Pretty clueless

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 20:15:55 02/03/15

In Reply to: How many grizzly's posted by Trout


I wish I could give you some number, even a rough estimate, but I have no idea what the population was in the late 1950s. I'm not sure if anyone had a sense of the population size at that point. That would have been just before the Craighead's started their decade-long research; and before the NPS closed the dumps, installed bear-proof trash receptacles, leaned on the gateway communities to fence their dumps, and started enforcing the "don't feed the bears" rules vigorously. We know that the two primary dumps were supporting artificially high local grizzly populations. We also know that the native cutthroat population in Yellowstone Lake was in good shape. In the absence of any hard data (to my knowledge) on the condition of the whitebark pine nut crop, I tend to believe it was in good shape as well. The elk population was rather high, thanks to the absence of wolves; so high that the NPS had been trapping and transplanting elk. All these factors would seem to indicate lots of "magnets" that should have motivated grizzlies to stay inside the park, but then, we know that one of the population dynamics of a healthy grizzly population is for young males to be pushed out to the boundaries of the territory in search of an available territory.

There are a number of potential sources of info on your question, although none of them would be super easy to access. You might start with some intensive web-searching to see what shows up. You might just be surprised. Among the potential "reservoirs" of data you might tap, I would suggest the NPS, USFWS, the respective Divisions of Wildlife (AKA "Fish & Game") in all 3 Greater Yellowstone states, and wildlife management subject matter experts at the universities nearby (particularly MSU, the University of Montana, and the University of Wyoming). There is also the possibility that the IGBST (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team) may have included some historic data in its early publications in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Now that I think about it, the federal government, particularly the USFWS, should have been required to show any data that it had on the historic demographics of the Yellowstone Grizzly. I know that when there was an early movement to list the Canadian lynx, a federal court mandated that baseline data on the GYE population be collected. That resulted in a multi-year census, conducted primarily in the winter. I seem to remember something similar happening regarding the wolverine, although the federal agencies might have simply adapted the key learning from the lynx experience.


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