Monday, December 28, 2009

Trafficking in bear gall bladders draws fines and jail sentence

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

OLYMPIA - Investigations by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) detectives into illegal trafficking in bear gall bladders have resulted in hefty fines for two eastern Washington men and a year-long jail sentence for one of them.

William A. Page, 63, a Curlew meat cutter, was sentenced Dec. 18 in Ferry County Superior Court to a year in jail plus $3,000 in fines after being convicted a month earlier of six counts of unlawful trafficking in wildlife.

Page, of 49 Bjork Ranch Rd. in Curlew, also forfeited $1,600 he paid to undercover WDFW officers for the gall bladders.

Mike Cenci, WDFW deputy chief of enforcement, said Page admitted to buying 35 gall bladders in 2007 and 2008, including 17 he purchased from undercover officers during the course of the department’s investigation.

Some people believe bear gall bladders have healing powers, Cenci said. He noted that black market prices for galls can range between $100 to thousands of dollars, depending on whether the sales take place locally or overseas.

"Buying or selling bear gall bladders is a crime in this state, because it creates an increased demand for wildlife and their body parts," Cenci said. "That can threaten the long-term sustainability of populations that can’t withstand commercialization."

In a separate case, the Spokane County Superior Court fined the owner of a Spokane food market $1,000 on Dec. 22 for two felony convictions of illegally trafficking in wildlife.

A Spokane jury found Jason Yon, 51, owner of JAX Market on East Mission Street, guilty of purchasing four bear gall bladders from WDFW officers during an undercover investigation in 2008. In addition to the fine, Yon forfeited $800 he paid to buy the gall bladders.

Cenci said WDFW relies heavily on tips from hunters and people in local communities about illegal wildlife-trafficking operations. He asks that people who believe they have witnessed these crimes call WDFW Enforcement at (360) 902-2936.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Symbol of Justice

The wolf is not always a feared and hated creature. In the medieval village of Utrecht, Netherlands the symbol of justice is the wolf.

The courtyard of the criminal justice center displays a magnificent statue of a blindfolded white wolf. Why the blindfold? Because as the saying goes "justice is blind". This is done in order to indicate that justice is (or should be) meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness.

The irony is that today in America we are struggling to treat the wolf in this same frame of context and blind objectivity.

Utrecht was created almost 2,000 years ago by the occupying Roman army. The Romans introduced many cultural changes and advancements. They were ultimately "run out of town" by the invading germanic tribes.

The city was never bombed in World War II and still retains it's old world charm and unique architecture.

posted by Dennis Ryan, photo credits Dennis Ryan

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Cougar Ecology and Conservation

Announcing the release of Cougar Ecology and Conservation
edited by Maurice Hornocker and Sharon Negri

Internationally renowned biologist Maurice Hornocker and long time conservationist Sharon Negri have joined forces to produce Cougar Ecology and Conservation, a seminal go-to resource for scientists, wildlife managers, biologists, conservationists, and anyone who has an interest in large carnivores.

A rare anthology featuring twenty leading scientists from Canada to Patagonia, Cougar Ecology and Conservation is the first comprehensive book that spans the cougars entire range and includes a of topics surrounding this complex animal.

The book's contributors cover a wide range of experience, perspectives and topics. Some of the subjects covered include taxonomy, genetics, history, cougar behavior and social organization, predator-prey relationships, population dynamics, management, human dimensions, the role of government and citizens in conservation, conservation planning, and the future of research.

Cougar Ecology and Conservation contains 304 pages, including 36 color photographs, 70 halftones, 19 line drawings, and 25 tables.

To order the book link to: University of Chicago Press

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lookout Pack moves to winter range

Three adults, four pups in pack as they move to lower elevations in the Methow Valley for the third winter.

By Joyce Campbell, Methow Valley News

The Methow Valley’s wolf pack is back from their summer range in the high mountains of the Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness and Twisp River Valley.

A collaboration of agencies and conservation groups are monitoring the seven-member Lookout Pack by air and by ground using radio telemetry, verified sightings, howling surveys, remote cameras and follow-ups on reports by the public.

The pair of radio-collared wolves is being followed by a sub-adult wolf and four pups, as they inhabit a territory that reaches from the Wilderness to the valley floor. As the snow deepens in the mountains, biologists were expecting the pack to return to lower elevations.

They showed up the first week in November, similar to last year, said John Rohrer, wildlife biologist for the Methow Valley Ranger District. “They made bigger moves until the snow got deeper,” said Rohrer. The pack last year roamed the far reaches of the Twisp River Valley before settling in the Lookout Mountain area in late December.

Just because they did it last year, doesn’t mean they’ll do it this year. The pack has been unpredictable, staying later this year in their winter and denning range, according to Rohrer. “Last year, they moved to the Wilderness a lot earlier,” he said.

“There continue to be sightings all along the Cascades, but nothing documented,” said Andrea Lyons, Forest Service wildlife biologist for the Entiat Ranger District. She said there have been visual sightings, people seeing tracks and scat and hearing howling. The reports are not concentrated in a certain area or time.

Lyons has been tracking the wolf pack from the air all summer, flying every 10 to 14 days. Antennae are attached to both struts on a fixed-wing airplane to get directional signals from the radio-collared adults. The monitoring will shift to more ground telemetry during the winter, said Lyons.

To report wolf sightings call the state wolf reporting hotline at (888) 584-9038.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Human-Wildlife Conflict Training

It seems like more and more we are hearing about and dealing with human-wildlife conflicts which in many cases are more about conflicts between humans than about wildlife. As part of my job with the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP) and my job as a zoo keeper this topic comes up a lot. Dealing with this topic can be touchy so I was very excited to hear about a course that teaches about conflict dynamics and how to address them.

I attended the Conservation and Conflict Experiential Training course taught by staff of the Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration (HWCC). The course was held September 9-11 2009 in Washington, D.C. Our class had people from the US, Wales, France and Africa. It was a great mix of people with varied backgrounds; grad students, the Humane Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Society, USDA and the National Park Service etc. Having this mix of people really brought in some great ideas and information exchange which added to the wonderful learning experience of the class.

This is not a sit, take notes and listen to the instructors’ course. There are a lot of discussions and role play; the more you participate the more you get out of it.

”The objective of this course is to improve the ability of conservation practitioners to understand conflict dynamics and establish more effective ways to address them. Participants will accomplish this by drawing on tools, processes, and theory developed in the field of conflict resolution that have shown to be applicable to conservation realities. As a result, conservation practitioners will possess a broader set of skills to ensure that conservation solutions are more successful and sustainable.” (HWCC)

We practiced various roles: being a third party neutral, an observer and people involved in a conflict. Playing these different “characters” and being in someone else’s shoes brought a new perspective to the process and gave a glimpse into how the other side may be feeling. At the end of each role play the groups (usually made up of 4 people) would critique the people doing the role play providing constructive criticism and positive feedback. It was a safe environment to practice the new skills we were learning each day and to improve on the ones we already had.

I would recommend this course to anyone that has to deal with human-wildlife conflict; it really does provide tools and guidance to prevent or resolve conflict issues. As someone who has never been good at dealing with human conflict, I left the course feeling like I can go out accomplish my goals and when conflicts arise I can handle them.

For more information on HWCC and the training course go to their website:

Submitted by Wendy Gardner, photo credits: Joe Milmoe

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Loss Of Top Predators Causing Surge In Smaller Predators, Ecosystem Collapse

The catastrophic decline around the world of "apex" predators such as wolves, cougars, lions or sharks has led to a huge increase in smaller "mesopredators" that are causing major economic and ecological disruptions, a new study concludes.

The findings, published October 1 in the journal Bioscience, found that in North America all of the largest terrestrial predators have been in decline during the past 200 years while the ranges of 60 percent of mesopredators have expanded. The problem is global, growing and severe, scientists say, with few solutions in sight.

An example: in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, lion and leopard populations have been decimated, allowing a surge in the "mesopredator" population next down the line, baboons. In some cases children are now being kept home from school to guard family gardens from brazen packs of crop-raiding baboons.

In case after case around the world, the researchers said, primary predators such as wolves, lions or sharks have been dramatically reduced if not eliminated, usually on purpose and sometimes by forces such as habitat disruption, hunting or fishing. Many times this has been viewed positively by humans, fearful of personal attack, loss of livestock or other concerns. But the new picture that's emerging is a range of problems, including ecosystem and economic disruption that may dwarf any problems presented by the original primary predators.

The elimination of wolves is often favored by ranchers, for instance, who fear attacks on their livestock. However, that has led to a huge surge in the number of coyotes, a "mesopredator" once kept in check by the wolves. The coyotes attack pronghorn antelope and domestic sheep, and attempts to control them have been hugely expensive, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

The problems are not confined to terrestrial ecosystems. Sharks, for instance, are in serious decline due to overfishing. In some places that has led to an explosion in the populations of rays, which in turn caused the collapse of a bay scallop fishery and both ecological an economic losses.

Source and complete article: ScienceDaily (Oct. 4, 2009)

Submitted by Dennis Ryan

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

WDFW submits wolf management plan draft

Public review of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, as required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), will begin on October 5, 2009.

A series of public meetings will be held in October and November, (see schedule at the WDFW website), with the public comment period continuing through January 8, 2010.

This is the public's opportunity to meet with WDFW staff and give input to the draft plan prior to the release of the final version.

The content of the plan is published on the WDFW website for review prior to the meetings. A minimum goal of 15 breeding pairs of wolves would be neccessary to remove the wolf from the Washington endangered species list.

Submitted by Dennis Ryan

Montana cows share their food!

These pictures were taken at the Broken O Ranch on the Sun River near Simms, MT.

The grizzlies ignored the cows and the cows left the grizzlies alone.

Submitted by Dennis Ryan

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Bear in the Backyard

Some Issaquah Highlands (east of Seattle,Washington) community neighbors woke to an interesting site the other morning and got it on tape.

Unfortunately, according to Rose & Saurabh Saxena, its not an unusual sight, “Beyond the thrill of seeing the bear, we were also disturbed that our neighbors continue to place their garbage out the night before (garbage pickup), and wanted to take the video to raise awareness. “ Last fall they saw a large mother black bear and three cubs in the same location dragging garbage into the greenbelt. This year’s bear seems smaller and they speculate that it may be one of those grown cubs.

The Saxena’s have joined with their local community NW Wildlife Stewards, volunteer group to encourage the Homeowner’s Association to do more to keep the bears out of the neighborhood, and to keep the bears and people safe. Cathy Macchio started the NW Wildlife Stewards group last year after repeatedly seeing bear-strewn garbage in her neighborhood and having one bear raid her compost pile and leave foot prints on her wood fence. She contacted Julie Hopkins, with the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project and received support and education on how to reduce conflicts with black bears in her neighborhood.

Cathy and the other Wildlife Steward members have convinced the Homeowner’s Association to post metal signs describing Bear Smart steps on the mail kiosks, and have been working with the local garbage company to reduce bear problems as well. Cathy is also involved in creating a website to educate the community on how to keep wildlife wild, report wildlife sightings and promote resident involvement as volunteers. The website should be functional in the next couple of months so check back for a link. The NW Wildlife Stewards would like to see the people and the wildlife of their growing neighborhood co-exist safely. If you are interested in helping the Wildlife Stewards or have any questions about the group you can contact Cathy at

Written by Julie Hopkins, GBOP field representative.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Think you can out climb a bear?


Source: Originally posted on TWEETERS.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

2 accused of illegally killing WA grizzly

MOSES LAKE, Wash. - Two Grant County men are expected to appear in federal court next week, accused of shooting one of Washington state's few grizzly bears. The case stretches back to a hunting trip in October 2007, during which investigators say the men shot a full grown male grizzly in Northeastern Washington's Selkirk Mountains.

Kurtis Cox and Brandon Rodeback are then accused of transporting the dead bear to property near their homes in the Moses Lake area. State and federal wildlife investigators say they were able to find the burial site.

"Officers found a grizzly bear carcass and a grizzly bear hide and head in two separate holes buried on the family farm," said Deputy Chief Mike Cenci, of Washington Fish & Wildlife Enforcement. Investigators were able to determine from tests that the bear was a valuable research subject.

State and federal wildlife officers say a tip led them to the suspects and a site where they tried to hide the bear. They released this photo of the bear's hide. "It had an ear tag," Cenci said. "Biologists had been tracking that animal for 14 years, so we know a lot about its life history."

Wildlife groups say killing any member of the state's struggling grizzly bear population is a big setback to hopes the large bears will reestablish a presence in Washington state. "It really increases the chance that this animal is not going to make it, and we cannot afford to lose anymore bears in the Cascades or the Selkirks," said Paul Bannick, Seattle Director of Conservation Northwest.

Once plentiful in Washington and most of the rest of the Western states, the grizzlies were all but hunted into extinction. Efforts to protect them have helped increase numbers in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The return of the bears to those states has already generated heated concerns from some ranching and hunting groups.
Those same concerns are now being voiced as Washington state prepares for what appears to be the grizzly's imminent return to this state. Shooting a grizzly in any state is a violation of federal endangered species laws and could lead to six months in jail and heavy fines.

Cox and Rodeback are expected to appear before a federal magistrate in Spokane next week. KING 5 was unable to contact either man today. Court documents indicate the two men explained to investigators they didn't realize the bear was a protected grizzly, not a common black bear for which Rodeback had a hunting permit.

Source: GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Bear Resistant Cooler that's even Yogi Bear proof

Thousands of people go camping, fishing and recreating in bear country every year which means there is a need for bear resistant products that you can store your food/catch in.

There are bear resistant food containers, bags so you can hang your food and now there is a bear resistant cooler officially approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. It is called the YETI.

YETI Tundra ice chests have been thoroughly tested by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) in both controlled simulations and with wild grizzly bears. The IGBC officially approved the YETI Tundra coolers for use on public lands occupied by grizzlies. The IGBC publishes minimum design and structural standards, inspection and testing methodology for BEAR RESISTANT CONTAINERS. YETI Tundra coolers met the IGBC requirement both in the engineered test and the live bear test.

The containers come in many different sizes and price ranges to meet the needs of almost anyone.

It is nice to see this new bear resistant product. Use of the YETI will help keep many bears from getting into human food which in turn will keep them from becoming problem bears.

Submitted by Wendy Gardner

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Smokey the Bear is 65 but not retiring

Since his “birth” on August 9, 1944, Smokey Bear has been a recognized symbol of conservation and protection of America’s forests. This is a vintage Smokey Bear shoulder patch, photo courtesy of Dennis Ryan.

His message about wildfire prevention has helped to reduce the number of acres burned annually by wildfires, from about 22 million (1944) to an average of 7 million today. Many Americans believe that lightning starts most wildfires. In fact, on average, 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide are caused by people.

The principle causes are campfires left unattended, trash burning on windy days, arson, careless discarding of smoking materials or BBQ coals, and operating equipment without spark arrestors.

Smokey Bear is the center of the longest-running public service advertising (PSA) campaign in U.S. history. Since 1944, he has been communicating his well-known message, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.”
This is the debut 1944 Smokey poster.

In 2001, the term ‘Wildfires’ was introduced to include all unwanted, unplanned fires in natural areas such as grass fires or brush fires. The Smokey Bear campaign is a critical tool specially designed to ask for every citizen's conscientious commitment to be responsible with fire.

A new ad campaign encourages young adults to “Get Your Smokey On” – that is, to become like Smokey and speak up when others are acting carelessly.

Primary source: USFS News, Gary C. Chancey, Wayne National Forest

Thursday, June 25, 2009

B.C. officer uses CPR to resuscitate bear

A conservation officer in Prince George, B.C., used his CPR training to save a bear's life after it was tranquillized. This photo was captured by cell phone camera.

Gary Van Spengen's conservation team was called to a residential neighbourhood Monday after a female bear was spotted in a tree. A biologist tranquillized the bear while it was up the tree, and after what Van Spengen described as a "soft landing," the bear stopped breathing after it hit the ground, but still had a heartbeat.

Van Spengen said he has never seen a bear stop breathing after being tranquillized in his 20 years as a conservation officer. "We could tell the heart was still beating … but the chest wasn't moving at all. I didn't want to lose this bear because I wanted to get a radio collar on it, so I started doing chest compressions on the bear to try to get air in and out of the lungs," Van Spengen told CBC Radio's B.C. Almanac on Tuesday .

While he said he did consider mouth-to-mouth breathing, another component of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Van Spengen jokingly said, "[Bears] usually don't carry breath mints." Van Spengen said it was similar to doing chest compressions on a person, where the diaphragm is pushed up and down, to move air in and out of the chest cavity.

"I've gotten a bit of razzing from it, but it's all in good fun," he said. After 10 to 15 minutes, the bear started breathing on her own. After being fitted with a radio collar, the bear was released south of Prince George.

Conservation officers plan to track the bear's movements as part of a study on the interaction between humans and bears in the area. Van Spengen said this particular bear was a good candidate because it hadn't started eating garbage, so would not be considered a nuisance bear. "She's wandering around doing bear things right now, eating and trying to fatten up for the winter," he said.

Source: CBC news

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

New Winthrop Ranger District Manager

Michael Liu hosted an open house for the public at the Winthrop ranger station. He is the new district manager and has 27 years experience with the USFS. Previous postings included Idaho, Montana, California, Colorado and New York. He has seen it all and been exposed to many of the same issues that will require attention in the Okanogan area.

Local stakeholders stopped by to say hello, chat and ask questions. Folks representing the town of Winthrop, logging, snowmobiling, back country horsemen and conservationists were in the mix.

Mike took all questions and responded thoughtfully. For someone who has been on board for only a short time he has taken in a lot about the local issues and the resources that are available to the district. Impressions were he will attempt to strike a balance with issues that tend to be polarizing such as the local wolf pack and controlled burning policies.

Everyone welcomed Mike to the Methow.

Farmer's Market season in full swing

Twisp Washington has a vibrant farmer's market every Saturday from 9am till noon. Lots of local crafts and produce. Many local residents, vacation home owners and tourists attend.

It's a great place to talk to a cross section of folks about bears. Believe me, everyone has a bear story and you get to hear them all.

This family was no exception. They had many questions about black bears and grizzlies in the Methow Valley area.

Just about everyone wanted to compare the size of their hand to the casting of the grizzly track. Impressed they were.

The tip of the day came from a Native American couple who lived in a village near St. Mary's in the Yukon territory. They literally grew up with grizzly bears as neighbors. "Never set up camp on old grizzly tracks. Only set up camp on fresh grizzly tracks."

Can you think why?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Bear species: six of eight face extinction

The Asiatic black bear is now listed as vulnerable, therefore six of the eight species of bear in the world are now officially facing extinction.

The smallest, the sun bear, is the latest to be classified as vulnerable on the Red List of Threatened Species. Four other species - Asiatic black bear, Sloth bear, Andean bear and Polar bear - are also listed as vulnerable.

The giant panda is facing the greatest threat and remains in the endangered category. There is least concern over the European brown bear and the American black bear.

The sun bear found in Souteast Asia, Sumatra and Borneo, will be included in the 2007 Red List drawn up by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Previously it was known as 'Data Defficient' meaning not enough was known about it to give it a classification. Rob Steinmetz, co-chair of the IUCN Bear Specialist Group's sun bear expert team, said: "Although we still have lot to learn about the biology and ecology of this species, we are quite certain that it is in trouble.

"We estimate that sun bears have declined by at least 30 per cent over the past 30 years (three bear generations), and continue to decline at this rate. Deforestation has reduced both the area and quality of their habitat. Where habitat is now protected, commercial poaching remains a significant threat.

"We are working with governments, protected area managers, conservation groups and local people to prevent extinction of the many small, isolated sun bear populations that remain in many parts of Southeast Asia."

Bear hunting is illegal throughout Southern Asia, but they suffer heavy losses from poachers, who risk the small chance of being caught against lucrative gains from selling parts. Bile from the bear's gall bladder is used in traditional Chinese medicine and their paws are consumed as a delicacy. Additionally, bears are often killed when they prey on livestock or raid agricultural crops. Bears simply roaming near a village may be killed because they are perceived as a threat to human life.

Dave Garshelis, co-chair of the Bear Specialist Group, which met earlier this month in Mexico, to update the status of the eight species, said: "Although the bear population estimates for Asia are not as reliable as we would like, we estimate that bears in Southeast Asia are declining at a particularly rapid rate due to extensive loss of forest habitat combined with rampant poaching."

Bruce McLellan, also a co-chair, said: "An enormous amount of effort and funding for conservation and management continue to be directed at bears in North America where their status is relatively favourable. It is unfortunate that so little is directed at bears in Asia and South America where the need is extreme. We are trying to change this situation but success is slow."

By Paul Eccleston,

Monday, April 27, 2009

Living with Predators Resource Guide

The 2009 edition of the Living with Predators Resource Guides is now available. The guides can be downloaded at no cost via the Living with Wildlife Foundation (LWWF) web site at

The guides are a comprehensive set of resources containing information about how to prevent conflicts with predators with an emphasis on bears.

The largest guide, “Techniques and refuse Management options for Residential Areas, Campgrounds and Group-Use Facilities” has been updated to include a number of new bear-resistant products and new information about the updated Bear-Resistant Products Testing Program.

One of the guides, “Predator Behavior Modification Tools for Wildlife Professionals” is not available via the general link on the LWWF web page. We try to restrict distribution of this guide to wildlife professionals. Please email Patti Sowka at if you would like to be able to download this guide.

LWWF has now expanded its portion of the bear-resistant products testing program to include testing with captive black bears at Southwest Wildlife Rehabilitation and Educational Foundation, Inc. located in Scottsdale, Arizona. This non-profit does a wonderful job of helping to educate the public about ways to co-exist with wildlife and they also provide a life-long home to confiscated and non-releasable wild animals. Please visit them at .

Please contact Patti Sowka at 406-544-5307 or for more information.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bear’s Quest for Calories

Living around humans, bears have developed a taste for people's garbage because it is often higher in calories than their natural food sources. Below, common types of human foods are contrasted with how many acorns a bear would have to eat to get the same amount of calories.

A dozen eggs is 888 calories. That is equql to 234 acorns.

A pound of hot dogs is 1,456 calories. That is equal to 384 acorns.

A McDonald’s double cheeseburger combo is 1,620 calories. That is equal to 427 acorns.

A pound of Black oil sunflower seeds is 1,740 calories. That is equal to 458 acorns.

A dozen Jelly donuts is 2,640 calories. That is equal to 695 acorns.

A large Pepperoni Pizza is 17,352 calories. That is equal to 4,566 acorns.

Compare that to 25 pounds of Purina dog chow. That is 42,425 calories. That is equal to 11,165 acorns.

I think that now you are getting the picture why bears prefer human food over acrons. Plus acrons don't taste that good!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Report from the field, Montana

John taylor (my colleague from Wildlife Media) and I just returned from a short trip to Montana where we were meeting with the folks from Vital Ground about their work to create conservation easements in grizzly bear habitat. Vital Ground was born of the "movie star" Bart the Bear who appeared on the big screen alongside actors like Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt.

His trainers, Doug and Lynne Seus decided they wanted to give something back to the grizzly bear and decided that taking steps to protect habitat was just right. We had a great day with the board, hearing about their work in Montana, Idaho, and Alaska.

En route to Missoula we had a chance to drop in at Counter Assault, the bear pepper spray manufacturers based in Kalispell. Pride Johnson was kind enough to give us a tour of the factory where it all happens. We were very impressed with the facility and the great people who work there. Bear pepper spray is the very best line of defense against an aggressive bear.

When dispensed, the canister shoots out a cloud of pepper spray and upon contact with the bear's nasal cavity and respiratory system creates a very uncomfortable diversion. The "heat" or "hotness" of pepper spray, and the associated peppers that the "heat ingredient" capsaicin is derived from is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). A sweet bell pepper is rated at 0, while green pepper Tabasco sauce may be 600-800. Jalapeno peppers range from 2500-8000 SHU. The capsaicin used to produce bear pepper spray is rated at.....wait for it......16,000,000 SHU (yes, 16 million). So it packs quit the punch!

You can read more about Counter Assault's products at And for more general bear safety tips see the safety page of our webpage:

Remember, the chances of being attacked by a bear are incredibly small, but it is always good to be prepared. Thank you to Counter Assault, for their support and encouragement.

Submitted by:
Chris Morgan
Director, GBOP

Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) meeting

Want to learn about grizzlies in the North Cascades? Want to get involved with the recovery of grizzly bears in the North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE)?

If so, you will want to attend the next Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) meeting. Periodically a committee of inter-agency personnel meets to address issues and progress relative to the recovery of the NCE grizzly bear population. These meetings are open to the public.

Spring Meeting 2009
North Cascades Ecosystem Meeting
Date: May 6, 2009
Time: 10 am - 3 pm. No lunch break is scheduled.
Location: Chelan County Fire District #3
Community Center
228 Chumstick Hwy
Leavenworth, Washington

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Documentary on the life of Charles Jonkel

The Great Bear Foundation, Salish Kootenai College Media, and Ursus International are pleased to announce the launching of a documentary film on the life and work of Dr. Charles Jonkel, a patriarch of bear biology, and one of the most interesting, inspiring characters of our time.

Charles Jonkel has devoted his life to the study and conservation of wild bears and their habitat. A pioneer of bear biology, Jonkel was one of the first four researchers to study black bears in the field after the invention of the dart gun. With his successful work on black bears, the Canadian government sought him out to lead their groundbreaking research on polar bears, one of the first field studies ever conducted on wild polar bears.

In his eight years in the Arctic, Jonkel compiled the first reliable, comprehensive scientific database on wild polar bears. He developed the concept that polar bears make up distinct subpopulations that inhabit specific areas, disproving Peder Pedersen’s theory that the world’s polar bears consist of one population, traveling around the entire circumpolar region. Realizing the cultural importance of the polar bear hunt to Native people and its vital place in their subsistence lifestyle, Jonkel fought for and secured Native hunting rights in Canada. The quota system that he developed to manage polar bear hunting combined Inuit traditional knowledge, or Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, with western science to determine the total number of allowable kills from year to year and. He and others set up the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), creating a framework for cooperation among the five countries with polar bear populations. This group became the model for all IUCN specialist groups. Charles Jonkel has worked in more areas of the Arctic than anyone else alive.

After nearly a decade working on polar bears, Dr. Jonkel returned to Montana where he taught wildlife biology at the University of Montana. His Border Grizzly Project was one of the most comprehensive studies of grizzly bears and their habitat requirements ever conducted. It helped to shape habitat, quota systems, and forest management policies in the West and to establish a better understanding of cumulative human impacts on grizzly bears. For the first time, policymakers and biologists were forced to examine the cumulative effects of all human activities and all other impacts on wildlife, rather than just the immediate, direct impacts of a specific project. Jonkel went on to direct research on aversive conditioning, testing the effects of potential bear repellants on black and grizzly bears.

While Jonkel is considered a father of bear biology, his influence extends far beyond the scientific community. Studying polar bears, he fell in love with the Arctic and became a champion of this little known northern world and the people and wildlife that inhabit it. Decades later, Jonkel continues his crusade to teach people about the Arctic, its beauty, and the threats that face the region today. As President and Scientific Adviser of the Great Bear Foundation, Jonkel devotes much of his time to educating the public about the world’s eight species of bears, their ecology, and the need to preserve their habitat.

Few people, if any, have done as much for bears as Dr. Jonkel. The Great Bear Foundation is seeking support for this effort - for more information visit their site.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nan Laney relocates to California

I’m in the midst of a move back to Northern California after 21 years of living and working in Northwest Washington. It’s been raining here continuously for 10 days, and while the vegetation outside my home office is different enough to cause me to take pause and notice -- oaks, redwoods, bay laurel, manzanita and madrones –– the weather has been highly reminiscent of Western Washington. So much for sunny California!

I recently picked up the book, California Grizzly, by Tracy Storer and Lloyd Tevis Jr, published originally in 1955. I’ve always been curious about the history of grizzly bears in California, in part because of the constant reminder of their former presence on the State’s flag.

It’s estimated that there were 10,000 grizzly bears in California. Nearly all the state was traversed by grizzly bears -- from the Trinity Range to the Modoc Plateau at the northern end of the state, the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, the Sierra, San Jacinto and San Bernadino Mountain Ranges, the coastal areas and coast ranges, and spanning south into San Diego County and across the border into Mexico. Only the deserts were uninhabited.

The story of the reduction in numbers and extirpation of grizzly bears in California is not dissimilar from their trajectory in other parts of their range in lower 48 states, Canada and Alaska, and on other continents. Almost everywhere grizzlies have existed they have been pushed out of their ideal habitats in more open country, where food sources are plentiful, to the mountains that are less desirable to humans for development, and for growing crops and livestock. As European human presence increased in California, a marked increase in grizzly bears were killed, and numbers were greatly reduced. By the 1880s grizzlies were nearly extirpated from California’s lowlands and were found primarily in the hilly and mountainous areas of the state. The last grizzlies were eradicated from the state in the 1920s.

Native Americans in California did not keep written records of grizzly bear interactions. However bears occupy an important place in Native American cultural and spiritual identity, spanning thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. The first written documentation of the presence of the bears are found in the journals of the early Spanish explorers. In 1769, at the site of San Luis Obispo, the Portola expedition saw “troops of bears” and found the land excavated where the animals had been grubbing for roots. The records of John Bidwell document seeing 16 grizzly bears in one “drove” in the Sacramento Valley in 1841, and stated that “grizzly bear were almost an hourly sight, in the vicinity of the streams, and it was not uncommon to see thirty to forty a day.”

The history of grizzly bears in California is punctuated by the influence of the Spanish explorers who lassoed and killed grizzlies for sport using their lariats, or reatas made of four-strand rawhide, from the backs of their horses. The Spanish also staged fights between grizzlies and bulls during fiestas and on feast days at the missions and presidios. Bear and bull fights were a carry-over from the same practices in Spain, and these staged fights drew attendees from great distances.

I’m living at the moment in the far southwest corner of Lake County, about 10 miles from the Mendocino and Sonoma County lines and just a few miles further from the Napa County line. About 30 miles northwest of here, near the tiny town of Boonville, where in 1988 I student taught while attending graduate school at UC Davis, is a peak named Grizzly Peak. And about 15 miles northeast of here, not too far from Clear Lake, in a scattered oak woodland area baked by the blazing summer sun, is another Grizzly Peak. The grizzly’s name marks nearly 200 place names designating topographic features, waters and settlements in California.

The last chapter of the book addresses the role of the grizzly bear as an emblem of California’s early history and exploration. It’s hard to miss the bear’s presence on the California State flag, and I’m always struck by the irony of the fact that grizzly bears are now extirpated from a state that displays the bear so prominently on it’s flag.

I’ve enjoyed my time working with the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project. It has been an enriching experience for me and I hope that my efforts have helped to support increased awareness and knowledge of bears and other wildlife species, as well as ways that we can all successfully coexist in a respectful way with our wild neighbors.

Nan Laney, GBOP
Skagit, Whatcom and Northern Snohomish Field Coordinator

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Feeding Wildlife In Winter

If you are like me, you got yet another couple inches of snow last night. Many of us worry how the wild animals are doing with the unusual amount of snow we have had this winter. According to many experts, including the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, feeding wildlife in winter does us more good than them.

Many people, myself included, consider the seed they put out for birds to be crucial food to get them through the winter. On the contrary, only about 1/5 of a birds winter diet comes from bird feeders. Some feeders can even do more harm than good if they are not cleaned regularly and are spreading diseases. The best things we can do are to provide high quality habitat full of natural foods. If you love the interaction of watching the birds and still want to feed them be sure to keep the feeders clean and check them daily for wet or molding feed, and place feeders away from hiding cover for cats. Or, provide seed and water just during particularly bad weather.

Experts in Cornell University Lab of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch, which collects winter bird feeder use data from volunteers across the country, say most bird feeding does neither significant good nor significant damage. It's something we do for ourselves. But it's a great educational opportunity for us.

If you have thought about feeding the deer or elk consider these potential problems:
- Concentrating deer and elk at a feeder can create problems by making the animals more vulnerable to disease, predation and poaching.

- Inviting deer into your yard could, in turn, invite the deer's predator, cougars, into your area also.

- If feeding areas draw animals across well-traveled roads, they are more likely to present a safety hazard and be hit by motor vehicles.

- Deer and elk drawn to artificial feed also can damage nearby agricultural areas, trees, or landscaping, especially if the artificial feed supply is not maintained through the winter.

In addition, the type of feed can make a life or death difference for deer and elk. If you put out grains their digestive systems can't digest, they will eat themselves silly, while starving. Deer and elk need the proper kind of bacteria in their gut to digest specific types of food. If they are used to eating browse (winter twigs, shrubs, forbs) they won't have the ability to digest grains until the bacteria make the adjustment. Depending on the animals' fat reserves, they might starve while waiting this period out, even though their bellies are full.

The best thing you can do for all winter wildlife is trying not to disturb them. They only have so much reserve, and the flight response requires a big output of energy. Keep your cats away from the bird feeder, keep your dog on a leash when you hike through the woods, and slow down in your vehicle when traveling through deer or elk country. We can all make an effort to maintain quality habitat for wildlife to live, ensuring that they have the food and shelter they need year-round.

Check out these links for more information:

Julie L. Hopkins, GBOP

Friday, January 30, 2009

Effects of past climate changes

Climate change wiped out cave bears 13 millennia earlier than thought.

Enormous cave bears, Ursus spelaeus, that once inhabited a large swathe of Europe, from Spain to the Urals, died out 27,800 years ago, around 13 millennia earlier than was previously believed, scientists have reported.

The new date coincides with a period of significant climate change, known as the Last Glacial Maximum, when a marked cooling in temperature resulted in the reduction or loss of vegetation forming the main component of the cave bears' diet.

In a study published in Boreas, researchers suggest it was this deterioration in food supply that led to the extinction of the cave bear, one of a group of 'megafauna' - including woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, giant deer and cave lion - to disappear during the last Ice Age.

They found no convincing evidence of human involvement in the disappearance of these bears. The team used both new data and existing records of radiocarbon dating on cave bear remains to construct their chronology for cave bear extinction.

"Our work shows that the cave bear, among the megafauna that became extinct during the Last Glacial period in Europe, was one of the earliest to disappear," said Dr Martina Pacher of the Department of Palaeontology at the University of Vienna. "Other, later extinctions happened at different times within the last 15,000 years."

Dr Pacher carried out the research alongside Professor Anthony J. Stuart of the Natural History Museum, London, and the University of Durham.

Many scientists previously claimed that cave bears survived until at least 15,000 years ago, but Dr Pacher and Professor Stuart claim that the methodology of these earlier studies included many errors in dating as well as confusion between cave bear and brown bear remains.

The pair also concluded, from evidence on skull anatomy, bone collagen and teeth, that these extinct mammals were predominantly vegetarian, eating a specialised diet of high-quality plants. Compared with other megafaunal species that would also become extinct, the cave bear had a relatively restricted geographical range, being confined to Europe, which may offer an explanation as to why it died out so much earlier than the rest.

"Its highly specialised mode of life, especially a diet of high-quality plants, and its restricted distribution left it vulnerable to extinction as the climate cooled and its food source diminished," said Dr Pacher.

The brown bear, with which Ursus spelaeus shares a common ancestor, was spread throughout Europe and much of northern Asia and has survived to the present day.

"A fundamental question to be answered by future research is: why did the brown bear survive to the present day, while the cave bear did not?" said Professor Stuart. Answers to this question may involve different dietary preferences, hibernation strategies, geographical ranges, habitat preferences and perhaps predation by humans.

Cave bears were heavily built animals, with males growing up to around 1000kg. The maximum recorded weight of both Kodiak bears and polar bears - the largest bears living today - is 800kg, with averages of around 500kg.

Scientists have recovered a large quantity of cave bear remains from many cave sites, where they are believed to have died during winter hibernation. Caves provide an ideal environment for the preservation of these remains.

Despite over 200 years of scientific study - beginning in 1794 when a young anatomist, J. Rosenmüller, first described bones from the Zoolithenhöhle in Bavaria as belonging to a new extinct species, which he called cave bear - the timing and cause of its extinction remain controversial.

By far the best source of information on the appearance of cave bears in the flesh is to be found in red pigment cave paintings in the Grotte Chauvet in the Ardèche region of southern France. These are the only depictions in Palaeolithic art that can be attributed unambiguously to the cave bear.

source SCIENCE, 13 OCTOBER 2006

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bear Vocalizations: What Do They Mean?

Being a zoo keeper I get asked a lot of questions about the animals I work with and one question that comes up a lot is: what type of vocalizations do animals make and what do they mean?

Bears have several types of vocalizations. Some species vocalize more than others. Knowing what these sounds mean can help us understand bear behavior and help with their care.

Photo of brown bear yearlings play-fighting and vocalizing in Alaska. photo credit: Chris Morgan.

Giant pandas have some unique vocalizations. They bleat which is a friendly greeting, honk when anxious or distressed and during the breeding season a receptive female will chirp when meeting a male. Sloth bears make a huffing sound when sucking up food, which sounds like a vacuum.

Most bear species make vocalizations that sound like a huff, chomp, woof, growl, and/or bark which mean the bear is agitated, angry or annoyed. A bawl, bellow, squeal or whimper indicates pain. A mumble, hum, or purr indicates contentment.

In many cases vocalizations are done along with some type of body posturing. These are visual clues as to how the bear is feeling. Depending on how the bear is standing, holding its head, the ear placement and how they move can tell a lot about what the bear is thinking and whether it is a dominant or subordinate animal. Bears would rather avoid a fight so using vocalizations and posturing can help eliminate serious conflicts and injuries and along with this, conserve energy they need to survive.

Vocalizations can be heard on the North American Bear Center’s website.

Wendy Gardner, GBOP team

Monday, January 05, 2009

Village Books in Bellingham welcomes...

Join us on Wednesday, January 7th at 7pm as The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project and Village Books are proud to welcome to Bellingham David Knibb, author of Grizzly Wars: The Public Fight over the Great Bear.

Long a magnificent symbol of the wild, grizzly bears are perhaps the most controversial species in North America. In Grizzly Wars, David Knibb explores policy and political issues involved in managing and attempting to save the grizzly bear, highlighting the critical role of state governments in the recovery process, the importance of providing linked habitat areas, and our need to cooperate with Canada in managing grizzlies who inhabit border areas.

David Knibb has a background in environmental law, forestry, and wildlife management. An activist on resource conservation and environment issues in the Mountain West for nearly 45 years, he is also author of Backyard Wilderness, a chronicle of the Congressional battle over the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington’s Cascades.

Chris Morgan, Director of the acclaimed Grizzly Bear Outreach Project will be at the event to share information about grizzly bears in the North Cascades. Swing by to pick up a free poster and learn about grizzlies (we may have as few as 10 of them in the Cascades!).