Understanding Hunting in Grizzly Bear Habitat
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Grizzly bears were listed as endangered in 1975, but in today’s world thousands of grizzly bears live in the bottom 48 years. Yet there are only significant populations in three states. Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho have grizzly bears that are increasing in numbers year on year as they thrive in this ecosystem without any natural predators. Grizzly bears affect the deer and elk population, our choice of hunting locations, and our backcountry experience in different ways. Here’s a breakdown of how these bears affect hunting and some changes you may need to make the next time you consider hunting in grizzly bear country.
Before we dive into the effects of grizzly bears on hunting, let’s briefly talk about their biology and behavior. The grizzly bear is a brown bear that inhabits North America from Alaska to Wyoming. They can weigh up to 700 pounds and eat rodents, insects, elk calves, fawns, cattle, trout, grasses, and anything in their path. Grizzly bears can run up to 40 mph and have a home range as large as 2,000 square miles. For a size comparison, grizzly bears are typically up to twice the size of a black bear. Grizzly bears are a real top predator that seems to fear nothing.
Effects of grizzly bears on animal populations
In general, a grizzly bear will not slaughter a healthy adult elk, deer, or other similar sized animal. Adult animals are wary of grizzly bears enough to keep their distance, and they can run as fast, if not faster, than a bear. However, it is essential to note that grizzly bears have a negative effect on ungulate populations. Grizzly bears attack the fawn population in the spring of each year. It is a typical sight to see bears following around a herd of elk, waiting for them to have their babies so they can eat the placenta as well as the newborn. It is a natural process; However, this can affect animal populations, especially as the number of grizzly bears continues to grow.
When it comes to choosing an elk or deer hunt in Montana, Wyoming, or Idaho, the number one concern for many hunters is the grizzly bear. Some hunters even refuse to hunt in an area where grizzly bears live out of fear for their lives. Although bear attacks do occur, they are not that common. And they can be horrible when they happen. I understand why some hunters would not want to hunt in grizzly territory; however, that means there is less competition there which is why I still hunt in these areas. Most hunters have to decide whether they are ready to hunt in grizzly country or not. If the answer is no, then that’s fine, but you still have a few things to consider and understand if the answer is yes.
When I hunt in grizzly country, I always make sure to pay a little more attention to what I’m doing. For example, when I call, I always make sure I’m ready to welcome a moose while still looking for a bear. It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared in this situation. On a related note, when stalking I always do my best to be calm and slow, but I’m also on the lookout for an unsuspecting bear. The last thing you want is to surprise a mother bear with cubs or an aggressive boar.
When camping in the backcountry, it’s always important to stay away from aromas, meat, food, and even pots and pans. Bears have excellent noses and will come looking for new smells. I would rather they investigate my camping supplies hanging in a tree 100 yards away instead of exploring my tent. Carrying a gun and bear spray is also essential and it is important to take your tent with you.
When I think of grizzly bears, I am in awe of their abilities. After all, they are animals that can weigh up to 700 pounds while eating the plants, animals, and insects that cross their path. Then they hibernate for five to seven months a year to start again until they are 25 to 30 years old. Although I am impressed, I am also terribly respectful. Grizzly bears are dangerous predators that can really hurt you, so if you don’t give them the respect they deserve, you can pay the price. This fall, understand how bears can affect your hunt, and use your skills and know-how to be bear aware and kill an elk or deer in bear country.