Here is why the Grizzly Bears in America post is significant.
First, an overview of the piece.
The Alaska and Canada populations are simply passed over with little comment as I focused on the bears in the Lower 48.
The main groups in Montana are listed – the Cabinet-Yaak, the Northern Continental Divide and the Selkirks. I believe the Selway-Bitteroot is a budding population also. They are moving out of the Cabinet-Yaak and the Selkirks west towards the Idaho border. They are now quite common in places said to be beyond their range.
The population in Idaho is the Selkirks, and it ranges into Washington also. There is a small population in the Washington Cascades. There may be 40 bears in Cabinet-Yaak, 70 in the Selkirks and 10-20 in the Cascades.
The Greater Yellowstone population may be as high as 700-1,000. The Northern Continental Divide population is definitely 1,000.
Mostly I talk about bears that are wandering outside of their mapped zones. The Northern Continental Divide population is expanding far out to the prairies to near Great Falls. It is also expanding to the south, and I believe it is now close to linking up with the Yellowstone population near Butte. It is hard to prove that the populations are linked, but they are either linked or they are very close to being linked.
The Greater Yellowstone population is expanding to the north, west, east and south. I carefully document how far the bears have gone in each direction.
Incredibly it seems that the Greater Yellowstone population is extending down the Bear River Range into Utah. There is a good sighting in Evanston, Wyoming, and a bear was killed on Highway 80 in Utah in the early 1980’s, but it was covered up by officials. However, witnesses saw the bear. There are now four sightings in the Bear River Range in Utah.
In addition, there was an excellent sighting of a bear recently in the area where Utah, Colorado and Wyoming all come together near Flaming Gorge. I have no idea how that bear got there, but maybe they are following the Green River south. This is also very close to the Uintas. They have even been spotted in the Book Cliffs of Utah.
To the east, they now extend all the way to the full length of the Wind River Range, however, they do not seem to be moving beyond the range. To the south is the Red Desert, and that will be hard to cross. To the north, they have made it to the Owl Creek Mountains and the Gooseberry Creek area. Further north, they are now seen around Cody to Putnam. They are definitely on the west side of the Bighorn Basin.
It is now known that the occupy the entire Wyoming Range and there are even populations at La Barge Creek and Little Piney Creek at the far south end of the range. They are in the Salt Rivers and they have made it as far south as the Caribous in Idaho.
The Yellowstone population is obviously at capacity and it is known that they are expanding in all directions.
Young male bears can wander pretty far to establish a range is what I have heard.
Colorado: There is quite a long section on sightings in Colorado. I believe a small population of 10-20 bears still lives there. Most of the sightings are in the San Juans and Sangre de Cristos, but there are also a number to the northwest near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and north to Crawford which I believe are valid sightings.
To the northeast, there have been a couple of good sightings around Pikes Peak. There has been a sighting or two around Independence Pass in Aspen and one near Rocky Mountain National Park. I am not sure if those sightings are good.
However, to the north on the Routt National Forest and near Bull Mountain near Red Feather Lakes in the Medicine Bow Mountains there are definitely some good sightings. The sightings cluster right near the Wyoming border.
This population is quite curious. How did they get up on the Routt? Via the Medicine Bows? Maybe, but I am not aware of any sightings in Wyoming’s Medicine Bows. They could have moved from the Wind Rivers to the Medicine Bows by crossing several mountain ranges to the southeast, but I am not aware of any sightings there. It’s a mystery.
There is also one sighting in New Mexico right across the border from Colorado in the San Juans. It’s entirely feasible that the Colorado San Juan bears could move into Northern New Mexico.
Mexico: Further south, there is a lot of debate about whether the Mexican Grizzly Bear is extinct or not. It was said to have gone extinct in 1964, but one was shot in 1976, and there was a sighting in 1980 by scientists. Expeditions have found evidence of Grizzly Bears in the last 35-40 years in the Sky Island Ranges. Scientists say that they may still exist in the Sierra Del Nidos in Chihuahua and maybe even further south in Sonora.
Ranchers in the area say that Grizzlies were still in the Sky Islands as late as 2007. The Mexican Grizzly Bear is probably still extant.
Objections to the piece:
There probably are no bears in Colorado. There are bears in Colorado. You remember the Ghost Grizzlies book? Remember that Grizzlies were declared extinct in Colorado in 1952, and then out of the blue, 27 years later, a bow hunter was seriously mauled by a female Grizzly 27 years after they were declared extinct! The man killed the bear, and it was proven that it was a Grizzly. Now keep in mind that that sow had given birth two times in the past. That means those cubs may well still have been alive, and there was at least one boar around also. Also in 1983, a Grizzly enthusiast released a Grizzly cub in Colorado.
In 1989 there was an excellent sighting in the headwaters of the Navajo River in the San Juans. Two wildlife biologists were in the area doing something or other, and one came running out of the woods saying he had just seen a Grizzly Bear. He had a PhD in wildlife biology, and he had done his Masters and Doctorate on the Grizzlies in Yellowstone. So he’s basically got a Master’s and Doctorate in Grizzly Bear Studies. I would say that sighting is good as gold. A lot of the other Colorado sightings were by good sources.
Also, off the record many Colorado Game and Fish wardens and biologists say that the department believes that Grizzlies still live in Colorado, but there is only a very small number of them, and they do not want to admit for a number of reasons, so it is better to just say, “No Grizzlies in Colorado.”
There are no bears in Utah. The Highway 80 sighting of a dead Grizzly killed by a car in the early 1980’s is good. A number of people saw the bear dead and were looking at it before the Fish and Game people came to take it away.
I would say that the Flaming Gorge sighting is good. The man who saw the bear ran a hunters lodge in Alaska. He had seen many Grizzly and Black bears and their hunters, and he knew the difference.
There have been four sightings in Utah in the Bear Rivers and just about zero in the rest of the state. That’s a lot of fake sightings for one range with zero fake sightings anywhere else.
La Barge Creek in the Wyoming Range is only 40 miles from the Utah border. It would not be difficult for a bear to travel that distance in mountainous territory.
There are probably only a tiny number of bears in Utah, and they may be there only some of the time. The existence of resident bears is dubious.
The Selkirk/Cabinet-Yaak population is still struggling. I found no evidence in the linked study that those populations were in trouble.
And as far as I know there are no grizzlies in the Bitterroots. In 2007, a Grizzly was shot to death in the Selway-Bitteroots in Central Idaho. Previously, the last Grizzly in the Selway-Bitteroots was a confirmed sighting in 1946. Before the bear was shot, there had been sightings of Grizzlies in the Selway-Bitteroots since the late 1990’s. The female bear that wandered 2,000 miles around Montana and Idaho crossed the Bitterroots between Thomson Falls, Montana and Burke, Idaho. There are many bears only 25-30 miles away from the Bitterroots. They are expanding out of the Cabinets. They are clearly already in the Bitterroots at least on occasion, but the number of bears there must be very small.
There have been only a very few bears in the Wind River range south for a number of years. This statement about the Wind Rivers is correct, but they are expanding their range south in recent years. One was seen at Big Sandy in recent years, and they said that is the furthest south they had seen a bear so far. It is known that there are a few bears west of Lander. Just recently a bear was spotted many times southwest of Lander, and he made it as far south as Atlantic City which is a ways to the south of Sandy Creek.
According to the Y2Y website, bears are within a 100 miles of connecting GYE to Canada. It is not true at all that bears are within 100 miles of connecting the GYE to the Northern Continental Divide group. An NCD bear was shot and killed just a few miles of Butte. To the south, there is a known population of GYE bears in the Tobacco Roots. That’s a distance of only 25 miles between NCD bears and GYE bears.
A young NCD male bear was illegally shot and killed 12 miles southeast of Anaconda in the Warm Springs Wildlife Management Area at the northern end of the Pintlers. A GYE bear was seen many times at Mount Fleecer recently. There’s only 15 miles between Mount Fleecer and the Warm Springs Bear, and that gap is in the Pintler Mountains.
Many bears were trapped at Georgetown Lake in the Flints recently. To the south, bears have been repeatedly seen in the Pintlers, including one at Seymour Lake. There’s 12 miles between Georgetown Lake and Seymour Lake. That 12 miles is straight through the Pintlers, and the terrain looks like this:
It should not be hard for a Grizzly to get through that.
There’s no way those two bear populations are 100 miles apart.