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Know the West

Are bears de-fenceless?

  Roads closed in some national forests in Idaho to protect grizzly bears are really wide open to anyone driving a motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency conducted an unannounced inspection of about 80 gates in the state's Panhandle National Forest this fall and found nearly 90 percent of the gates passable by motorcycles and 60 percent by all terrain vehicles, reports the Casper Star-Tribune. "I don't think you can make a gate that is foolproof, but we think some of them could be improved," says Fish and Wildlife biologist Bob Hallock. Forest Service officials, angered by the surprise inspection, say they rely on signs to discourage ORVers. The Panhandle's grizzlies pay the price when roads stay open that are supposed to be closed. The area's 45 or more bears either shy away from people, which reduces the animals' foraging range, or become habituated to them, which increases the risk of human-bear encounters, say federal wildlife officials.