Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Expanding Yellowstone Grizzly Population at the fringes (Billings Gazette)

Grizzly tales

Pryor Mountains provide possible habitat

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DAVID GRUBBS/Gazette Staff
As grizzly bear numbers climb, the animals are expanding to the fringes of available habitat from strongholds like Yellowstone National Park, where this one was photographed.
Reports of grizzly bears have increased along the expansive and rugged Beartooth Front in the past few years, possibly a side effect of a healthy grizzly population pushing outward from the protected confines of Yellowstone National Park.
So are there more bears, or more people exploring grizzly country and therefore more bear sightings?
“It’s hard to say if there are more people out, or if (grizzly bears) are expanding their range,” said Barb Pitman, wildlife biologist with the Beartooth Ranger District in Red Lodge. “We haven’t really explored why sightings are up.”
But Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said grizzly bear sightings are increasing in the region simply because there are more bears. At last count, an estimated 600 grizzlies were living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
“They’re just pushing out in all directions,” he said.
Unconfirmed sighting
Traditionally, the grizzly bears that disperse farthest are subadult males — somewhat similar in temperament and mindset to human teenage boys.
“They’re just wandering around checking things out,” Servheen said.
So it’s not inconceivable that the bear that Jerry Kruschensky saw bolt across the road in the Pryor Mountains in May was a young male grizzly.


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