Thursday, March 13, 2008

Whatcom County supports Grizzly Bear recovery in the North Cascades

The Whatcom County Council passed the following resolution on March 11th, 2008. This resolution voices support for the implementation of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan which was approved in 1997.

• Whatcom County’s wildlife and wild places are a core part of life in this beautiful county;

• The Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan encourages actions which “protect and enhance natural systems which provide economic, ecological, aesthetic, and cultural benefit (Goal 11H), and “protect and enhance natural systems that support…wildlife populations and habitat” (Goal 11J);

• There are many ecological, economic, and spiritual benefits to conserving and recovering grizzly bears and other native wildlife as an integral part of our county’s natural heritage, quality of life and identity;

• Chapter 2 of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan states that “maintaining healthy fish and wildlife populations is a vital goal in maintaining the quality of life in Whatcom County”;

• Grizzly bears are an “umbrella species” the conservation of which will benefit dozens of other plants and animals;

• The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that over $1.7 billion is spent annually in the US on wildlife watching activities, supporting more than 21,000 jobs;

• The people of Whatcom County take great pride in their county’s internationally significant wildlife legacy;

• The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the North Cascades as one of only six grizzly bear recovery zones in the lower 48 states and the only grizzly bear recovery zone outside of the Rocky Mountains;

• The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are less than 20 bears left in the North Cascades - a number too low to be self-sustaining;

• The federal government is mandated under the Endangered Species Act to protect and recover endangered wildlife populations;

• The federal North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan has been in place for a decade but has not been fully implemented;

• The State of Washington and other public and private entities have appropriated funds for a public process under federal law to implement recovery planning.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Whatcom County Council urges the United States Congress to appropriate necessary funding through the 2009 federal appropriations process and urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately implement the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan including all necessary actions identified by their biologists to recover this highly endangered grizzly bear population.

Everyone at GBOP would like to sincerely thank each member of the Whatcom County Council in supporting North Cascade Grizzly Bear recovery and their leadership role in setting an example for others to follow.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Governor Gregoire declares week of May 12 - 18 'Bear Awareness Week'

On February 28, 2008 Governor Christine Gregoire proclaimed May 12-18, 2008, as 'Bear Awareness Week' in Washington State, and urged all citizens to join in this special observance.

The proclamation stressed the following points:

• Washington’s wildlife and wild places are a core part of life in this beautiful state;

• Washington’s forests and coastlines harbor one of the largest populations of black bears in the United States, and Washington is one of only five lower 48 states that is still wild enough to harbor a small number of grizzly bears, a federally-protected threatened species, both in the North Cascades and Selkirk Mountains;

• It is in the public interest to understand the ecology, behavior, and conservation of bears, and there is an ongoing need for widespread education and outreach concerning their welfare to enable peaceful coexistence with people who live or spend time in bear country;

• The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project, in partnership with multiple government and non-government organizations, is committed to providing accurate information about bears through innovative programs that engage the public;

• There are many ecological, economic, and spiritual benefits to promoting bears as a desirable part of our state’s natural heritage;

• The people of Washington State take great pride in their state’s wildlife legacy that is internationally significant.

Special events to celebrate Bear Awareness Week and provide educational opportunities about the bears of Washington are being planned. Stay tuned to this BLOG for further details.

photo credit: Wayne Lynch

North Cascades Grizzly Bear Subcommittee Meeting, Tuesday April 22nd

The next meeting of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Subcommittee will be held at the US Forest Service Ranger Station in North Bend, Washington from 10 AM to 2:30 PM on April 22, 2008.

An agenda for the meeting will be posted on the North Cascades Recovery Ecosystem webpage of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) website at as soon as it is finalized.

North Cascades Subcommittee meetings occur several times per year on both the east and west sides of the North Cascades. The public is always invited to attend and, for interested persons, there is time allotted for providing public comment during the meeting.

Even if you are not able to make the meeting, the IGBC website is a great place to learn more about grizzly bears, the IGBC and what’s happening in the 6 recovery ecosystems in the lower 48 states.

Submitted by:
Nan Laney
Skagit, Whatcom and Northern Snohomish Coordinator
Grizzly Bear Outreach Project
Sedro-Woolley, WA

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Join GBOP at Woodland Park Zoo (April 5) and REI (April 16)

Woodland Park Zoo and GBOP are hosting the annual Bear Affair Day on Saturday, April 5th.

Also join Chris Morgan, bear biologist, director of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project and Producer of the feature documentary BEARTREK at the downtown Seattle REI on Wednesday, April 16th beginning at 7 pm.

On April 5th Woodland Park Zoo staff will give presentations at the various bear and wolf exhibits. REI and GBOP will set up a non-safe camp in the Grizzly Bear exhibit so that you can see what happens when bears encounter a camp full of food. A limited number of free WPZ tickets and behind the scene tour opportunities are available.

Contact Dennis Ryan at to sign up.

On April 16th travel from Spitzbergen to Spain, and learn how bears have struck the human imagination for thousands of years. On our own doorstep, the North American grizzly bear has garnered its fair share of acclaiming folklore. From old campfire tales to the film, Grizzly Man, accounts of the grizzly’s power, strength and grace have inspired curiosity and fear.

Come learn the truth about the elusive North Cascades grizzly bear as well as bears in wild locations like Spain, Canada, Pakistan, Ecuador, and Svalbard. REI is proud to welcome Chris Morgan, bear biologist, filmmaker, and director of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP). Chris will present a stunning, highly entertaining slide show demystifying the North Cascades grizzly bear, and it's cousins further afield. Chris Morgan has worked internationally as a biologist and educator for the last twenty years and will share his expert knowledge on bear ecology and conservation.

This will also be among the first opportunities to see footage from the feature-length documentary film 'BEARTREK' - a quest that that follows his global motorcycle adventure to the wildest places on the planet in search of unusual bear species and exotic cultures. In 2006, The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project received a grant from REI for their ongoing education efforts.

Chris Morgan, GBOP Director

Brown bears make a comeback in the mountains of Spain

The endangered brown bear, which once roamed the forests of Europe, is showing signs of recovery in one of its remaining strongholds, the Cantabrian mountains of Spain.

Small colonies of brown bears are increasing in the craggy northern cordillera of Asturias and Cantabria. After being menaced by illegal hunters and the encroaching infrastructure of tourism, numbers of fertile females have doubled in the past decade and traces of bear activity have tripled in the last two years.

A colony of 100 bears is thought to inhabit the west of the region, with another smaller colony of about 30 to the east. The reclusive animals are still on the endangered list and their long-term survival remains under threat because the number of animals remains small despite reproduction becoming consolidated in recent years.

"We would like to establish a corridor between the separate colonies to increase the bears' genetic diversity and reproductive velocity, and thereby their chances of survival," said Guillermo Palomero, head of the Santander-based Brown Bear Foundation (Fundacion Oso Pardo). "That is the only sure way of protecting them from becoming extinct."

A joint study by the foundation and Spain's environment ministry based on 16 years of observation of the bears in their natural habitat strongly recommends trying to establish a connection between the colonies, which are 30 miles apart, to safeguard the local population. While brown bear numbers have been boosted in the Pyrenees by importing animals from Slovenia, this is not an option "because Cantabria's brown bears are a pure species unique in Europe," Mr Palomero said.

The revival is partly due to more effective control of illegal hunters, or furtivos, who now face two years in jail and a fine of up to €300,000 (£230,000) for the "ecological crime" of killing a bear.

"Furtivos still exist. There may be fewer huntsmen with guns, but more traps and poison are laid for wolves and wild boars. They still do a lot of damage," said Mr Palomero. "Collaboration between the authorities and voluntary organisations has been crucial in consolidating bear populations during 2007. We mustn't drop our guard or cry victory too soon.

"The turning point was when we realised the importance of groups of females with their young cubs. While the males roam across country, the mother and her cubs stay within a defined area. We must protect them in their habitat, because they are the guarantee of the future."

Ursine history was made in the winter of 2006 when the foundation revealed that Cantabria's brown bears had stopped hibernating. The region's winters had become warmer in recent years, enabling the bears to forage for enough food all year round.

Bears are well known for their propensity to slumber through the winter to the point of biological shutdown. But their behaviour went through a revolutionary change when female brown bears with young cubs found enough nuts, acorns, chestnuts and berries on Spain's bleak northern mountainsides to make the effort of staying awake and hunting for food "energetically worthwhile".

By Elizabeth Nash in Madrid
Thursday, 28 February 2008

Wildlife and the Economy

In these sluggish economic times, we might ask “When budgets are so tight, what is the value of supporting the cost of wildlife projects?”

Actually, wildlife viewing, fishing and hunting are big business. According to a Winter 2008 report from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife:

• Washington draws 2,331,000 wildlife watchers annually – both resident and non-resident.
• Annual spending in Washington by wildlife watchers totals $1,502,311,000 (that's billions folks).
• Washington ranks 7th in the nation in spending behind California, Florida, Texas, Michigan, Georgia and New York.
• Spending increased 53 percent from 2001 to 2006.

These monies are spent on travel, food, lodging, equipment and other goods and services. The bounty is spread across the state, especially in small towns and rural areas, lending an economic boon to many areas that need it.

Beyond the aesthetic and spiritual values we feel towards nature and wildlife, those critters also contributes greatly to our economy!

Julie L. (Hayes) Hopkins
Marine and Wildlife Biologist
Threatened and Endangered Species Specialist

Cetos Research Organization. 'Working to enhance and augment conservation and management of living marine resources through research.'

Grizzly Bear Outreach Project. 'Promoting an accurate understanding of grizzly bears and their recovery in the North Cascades Ecosystem through community education and involvement.'