Title: The Return of the Grizzly – Sharing the Range with Yellowstone’s top Predator
Author: Cat Urbigkit
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing, 2018
Themes: ecosystem, conflict, predators, grizzly bears, Wyoming, protection, federal and state regulations, Yellowstone, animal advocacy,
It took searchers three hours to locate the man’s body. When sixty-three-year-old Lance Crosby failed to show up for his 8 a.m. shift at Lake Medical Clinic in Yellowstone National Park on August 7, 2015, park officials were alerted and emergency response teams swung into action. One search and rescue team embraced via boat to check the lakeshore, while others set out on foot to search three trails popular with seasonal workers staying in the nearby government housing. On searcher hiked up the steep Elephant Black Trail, soon coming on the grisly scene just off the path; hiking boots protruding from an animal burial mound located on a forest ridge.
The Yellowstone grizzly population has grown from an estimated 136 bears when first granted federal protection as a threatened species to as many as 1,000 grizzlies in a tri-state region today. No longer limited to remote wilderness areas, grizzlies now roam throughout the region—in state parks, school playgrounds, residential subdivisions, on farms and ranches, and in towns and cities throughout the region.
Return of the Grizzly tells the story of the successful effort to recover this large carnivore, the policy changes and disputes between bear managers and bear advocates, and for the first time, provides insight to what recovery means for the people who now live with grizzlies across a broad landscape. From cowboys on horseback chased by a charging grizzly, and grizzlies claiming game animals downed by human hunters, to the numerous self-defense killing of grizzlies that occur each year, the manuscript examines increases in conflicts and human fatalities caused by grizzlies in this ecosystem inhabited by humans who live there year-round. Human–bear interactions, grizzly attacks and deaths, avoiding attacks, effects on agriculture, wildlife protesters, the consequences of bear habituation, and more are all covered. (Publisher)
Why I like this book:
I am a passionate environmentalist but no scientist and no expert in grizzlies, or laws protecting them, but I thoroughly enjoyed this incredibly well-researched book by Cat Urbigkit. I can see Cat’s journalist training in her ability to take dense legal material and departmental decision-making on behalf of both the grizzlies and local human population and season these dry details with so many personal stories that the material is never too dry or complex for the novice. At the same time for those seeking accurate statistics, policies and reasoning behind decisions for both bear advocates and bear managers, the detail is meticulous and methodically laid out.
I made it to Wyoming this summer but not yet to Yellowstone, but I have loved reading about the creation of this national park, and have had a long interested in the reintroduction of endangered species into their native habitats. This book gave me insight into the causes of grizzly decline in the first place, how the bears were reintroduced into the tristate region, and the issues surrounding their successful reintroduction. Return of the Grizzly also lays out the problems created for ranchers and others living outside the reintroduction area as one cannot, of course, restrict a wild animal to any geographical limitations.
Urbigkit has a style which is very engaging while being succinctly informative. As you can see from the opening, personal stories of of ranchers, grizzlies, bear managers, bear advocates, and everyone else sharing the land with this supreme predator are peppered throughout the book. Animal advocates like myself do well to read and educate ourselves fully on all sides of these issues.
The Return of the Grizzly is well-illustrated with almost every double-page spread containing photos or maps. I was fascinated to learn about all the non-lethal predator deterrents tried. And I was moved at how many ranchers, despite loss of livestock, made costly attempts to follow all the legislation. So often we can make them out as the bad guys. The balanced points of view presented here are very valuable in understanding the uneasy co-existance. I would recommend this book for those both pro and anti-animal reintroduction and control, of any species not just bears. It is a book that can be appreciated by non-experts like me with a passion for the issues as well as those in grizzly communities facing the issues or students wanting to equip themselves with the facts before maybe being employed in affected regions.
By the way, I learned that there are grizzly bears in SE France where I lived.
Height: 3- 3 ½ feet at shoulders.
Length: 6-7 feet.
Weight: Adult males 300 – 850 lbs; females 200 – 450 lbs.
Top speed 35 mph.
Lifespan 20 – 25 years.