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Grizzly photographed in North Cascades

By Joel Connelly
SeattlePI.com

“It’s a relief after years of waiting...” said Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest, which has championed grizzly and wolf recovery.

A grizzly bear has been photographed in the North Cascades National Park  for the first time in more than four decades, confirming estimates of a small population of “ursus horribilis” in mountains of northern Washington.

“It’s a relief after years of waiting: God, I thought they were like vampires, and that you couldn’t get them on camera,” said Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest, which has championed grizzly and wolf recovery in the “American Alps.”

Grizzlies once ranged through the Cascades of the Northwest and Sierra Nevada mountains of California:  A grizzly decorates California’s state flag, although the bears have been extinct in the Golden Bear State for nearly 90 years.

The only healthy populations of grizzlies remaining in the “lower 48? are in Montana’s Glacier National Park and nearby wilderness areas, and in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming.

The North Cascades grizzly was sighted and photographed — on a cell phone camera — last October by an out-of-state visitor.  It took the visitor half a year to contact the National Park Service with the news.

The last confirmed grizzly sighting was in the 1960's when a bear was shot by hunters in the remote valley of Fisher Creek south of Diablo Lake.  In 1968, the valley became part of the newly created North Cascades National Park.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has estimated a population of as many as 10 grizzlies in the North Cascades.  A few bears are also believed to reside in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness Area, in the southern Selkirk Mountains where the borders of Washington, Idaho and British Columbia come together.

Grizzlies were sighted in the 1950's near the east end of the North Cascades in what is now the Pasayten Wilderness Area.  A veteran outdoorsman named Bill Louden — namesake of a small lake in the Pasayten — memorably rode over a ride to discover a grizzly lumbering up the other side.  Luckily, the wind was blowing toward Lowden.

The exact location of the latest sighting is not being disclosed. Alleged human beings have shot animals in a newly reestablished wolf pack in upper reaches of the Methow Valley near the east boundary of the North Cascades National Park.

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