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Panelists Tom Mangelsen, Louisa Willcox and David Mattson
December 16, 2021 1:00 pm to 1:45 pm Mountain Daylight Time
Grizzly bear experts David Mattson and Louisa Willcox talk with their friend, world-renowned wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen, about his many years celebrating Jackson Hole’s celebrity matron grizzly bear and her offspring. Panelists offer a hopeful alternative vision for recovery of threatened grizzlies by encouraging human coexistence with 399 and other threatened grizzlies in the Northern Rockies in an era of warming climate and increasing development and encroachment.
Tom is one of the most influential nature photographers in the world. Guided by a deep conservation ethic, Tom is legendary for his advocacy of protections for rare and imperiled species. Tom has a special passion for grizzlies, wolves and mountain lions, and co-wrote The Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek with Todd Wilkinson featuring 399—perhaps the most famous grizzly bear in the world. Tom helped galvanize unprecedented public resistance to the government’s 2017 decision to strip Yellowstone grizzlies of endangered species protections and allow trophy hunting – a decision that could have killed 399 and many other bears.
Louisa is a well-known advocate for wild animals and wild places, with a special passion for grizzly bears. For over 30 years, she led a number of regional and national campaigns for environmental organizations such as the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Center for Biological Diversity. Louisa specializes in developing and implementing multi-faceted strategies that feature grassroots organizing, educational outreach, media campaigns, litigation, and political advocacy at the local, regional, and national levels.
David has studied large carnivores and the human policies that govern their lives for the last 40 years, including grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem and mountain lions in the Southwest. He is well known as an expert on both grizzly bears and human-bear relations. He worked most of his career for the US Park Service and US Geological Survey as a research scientist, but also held positions at Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. More recently, David has been instrumental in successful legal challenges of numerous government decisions that would harm grizzlies, including the 2017 delisting of Yellowstone bruins.
Perhaps the most famous grizzly bear in the world is known by her research number, “399.” She is an ambassador for all grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone, and subject to the risks run by many bears, including running into hunters as she and her four yearlings scavenge hunter-killed elk near Jackson, Wyoming, and being lured into areas south of the protected landscape of Grand Teton Park onto private lands where they have recently been eating honey from beehives and livestock feed carelessly left out by people.
These well-mannered and tolerant grizzlies are at great risk of being accidentally shot or becoming so used to eating human foods that they become dangerous and are killed by managers. Meanwhile, it may be several months before 399 hibernates, depending on whether she finds plenty of food.
All grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone and the Northern Rockies face similar risks. Human-caused grizzly bear deaths are mounting due to climate-driven changes in native foods, poaching, thoughtless human behavior, and increasing numbers of people encroaching on the habitat that grizzlies need. A recent spike in grizzly bear deaths promises to reverse 40-plus years of hard-fought progress towards recovery under the Endangered Species Act.
Much more needs to be done at the federal, state and county levels to ensure that people behave responsibly and respectfully around these grizzlies. And plenty of tools are available to improve how we live with bears, including use of bear pepper spray while hiking and deployment of electric fencing around beehives. As important, we need greater coordination and cooperation among bear managers and local authorities.
We still have ample habitat to recover grizzlies in the Northern Rockies. Reconnecting long-isolated populations in the Yellowstone, Glacier and Selway Bitterroot ecosystems is vital to ensuring that grizzlies flourish in a warming world. To achieve this goal, Fish and Wildlife Service must step up its enforcement of the Endangered Species Act that bans killing and harassing bears and requires a precautionary approach to management. Under the Act, Fish and Wildlife Service must also use the best science, including on climate change and factors that drive excessive grizzly bear deaths.
What You Can Do
Please write US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator Hilary Cooley (cc USFWS Director Martha Williams and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland), asking that the USFWS: 1. Redouble efforts to enforce the Endangered Species Act’s ban on killing and harassing grizzlies, including through improper management of human foods; 2. Lead an effort to coordinate interagency conservation efforts; and 3. Augment resources to improve coexistence practices. Hilary Cooley: firstname.lastname@example.org; Martha Williams: https://www.fws.gov/duspit/contactus.htm; Deb Haaland: email@example.com
For more on grizzly bears and what you can do, see Grizzly Times – and sign up for our newsletter: https://www.grizzlytimes.org/