The second confirmed grizzly has shown up in the Clearwater since the turn of the century. This is great news; grizzly bears are moving back into the Clearwater! Studies done by Dr. David Mattson show the Clearwater, especially the upper North Fork, Lochsa and Selway drainages, is excellent grizzly habitat. A 2001 study done by Drs. Carlos Carroll, Reed Noss, and Paul Paquet show that the best grizzly habitat in the Rockies, from and including Yellowstone National Park to and including Jasper National Park, is centered on the Clearwater Basin.
This bear, which has a radio collar, appeared in Kelly Creek. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released this young male in the Cabinet Mountains in Montana last year to augment the grizzly population in that area because he has never been a problem bear, selected by wildlife officials in Montana for that very reason—he traveled southwest and arrived in Clearwater Country. However, this news is not all good.
Unfortunately, this young male was eating from a bait station set out by black-bear hunters. One can only hope the fate of this poor bear will not be similar to the last confirmed grizzly in the same area. In 2007, a male grizzly, about six years old, was illegally killed by a hunter in Kelly Creek at a bear-baiting station. Nobody knows how long that bear had been living in the Clearwater, but his parentage was grizzlies that inhabit the Selkirk Mountains in the northern tip of Idaho.
Idaho presently allows the practice of bear baiting. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) allows black-bear hunters to create areas where they can put out bait to lure in black bears so they can kill black bears at these baiting stations. While IDFG prohibits bait to be other game animals, such as fish, elk, or deer, IDFG permits hunters to use human food, such as large quantities of old donuts and the like, to attract black bears during bear hunting seasons.
Friends or the Clearwater authored a letter, signed by several organizations, that was sent to IDFG with copies to the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking that IDFG end bear baiting in areas that might have grizzlies, including the Clearwater Basin. It is past time Idaho ends this unsavory practice, which habituates bears to human food. It is not good for any bears, black or grizzly, and it creates conflicts between bears and people.
– Email IDFG’s Director Ed Schriever (email goes to Kim Rau, his administrative assistant) and ask the agency to extend bear-baiting prohibitions to areas where the agency recognizes that grizzlies may inhabit. (email@example.com)
– Email Hilary Cooley to ask U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to require IDFG to end bear baiting in these areas. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
– Email Chuck Mark, Salmon-Challis Forest Supervisor and chair of the Bitterroot Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, and ask U.S. Forest Service to require IDFG to end bear baiting in these areas. The Forest Service has the duty to regulate and prohibit the dumping of food waste in the national forests.