So would you want a healthy grizzly population to establish itself in the Cascades? How about cougars in the eastern US? How about wolves? I do for sure. I understand the costs and risks of having large carnivores in our wild spaces, but in my opinion these spaces are not wild without them. The heart and character of wilderness is synonymous with the presence of endemic top predators. I want to share a magnificent piece of bear conservation media that was recently released by Chris Morgan, cofounder of Western Wildlife Outreach, that tells the story of how the public feels about the return of the grizzly bear to the North Cascades.
Chris Morgan sits comfortably in my mind as one of the great heroes of large carnivore and wilderness conservation, right up there with Doug Peacock, George Schaller and Aldo Leopold. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with Chris over the past 15 years as a co-guide in Katmai National Park, and in the production of several bear documentaries such as Bears of the Last Frontier, The Great Bear Stakeout and Beartrek, In addition to becoming one of the world’s top wildlife film presenters, Chris has done amazing work bringing appreciation to, and supporting conservation of, wilderness and large carnivores- especially bears. This film is part of the campaign that Chris launched over 15 years ago to use local community outreach programs to support the conservation of grizzlies, cougars, wolves and black bears in the western U.S. Check out a full list of Chris’ accomplishments here.
The return of a viable grizzly population to the North Cascades will be a natural process if humans allow it. Most of the grizzlies were eradicated from this ecosystem, which spans the border of Washington State and British Colombia, in the mid 1800s. It is estimated that between 30 and 50 bears currently live in the North Cascades, but most of them are on the Canadian side. Between 1950 and 1991, 20 grizzly sightings were confirmed and an additional 81 were considered highly probable on the US side. Between 2003 and 2008, only one confirmed and two highly reliable grizzly sightings have been reported. There is currently an Environmental Impact Statement being conducted by the USFWS on the return of grizzlies to the North Cascades. Hopefully they will be welcomed by people and those mountains will continue to get as wild as they should be.