YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - Feeding the grizzly bears here may not be such a bad idea; in fact, it may be the only way to ensure their survival into the next century, according to a new book, The Grizzly Bears of Yellowstone: Their Ecology in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, 1959-1992.
A trio of
biologists sees a bleak future for Yellowstone grizzlies: They need
more space outside the park and less human interference, but the
trend is toward less space and more
Setting up strictly regulated feeding
areas or "ecocenters' inside the park can keep the bears safe in
the rear areas while combatants duke it out on the front lines, say
the writers, John J. Craighead, Jay S. Sumner and John A.
Not everyone embraces this notion. The
idea of feeding grizzlies fell flat with government bear managers,
who have been doing all they can to wean the bruins from
human-related food since the park's last dump was closed in
Bears fed at those dumps by the score and
were a big tourist attraction for decades. But the bears were
dependent on garbage and when the dumps closed, grizzly numbers
collapsed. The Craighead team argues they have never
John Varley, the park's top
researcher, maintains the bears have proven their resilience by
relying on foods such as pine nuts and
"There are natural ecocenters here now and
there's no need for Purina bear chow," Varley
Keith Aune, a veteran bear researcher for
the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, calls
artificial bear-feeding "a step backward."
bottom line is, he (Craighead) is living in another decade," Aune
The Craighead team predicted government
bear managers would ignore their work. They blast the managers for
their "inability to accept and make changes not on the official
Meanwhile, some bear activists are
hoping the debate will be rendered moot in the wake of a recent
court decision that found the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
grizzly recovery plan inadequate.
Fish and Wildlife agency has indicated it may appeal, environmental
groups that brought the suit are hoping the agency will instead
devote its energy to working on a realistic recovery
"I don't see a need for temporary feeding
stations for bears if the Fish and Wildlife Service gets busy and
writes a plan that does what needs to be done for bears," said Tim
Stevens of the Bozeman, Mont.-based Greater Yellowstone
writes in Bozeman, Montana.