Grizzly bears are beginning to reoccupy Idaho’s Clearwater Basin, and conservation groups are calling on the U.S. Forest Service to stop bear baiting on national forest land , as baiting is a major threat to grizzlies fully returning to the ecosystem.
Although some of the region’s habitat is perfect for grizzly bears, it hasn’t been known to be occupied by the animals for decades. Before the 2000s, a ranger, Bud Moore, was credited with seeing the last grizzly tracks in the Lochsa District back in 1946.
Experts believe that the major factor in the grizzly’s demise was due to their love of eating salmon. This made them easy to locate along streams where they could be hunted. Another factor was the lack of large protected areas for the bears.
Grizzly bears are now protected under the Endangered Species Act but may be lured to hunting areas due to bear-baiting and then mistaken for black bears by hunters.
A grizzly was killed illegally over bait in 2007 when a hunter mistook it for a black bear. It was the first confirmed grizzly in the Clearwater area in almost half a century.
“Grizzlies are beginning to reoccupy the great bear habitat found throughout the Clearwater Basin, including the strong possibility of bears beginning to den on these forests,” said Gary Macfarlane, Ecosystem Defense Director of Friends of the Clearwater, in a press release. “We are calling on Idaho Fish and Game to prohibit bear baiting in all units on these national forests to aid in the recovery of the Great Bear.”
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