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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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Monday, December 25, 2017

The Selway-Bitteroot ecosystem in Montana is one of 5 United States Fish & Wildlife(U.S.F.W.) designated Grizzly Bear recovery zones in the USA..........It is a critcal linkage landmass that can support up to 300 Grizzlies and ensure their long-term survival by bridging the two largest remaining Griz populations that remain--The Greater Yellowstone and the Northern Continetal Divide populations.....................The last Griz to occupy the Bitterroots was killed in 1932, part of the effort at that time led by Ranchers to protect their livestock from Bears and Wolves ...............Right after Wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone Park in the mid 1990's, plans to re-populate Grizzlies to the Bitteroots were put in place only to be scrapped by incoming President George Bush.......... While a lone bear has reportedly been seen or footprinted in the "ROOTS" over the past 10 years, colonization of the region by the Greater Yellowstone and/or Northern Continental Divide populations will likely take a good many years into the future, especially as the USFW Service is going about turning over bear mangement (Yellowstone and NCDE) to Wyoming and Montana..........These States most certainly will establish hunting seasons on the Bears, reducing their numbers, and thus reducing chances for lone bears to emigrate out of their two core systems into the Bitteroots

Grizzly bears expected to return to the Bitterroots, eventually

 HAMILTON — While the potential for grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Mountains was a topic of discussion during last week's annual meeting of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, area wildlife managers say they don't think any have established residence here — yet

Grizzly bears between Glacier and Yellowstone national 
parks are moving closer to the Sapphire and Bitterroot
 mountains. Wildlife biologists said they won't be surprised
 when grizzlies take up residence, but that's going to take 
some time. 

Yet, The Bitterroot National Forest and the Bitterroot-Selway Wilderness area are prime grizzly bear habitat, notes Dave Lockman, a wildlife biologist with the forest. As their population continues to increase elsewhere, they're expanding their ranges.

Lockman noted that a grizzly bear sighting was confirmed in 2016 in the upper Big Hole River area, and that one was identified on private property on Sunset Bench southeast of Stevensville in 2002. That bear is thought have crossed the Sapphire Range from the Rock Creek drainage. In addition, a black bear hunter killed a mature male grizzly in 2007 in the North Fork of Kelly Creek on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, about 60 miles north of what's considered the Bitterroot ecosystem. That bear was genetically associated with the grizzly populations in the Selkirk Mountains in northern Idaho.

"We certainly have reports from people seeing what they thought was a grizzly bear off and on, but nothing has ever been confirmed," Lockman said. "They're getting closer to here, but we haven't heard of any confirmed sightings other than the one on Sunset Bench. But it's certainly a possibility; they're showing up in places they haven't been seen in years."I wouldn't be surprised if one showed up here in the Bitterroot.
"In 1932, the last known grizzly bear in the Selway-Bitterroot ecosystem was killed as part of an effort to protect domestic sheep and cattle, and the last tracks were observed there in 1946. A proposed reintroduction effort was discussed in the 1990s, but was killed in 2000 by the late Sen. Conrad Burns, who pulled federal funding Still, Hilary Cooley, the Grizzly Bear Recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, noted that the Bitterroot ecosystem is one of five recovery zones for grizzlies.

 While there's no plans for them to be reintroduced, Cooley also expects them to return on their own."Our intention was to try to recover bears there, and we still intend to do that," she said. "But it will likely take a long, long time for them to establish a breeding core population."Most grizzly bears are associated with one of two ecosystems:  the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in northwestern Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in the southern portion of the state. 
About 700 grizzlies are in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and an estimated 1,000 are in the NCDE.A recent study noting 21 potential paths for grizzlies between the two ecosystems shows that there's a low likelihood for them to use the Sapphire Mountains as a route, and doesn't include the Bitterroots as part the potential paths. However, Cooley said that as bears migrate out of those ecosystems, they're coming closer to the Bitterroots and Sapphires.Lockman added that in September, the USFWS added grizzlies to their list of threatened, endangered, and candidate wildlife species that may occur on the Bitterroot National Forest.

"USFWS limited the area of potential grizzly occurrence in the Bitterroot to east of Highway 93 at this point," Lockman wrote in an email. "That doesn't mean that they actually occur here currently, but recognizes that the potential for grizzlies to occur here has increased, based on the number of sightings of grizzlies in other areas outside their known distribution. The addition of grizzlies to our list means that we now have to analyze potential effects to grizzlies in our project NEPA documents for projects east of 93."------------------------------------------------------------

Reintroducing Grizzlies to the Bitterroot Ecosystem

October, 15 2015  |  by kevin
Photo by Larry Aumiller
Photo by Larry Aumiller
Spanning across the Idaho/Montana border lies the Bitterroot Ecosystem. This grizzly bear recovery area contains close to 1.5 million acres, making it the third largest wilderness area in the Lower 48 states. It may be surprising then that this area is mostly devoid of grizzly activity. In fact, very few grizzly bears have been verified in the area in the last 60 years. However, biologists estimate that the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness could support up to 300 bears. Where did the bears go and what are conservation teams aiming for in regard to boosting the population in the area?
Many believe that the once abundant grizzly population suffered population loss from the influx of trappers and hunters in the early 1900s. If you visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site, they’ll tell you, “ a major influx of hunters, trappers, and settlers at the turn of the century, and later sheepherders, were responsible for the direct mortality and elimination of grizzly bears” from the ecosystem. Since then, the habitat has been increasingly cut off from other key areas such as the nearby Yellowstone Ecosystem. Efforts to transplant bears from other areas have also not come to fruition, but plans are being put in place for 15-member Citizen Management Committee (CMC) to eventually manage the reintroduction. This committee will be appointed by state officials in Idaho, Montana, and the Nez Perce Tribe.
image016 copy
Photo by Larry Aumiller
For members of Vital Ground, keeping track of recent developments in the Bitterroot area are key to helping grizzlies regain healthy ground that once belonged to them. By working to secure lands and corridors, we can begin to do our part to reestablish a healthy and whole environment in one of our largest ecosystems by reintroducing the umbrella species: the grizzly. Though Vital Ground has not yet accomplished projects in the Bitterroot Ecosystem, we look forward to future projects that will help this key area gain back their natural inhabitants.

Rumors of grizzly bears near the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana

by  on FEBRUARY 7, 2012

Unconfirmed sightings are increasing, but does this mean real bears or more Ravalli County hysteria?

Officially there are no grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho-Montana or in the ranges to the east until you get about the Snowcrest Range. On the other hand, grizzlies are spreading out as their traditional food sources in or near Yellowstone die off — cutthroat trout, whitebark pine nuts.  There is no doubt they are moving north, south, east and west; and this certainly pleases me because everyone I personally know who cares likes grizzly bears.
It is certainly possible one or so has come as far west as the Sapphire Range (on the east side of Bitterroot Valley). It is also highly possible they have not, and reports are mistaken identity. The bears would have to cross some hostile country (attitudinally hostile). Suzi Foss, right-wing Ravalli County Commissioner is sounding the alarm as she did with all the wolves haunting the back alleys of Hamilton (at least until hunting season when none were to be found).

Boulder Creek Canyon. Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Montana. Bitterroot Range. Will grizzlies show up on their own? Copyright Ralph Maughan
Chuck Jonkel, a well known grizzly researcher and advocate does give more credibility to the rumors because he gives them credibility, as least according to a recent article.
Central Idaho could support a large population of grizzly bears, and I hope they will, especially if they promise to chase around cognitively challenged Idaho politicians.  Reintroduction to central Idaho, which almost all Wilderness and backcountry, was planned until George W. Bush became President. So if the central Idaho grizzly management area is to have grizzly bears, the bears will have to walk there. In the past, from time to time, one has; but  no sign of cubs has ever been found.  It is male grizzlies that are the most likely to explore new territory, but females will have to follow if there is to be a recovery.

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