Louisa Willcox of the Grizzly Times talks with an old friend and colleague Dr. Barrie Gilbert for insights to the mess that is about to unfold in the world of grizzly bears. Barrie is an expert and a retired professor of animal behavior at Utah State University who studied grizzly bears from Yellowstone to Alaska for 40 years.
Now he’s also studying how they’re being managed by the government and his view points offer a stark warning.
"Katmai National Park (Alaska) had increased visitation and they wanted somebody with behavioral experience to see what bears and people were doing on Brooks River. There were increasing numbers of fisherman and photography was getting big there, so I had a chance to get in right in the middle of 30 or 40 bears and 600 or 700 people all within about a kilometer. So that gave me a perspective on how bears and people can get along. It got rid of the idea that every grizzly bear is something chomping through the woods that will see you and then kill you shortly thereafter."
"Coming back to the Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly bears, we know that they’ve lost at least two of their major food sources, and are dispersing. Now, federal managers have taken the position that this is because they’re up to carrying capacity, but the alternative which I think is equally plausible scientifically, is that food base has declined and they're spreading out and becoming less dense."
"You have a population that’s isolated, and it may be maintained by a relatively few number of females and males. So that’s a recipe for genetic homogeneity. One of the better ways of course, is to connect populations in other places."
"If we had more scientists looking at the data that the government has collected at the taxpayers' expense, I think we would have good debates about the interpretation of the data. Unfortunately, now it’s a closed shop. They have the data, they draw the conclusions and they make the implications for management all in a totally political atmosphere and I think this a very unhealthy."
"I think we need protected zones and a big boundary around park and even beyond where they’re currently seen. The bears should maintain their protected status. Opening a hunting season is absolutely the wrong direction. I don’t think grizzly bears are a huntable species."
Grizzly Years by Doug Peacock
Agency Spin, by Dr. David Mattson