Politics Magazine

Repost: An Overview of Grizzly Bears in the US and Canada

Posted on the 09 May 2016 by Calvinthedog

If you guys wonder where I have been the past few days, well, one of the things I have been doing is working on this old article. It needed a lot of updating.

A lot of time went into this piece. Grizzlies are in the news now as the US Fish and Wildlife Service wants to delist the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide Grizzly populations from their Threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. The problem is that when they do that, the states in the area want to open up a Grizzly Bear trophy hunting season. Environmentalists do not think the bears should be delisted, and they are aghast at the idea of trophy hunting of Grizzly Bears. The matter is now being litigated.

All other Grizzly Bear populations in the continental US, including the Selway-Bitteroot, the Cabinet-Yaak, the Selkirks and the Northern Cascades. If any bears exist in Colorado, Utah or New Mexico, those will also remain protected.The story of the Ghost Grizzlies of Colorado is a fascinating one. It is one of the world’s great cryptozoology mystery stories

Click to enlarge. See how the Grizzly Bear range has receded in the modern era.

At the moment, Grizzly Bears exist in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming in the contiguous US. One was recently photographed in the northern Cascades in Washington in an amazing photograph.

They are very common in Canada and Alaska. A friend of mine in Alberta told me that Grizzlies are so common up there that they are very nearly regarded as pests. However, the Alberta government has listed the population of 700 bears as threatened.

British Columbia has a huge population of over 16,000 bears. This number is down considerably from the 25,000 bears present at contact. There are 25,000 grizzlies total in Canada in British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the northern part of Manitoba.

In 2007, a Grizzly was shot to death in the Selway-Bitteroots in Central Idaho. Previously, the last Grizzly in the Selway-Bitteroots was a confirmed sighting in 1946. There had been sightings of Grizzlies in the Selway-Bitteroots since the late 1990’s. There are other Grizzly populations in Montana – 40 in the Cabinet-Yaak and 105 in the Selkirks. There are some scattered bears in Wyoming in the Wind River Range and more controversially, possibly even in the Medicine Bow Mountains.

The North Cascades population in Washington is estimated at only 10-20 bears.

Endangered Species Act protection has been removed from the bears in the Yellowstone region, but a lawsuit by conservationists caused a judge to reinstate protections. This subgroup has a population of 550. In the Northern Continental Divide in Montana, a larger population of 750 bears exists. The Northern Rockies and Greater Yellowstone populations are considered to be at capacity.

There are 32,500 Grizzly Bears in the US in total, but 95% of them are in Alaska. Therefore, Alaska has a population of ~31,000 bears, and there are 1,470 bears in the rest of the US.

The Grizzly Bear formerly ranged through the Western and Southwestern US.

There are ongoing sightings of Grizzly Bears in Colorado, especially in the Southern Rockies near the New Mexico border in the San Juan Range. If it exists, the population may be small (10-20 bears) and inbred.

The last confirmed sighting of a Grizzly in Colorado was in 1979 when a hunter was mauled by a female bear in the San Juans. He shot and killed the bear though so biologists were able to study it. Prior to that, the last known Grizzly Bear in Colorado was killed in 1952, and it was assumed that bears were extirpated from the state. Autopsy revealed that the dead sow in 1979 had already given birth to two litters in the past, so her cubs were probably still roaming around, and there had to have been at lest one boar in the area to impregnate her.

A Grizzly was photographed at an unknown date in the Wet Mountains between Westcliffe and Beulah, Colorado in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. A family saw a Grizzly Bear at an unknown date near Walsenberg, Colorado in the Sangre de Cristos.

A man and his wife saw a huge male Grizzly weighing 1,000 pounds in the Cimarron Mountains in the San Juans at an unknown date. Ten minutes later, a ranch hand from the ranch next door stopped by to warn them that there was a Grizzly Bear in the area.

Two hunters saw a large Grizzly Bear weighing 600 pounds and standing seven feet tall on an unknown date near Shelf Road between Canon City and Cripple Creek, Colorado in the Pike’s Peak Country of the Southern Front Range.

A Grizzly Bear was photographed at an unknown date west of Weston, Colorado in the Sangre de Cristos. The photos was shown to Game and Fish personnel who would neither confirm nor deny that it was a Grizzly. Off the record, the game warden said there are still a few Grizzlies in the area, but the department’s official position is to deny that they exist, as 1) They do not want an endangered species in the area putting land restrictions in; 2) They do not want local ranchers getting up in arms over the Grizzlies and demanding to kill them; 3) They do not want to deal with hunters demanding to shoot them and 4) They do not want to have to draw up an expensive management plan for them.

Two fishermen saw a grizzly bear and tracks near Garfield Lake near Silverton, Colorado in the San Juans in Fall 1982. In Late Spring 1982, Grizzly tracks were seen in the Weminuche Wilderness between Pagosa Springs and Creede, Colorado in the San Juans.

There was a confirmed sighting by a PhD biologist in the headwaters of the Navajo River near Pagosa Springs, Colorado in the San Juans in 1989.

A female Grizzly was seen on the eastern side of the San Juans a few miles from the New Mexico border in the early 1990’s. A Grizzly Bear was sighted in La Manga Pass in the San Juans in 1995. In the mid-1990’s, three hunters saw a Grizzly Bear den on Bull Mountain in North Central Colorado in the Medicine Bow Mountains near the Wyoming border. Two years later, hunters returned to the same den and found a Grizzly Bear’s head nailed to a tree outside the den. It had apparently been killed by someone. Between 1996-2005, possible Grizzly scat was seen on the same mountain.

In 1997, a female Grizzly Bear with two cubs was seen in La Manga Pass. There was another sighting near this pass close to Manassa, Colorado in the San Juans in 2003, and a female was seen in the same area 2000. That is only 7 miles north of the New Mexico border.

A Grizzly was seen near Creede around 2006-2009. Another was seen in the same area in 2005. A female Grizzly Bear with cubs was sighted in Late September 2006 near Independence Pass east of Aspen, Colorado in the Sawatch Range. In 2007, hunters said they saw a Grizzly Bear near Aspen. The same year, a possible female Grizzly with two cubs was seen in the high country in Red Wing, Colorado in the Sangre de Cristos.

In addition, tracks were seen at 10,000 feet in the Routt National Forest in Colorado just south of the Wyoming border in 2010. Hunters in the area may see Grizzlies with some regularity. Since bears have been sighted less than 100 miles away in Southwest Wyoming, it’s possible that bears may drift down from Wyoming onto the Routt.

On July 31, 2010, two men saw a Grizzly Bear at 12,000 feet on Little Cimarron Road near the Big Cimarron River three miles southeast of Cimarron, Colorado. They saw Grizzly tracks at Silverjack Reservoir where the Big Cimarron River comes into the reservoir. Cimarron is just south of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. On June 10, 2012, three men riding the COG to the top of Pikes Peak in the Southern Front Range saw a Grizzly Bear. In Fall 2013, a Grizzly was seen near Crawford, Colorado pursuing a gut shot elk. Crawford is between the West Elk Mountains and Grand Mesa. In Fall 2014, Grizzly tracks were seen above Masonville, Colorado near Rocky Mountain National Park at the northern end of the Front Range.

A Grizzly Bear walked through a yard in Indian Creek near Lake City, Colorado in the San Juans in the June 2015. The same month, two Grizzly Bears were seen in the San Juans above Pagosa Springs on a single day. One weighed 800 pounds. Later the same month, on June 28, a large Grizzly Bear was spotted 50 yards off the highway in the pass coming into Cimarron, Colorado. The motorists watched it for 15 minutes before it retreated up the slope.

A Grizzly Bear was killed on I-80 in Utah in the early 80’s, though this was never acknowledged by wildlife officials. Tracks have been seen recently in the Book Cliffs of Eastern Utah.

Grizzly Bears may also exist right across the Colorado border in New Mexico. In the late 1980’s, a Grizzly Bear cub was seen just across the Colorado border west of Chama, New Mexico.

A subspecies, the California Golden Bear, was hunted to extinction. The last bear was shot in Tulare County in 1922.

Another subspecies, the Mexican Grizzly Bear, is said to be extinct, as it has not been seen for some time. By 1960, there were only 30 bears left, and only four years later in 1964, it was regarded as extinct. Rumors continued of bears seen in the Yaqui Headwaters Region.

In 1969, a naturalist organized an expedition there with no success. A recent journal article examined a skull of a juvenile bear shot in Arroyo del Oso in Sonora, Mexico in 1976 and determined that the skull was that of a Mexican Grizzly Bear. Residents of the region say that bears matching the description of Mexican Grizzly Bears continued to exist in the foothills of the sky islands of Sonora and the rest of the bear’s former range as of 2007.

A joint-US expedition to Mexico in 1980 found tracks, other Grizzly Bear sign and one sighting of what the experts determined was a Grizzly Bear. 32 years later, it is not known if Grizzlies persist in Mexico. However, mammalogists feel that they continue to exist in the Sierra del Nido in Chihuahua at the very least, and they may persist in Sonora also.

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