Thoughts on grizzlies

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The grizzlies are back! By any measure, the grizzly bear, with a lot of human help, have made a remarkable recovery. Many folks, including Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks feel that they should no longer be listed as an endangered species. Others, including many environmental organizations, are opposed to delisting. Let’s look at the facts as I interprets them.

I have lived on or around the North Fork since 1947 and still live there from May to November. I never saw a grizzly bear before 1991 and that one was sniffing around the Holcomb buildings. I was thrilled to get my first not too good photos of a grizzly in the wild.

In recent years, I have averaged sighting 20 grizzlies between May 15 and November 30. Plus, there was one bear on the road on January 1. I now have tons of photos and some of them are pretty darned good.

My experience is not unique or even unusual. One North Forker, Bill Walker, has seen four grizzlies this spring and at least three other North Forkers have e-mailed me pictures of a mother bear with two cubs.

Last year, four grizzlies hung around Polebridge for weeks until two were killed and one was captured, collared and released. The fourth was trapped, collared and transplanted to Glacier Park.

Both collared bears have returned to the Polebridge area this spring. One, the oat field male, has again entertained locals and visitors by grazing in the oat field in plain view. This male bear has never bothered anyone, never destroyed any property and has just ignored all human activity – cars driving by, horns honking, as many as 25 cars parked along the road and people actually walking into the field to take pictures with their little cameras.

As good as he has been, he is probably doomed. No one can argue that he is not habituated. He is absolutely not afraid of humans. After all, he has never been hurt or even frightened by people.

It is also a fact that bears are dispersing into areas where they have not loved for many decades. Maybe they can adapt to farm and ranch country, but I doubt it. For sure, they are not welcome inside the city limits of Whitefish. They are a thrill and a danger to summer recreationists on Big Mountain.

Enough is enough. I think they must be delisted and even carefully hunted if were are to maintain the population. The recovery goal was originally less that 400. Now, we have about 1,000 grizzlies and too many have been habituated by humans. A carefully managed hunt would, no doubt, focus on the habituated bears. I want the bear, but not in my house. Let’s make them afraid of humans again.

What do you think?

Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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