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City Desk

Co-Existing with iconic species among topics for MT Grizzly Council


Big Sky Connection

Click on the image for the audio.

Eric Tegethoff


November 25, 2019

MISSOULA, Montana - The Grizzly Bear Advisory Council continues to discuss plans for managing the iconic species, with a meeting scheduled for next week.


Convened by Gov. Steve Bullock, the council's goal is to create recommendations for how to conserve and manage grizzlies in Montana.


November's meeting was informational, concerning the species distribution and possible connectivity of populations.


Michele Dieterich is a retired teacher and a member of the 18-member council, living in the Bitterroot. She says bears are beginning to trickle in and wants the region to raise its awareness of the species to alleviate fears.


"I believe that it's very possible to co-exist with grizzly bears, but you need to lay that groundwork and teach people how to reduce attractants and how the bears work and how to be careful around the bears," she states.


There are two separate grizzly populations in Montana, with about 700 animals near Yellowstone National Park and 1,000 near Glacier National Park.


Grizzlies still are protected under the Endangered Species Act, although some say they should be managed by the state.


The council is holding another informational meeting Dec. 4 and 5 in Missoula on conflict avoidance.


Erin Edge, a council member and Rockies and Plains representative with the group Defenders of Wildlife, says it's important to assist communities and their unique needs as grizzlies expand in population. That could look like implementing a sanitation program or just outreach and education.


"Social acceptance is going to be variable depending on where we're at and I think that we need to identify what those issues may be and those may be localized," she states. "So an issue that is a big concern in one area may not be as much of a concern in another area."


Bonnie Rice, a senior representative with the Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign, was at this month's meeting in Bozeman. She says the grizzly bear's comeback from the brink of extinction is a success story that's still in the making.


She says the Yellowstone and Glacier populations should be connected not just genetically, but demographically as well.


Rice adds that while management largely happens in Montana, people around the country want to see the bears thrive.


"There's a real national interest in grizzly bear recovery, and so I think it's up to members of the public - and hopefully some of the council members, at least - to keep raising that," she states.

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