Grizzly Bear In Idaho
Grizzly bears have lived in Idaho since the last Ice Age – about 10,000 years. However, for the last 100 years, their presence has all but been extirpated inside the state. Recent sightings in January 2020 have put this keystone species back on the map. Their range is expanding and the grizzly bear is officially back in Idaho.
History of Grizzly Bears In Idaho
200 years ago grizzly bear was found throughout North America. It might come as a surprise to some but these animals are historically great plains animals. Their range encompassed the prairies of eastern Idaho, the canyons of the salmon river, and the entire mountainous interior.
As settlement in Idaho expanded, the economy became focused on resource extraction. Lumber, gems, gold, and furs made grizzly bear a lucrative prize for many frontiersmen. Combine the market demand for grizzly pelts with increasing ranching and farming competing for their habitat and it was a recipe for extinction. Luckily, the grizzly bears found refuge in Yellowstone National Park, northern Montana, and the dense inland temperate rainforest of the North Idaho Panhandle.
In 1975, grizzly bear was put on the endangered species list, protecting the few remaining bear from hunting and trapping. Over the last 50 years, grizzly bears have been nothing more than a myth for most of Idaho. Their population in the Panhandle is well documented and growing slowly, as is their population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem – far east Idaho. But the interior of Idaho – the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 – has been absent of grizzly bear for a long time.
Grizzly Bear Confirmed In Idaho, 2020
Over the past decade there have been rumors and potential sightings of the grizzly bear in central Idaho but no clear confirmations. That was until a trail cam on a bear bait station picked up photographic evidence of a grizzly bear in late 2019.
2007 – Hunter Kills Grizzly Bear Near Kelly Creek
Known for its amazing fishing, Kelly Creek is located in the heart of central Idaho. A black bear hunter mistakenly shot a grizzly bear – which was not known to be in the area – in 2007.
June 2019 – First Grizzly Sighting Confirmed With Images
As reported by the Lewiston Tribune, a radio collared male grizzly bear was spotted and confirmed in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness in Idaho. Long known for dense vegetation and impossible terrain, this area of Idaho is home to the densest black bear population in the state. It comes as no surprise that a grizzly bear now calls it home.
What makes this bear so remarkable is that it found its way into Idaho without being relocated there by authorities. In the early 2000’s there was a push to reintroduce grizzly bear into the selway-bitterroot wilderness but the plan was canceled following political pressure.
April 25, 2020 – Grizzly Tracks Confirmed Near Grangeville
Reported on when it happened, grizzly bear this far west proves that there are at least two bears in Idaho. Grangeville and the Elk City area are on the western edge of Idaho’s remote interior. It is the part of the state where land begins to flatten out and human settlement can exist, safe from the harsh winters. Grizzly bear here confirm that there is a resident population of bears and that the population of the interior is larger than previously thought.
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What Grizzly Bear In Idaho Means For The People
Controversial to many, grizzly bear is not welcomed by all outdoors people. It’s easy to understand why – their 1,000+lb size and mean temper make them killing machines. Running into one of these animals on a hiking, biking, or hunting trip could be a death sentence.
At the same time, the presence of grizzly bear makes it clear that conversation efforts – most led by hunters – are successful beyond our wildest ambitions. The amount of land that is conserved in Idaho is vast enough to support a natural population of grizzly bears. It is a conservation success story that North America’s apex predator is found once again inside Idaho.
The wilderness state, the last of the frontier, the heart of darkness – all phrases used to describe the impossible to navigate mountainous interior of Idaho. And finally, the grizzly bears are back.