Rare footage shows grizzly shortly before IDFG managers killed it

Expanding population prompts controversy over hunt

ISLAND PARK, IDAHO - Grant Pearson and his friend Taylor were on an evening boat ride when they spotted a grizzly bear near a family cabin in Island Park. 

 "When we first saw it, i was like that's a grizzly, i haven't seen one that close before. It was pretty interesting seeing it and figuring out it was a grizzly bear," Grant said. "We had one girl in the boat who was freaking out. I was like, it can't swim over here,  it's fine, it's not gonna come over here"
 
Fish and Game had captured the same bear in the same campground just a few days earlier. Managers moved the grizzly to a remote location twenty two miles away, but within days, the bear was back, and that cost him his life.

"It made a big loop and came back. It was just very persistent in getting into the campground again," said Grizzly Researcher Jeremy Nicholson. "We kept very close track of the bear cause we had a GPS collar on it, so we knew exactly where the bear was going, but finally it just came down to that it was a threat to humans, so we had to remove that bear."

Most of the forest service campgrounds in Island Park are posted with information about grizzlies, including instructions for properly storing food. They also have special garbage cans, designed to keep bears out. But Mill Creek is an undeveloped campground with few amenities, and few rules. People we talked to shortly after the young grizzly was put down say that's the problem. Sierra Collin/cabin owner "i just have walked past two camps right here, and one of them has a can of cat food just sitting out in the open, i go to the next camp just a few feet away and there's a watermelon. Then there are five coolers just sitting out. I think we need to be a lot more responsible with our camping."

Managers agree, the bear came here and returned here looking for an easy meal.  
This bear was part of a population that has grown since Yellowstone grizzlies were listed as endangered under the endangered species act.  In June of last year, the interior department removed grizzly bears from the list, taking away their federal protection. Idaho fish and game managers have been busy this year, trapping more than a dozen grizzlies in Idaho. Three of those  were considered trouble bears because of interactions with people or livestock, but most were trapped as part of a research study that managers say proves the available habitat in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem is supporting as many grizzlies as it should.

"The reality is that we have a population that is very stable, and that hunting was written into the conservation strategy, as a compatible activity with grizzly bear management," said Toby Beaudreau/IDFG Big Game Manager

As part of a plan to keep the population in check, Idaho has joined and Wyoming in opening a fall season on grizzlies outside of Yellowstone, allowing hunters to take bears that are part of the excess population. Grant's father Dane, who has spent many summers in Island Park at his cabin just half a mile from where this bear was trapped and eventually killed. He says the expanding grizzly population and the de-listing of grizzlies is a double edged sword. "The delisting is a double edged sword, because you want the population to rebound, but I don't know that means we automatically open fire on 'em."

Environmentalists have made a move that could block the hunts. Tomorrow a federal judge in Montana will hear their case to put Yellowstone grizzlies back on the the endangered species list.
 

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