and Other User Concerns
One of the main concerns that
people have when recreating in grizzly country is a human-bear encounter.
To most people that usually means how bears might affect or disrupt
a camping or backcountry experience. How to be safe and smart in
grizzly territory is an important aspect of ones outdoor experience
but it is not the only concern. What fewer people may consider is
how are actions can affect grizzly behavior and make more difficult
their struggle to survive.
|Certainly, there can be a lot of excitement
when recreating in areas inhabited by grizzlies. For
many, seeing a grizzly in the wild provides the definition
of wilderness. Some people will say that for natural
lands to be truly wild and impart their full aesthetic
value they must contain the grizzly - and other animals
that naturally inhabit an area.
recreation on Grizzlies
There’s growing interest these days with the negative
impacts of human activities on the Grizzly. Of significant concern
over the last few decades is the drastic increase in backpacking
and backcountry camping in Yellowstone. Craighead (1980) recommended
delineation of critical bear habitat in the Yellowstone ecosystem
and restriction of certain types of human activity within these
areas. In 1983 this led to the implementation of a bear management
program that restricted recreational use in areas with seasonal
concentrations of grizzly bears. Two of the better known goals for
these type restrictions are to "minimize bear/human interactions
that may lead to habituation of bears to people" and "to
reduce the risk of human injury in areas with a high level of bear
activity". A third goal - and one that fewer recreationists
are likely aware of - was to prevent human caused displacement of
bears from prime food sources. For instance, it has been reported
that following a disturbance by humans, bears moved a minimum of
3.2 km before stopping and remaining in an area (Schleyer 1983).
This displacement of bears from important foraging areas could then
result in an overall reduction of habitat effectiveness and carrying
A newly discovered human-recreational impact
involves Rock climbing. This activity often disrupts grizzlies
foraging on aggregations of adult army cutworm moths. Studies
have shown when bears detected climbers, they subsequently
spent 53% less time foraging on moths, 52% more time moving
within the foraging area, and 23% more time behaving aggressively,
compared to when they were not disturbed. It’s estimated
that grizzly bears could consume approximately 40,000 moths/day
or 1,700 moths/hour. At 0.44 kcal/moth, disruption of moth
feeding cost bears approximately 12 kcal/minute in addition
to the energy expended in evasive maneuvers and defensive
behaviors (White; Kendall; Picton 1999).
in the outdoors
Exhibiting smart and safe behavior in the wild outdoors
is a key ingredient to protect wildlife and oneself. A necessary
component for the safety of visitors in Yellowstone and other grizzly
occupied areas is education. It’s absolutely amazing to hear some
of the stories of human behavior in our National parks from the
lack of information (Loftus & Danyliw, 1997). An angler in Alaska’s
Katmai National Park, for example, once put a freshly caught salmon
inside his vest, thinking the park’s bears wouldn’t SEE it.
To better understand recent bear attacks and the lessons learned
check the link "Mark
of the Grizzly."
Even more important is for those traveling the backcountry
to prepare for the possibility of Grizzly encounters. Since Grizzly
bears have been nearly eradicated in this country many otherwise
experienced hikers from other parts of the country (or the world)
are likely not familiar with the additional elements involved in
recreating where the Grizzly is still extant. To help educate yourself
check out the link "Hiking
in bear country."
In the more distant past, winters had been
the quiet season in National Parks -- but not for the past
few decades. On the weekends it has not been uncommon to
see a 1000 or more snowmobiles at Old Faithful. Each weekend
the pollution created has exceeded all the auto traffic
for a given year and every winter snowmobiles have produced
enough pollution to equal 60 years of Yellowstone auto traffic.
The good news is that a new plan announced this winter (2000-2001)
by the park service states that much of this activity will
be phased out over the next three years in favor of multi-passenger
snowcoaches. Click here to download
further info on this plan.
Until recently the only methods used to deal with
the excessive snowmobile pollution problem had been to enclose ranger
booths and pipe in fresh air for human workers to relieve dizziness,
headaches, throat irritation and nausea (Coleman, 1999).
For the Grizzly and other wildlife such solutions
were not available. Air pollution along snowmobile trails-- which
commonly run along rivers and streams – released nitrogen, sulfate
and hydrocarbon compounds and increased the acidity of the snow.
"This massive liberation of atmospheric pollutants is connected
to a very important increase in acidity … 100 times higher than
usual in surface water" says a 1990 report (Earth Island Journal
- Coleman ’99). Snowmobile recreation also created groomed
trails, which may still be a problem with the new upcoming snowcoaches.
Groomed trails (as with roads) can change natural predator/prey
relationships. For instance, bison, elk and deer can use the groomed
trails to find better forage, save energy and avoid predators. This
is at the expense of the Grizzly (as well as lynx and wolf) which
relies on winter-killed ungulates as one of their main food sources.