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Savor The Gifts That Are Grizzly Bear 399 & Clan in Grand Teton National Park


Grizzly No. 399, show here with triplets back in 2008, has been a very productive grizzly. NPS photo by George Marion.

What’s the value of a grizzly bear?

For far more people than not, few things in this age of avatars surpass the thrill of seeing a grizzly bear family in its native element.

The story of Jackson Hole grizzly No. 399, who emerged from the den this year with her second troop of triplet cubs in half a decade, speaks to another kind of worth. It says something about us.

While economists might attempt to ascribe a numeric “replacement value” on 399—the way they coldly monetize everything else from sports cars to lost loves—doing so is the perfect illustration of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Wildlife is for them merely a commodity that ironically commands its greatest value dead instead of alive—as a rug or head on a wall. It’s a “resource” you “use up” once and then move onto the next.

Yes, we could quantify 399’s positive economic contribution to Jackson Hole’s “prosperity” and her role in “job creation,” as in:  the amount of money she and her cubs are generating for hoteliers, restaurants, gift shops, service stations and outdoor gear stores as a result of thousands of people coming to view them along the roadside this summer in Grand Teton National Park.

That’s one heading in a ledger book, but what about factoring 399’s existence value, her biological import in recovering a rare population, her mystique, and her public relations cachet for Jackson Hole as an uncommon place on Earth where we can still observe wild grizzlies?

What’s the worth of the pride Americans have for sharing a relatively small amount of public landscape with grizzlies?

Wyoming Game and Fish Deputy Director John Emmerich recently said he thought there might be 1,000 grizzlies roaming the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, not 600.  What does that mean, if true?

Well, it demonstrates that there may be a lot more bears out there minding their own business, avoiding people, not getting into trouble. How does that translate, then, into the contention voiced by some of “needing” fewer and discounting the value of the population down to how many can be hunted, like elk?

Although the tradition of wildlife watching is more established in Africa, anchoring a multi-billion-dollar non-lethal safari industry, I know Brits who “valued” seeing 399 and her first batch of cubs more than observing lions in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

It’s appropriate that Dwayne Harty’s oil painting for the 2011 Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival poster features 399 and cubs.  And it should bring pause that the artwork, titled Strength and Vulnerability, is actually a portrayal of 399’s former brood, including a cub, Bear No. 615, that was tragically killed by a hunter in an avoidable run-in.

Grizzly sows hold premium “value” in a bear population. Bear 399 is healthy in the prime of reproductive age, isn’t aggressive toward people, knows how to naturally forage, and has taught those skills to her offspring. She has delivered two sets of triplets back to back. And now, this year, one of her daughters, Bear No. 610, has given birth to twins.

You don’t need to be an accounting whiz. Bear 399 alone has generated six more grizzlies, plus a pair of “grandchildren.”  One mamma doesn’t equal one; she equals nine, and a lot more over time.

It’s in the best interests of those pushing for having grizzly bear management turned over to the state from the federal government to do everything possible to keep 399 alive. Just do the math or take note of the delight on the faces of untold thousands watching her.
Despite human tendencies to draw simplistic conclusions about nature, one thing should be clear:

All grizzlies in the woods are “valuable” but not all are equal. Each comes with qualitative distinctions, just as people do.  Bears 399 and 610 are not only mascots confirming the wonder of living in Jackson Hole on the edge of Grand Teton Park; they are ambassadors for their species.

Honor them, travelers, by getting out and watching this clan from a respectful distance; spread word of their existence virally over the internet; safeguard them by helping to keep them away from aggressive menaces on two legs and please, vigilantly, tell the uninformed not to feed 399 and her family.

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Beautiful. This makes me want to schedule a trip to the Tetons. I haven't been in years. Thanks you for your passionate words of support for one of the most magnificent creatures to walk our planet.

I was just at Jackson Lake Lodge in the Tetons this past week and watched 399 with her cubs hunting elk from the back patio area.  I was using binoculars of course, because the bears were about a mile or 2 away, but it was soooooooo cool.  I hope the families of 399 and 610 continue to be successful, but I worry about the loud and obnoxious tourists getting too close.

Let's pray some fascist park ranger who just renewed his NRA Membership doesn't get trigger happy.
There is a terrible misconception about those who wear the Green & Grey uniform today of the NPS: The mistaken belief is that NPS Management truly cares about protecting the wildlife from the visitor; tragically,
they often prefer to destroy the wildlife justifying their acts on some preconceived notion that a visitor
will be injured and file a lawsuit. That is, the bias is to shoot first and justify it on the notion that some child would have been injured; so, there goes another rare mammal toward extinction. Take time to  learn about the historical misunderstandings between the NPS Yellowstone park biologists and the Craighead brothers dedicated to Grizz Bear Research.  Grizzly Bears are safer from humans in large wilderness areas devoid of roads and poachers.  National Parks have become tourism centers with some managers  preferring the Disneyland approach to Nature.

 I don't believe your description of park rangers as being "fascist" is either fair or justified.The dig at the NRA also strange-- I belong to the NRA and love animals,nature and the Nat Parks as much as anyone.Do you belong to PETA???

Agreed. That's a pretty extreme caricature of a comment by Anon 7:01am.

[color=#0000ff]Craighead Institute[/color][/url], sponsoring research and conservation projects for bears and other species across the West. —Brian Kevin

Add to above photo:

[color=#0000ff]Craighead Institute[/color][/url][color=#0000ff]Obituaries[/color][/url]
FRANK CRAIGHEAD, who has died aged 85, conducted with his twin brother John a 12-year study of the grizzly bears of Yellowstone Park; their research provoked furious controversy about the management of wild animal populations in areas where there is human settlement.
The Craigheads' work on grizzlies began in 1959 at a time when the bears were becoming seen by the park authorities as a nuisance due to their habit of congregating near rubbish dumps in and around the park.
The brothers developed new methods of capture and tracking, including radio telemetry, and practised leaping up into trees so that they could make a swift getaway if chased. Over the next 12 years, they tracked hundreds of the animals, amassing a huge amount of information about the bears' social organisation, breeding, feeding habits and life spans. Their work spawned numerous television documentaries which increased public interest in the bears and awareness of conservation issues more generally.
[color=#0000ff][/color]In subsequent studies, the Craigheads argued that in their natural state, grizzlies depend on "ecocentres" - seasonal concentrations of high energy food which attract large numbers of bears, and without which their numbers become too unstable to persist. In places such as Alaska, these ecocentres take the form of large numbers of migrating salmon. In Yellowstone, however, the bears had become dependent on rubbish dumps.
After the closure of the dumps, the Craigheads maintained, the bear population had halved due to the loss of centralised food sources, and the remaining population had become "nutritionally challenged" and was probably in decline.
This view, and their recommendation that the dumps be reopened conflicted with advice given by the IGBST that the bear population was increasing and on the verge of recovery.
Nevertheless, many scientists remain impressed by the Craigheads' theory of ecocentres and critical of the failure of the park authorities to ensure that the effect of the dump closures on the bear population was properly monitored. The controversy continues to rage.
Frank Cooper Craighead was born in Washington DC in 1916, the son of the botanist and conservationist Frank C Craighead, who played a leading role in preserving the Florida Everglades.
Frank Jnr and his brother John became keen naturalists and, after leaving school, they drove west, observing and capturing birds of prey. In 1937 they published their first article, "Adventures with Birds of Prey", in National Geographic.
After taking degrees in Science from Pennsylvania State University, in 1940 they travelled to India at the invitation of a local prince who had read their article in National Geographic, and with whom they trained falcons and coursed cheetahs.
During the Second World War they set up a survival training programme for the US Navy and wrote a manual How to Survive on Land and Sea. Towards the end of the war they trained agents of the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA) in survival techniques. They were due to be dropped behind enemy lines when the war came to an end.
They then bought 14 acres of land in Antelope Flats near Moose, Wyoming, and went on to take doctorates at the University of Michigan on the ecology of raptors in Wyoming and Michigan.
In 1952, the brothers' careers diverged and Frank went on to found the Craighead Environmental Research Institute. He became manager of the Desert Bighorn Game Range in Nevada.
In the 1970s he began work on a pilot study to develop satellite transmitters for use on birds; but in 1978, his house at Moose was burned to the ground and much of his background data for the project was destroyed.
Frank Craighead married first, in 1945, Esther Stevens, who died in 1981. He married secondly, in 1985, Shirley Cocker. She survives him together with two sons and a daughter from his first marriage.

Chatting with Craighead's head
by Columbine Culberg
The Craighead Institute continues a legacy of wildlife stewardship in the Northern Rockies and beyond. The organizations mission is to maintain healthy populations of native plants, wildlife, and people as part of sustainable, functioning ecosystems. Today their research spans from projects specific to our community such as monitoring the effects of wildlife fencing on the road kill on the Bozeman Pass to projects such as surveying the impacts of climate change on the pika population in Montana. I recently had the opportunity to ask Lance Craighead a few questions about the organization and the work theyre doing.

CC: Lance, please tell me a little history of the Craighead Institute.

LC: The organization began in 1958 as the Outdoor Recreation Institute which my father, Frank, started with the idea of managing wild places for peoples enjoyment and responsible use. The Institute was an integral part of a 12-year study of grizzly bear ecology in Yellowstone Park that began in 1959. My father increasingly realized the importance of research and scientific tools for conservation so he changed the name to the Environmental Research Institute in 1963. We then changed the name to Craighead Environmental Research Institute in 1978. I began to be involved in the Institute around 1973 and more active after I finished my PhD in 1988. As the scope of our work has broadened into conservation science, policy, and education, we decided to simplify the name to Craighead Institute in 2010.

CC: You are doing so much work relevant to understanding habitat requirements for wildlife in this area and identifying what people can do to help protect species and habitat. What would you like readers to know about what youve learned?

LC: The old notions that there is plenty of wild space and an abundance of wildlife are things of the past. Habitat is disappearing rapidly for a number of reasons; one of which is the growth of cities, towns, and subdivisions. Another is resource extraction. Conservation science now has the tools to plan development that is ecologically sensitive.

CC: What can individuals do to help protect habitat and wildlife in our region?

LC: Try to live lightly on the land. The more we can do to use less resources that come at a cost to wildlife habitat... the more we recycle, and the more we cut down on CO2 emissions, the better.

CC: Science is something that often seems inaccessible to everyday people, and the value of research is not understood until the findings can be applied in a proactive way. In the global climate were (literally) in, science literacy is becoming increasingly important. What do you think needs to happen to engage people in the process of science?

LC: It is incredibly important to travel; when you see what is happening to the world and the U.S., you cant help but realize that we cant continue to go on like this. If you get all your information from talk radio, youre not about to start trying to understand ecology. It may take a series of environmental catastrophes to wake some people up.

April Craighead, the Institutes wildlife biologist will speak on pika research and how the public can assist conservation efforts Wednesday, May 25th from 6:30 - 8 pm at REI. For more information, visit Columbine Culberg is the Community and Environmental Affairs Director at Montana Import Group and Bozeman Audi, and a Board member of the Gallatin Valley Land Trust.

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