PBS Special Bears of the Last Frontier Today! (7/11/2012) on KCTS 9 at 8 pm

If you missed the first opportunity,  here’s your chance! And here is what our founder, Chris Morgan, had to say on the PBS website about his experience of making this film with filmmaker Joe Pontecorvo.  To see a preview, go to http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/bears-of-the-last-frontier/introduction/6524/

 It’s finally here — time for us to share our incredible Alaskan adventure with the world through Bears of the Last Frontier. It has been quite the journey. The film has been nearly two years in the making, and for both of us it has become an unforgettable part of our lives. Over the course of a year and a half we traveled well over 3000 miles across Alaska and shot 500 hours of footage for this epic three-hour PBS Nature series. We spent many, many months in bear country – piecing together the lives of these fascinating animals by observing and filming them, and by living in bear country, among the animals and people that share bear habitat.

When Joe and I met nearly ten years ago (coincidentally in Alaska) our minds reeled with the possibilities for collaboration. A filmmaker and an ecologist, and a combined dream to have a huge impact for wildlife conservation through the magic of film. The opportunity to work with PBS Nature has been a dream, and has resulted in three beautiful episodes we hope you’ll love.

We’ve both worked all over the world for the last twenty plus years — Joe as an award-winning wildlife filmmaker, and me as a conservation ecologist. Joe has created dazzling films on an array of epic subjects — from tigers to Asian elephants, and my work has focused on wildlife research and environmental education — mostly about the bears of the world. I’ve also guided hundreds of people on expeditions to see polar bears and grizzly bears. We’ve both witnessed the powerful emotions that these animals can trigger in people, which is why they make such great representatives for conservation, and such great characters in film!

Alaska harbors all three of North America’s bear species, from three hundred pound black bears to polar and brown bears weighing well over half a ton. It is home to the highest mountain on the continent, vast glaciers, immense forests, and a level of isolation that can be found nowhere else in the United States.

And it’s big. This northernmost state is the same size as the next three largest states combined (California, Texas and Montana).

Alaska’s wilderness allowed us to step back in time on a journey that took us through five major ecosystems and the habitats of its three bear species. It was also a journey that put us to the test as we hiked, camped and lived among the biggest bears in the world, chased black bears through the streets of Anchorage, followed grizzlies on the prowl for immense caribou herds, and searched for polar bears miles out on the pack ice. In every one of these locations bears have adapted impressively to their surroundings.

We’re hoping that, as you wander through this website and sink yourself into the series, you will feel immersed in the world of the bear. It is a truly wondrous place.

We also hope that you might be inspired to learn more. Bears represent wildness more than any other species, but we cannot take that wildness for granted — it will take determination, passion, and imagination to ensure that future generations can enjoy a world that includes bear habitat.

Be sure to check out the wonderful organizations listed under resources for ways to learn more. We’re all in this together. And remember — what’s good for bears, is good for people!

We’re so glad you’re along for the adventure!

Chris Morgan, Ecologist

New Bear Safety Information – Yellowstone National Park

Safe travels in bear country begin before you get on the trail. Learning about bears before you go to the park can help you avoid a confrontation. Read about bear spray and what to do if you encounter a bear. When you arrive at the park, check at the nearest backcountry office or visitor center. The link below has information to help visitors travel safely in bear country. 

The information on this site can be applied in other regions that have grizzly bears, including Idaho, Washington and Montana. Know before you go! 



Woodland Park Zoo Bear Affair and Big Howl for Wolves, June 9, 2012

Lorna Smith, Executive Director, GBOP, and Dr. Fred Koontz, Field Conservation Director and VP of Woodland Park Zoo with the Bear Resistant Container still intact! Photo: GBOP

Every year, the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project teams up with Woodland Park Zoo to stage an event that is not only fun for bears and people, but helps to demonstrate some things NOT to do if you live and recreate in bear country. Zoo staff arranged the aftermath of a children’s birthday party with left-over pizza boxes and remnant birthday cake, and of course a few hotdogs strewn around. Keema and Denali, the zoo’s two 700+ pound grizzly bears, were allowed to arrive on the scene as if the human participants had all gone back inside the house and left the goodies, now available to foraging bears. 

Lorna Smith, Executive Director of GBOP, and her wildlife biologist husband Darrell Smith who volunteers for GBOP, were on hand to narrate the bear’s behavior for a fascinated audience. GBOP also had lots of visitors to their display table in the bear grotto where free “bear safety” and bear natural history information was handed out to the public. 

Ray Robertson, GBOP Field Representative and wolf expert also had a display table adjacent to the wolf enclosure. He shared some very exciting footage of Washington wolf pups, the first to be seen in the region in nearly 100 years. Thanks also to volunteers Mandy and Alan Shankle for a very professional job at the GBOP information table!

Woodland Park Zoo crew setting up the "aftermath" of a children's birthday party for the bears to bash. Photo: GBOP
Denali in the bear pool standing upright to scratch his back on the glass, "marking" it as a bear would do in the wild. Photo: GBOP
Denali looking for remnant food in a child's beach pail. Photo: Dennis Dow.


GBOP volunteers Darrell Smith, Mandy Shankle and Alan Shankle at the GBOP information table. Photo: GBOP
750 pound Keema resting after all the hard work. Photo: GBOP

$10,000 Reward Offered for Grizzly Bear Shootings in Northern Idaho.


Contact: Jason Holm, 503-231-2264   Jason_holm@fws.gov
Contact Phil Cooper, 208-769-1414      Phil.Cooper@idfg.idaho.gov

$10,000 Reward Offered for Grizzly Bear Shootings in Northern Idaho.

Investigation continues in shooting of grizzly and her nursing cub.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) law enforcement agents and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) are investigating the fatal shooting of a federally protected grizzly bear and her nursing cub in northern Idaho. A reward of $10,000 is being offered for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.  

The dead adult grizzly was discovered on the morning of May 18 by a hiker from Bonners Ferry, Idaho.  It was located in a clear-cut in Boundary County on Hall Mountain.  Hall Mountain is located east of the Kootenai River valley and northwest of US Highway 95.

The adult bear was a large female that was lactating, an indication she was nursing a cub (or cubs) produced during her recent winter hibernation. A subsequent search of the surrounding area by an Idaho Fish and Game Biologist turned up a dead cub that had also been shot.  Both bears appeared to have been dead a few days when found on May 18.

Both carcasses are being flown to the US Fish and Wildlife Service lab in Ashland Oregon for necropsy and further retrieval of evidence.

A black bear season is currently open in Idaho; however, hunters may not shoot grizzly bears and may not shoot black bears with cubs.  A bear identification program to train hunters to differentiate the species was posted last year and is available on the IDFG web page. 

Grizzly bears are classified as a threatened species in the lower 48 states and are protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. Killing a threatened species protected by the ESA carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Anyone with information about this incident should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Spokane, Washington, at 509-928-6050; the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at 208-769-1414; or the Idaho Citizens Against Poaching Program at 1-800-632-5999. Callers can remain anonymous.  

No additional information is being released at this time pending further investigation.

Governor Gregoire Declares May 20-26, 2012 Bear Awareness Week

Washington State’s Governor Gregoire declares May 20-26, 2012 “Bear Awareness Week”
Special resources celebrate state’s grizzly and black bears and educate the public on how to co-exist

Black bears and grizzlies are an important part of our state’s natural heritage. Today, Washington has one of the healthiest black bear populations in the U.S.  It is also one of just five states in the lower 48 still wild enough for a small number of federally-listed threatened grizzly bears.

Recognizing the value of bears and the need to educate the public on how to live and recreate safely with them, Governor Christine Gregoire recently declared May 20-26 “Bear Awareness Week.”  Among other points, the Governor’s proclamation notes, “Whereas, by educating the public on the ecology, behavior, and conservation of bears, it is possible for people and bears to coexist peacefully…” 

Yellowstone Grizzly Will Remain Federally Listed For Now

Yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that the Yellowstone grizzly bear will not be removed from the federal endangered species list due to the bears’ reliance on the whitebark pine, a tree that has been declining in numbers from to beetle infestations.

Grizzly bears were given protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975, at which time only about 136 grizzlies existed in the Greater Yellowstone Area.  After bringing number up to levels considered sustainable by the recovery plan, in 2007 the Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protection.  A number of environmental organizations sued the government for delisting the bears at that time, stating that the decrease in whitebark pine creates a hardship for the bears and creates unsuitable habitat. 

Tuesday’s ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocks the federal government from turning management of grizzly bears over to the concerned states; Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.  In response to the court’s decision, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator Chris Servheen states that the government with present the court with new evidence not available prior to the ruling. 

Today there are about 600 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Area, and their numbers continue to rise.  With the higher number of bears in the area come higher numbers of bear-human encounters.  2011 had a higher than average number of grizzly-human conflicts, including 2 human deaths.  GBOP remains committed to educating communities about living safely with grizzly bears.  Please read more about grizzly bear identification, tips for coexistence, and safety.

Click here to read more about Tuesday’s ruling.

New Food Storage Orders Put in Place in the Selkirk Mountain Ecosystem

The Idaho Panhandle National Forest recently put into place a new Food Storage Order of the Priest Lake, Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry Ranger Districts. This Forest Service Order will deal with human food and pet food, garbage and bird seed, deer carcasses, fish entrails and anything else that might lure wildlife into trouble especially bears. This has been done to reduce conflicts and potential conflict between wildlife and humans. The Colville National Forest, which also manages lands within this ecosystem, has had a similar food storage order in place since 1987 when its forest plan was revised. The new food storage requirements are intended to be permanent, effective each year from April 1 through Dec. 1. The rules applying to the “front country,” such as around Priest Lake, have been encouraged for years. They include keeping food in a vehicle or hard-sided shelter when not being consumed at meals. The new rules specifically prohibit feeding wildlife and putting up bird feeders – liquid, suet or seed – in certain areas. Bear-resistant garbage containers will be required in designated areas and camp food and leftovers, such as bacon grease, must be hauled out and not buried on site. Within most other grizzly bear ecosystems, the National Forests and Parks have had similar rules for years. The conditions of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests new food storage order only pertain to activities on national forest system lands within this ecosystem.

For more information on this Food Storage Order visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests website.

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:


Autumn, Hunting and Bear Safety (and Pies)

For some, cooler weather means additional sweaters, increased heating bills and a great excuse to eat a lot of pie.  For others, autumn means big game hunting season.  We walk quietly through the woods, in camouflage sometimes sprayed with animal musk, and we bugle to attract animals.  While our technique may be good way to attract deer and elk, they are also a good way to attract a curious bear. 

While bears are naturally shy creatures, there have been an increased number of incidents with grizzlies this year.  A high number of grizzlies have been relocated or removed by wildlife agents due to human food habituation, and there have been two human deaths from grizzly bear attacks this year; a hiker in Yellowstone National Park and a hunter in Lincoln County.  Deaths from bear attacks are very rare, but precautions should be taken when hiking, camping and hunting.

Please read Staying Safe in Bear Country where you can learn about bear behavior and how to properly respond to a potential bear attack.  Read Tips for Coexistence to learn about safely hunting, camping and hiking in bear country. 

Tips for Coexistence also lists ways in which you can keep your yard free from bear attractants.  Bears have a very strong sense of smell and are attracted to unsecured garbage, greasy BBQs, dog food, bird feeders and more.  Bears that are attracted to human food can become problematic, and may be removed or killed – and they hold the potential to do some decent property damage.  Just as we’re putting on a little fat for the winter (ahh, the joy of eating pie), bears are preparing to den for the winter and are focused on eating as many calories as possible: in late summer and early fall black bears can eat up to 20,000 calories a day, grizzly bears twice that much. 

Whether you are preparing for a fall hunt, or preparing your BBQ for storage, follow the links above to learn more about being Bear Smart and about responsibly living with bears.