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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Bristol Bay, Alaska Sockeye Salmon migration is the biggest in the world with estimates pointing to as many as 40 million fish fighting their way upstream annually from the Ocean to spawn............Will a Giant Copper and Gold mine be allowed to destroy this natural world magnificance?

About Those Ravenous Grizzly Bears…

An Alaskan grizzly bear.
 Alaskan grizzly bear.
Late June and early July mark the peak of the biggest run of wild salmon left in the world. The sockeye salmon migration of Bristol Bay, Alaska, can number more than 40 million fish, and the commercial fishing industry in the region is worth more than $400 million. During this peak salmon period, Paul Greenberg, author of the New York Times bestseller "Four Fish," will be blogging remotely via satellite as he travels down the Stuyahok River with the Alaska outfitter Mark Rutherford.  This year's fishing trip is particularly relevant. At present the Environmental Protection Agency is weighing whether to prevent the permitting of a 10 billion-ton copper and gold mine in this remote sensitive area, something many fishermen fear could spell the end of this magnificent run.Mark Bittman

In grade school you inevitably learn a little about animals: what they do, what they eat, how they live. When you get to the part about grizzly bears, you are told that they are omnivorous — prone to eating many things. In the contained world of the urban grade school this can take on a quaint feeling. On Monday, maybe a grizzly bear feels like eating berries. On Tuesday, how about a salmon? As if the bear shops in a grocery store and picks and chooses casually.

Here in the Alaska bush, as we see more and more signs of grizzly bears, all that quaintness vanishes and what you come to realize is that a grizzly bear is not omnivorous per se, but rather absolutely, desperately ravenous all the time. It's as if a grizzly is a drunk or stoned guest barging into nature's cupboard, ripping open the cabinetry and refrigerators and roaring, "ISN'T THERE ANYTHING TO EAT IN THIS PLACE?"

 On one hillside we saw where a thousand-pound grizzly had torn apart a nine-foot swath of earth just to suck out a single squirrel. Elsewhere, our guide, Mark Rutherford, pointed out a nest of swallows in a river bank. Grizzlies here, too, blast into these banks until they get to the eggs, with a puff of feathers often accompanying the rampage, like Sylvester swallowing Tweety. Our camp last night had three sets of footprints — a mother moose and a baby moose overlain by huge grizzly footprints as large as a pie plate. "I've seen this story before," Rutherford said, staring down at the footprints. "A lot of times it ends in a gut pile." Balls of moths, tundra grasses and, yes, berries, are all fair game.
A chum salmon.
A chum salmon.
But the big payoff for the grizzlies is the salmon, which anyone who watches nature programming knows is the ultimate high-energy blast and an invitation for a mid-stream fishing trip. It was therefore fitting that as the tundra shifted into boreal forest and the signs of grizzly got more apparent we caught our first salmon, a 15-pound male "chum salmon" with great gaping teeth, grown specifically for its upcoming mating ritual, and brilliant tiger stripes. This salmon we released, figuring it was something of an alpha male, among the first to make it up the river in the summer of 2012.

 And then, curiously, we found ourselves in the position of the grizzly — desperately hungry with no protein to eat.  The "bite" turned off in the afternoon and nary a fish could be caught for dinner.  Then, like bears, we rummaged in the forest for Fireweed for a salad and fell back on the camp supplies, which on day five are getting a bit sparse. We joke with Mark that he is like Shackleton, meting out the supplies as the expedition continues.

The lesson was viscerally felt. Without salmon this country goes hungry. One more reason to think twice before messing around with the fundamentals underlying all this miraculous fish "supermarket".

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