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

Hiker stops grizzly with bear spray

Chris Laing was hiking in Teton Canyon, Wyoming when he encountered a grizzly bear sow with two cubs. The sow was chasing after Laing’s dog when suddenly she headed towards Laing. He used bear spray to deter the bear and managed to leave the trail uninjured.

Wyoming Game and Fish Specialist Mike Boyce thinks Laing’s dog was a factor in provoking the bear. Boyce recommends hiking with others, making noise, keeping dogs on leashes, carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. Read the entire article

For more information on encountering a bear and staying safe in bear country visit GBOP’s website

Learn more about bear spray versus bullets in detering bears.

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.

WSU-Ecological Studies

In a study titled Assisting the Public in Understanding the Relationships Between Food Resources and the Characteristics of Bear Populations, Washington State University’s Bear Center has shown why bears that have had access to high-quality foods can’t just switch to lower-quality foods when access is cut-off by human development.

Studies like this challenge assumptions about how species will adapt to changes in their environment and provide important data for evaluating the environmental impacts of proposed building projects.

Woodland Park Zoo’s Bear Affair & Big Howl for Wolves

It was a sunny,warm day with people standing shoulder to shoulder anxiously waiting to see what  antics the two grizzly bears would do next as they ripped apart a tent, sleeping bag and cooler in search of food in the mock campsite set up.

Chris Morgan of GBOP says there are possibly only 20 grizzly bears left in the North Cascades. People seem to be less concerned about setting up safe camps in the Cascades because grizzly bears are rarely encountered but the 25,000 black bears in Washington are animals to be respected and smart around when camping.

Morgan says “when you’re in the backcountry you want to hang your food cache as high as you can, as far away from your tent as you can.”  That’s at least 100 yards away from your campsite and 15 feet off the ground. Use bear resistant containers and never leave anything smelly inside your tent.





Selkirk Ecosystem – Grizzly Bear Movements

Movements of a radio collared sub adult female grizzly bear. Bear was captured near McArthur Lake north of Sandpoint, Idaho. She was outfitted with a GPS radio collar and released north of Priest Lake, Idaho. The red dots on the map are her locations, the white line is the Selkirk recovery zone boundary. The international border is approximately in the center of the photo from east to west. Note: her movements during the several months while she was wearing the radio collar. She eventually dropped her collar in British Columbia later in the year. Also note her westward movement to the Columbia River north of Collvile, Washington, which is well outside of the recovery zone. Also, an interesting note is that movements such as this are not totally unexpected for a subadult grizzly bears which have recently been separated from their mother, but such movements for a subadult female where unexpected. It is commonly thought that a subadult female grizzly once separated from the mother will tend to establish her new home range within or near the maternal home range. This is new information and very informative and shows the wide range and travels of some bears as the seek out their own home range. This information was presented at the IGBC subcommittee meeting this past December

Grizzlies run amok at zoo’s Bear Affair and Big Howl for wolves

Come out to Woodland Park Zoo on Saturday June 4th to watch Keema and Denali, 900 pound grizzly bears, run amok a mock campsite and backyard as Chris Morgan, bear ecologist, narrates how intelligent, adaptive and important these awe-inspiring bears are to a healthy ecosystem.

The Bear Affair & Big Howl for Wolves is a full day of activities focused on bears and wolves and how humans can co-exist with them.

The schedule:

  • 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Crafts for kids
  • 10 a.m. Keeper talk on wolves
  • 10:30 a.m. Keeper talk on sloth bears
  • 11 a.m. Mock campsite in grizzly exhibit with Chris Morgan
  • Noon – 1 p.m. Chris Morgan book signing
  • 1:30 p.m. Keeper talk on Malayan sun bears
  • 2 p.m. Home demonstration in grizzly exhibit with Chris Morgan
  • 3 p.m. Keeper talk on wolves

First Selkirk Grizzly Ever Radio-collared

Attached is scanned photo of the first grizzly bear ever trapped and radio-collared in the Selkirk Ecosystem. This bear was ID #863 and nicknamed Sly. She was captured by Jon Almack, in 1983, which was then a graduate student. The nickname for this bear, Sly, was short for Jon’s wife Sylvia. Over this bear life she wore 4 different radio-collars over a 10-year period. She was considered a matriarch of the ecosystem. She was killed by an elk hunter from Bellingham, in October 1993. At that time she had 2 cubs, young of the year with her. It is believed that both cubs died shortly thereafter from exposure, although it never could be confirmed. The Elk hunter who shot her was taken to federal court and later fined 21k, 5k for each bear and 6k for I believe for not reporting the death. This is the first grizzly bear I meet in the Selkirk’s in 1990 at Bismark Meadows while investigating her food habitats with Rob Weligus who at that time was a graduate student. I believe the picture shows her in a leg-hold trap, as the researchers were approaching her.

At unverified story about this bear is that because she had been captured and radio-collared repeatedly, that during her last capture she just laid down and stretched out her neck waiting for the new radio-collar. Although, not having been there, I am sure this is just a story. She had been radio-collared 4 times during her lifetime. She produced 7 cubs in her life, most of which were then later killed north of the border, either illegally or as part of sanitation related incidents and were later involved in management removals.

North Cascades rare carnivore survey

The Cascade Rare Carnivore Survey sampled for rare carnivores in the North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE)this last summer from July to October 2010. The sampling survey focused on grizzly bear, gray wolf, Canada lynx and wolverine using hair snare corrals and some remote digital cameras. Over 1,196 hair samples were collected for DNA analysis from 191 total sites sampled with corrals.

The North Cascades Ecosystem (including parts of Canada) is one of the largest contiguous blocks of federal land remaining in the lower 48 states. As stated in the report, carnivores are very difficult to study given their large area requirements, low densities and elusive behavior. The researchers felt their best method for detecting the sample species was by using non-invasive hair snagging and remote cameras. The specific areas sampled were the Pasayten Wilderness and the North Cascades National Park, the mountainous area North and South of Highway 2, the Glacier Peak and Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and the area North of the I-90 corridor.

The hair-snare corrals are composed of a single strand of barbed wire strecthed around four or more trees at a height of about two feet. A liquid scent lure was left in the center of the corral as an attractant and animals climbing over or under the wire to enter the corral generally left a hair sample on one or more strands or barbs. When found In the field, hair samples were immediately collected and stored in plastic containers for later DNA analysis. In addition, 47 remote cameras were deployed in the study area and served as a useful tool in validating the effectiveness of the hair sampling. The researchers found that when a bear photo was captured at a site on a remote camera, 98% of the time a hair sample was also captured on a strand of wire at the same site.

Results from this study will be used to further the mission of state and federal agencies to recover or maintain viable populations of carnivores in the North Cascades Ecosystem. The results of the DNA analysis of the hair samples collected will be available sometime in the summer of 2011. Understanding the affects of highways on gene-flow among carnivores, and determining the distribution and population status of grizzly bears in the NCE are some of the important questions this study may answer.

For a full copy of the Cascade Rare Carnivore Survey Report contact the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Bears of the Last Frontier, Nature’s three-part special

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Get up close and personal with North American bears in
THIRTEEN’s Nature’s three-part special
Bears of the Last Frontier, beginning May 8, 2011 on PBS


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Bears are an ultimate icon of the wild, regarded as among the most successful wild animals on  the planet.  Three of the eight bear species in the world – brown bears, black bears, and polar  bears –can be found in Alaska, one of North America’s last truly wild frontiers.  Nature joins  adventurer and bear biologist Chris Morgan on a year-long motorcycle odyssey deep into  Alaska’s bear country to explore the amazing resiliency and adaptability of these majestic  animals as they struggle to make a living in five dramatically diverse Alaskan ecosystems:  coastal, urban, mountain, tundra, and pack ice.  Bears of the Last Frontier, a special three-part series, premieres on three consecutive Sundays, beginning May 8, 2011 at 8 p.m. (ET) on  PBS (check local listings).  After broadcast, the programs will stream at  A  companion book documenting the epic journey and the making of the film will be released by  Stewart, Tabori & Chang, an imprint of ABRAMS in April 2011.
Currently in its 29th Season, Nature is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET – one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

“There’s a constant tension filming bears on their turf,” said Fred Kaufman, Series Executive  Producer.  “Nature is pleased to have Chris Morgan as our guide into this unknown territory  where anything can happen.  His journey into the world of the bears features mesmerizing  spontaneous interactions with them that can be both suspenseful and captivating.  He allows us  to get a look at the candid behavior of bears being bears in their natural surroundings.”  Traveling with a small film crew whose inclusion in the series creates a behind-the-scenes  feel throughout, Morgan immerses himself completely in the bears’ world to give us an  astonishingly intimate portrait of North American bears.  Over the course of a 3,000 mile  journey that includes the Alaska Peninsula, Anchorage, Denali, Brooks Range, Kaktovik, and  Barrow, Morgan reveals bears as curious individuals with unique personalities.  They are  complex socials animals with lives that are extremely vulnerable to habitat encroachment and  climate change.
From lush forests to icy Arctic, Bears of the Last Frontier captures the allure of the wild  symbolized by these remarkable creatures.  Over the course of three episodes, the film reveals  survival strategies of each of the three bear species.

Part 1 – City of Bears
Chris Morgan sets up camp at a remote spot in the heart of Alaskan wilderness, alongside the  largest concentration of grizzlies in the world.  It is June in the Alaska Peninsula.  The sun sets  well into night and bears are taking advantage of the long days to feed, mate, and raise new cubs.   Morgan tracks their progress as they feast on the riches of the season and re-establish the  complex hierarchal social dynamics of bear society.  Along the way, he experiences close  encounters with bears, observing brutal battles among males during mating season as well as  tender moments between a grizzly mom and her cubs.

Part 2 – The Road North
The second hour explores the world of black bears caught in the crossroads of urban  development in Anchorage and the wilderness.  This is a new normal for bears and for their  human neighbors.  Some bears are so comfortable living in urban surroundings that their  primary habitat is a golf course.  In residential areas, bears frequently raid garbage bins and  birdfeeders for easy snacks.  But these behaviors are less than ideal for bears and residents alike.   Morgan heads north out of Anchorage to Denali National Park, where the mountains loom over  treeless plains and bears get by on a diet of thousands of berries a day.  The grizzlies share the  enormous park with foxes, wolves, and moose — and with one intrepid bear biologist and his  team. Morgan continues his journey north on a bone-shaking 610-mile motorcycle journey from  Denali to Prudhoe Bay along the only Alaskan Highway to reach the Arctic.  Prudhoe Bay, a once-  pristine area at the edge of the Arctic Ocean, has been changed forever by the oil industry.

Part 3 – Arctic Wanderers
In the final hour, Chris Morgan travels to the far north of Alaska, the tiny North Slope town of  Kaktovik.  It’s early November and winter is coming on.  But each year, the polar bears struggle  for extended periods on dwindling fat reserves, waiting for the opportunity to hunt on sea ice  that takes longer to freeze.  In early spring, Morgan joins local hunters in Barrow, the  northernmost city in Alaska, as they go out on their own hunts, facing some of the same  challenges as the bears.  In late spring, Morgan travels to the North Slope of the Brooks Range,  where countless thousands of caribou cover the ground for miles.  The grizzlies are waiting for  them, as they have for thousands of years.

Nature’s Bears of the Last Frontier is a production of Pontecorvo Productions and THIRTEEN in association with Wildlife Media, National Geographic Channel and WNET. Written and Produced by Joe Pontecorvo.  Nature is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET for PBS.  Fred Kaufman is Executive Producer.  William Grant is Executive-in-Charge.

Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry. Throughout the series’ history, Nature has brought the natural world into the homes of millions of viewers.  The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.
Nature has won nearly 600 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities, and environmental organizations – including 10 Emmys, three Peabodys and the first award given to a television program by the Sierra Club.  In October of 2010, the series won the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award, given to “an organization or individual that has made a globally significant contribution to wildlife filmmaking, conservation and/or the public’s understanding of the environment.”  The award, given by the Wildscreen Festival in Bristol, England, is one of the wildlife film industry’s highest honors. is the award-winning web companion to Nature featuring streaming episodes, teacher’s guides and more.
Major corporate support for Nature is provided by Canon U.S.A., Inc. Additional support is provided by the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the nation’s public television stations.

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