Are you planning to be in Bellingham in February? You should!
Join Western Wildlife Outreach Founder, PBS & BBC TV host and narrator Chris Morgan for an afternoon of adventure, fun, and fascination!
From Andean bears on the equator to Siberian tigers in the Russian frontier, this carnivore ecologist and global adventurer has spent over 20 years immersing himself among the wildlife of every continent. His engaging and authentic on-camera presence has brought him hosting and narration work seen on PBS Nature, BBC, National Geographic Television, and the Discovery Channel, along with an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. His year-long odyssey across the Arctic Circle by motorcycle was featured in the three-part miniseries Bears of the Last Frontier.
Now, the Bellingham local eagerly invites you to join him for a very special live show created just for his own hometown. Witness epic, never-before-seen footage from an exciting array of international locations, including Siberia, Peru, the Arctic, Alaska, and Borneo. Experience Chris’s all-at-once hilarious and moving stories from the field, enjoy the rare opportunity to see some lively bloopers, and be one of the first to hear about Chris’ new movie and campaign for the bears of the world. Not your typical nature talk, this unique event is something completely different and completely engaging. Says Chris, “This show will appeal to everyone – there’s adventure, culture, natural history – even motorbikes!”
We are very excited to announce that the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project has changed its name to Western Wildlife Outreach (WWO). The new name is a reflection of the expansion of our human and carnivore coexistence programs to include four large carnivore species, grizzly bears, black bears, cougars and gray wolves. You can find us online at our new website address: westernwildlife.org, or you can continue to use bearinfo.org. Either way, you will arrive at the same place, our new home page with our updated logo and look. See our page to read more about this exciting change
When Barry Lopez wrote his classic tome, Of Wolves and Men, over twenty five years ago, the understanding of wolf biology and ecology at that time was far less informed than it is today. Now, we know about ecological principles such as trophic cascades and the role of apex carnivores in maintaining healthy ecosystems. We know about the social structure of wolf packs, and that juvenile wolves need the adults in a pack to learn proper hunting techniques that could keep them from becoming “problem wolves”. We know about the distances that individual wolves can travel in search of new territory.
Radio-collaring, remote cameras, track and scat studies have given us an even more accurate look into the secret lives of wolves. In the scientific view, wolves are neither “good” animals nor “bad” animals. They are simply an intricate part of a larger complex ecosystem that has functioned for thousands of years, maintaining ecological equilibrium.
Grizzly Bear Outreach Project is working with State and Federal resource management agencies as well as other non-profits, to provide communities with accurate information on wolves and wolf behavior so that wise, informed decisions can be made and appropriate responses can be developed to Washington’s returning wolf packs. Gray wolves are native to the Pacific Northwest. Wolves returned to Washington on their own, and were not re-introduced as occurred in Yellowstone National Park. Currently there are eight established wolf packs in Washington. Scientific information such as DNA analysis is pointing to Washington having at least two distinct populations of wolves, those originating from the Idaho/Rocky mountain population, and those originating from Coastal British Columbia.
Gray wolves are considered endangered throughout Washington by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and existing State policy, although a budget-rider attached to a congressional budget bill resulted in their de-listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. The federal delisting applied to all of the Rocky Mountain gray wolf population, which includes the eastern third of Washington State. Wolves in Western Washington are still listed under ESA.
The mountain huckleberries are just starting to ripen in the alpine elevations of the North Cascades and the hiking conditions are perfect. It’s time to put on those hiking boots and check out what the Cascades have to offer. But it’s also time to make sure you are up to date on your Bear Aware tips:https://westernwildlife.org/black-bears/tips-for-coexistence/. The main point to remember when observing feeding bears is to give them lots of room and don’t come upon them by surprise.
Delicious ripe mountain huckleberries attract hungry bears to the beautiful alpine meadows, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy those succulent morsels too. Keep an eye out for bear signs, like scat and overturned rocks or logs, and if you come across them, check them out: if the scat is fresh or the grass under the overturned rock is green and springy the bear might be close by.
Remember to make a lot of noise when you come to a bend in the trail, as you never want to surprise a bear. Also, keep your dog on a leash at all times, as an unleashed dog can inadvertently bring a bear back to their owner. And, if you do encounter a bear on the trail, here are some tips: https://westernwildlife.org/bear-safety/ to help you stay safe.
More often than not, the experience of seeing a bear grazing in an alpine meadow is one of the greatest thrills of hiking; just give the bear space to enjoy his lunch too. We all know how delicious those mountain huckleberries can be!
The Summer of 2012 is likely to go down in history as one of the worst years for fires across the American West. As I write this there are major fires burning in Idaho and eastern Washington. Some have affected friends, and one is still burning very close to family in Idaho. One impact that cannot be easily measured is the effect on wildlife in the long run.
We know that wildlife often perishes in fires along with the forest. For the most part, that is part of nature’s way, part of the cycle in the West. But when the fires are too large, too frequent and too hot, damage may be done to ecosystems that will take many generations to recover. For wildlife populations that have been reduced to small endangered remnants surviving in isolated pockets, the threat of rampant fires is particularly ominous.
In the past, forest and wildlife managers have mostly taken the approach that forests and wildlife will recover from forest and grasslands fires. After all, some species such as grazers and woodpeckers benefit from new meadows with standing snags and succulent forbs. But as the fires become larger and hotter, a direct result of climate change and more xeric conditions across the West, no one can really predict what changes we will see. But it is not hard to predict that species on the edge, still fighting for recovery like wolves and grizzly bears, will be at increasing risk of survival as fire continues to alter their habitat in ways that remain to be seen. As we continue to fine-tune plans for managing endangered wildlife, it is certain that consideration must be given to the likely impacts of climate change such as hotter, faster, more damaging fires.
Today, in an early release, the Journal of Applied Ecology gave us a preview of the results of recent study conducted by a team of biologists in western Alberta, Canada. For the first time, they were able to record and document the response of grizzly bears to a wide range of traffic levels on roads that run through grizzly habitat, even causing some bears to become largely nocturnal to avoid the heaviest traffic times. There findings were not unexpected, but finally the bears’ responses have been documented. Roads and traffic are important elements as we plan for grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades and Selkirk Ecosystems. The need for safe wildlife crossings is now underscored. Although the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee recognized that the highest threat that roads pose to grizzly bears is through direct mortality from collisions and increased access for hunting/poaching, science has now pointed to another threat to grizzly bear survival: the alteration of behavior in response to increases in traffic levels.
From the study abstract:
“We developed models of traffic volume for an entire road network in south-western Alberta, Canada, and documented for the first time the response of grizzly bears, Ursus arctos, to a wide range of traffic levels. Roads were found to cause functional habitat loss, alter movement patterns and can become ecological traps for wildlife. Many of the negative effects of roads are likely to be a function of the human use of roads, not the road itself. However, few studies have examined the effect of temporally and spatially varying traffic patterns on large mammals, which could lead to misinterpretations about the impact of roads on wildlife.”
“Traffic patterns caused a clear behavioral shift in grizzly bears, with increased use of areas near roads and movement across roads during the night when traffic was low. Bears selected areas near roads travelled by fewer than 20 vehicles per day and were more likely to cross these roads. Bears avoided roads receiving moderate traffic (20–100 vehicles per day) and strongly avoided high-use roads (>100 vehicles per day) at all times.”
“Synthesis and applications. Grizzly bear responses to traffic caused a departure from typical behavioral patterns, with bears in our study being largely nocturnal. In addition, bears selected private agricultural land, which had lower traffic levels, but higher road density, over multi-use public land. These results improve our understanding of bear responses to roads and can be used to refine management practices. Future management plans should employ a multi-pronged approach aimed at limiting both road density and traffic in core habitats. Access management will be critical in such plans and is an important tool for conserving threatened wildlife populations. Edited By: EJ Milner-Gulland, Phil Hulme, Marc Cadotte, Mark Whittingham and Jos Barlow, July 31, Journal of Applied Ecology
Most of us love watching bears, up to a certain point. We love to watch the cute black bear cubs who visit our fruit orchard and forage for the fallen fruit. We laugh watching the antics of the young bear trying to climb a pole to reach a bird feeder, or even the comical bear who goes dumpster-diving for the high calorie food thrown out as last night’s dinner remains. We tolerate and occasionally even encourage this type of behavior as the camera roles. So for a while we are entertained by this bear behavior; but way to often, these type of stories do not have happy endings. Its the part you don’t see after the YouTube clip is over. Its the part where the “fed bear becomes a dead bear”.
Wild carnivores, including black bears and grizzly bears, have a deep innate fear and distrust of humans and the places we live and occupy. They naturally and instinctively avoid such places. They will even go way out of their way to do so. But bears are driven primarily by one very strong instinct that tends to over rule the others. They must eat; many thousands of calories every day to survive and make it through the denning season with sufficient body fat to wake up the following spring. Females with insufficient fat stores when they enter their dens, will not give birth to cubs, or if they do, the cubs will not survive because she won’t be able to feed them. For bears, the search for high-calorie food sources is relentless. Bears are also highly intelligent in the methods they employ in their search for food. They are great problem solvers and will spend the time it takes to figure out how to get into a garbage can left out over night or how to reach a bird feeder hanging over their heads but stocked with calorie-rich suet or black sunflower seeds.
The tragedy is that bears that feed on human-provided food often lose their fear of humans. They lose their fear of the dogs that live with humans. They just want to eat, and they don’t want to leave their life-giving free food source. They begin to hang around homes/yards/businesses more often anticipating the arrival of food. Other bears may join them. Now the neighborhood has a problem: bears that refuse to leave, bears that may stand their ground when humans yell and throw things. After all, they have been hanging around for a while and have watched the neighborhood. They know that humans play games and yell and throw things and it normally doesn’t pose a threat to them. What bears at this critical point in time cannot know, for all their intelligence, is that they have worn out their welcome, and the rules of the game have changed.
A mother becomes worries for her children, a hobby farmer for his chickens, and some one calls the authorities. They arrive and agree that the bear has become “a problem bear” habituated to humans and the bear must go. For a few, that may mean the bear will be relocated up in the forest far away from homes. Some law/wildlife enforcement agencies have the ability and resources to use non-lethal deterrents like cracker shells and bear dogs. At the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project we are proud of our partnership with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and applaud them for their innovative work in this area, especially the highly-successful Karelian bear dog program. But for many unfortunate bears, its the end of the food chain, the end of the line. They will be shot. We tell the kids “the nice policeman had to shoot the “bad” bear so that he wouldn’t hurt anyone”. But the bear isn’t a “bad” bear. He was doing what bears must do to survive. Looking for high-calorie, easily obtainable food where there is little competition. Its what bears do.
So please, in this season of back-yard barbecues and salmon bakes, of camping trips and hikes in the woods, don’t feed the bears. Keep all bird feeders way out of reach. Make sure you clean up any food or barbecue residue. Use bear-safe storage containers when back-packing, hang your food, don’t cook near your tent or when car camping, put your food in your vehicle. Store all pet food in containers where odors can’t escape to entice a bear, and put the pet or livestock food inside a sturdy building. Clean up fallen orchard fruit daily. Keep your garbage inside until the morning of pick up day. If you live in an area where bears have been seen or known to feed, make sure any garbage put out is in a bear-safe waste container. Don’t give a bear a reason to stop in your yard.
As more and more of us move out into territory where bears live, we will have bears for neighbors. They may even pass by occasionally. People and bears can easily and safely co-exist as long as bears are not fed by humans. For many more tips on how to avoid human/bear conflicts and how to keep you, your family AND the bears safe, visit our “Tips for Co-existence Page.”
Many of Washington’s residents are thrilled to see that our native gray wolf population is showing signs of recovering and expanding their range. For the most part, it has been a peaceful return and the wolves are finding natural prey and keeping away from humans. But what should we do when ranchers in remote areas find predation has occurred on their animals as was reported to occur at a ranch in “The Wedge,” an area of recent wolf activity in Stevens County near the Canadian border between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers, the same area occupied by Washington’s newest wolf pack? Even though wolf recovery is very popular with a majority of Washington residents, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a fine line to walk in implementing the State’s new Wolf Conservation and Management Plan adopted by the State’s Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Department last December. Local staff from the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project who live and work in the ranching communities will be listening to concerns voiced by the community and cooperating in efforts to find enduring solutions. The story below from the Seattle Times discusses Washington’s newest wolf pack–one they will be monitoring now that they have collared an adult male. Department personnel hope that non-lethal means can be employed to harass any wolves approaching livestock. However, one Stevens County rancher has been issued a kill permit if he sees a wolf approaching or harming his cattle. For more information on the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, please visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/ or our own information at https://westernwildlife.org/gray_wolf/gray-wolf-canis-lupus/
SPOKANE, Wash. —
Wash. wildlife officials: 8th wolf pack confirmed
Washington Fish and Wildlife officials say they’ve confirmed an eighth wolf pack in the state. An adult wolf believed to be the pack’s alpha male and a pup were caught Monday in northwestern Stevens County near the Canadian border. The adult got a monitoring collar and the pup got an ear tag.
Wildlife officials say this is being called the “Wedge” pack, named for the wedge-shaped part of Stevens County between the Kettle River and the Columbia River.
Just last month, officials said the agency had confirmed a seventh Washington wolf pack, this one in southern Stevens County, north of the Spokane Indian Reservation. They’re calling that one the Huckleberry pack.
Part 2 of 3 of “Bears of the Last Frontier” on PBS Nature will air this coming Wednesday evening, July 18 on KCTS 9 at 8 PM.
Bear ecologist Chris Morgan, the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project’s founder, takes a look at black bears in the Anchorage area, where some ursines have become so used to their human neighbors that they’ve taken to living on a golf course. Chris Morgan’s odyssey then takes him north to Denali National Park. You won’t want to miss this second part of the three-part series.
Washington State also has a significant black bear population. The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project provides science-based information on bear behavior and biology as well as how to live and recreate in bear country so that both humans and bears stay safe. Check out the rest of our website for advice and tips before you adventure out to Washington parks, campgrounds and trails this summer! Spotting and observing wildlife is an exciting experience, but when watching bears always maintain a safe distance. Binoculars and spotting scopes are great tools for observing bears. On a recent trip to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, my husband and I spotted a total of three black bears feeding in separate areas. Our binoculars gave us a good view of the bears 1/2 mile away across a valley. We were able to enjoy and watch them safely without disturbing their feeding behavior as they foraged for their favorite plants in the verdant, only recently snow-free meadows of Hurricane Ridge.
Have you ever traveled by car in the Pacific Northwest? Interstate-90 intersects the rugged Cascade Mountains in Washington State’s Snoqualmie Pass region, which has been identified as a critical link in the north-south movement of wildlife. I-90 Wildlife Watch is a citizen-based wildlife monitoring project that invites motorists to report wildlife sightings along I-90 in the Snoqualmie Pass region of Washington, and to bring awareness to the region. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, “Wildlife habitat on either side of I-90 will be reconnected with the installation of new bridges and culverts, protecting both animals and the traveling public.” I-90 Wildlife Watch is gathering this information to help inform highway planning.