Be Part of the Solution this Autumn

The technical term for intense eating is ‘hyperphagia.’ It means to eat and drink as much as possible, almost frantically, throughout the entire day with only short rest periods. Both black and grizzly bears must do this during the late summer, fall and early winter in order to prepare themselves and their cubs for 5 to 7 months of winter denning.

So although your blue jays may be squawking at you for those tasty black sunflower seeds, or you reason that those rotting apples in your orchard could wait a few more days until you pick them up so you can take advantage of the last sunny days to go hiking, or you just can’t get up out of bed in the cold morning to bring out your trash on garbage day, think twice about nearby bears practicing hyperphagia. Now is the most important time to make that extra effort to keep bears out of your neighborhood.

Bear eating berries. Bear Smart Durango

As natural edibles become scarce with the season, bears can be attracted to human sources of food; unsecured garbage, birdseed in feeders, rotting fruit on orchard floors and pet food left outdoors.  Unfortunately, this unnatural interaction between humans and bears can lead to conflict.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem this autumn. Wait to feed your birds until mid-November. Take out your garbage on the day of pick-up, or store it indoors until you go on a dump run. Pick up rotting fruit in your orchard and trim low hanging branches. And store your barbeque and pet food indoors. You can make all the difference in your community. And pass this important information on to your neighbors too!

For more tips on keeping your yard free of bear attractants, read Tips for Coexistence.  If you’d like to share this important information with your neighbors, print or order our Bear Safe Door Hanger. For more information about how to responsibly feed birds in bear country, read Attract Birds, Not Bears.

New Grizzly Bear Study within Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee approved a DNA hair snare study within the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear ecosystem to be conducted over the next few years. This study will parallel a similar study that was conducted within the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem several years ago. This study will be conducted over the entire Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, which lies partially within Idaho and Montana states. The ecosystem will be divided in approximately 395 grids, which are (5km x 5km) in size. A sampling station will be established within each grid. Each sampling grid will include a hair snagging station which is designed to collect hair from bears and other wildlife that are attracted to the grid station. Bears are attracted to the grid station by a scent lure and hair samples are collected by barbed wire without injury to the animals. Teams of scientists then collect the hair samples regularly for analysis. A visual analysis will determine species of bear and further genetic analysis can be used to identify individual bear and sex. The outcome will allow scientists and managers to best determine the number of grizzly bears that are within that ecosystem within a high degree of statistical accuracy and what steps may be needed to further recovery efforts.

For more information:


Tis the Season for Hikers and Hunters to Share the Trails


A tragic thing happened in August of 2008 when black bear hunting season opened at the same time that the alpine meadow flowers were blooming on one of the most popular hiking destinations in Skagit County, Sauk Mountain. A young hunter mistook a hiker for a black bear, leaving her dead.

August is when bear season opens in Western Washington and it is also when a lot of recreationists step outside to enjoy the beauty of the North Cascades. Most of our public land are considered ‘multiple use’, so in addition to being Bear Aware, we need to remember to be aware of our fellow recreationalists.

Hikers, take the time to find out if your destination is in a designated hunting area and if hunting season is open. Wear bright colors and always travel in groups. Hunters, know your hunting areas; is it also a popular hiking area? Utilize the tools from your hunter safety course and always
know your target: when in doubt, don’t shoot.  Be aware of fellow hunters
and hikers in the area and when hunting in grizzly bear country, know the
difference between a black bear (for which you can buy a tag) and a grizzly
bear (which, as an threatened species, is illegal to kill).

Please visit for more
information about how to identify grizzly bear vs. black bear.  Visit for more information on
hunting and hiking safely in bear country.

Ecosystems Benefit from Predator Presence

We are entering the middle stages of the 6th mass extinction event of the world.

That line certainly grabbed my attention when I read “Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth” by James Estes, et al.  While mass extinctions are a natural phenomenon and are expected to continue, the upcoming 6th is considered different from previous events; scientists believe that 1) humans will be responsible for the next world-wide extinction, and 2) the next extinction will be characterized by the loss of apex consumers (those at the top of the food chain).  Why is this of particular interest to carnivore biologists?  The loss of important apex consumers results in trophic downgrading.  The theory of trophic downgrading suggests that predators ultimately control the health of their ecosystem: remove them, and a habitat’s flora and fauna will eventually fall out of balance and swing wildly from one extreme to the other, often resulting in ecosystem damage.

The downgrading process rests on the premise of another ecological phenomenon called trophic cascading.  Cascades are triggered by adding or removing predators from an ecosystem and result in changes to the predator/prey relationships within the food web.  The cascade process has been shown in every biome of the world, including highly managed ecosystems like Yellowstone National Park.  Studies have shown that the absence and presence of wolves in Yellowstone have had direct effects on the park’s plant and animal processes.  During 70 years of wolf absence from Yellowstone National park, a number of deciduous tree species quickly died out, which had a direct effect on soils, beaver and other ecosystem conditions.  Without wolves present to maintain their numbers, ungulates essentially overgrazed their environment.  Once wolves were reintroduced, ecosystem slowly found rebalance and changed ungulate feeding habits, decline in elk and coyote numbers, and an increase in beaver populations.

While very aware of the challenges ahead and the seemingly desperate state of parts of our biospheres, I am encouraged when I hear about increases in carnivore populations in some western states, like Washington’s recent wolf pack increases and recent Northern Cascade grizzly bear sighting.  Perhaps with a little assistance from their human neighbors, these and other important apex consumers can begin to refill their ecosystem niche.  If we can begin to accept predators’ necessary role in our ecosystem, we can then be more mindful of responsible and safe co-habitation with the animals upon which, we’re beginning to realize, we and our world greatly depend.

Read more on the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project’s website about how trophic downgrading influences human-caused impacts on nature such as climate change, habitat loss and more.  Watch a fun remote camera video showing how many different species (including humans!) utilize one piece of land over the course of one year – a great example of the basis for trophic cascading.

Fifth Washington Wolf Pack Confirmed


Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Press Release:


July 22, 2011
Contact: Harriet Allen, (360) 902-2694

State’s fifth wolf pack confirmed in Stevens County


wolf imageOLYMPIA—Washington’s fifth gray wolf pack has been confirmed in northeast Stevens County.

Earlier this month, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists caught, marked with an ear tag and released a 2-month-old wolf pup from the pack. Biologists have since been trying to capture one of the pack’s breeding adult wolves to radio-collar it for monitoring. The effort to document the pack began after local ranchers reported observing three wolf pups and hearing howling in late June.

The pack is believed to include a breeding-age male and female and at least three pups. The group has been named the Smackout Pack, in reference to geographic features in the area.

The Lookout Pack, confirmed in Okanogan and Chelan counties in 2008, was Washington’s first documented resident gray wolf pack since a breeding population of wolves was extirpated from the state in the 1930s. Two more packs have been documented in Pend Oreille County—the Diamond Pack was confirmed in 2009, and the Salmo Pack was confirmed in 2010.

Last month, the state’s fourth documented pack—dubbed the Teanaway Pack— was confirmed in Kittitas County. DNA analysis of that pack’s adult female wolf indicated she is likely a recent descendant of the Lookout Pack.

The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is protected throughout Washington as a state endangered species. In the western two-thirds of Washington, the species is also federally protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It is illegal to harm or harass a federal- or state-protected endangered species.

WDFW has been working since 2007 to develop a wolf conservation and management plan in anticipation of wolves re-entering Washington from other states or Canada.

A Final EIS/recommended plan—which was developed with a 17-member citizen group and included extensive public review and scientific peer review—will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in a special public meeting Aug. 4 in Olympia. Additional public workshops on the proposed plan are scheduled later this summer and in the fall.

“Wolves are re-establishing here on their own,” said Nate Pamplin, who heads WDFW’s Wildlife Program. “The confirmation of additional breeding wolf packs moves us closer to achieving a sustainable population, and also highlights the need to finalize a state wolf plan that sets recovery targets and management tools to address livestock and ungulate conflicts.”

More information on the draft plan and all Washington wolf packs.

Wolf sightings or activity should be reported through the joint federal-state toll-free wolf reporting hotline at 1(888) 584-9038. Joint federal-state Wolf Response Guidelines, including agency staff contact information, are available at here.

Chris Morgan blogs about bear safety

Chris Morgan, Co-Director of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project, wrote a recent blog on PBS’ website about the bear attack in Yellowstone and what you can do to be safe.

A must read for anyone who is working, recreating, or living in bear country.

One of the key elements of staying safe in bear country is prevention. Bears don’t like to be surprised – especially grizzly bears that may be defending cubs or a prized food cache. It goes without saying that hiking in groups increases safety – making noise reduces the likelihood of an unwanted confrontation with a defensive bear. Smaller groups have to be very conscious of making noise – especially when the wind is in your face (the bear ahead can’t smell you), or when in thick brush, approaching blind bends in the trail, or hill rises, or when hiking alongside a noisy creek. I’m often the loudest guy on the trail – belting out a “Hey bear!” every so often politely warns a bear of your approach and enables them to take diversionary action

Click here to read the entire blog

Fourth Washington Wolf Pack Confirmed

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed last week that a new pack of gray wolves are living near Teanaway River north of Cle Elum, about 90 miles east of Seattle.  The Teanaway Pack is the first pack to return to Kittitas County since wolves were exterminated over 50 years ago.

DNA tests confirmed that a trapped wolf near the Teanaway River is a lactating female, indicating she recently gave birth. Additional DNA test will help explain where the wolves came from (British Columbia or the Rocky Mountains), but the number of wolves in the Teanaway pack is still unknown.

Regardless of where the Washington wolves originated, they re-established themselves; they were not reintroduced by federal agencies as they were in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  It will be interesting to see if this fact makes a difference in local perceptions of wolves and their management in Washington, relative to other western states.

The Teanaway confirmation has occurred as Washington State finalizes its wolf management plan.  Currently, wolves in the western 1/3 of the state remain on the Federal Endangered Species List, while the western 2/3 remain on the State Endangered Species List.

See a map of current Washington wolf pack locations.

Male Bears Responsible for Majority of Fatal Black Bear Attacks

While female grizzly bears with young have always been considered to be the more dangerous sex, a recent study by bear biologist Stephen Herrero suggests that the opposite may be true for black bears. Herrero’s study on fatal black bear attacks from 1900 to 2009, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, shows that male black bear are responsible for over 90% of the 63 fatal attacks on humans in the U.S. and Canada.

While the number of attacks per decade has risen since the 1960s, it is not thought to be due to bears becoming more aggressive, but due to more people living and recreating in bear habitat. The study also suggests a correlation between the attacks, food availability and a bear’s lack of previous experience with humans.

Listen to a recent interview with Dr. Herrero and learn more about his study, the two different types of bear attacks; Defensive and Predatory, and what steps to take if faced with either type of attack. Also visit GBOP’s Tips for Coexistence and Bear Safety pages.

North Cascades Grizzly Bear Sighting

U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Press Release this week announced a verified grizzly bear sighting in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington – the first since 1996. The fact that my home state remains wild enough to accommodate a grizzly bear gives me a sense of  pride. Few ecosystems in the lower 48 states remain ecologically robust enough to support healthy grizzly bear populations. Many of us chose to live in states such as Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming because of the vast amount of wilderness that they still offer. And with all those wild spaces come a few wild animals. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, charged with recovering and conserving the threatened grizzly bear, believes there are fewer than 20 grizzly bears living in the North Cascades.

Though the North Cascades could technically support more than 20 grizzlies, fewer exist due in part to human-caused mortality. In order for grizzly bears numbers to increase, be delisted from the federal Endangered Species List, then be managed by the state wildlife agencies, attention must be paid to decreasing conflict between humans and grizzlies. Human-caused mortality of grizzly bears can be attributed to a number of circumstances, including mistaken identity (with black bear), poaching, and sanitation issues. Bird feeders, unsecured garbage, pet food and other household articles are strong attractants for bears. These home-fed bears often become habituated and are removed by state agencies to resolve or prevent conflict with home owners and their wild neighbors.

GBOP Field Representatives meet with community members in Washington and northern Idaho to discuss ways to help keep humans safe and bears, like the recently spotted grizzly, wild. Read more about grizzly bear biology and behavior, legal status and recovery, safety, and tips for coexistence on our website. GBOP looks forward to speaking with and listening to local stakeholders about the recent grizzly sighting, locals’ experiences with and opinions about bears, and the ways in which humans and bears can safely inhabit a shared landscape. –Like the large, wide, and wild North Cascades.

Bear resistant trash cans could help in Issaquah

Following up on recent bear incidents in Issaquah, the Seattle news station King 5 aired a story on June 14, 2011 investigating if Waste Management was planning to take any action. Waste Management was up to the challenge.

For the past several months, as a GBOP field representative, I have been collaborating with Waste Management and the City of Issaquah in researching bear resistant cans. During the initial 6 month trial, different designs of bear resistant cans will be tested with refuse trucks throughout various neighborhoods. The design that is most durable, keeps the bears out, is child safe and user-friendly for residents and Waste Management will be selected and offered to residents of Issaquah. This will greatly reduce the potential for human bear conflict and minimize bears frequenting our neighborhoods rummaging through garbage.