Two hundred years ago, grizzly bears ruled the West.
Today, people have taken that throne and relegated Ursus arctos horribilis to a fraction of its former range. But the bears — backed by legal protection and decades of recovery efforts – have begun reasserting themselves, in some cases appearing in areas where they hadn’t been seen for nearly a century. The slow but steady expansion has led to an increase in bear-human conflicts that run the gamut from minor to deadly – trash-can rummages, chicken-coop break-ins, livestock depredation, fatal human maulings. As both bear and human populations grow in the region, experts say the number of conflicts will grow as well. That leaves stakeholders to grapple with how people should react when grizzlies eventually meander through their properties, and whether the bears will adapt to the limits we impose on them.
Kia Gardner sits down with Rob Chaney from the Missoulian newspaper to introduce the first week of a two-week series where the many issues around the uneasy coexistence of grizzlies and humans are examined in full. Produced over the past year by some of the country’s foremost outdoor reporters and photojournalists, the series is publishing in Lee newspapers across Wyoming and