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Bear aware: Inside Idaho’s grizzly


In our last two editions of Inside Idaho, we told you about two species listed on Idaho’s endangered list. While the lynx and the bull trout are sought to be seen by Idahoans, this next one is generally avoided.

The grizzly bear can be found in the Idaho panhandle and in Eastern Idaho. More specifically, they’ve been observed in the Cabinet and Selkirk mountain ranges, according to Idaho Fish and Game. 

[No bull: The native fish some Idaho anglers overlook]

Unlike a black bear, the grizzly is recognized by the hump on its back, short rounded ears, and grizzled fur. They are also much bigger than black bears. A male stands about 7 feet tall and can weigh up to 800 pounds.

“This is the time of year when bears are most active, trying to consume as many calories as possible in order to withstand the winter denning period,” the IDFG website notes. “This means bears can be active throughout the day and night and can often cover large areas of ground in search of food.”

Then in October and November each year, the grizzlies start to dig the den where they will live for the next 5 to 6 months.

According to US Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of grizzlies in the US decreased from more than 50,000 to less that 1,000 between 1800 and 1975.

In 1975, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first listed the grizzly bear as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. In 2017, the greater Yellowstone population was removed from the endangered species list. However, last year, a federal appeals court ruled that bears living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will remain federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. Grizzlies in Northern Idaho also remain federally protected.

In addition, the Bitterroot Ecosystem, which is located in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in northeastern Idaho, is a designated recovery zone. There are currently no grizzly populations that live there.

“The Bitterroot Ecosystem is historic grizzly country and the animals were abundant when Lewis and Clark traveled through the area in 1806,” the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee notes on its website.

While grizzly bear sightings are few and far between in Idaho, one was seen last month northeast of Magee in the Coeur d’Alene National Forest.

According to IDFG, hunting season increases the chances of people seeing them and they list some tips for hunting in areas where grizzlies may be living.

To learn more about grizzlies in Idaho, watch the below edition of Meateater. It features Idaho Fish and Game catching and studying a grizzly found just outside of Island Park.

Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporter
Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporter
Anna Daly is a reporter for BoiseDev. She's an Emmy-winning journalist, and a professor at the College of Western Idaho. Contact her at [email protected].

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