth and resurgence of choke cherry bushes as well as roses and dogwood, all of which have edible fruits.

  2. Larry Avatar

    I have planted a few apple and plum trees on my property back on my woodlot. Not for human consumption but for the birds and the few deer that drift through. It is funny to see my golden retrievers check out the plums on the lower limbs to see if they are ready. If still unripe (green though they can’t tell) they just sniff and go on. But as soon as they start to ripen the boys stretch up into the tree to get as many as they can. They do the same with the raspberries too. It is definitely an application of the “smell test”. Planting apple trees for bears would be nice but pretty much an Alice in Wonderland deal. The best we can do is throw out the apple core when done!

  3. Bob Ostler Avatar
    Bob Ostler

    As information: Last fall someone dumped a pickup load of apples just off US20 at Anderson Mill Road about 5 miles north of Ashton. When I returned three weeks later there wasn’t one left. I haven’t a notion if someone was feeding wildlife, baiting, or just disposing of orchard waste.

  4. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    I was informed long ago, that apples (seeds) in quantity and dogs are not a good combination as the cyanide contained in the seeds can build to toxic levels.

    Are bears that different where they can consume great quantities of apples, seeds and all?

  5. David Stalling Avatar

    Perhaps, as a last resort — but it would be far more preferable if we can protect, conserve and restore natural habitat and ensure the health and integrity of their natural and wild home, habits and diet the best we can.

  6. Linda Jo Hunter Avatar

    Bears stomachs can handle a lot of different seeds and I have been told that they pass the seeds through in a way that the seeds are set up more perfectly for germination. Where I live, it is the bears who plant the huckleberry plants. I have said for a long time that planting fruit for bears would be a great way to get along with them now that we have fenced off and built in most of the best bottom lands in the country. Just take a walk in the woods where you are and see how much there is for animals to eat. The food for a whole lot of species has now been replaced by farms, housing developments, roads, golf courses and mega malls. It would seem that supplemental planting would be a whole lot cheaper than handling and carting off bears to a place where there is less food, only to have them come back again.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      To add to what Linda Jo Hunter wrote, if you look at bear scat, you can often see many just slightly digested seeds, whether they are from fruits or the seed heads on forbs.

      I’ve been told if you pick up some bear scat up and scatter it in your garden you are often amazed at what grows, including many plants that are very hard to grow from wild seed and direct sowing.

      1. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
        Peter Kiermeir

        Once in Slovakia we found bear scat in a bright, shiny “metallic” lilac. No doubt the colour came from the berries, they ate.
        About planting apple trees: I learnt – and saw – that the Spanish Bear Foundation plants apple orchards for the bears.
        Recently, we watched a bear picking berries from a tree (Alpine Buckthorn) – not much was left of the tree when the bear left :-))

        1. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
          Peter Kiermeir

          I found on the website of the “Fundacio Orso Pardo”, the spanish bear project: They own about a total of 12o acres of land in remote areas, to be planted with fruit trees, not only apples, also cherry trees, for the bears.

        2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          Peter Kiermeir,

          Thank you. I always appreciate your examples from Europe.

  7. SAP Avatar

    Interesting to see this increase in grizzly activity southwest of YNP. We could see a situation similar to what’s going on around Cody — bears following artificial “riparian” areas (that is, irrigation systems) out of the foothills and ending up way out in the intensively-farmed country. Around Cody & Powell, it’s alfalfa and sugar beets. Could be alfalfa, barley, and potatoes in eastern Idaho.

  8. Jeff Avatar

    I’d like to know where they released her. They don’t have a lot of choices in SE Idaho. She’d be a great candidate for the Frank.

  9. Rosemary Lowe Avatar

    Here in New Mexico the bear population is suffering because of ongoing severe drought. Many people are concerned, and have tried to discuss Emergency Diversionary Feeding stations with State Game & Fish. This antiquated agency has not been receptive, to say the least. Hungry bears look for food in human backyards, resulting in several bear deaths, separation of bear cubs from their mothers, and relocation of bears to areas already inhabited by other bears. This all spells bad news for these animals, many of whom are going into hibernation in fragile condition. Emergency feeding programs have worked in other states, and helps keep bears out of harm’s way, from entering human settlements.

  10. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    Here fresh news from Spain: Volunteers from the Spanish Bear Foundation planting fruit trees for the Cantabrian Brown Bear:

    1. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
      Peter Kiermeir

      …and in Italy you´ve got those volunteers from the WWF clearing old apple, cherry, quince and dogwood orchards to make them more accessible for the bear, the “Orso bruno marsicano”.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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