On Sept. 12, an adult female grizzly bear was shot by a resident of Island Park, Idaho.
Because the incident is under investigation by the enforcement branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, these are the only details that have been released at this time.
Because the grizzly bear still is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, decisions regarding the handling of grizzly bears fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As the result of the shooting, two young grizzly bears were orphaned.
There has been some concern from the public because it was thought the orphaned bears were cubs of the year, born last winter. When measurement of the young bears' front paw pad prints at the scene where the sow was shot were compared to hundreds of previous measurements from other cubs of the year, it is clear these bears are yearlings.
Idaho Fish and Game large carnivore biologist Bryan Aber, who is part of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team said, "7 centimeters is the standard for cubs of the year in the Yellowstone Ecosystem; measurements I made of the cub's front pad prints were 8.5 and 9 centimeters. This measurement clearly makes these bears yearlings."
The distinction between cubs of the year and yearling is of major importance.
"Orphaned cubs of the year generally stand little chance of survival if left on their own heading into winter," Aber said. "Yearlings that are in good condition stand a very good chance of surviving."
The policy of the state and federal agencies managing grizzly bears is to not capture orphaned yearlings because they have good a chance of surviving in the wild.
There has been a call by some members of the public to capture the grizzlies and place them in a rehab facility, as if they could be held in captivity, fed and released later somewhere.
"Rehab with grizzlies is really not an option. Grizzly bears cannot be captured and held in a facility and released later. If these bears were captured they would have to put in permanent captivity in a zoo or euthanized," said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
"The bears appear to be in good shape, and by reports they are at least 100 pounds. They have been observed feeding in the forest on elk gut piles, so as long as they stay away from humans they should be able to go into hibernation later successfully," Aber said.
Servheen said: "If these bears get into conflicts they may be captured and relocated to another area, but this will only be done as a last resort. Their best opportunity to survive is to be left within the habitats where they grew up, and for residents to make sure all attractants like birdfeeders, pet food, livestock feed and garbage are secured and unavailable to bears."
Residents and hunters of Island Park know that both black and grizzly bears are present throughout the area. The killing of a grizzly is rarely the end of the story. Often there are management and legal outcomes that require difficult decisions. Working to prevent human caused grizzly bear deaths is the best way to keep things simple.
To learn more about grizzly bear recovery, management and safety visit: www.igbconline.org