Bureaucrats reintroduce grizzlies to Washington’s North Cascades; ranchers brace for impact


Federal agencies have begun the process of relocating grizzly bears from the Rocky Mountains and interior British Columbia to the North Cascades mountain range in Washington state–an area where the last grizzly sighting was 1996.

The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service signed the agreement to reintroduce grizzlies to Washington earlier this month following years of deliberation. Over the next 5 to 10 years, officials will release 25 grizzlies in the North Cascades in what they dub a “founder population.”

Ranchers in the area say their concerns are being ignored.

Representatives from the ranching community have consistently attended public meetings calling for comment on grizzly reintroduction to voice their strong opposition. Last November, over 600 residents showed up to one such meeting in Okanogan County, largely to express disapproval.

“It doesn’t matter what we say, they’re just going to do what they want to do anyway,” Rachel McClure of the Okanogan County Cattlemen’s Association told The Center Square. She says many locals believe there is insufficient habitat in the proposed region for grizzlies, meaning the predators will either starve or venture to more populated regions for food–i.e. livestock. Ms. McClure worries it will take a human fatality to wake people up.

But Jason Ransom, the Wildlife Program Supervisor in the North Cascades National Park Service, says ranchers will just need to use the same tools they already use to avoid black bear encounters.

“The things we need to do to live around and work around, it’s not very different between black bears and grizzly bears, I mean just avoiding conflict, those tools are the same,” he told The Center Square.

According to the World Animal Foundation, grizzly bears are 21 times more dangerous than black bears.

Black bears are smaller and much less aggressive; attacks on humans or large livestock by black bears are rare. The vast majority of human deaths in bear encounters are attributed to grizzly and polar bears, with grizzlies also much more likely to go after large livestock including cattle.

In her May 9 piece for The Spokesman-Review “Nobody asked the grizzly bears,” opinion columnist Sue Lani Madsen quotes former Spokane resident Steve Busch who points out that the entire 416-page environmental impact statement on grizzly reintroduction contains no mention of salmon poisoning disease, and says researchers specifically chose translocated bears from areas that do not have salmon and are used to foraging for grubs, berries, carrion, and smaller wildlife in lieu of fish.

“Researchers did not find any population of bears that might be able to tolerate the unique strain of parasitic bacteria that is contained in salmon south of the Canadian border,” Mr. Busch claims, adding that researchers also hope the newly arrived grizzles “will not follow rivers into populated Western Washington neighborhoods as they learn to associate the west slope rivers with food, just like they do along the B.C. and Alaska coasts.”

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