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  • Louisa Willcox

Episode 50 - Tom Mazzarisi


For the past 15 years, Tom Mazzarisi has worked as a bear ranger, with a focus on grizzlies, starting in Yellowstone and now in Glacier National Park – fulfilling a lifetime dream that started when he was 12 years old. In this interview, you can hear Tom’s conservation ethic shine through his stories of the challenges keeping grizzlies and people safe in some of the country’s most iconic landscapes – even as visitor use explodes. He also shares perspectives about management of wildlife in the western US and Africa, from years of experience leading natural history safaris with First Light Safaris with his wife Amy.


You might have heard the story -- broadcast on national news -- about how Tom reunited a teddy bear that had been accidentally dropped in Glacier last year to its 7-year-old owner, Naomi. Tom is also a passionate environmental advocate who also shares his views on delisting, trophy hunting and more.




INTERVIEW EXCERPTS


I remember the glance Scarface [a famous Yellowstone grizzly] gave me. It’s tough to explain -- it wasn’t aggressive, but it was so intense… Scarface was another example of a bear that was tolerant of us. As long we can show tolerance of them, they can make a life, a safe life on the fringes of humanity -- if we’re willing to take the time to let it happen.

If there were bears being bears and using natural food sources, we do our best to manage people and keep people away and allow the bear to do bear things. I mean we don’t have to be there -- the bear does.

Essentially during the elk season, hunting season in the fall, it is a grizzly season, because a lot of bears are being shot in self-defense…I think that people are just being a little bit too quick to the trigger.

As we’re seeing with wolves now, there’s no science -- there’s no reason for the rate that wolves are being killed outside national parks right now. And what makes you think that’s going to be any different with bears?

I have spent my career and more than half my life in grizzly bear country. When I’m not working, I’d never carry a firearm. I’ve never felt the need to have a firearm hiking in grizzly bear country.

We’re killing our parks. I think recreation is underrated as far as its effects on wildlife and natural resources in the parks.