Less than half a century ago, grizzly bears were on the path to extinction. Now a group of biologists at Yellowstone National Park are placing a watchful eye of grizzly populations by outfitting them with collars to track their every move. By knowing their whereabouts, biologist can help protect grizzlies from existing threats.
Tracking grizzly bears
Less than half-a-century ago, grizzly bears were on the path to extinction.
Now, a group of biologists in Yellowstone National Park are placing a watchful eye on grizzly populations by outfitting them with collars to track their every move.
By knowing their whereabouts, biologists can help protect grizzlies from existing threats.
This story comes from the environmental team, EarthFix.
Take a look.
Beyond the rhythm of water and the sway of woods is a wild sound -- [ Breathing deeply ]
A grizzly bear, snoring inside a trap.
[ Snores ]
The key to being successful with grizzly bears is being patient and investing the time and effort you need to capture bears.
A few hours earlier, Grizz #1225 was unconscious on this makeshift operating table in the woods.
Biologists took samples and fit the animal with a tracking collar.
He's a perfect example of what a young male grizzly bear should look like in a quality habitat -- a beautiful bear.
Grizz #1225 lives in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
Feeding bears in Yellowstone was once common.
The practice stopped in the 1970s, but grizzly bears were dependant on the handouts.
They had to learn to find food in the wild, go without, or be put down as trouble.
They don't want garbage, per se, but if they find it, then they eat it, and that's where problems come in.
By 1975, the government added grizzlies to its list of species facing the threat of extinction.
Their numbers dropped below 200 in the Yellowstone region.
Today, there are more than 1,000.
Is that a one-year?
Okay, that's it.
10% of them are collared so biologists can track their every move.
Tracking starts as soon as the bear leaves the trap.
People don't really understand how often bears actually move through this area.
And it's a tribute to the bears and, really, their tolerance, and, really, what they're looking for.
A male grizzly's range covers 2,000 square miles.
It's pretty incredible, the distances these bears cover and why they do it.
It just continually raises so many questions as far as -- We always think we're starting to get a glimpse of what they're doing, and then something new will come up and it blows your mind.
Researchers like Nichole Walker follow the bear's path on foot.
She checks the area for collared bears before she leaves the truck.
If we hear a beep, it means that there's a collared grizzly in the area.
Hearing a beep is bad.
We don't want to hear a beep.
Static is good.
If we hear a beep, we leave.
Walker's trying to understand why the bear was here, but for personal safety, she doesn't want the bear to be here when she comes through.
She hollers often to make her presence known.
There's a high level of anxiety sometimes, but it's also a big thrill to be out here in Bear Country and investigating and seeing things that a lot of people don't get to see.
Walker finds clues -- a fresh day bed dug behind a log and bark peeled back by a bear searching for bugs to eat.
This research may help recovery efforts in other regions, like Washington's North Cascades.
Knowing where grizzlies go and what they eat matters.
Our research has indicated one of the big things that they're eating are ants.
Ants are sustaining a lot of bears in the Island Park area, and you just think of an animal of that size sustaining itself on tiny ants.
Ants, berries, road kill, and, yes, still today, sometimes garbage.
Every year, we have conflicts to where we have to go and try to manage a conflict bear or manage people who were making poor choices.
Yellowstone's grizzlies spent the last four decades expanding on the landscape they share with humans.
Now it's people who are facing some adjustments.
Bear population is growing, and they're in places that they haven't been, and now it's at the point where we have to change some of our behaviors.
The Greater Yellowstone Coalition is working with the Forest Service to bear-proof campgrounds.
You know, it's easy to work with kids, and it's the parents or the grandparents who are like, 'I never used to camp like that, I don't see the need to do that.'
These measures aren't just to keep people safe.
They're also to protect Yellowstone's grizzlies from the bad habits that got them in trouble just a few decades ago.
My whole life, grizzly bears have been protected.
They've always been this iconic species that is kind of hidden or really secretive, and there's not a lot known, and we're starting uncover a lot of that.
To actually see them be on the edge to where they've recovered enough to where they don't need to be listed is a cool thing to be a part of.