Biologist's tenure along Beartooth Front spans from grizzly bear listing to repopulation

Editor’s note:

This story is part of the Lee Enterprises series “Grizzlies and Us.” The project examines the many issues surrounding the uneasy coexistence of grizzly bears and humans in the Lower 48, which have come  into focus in recent years as the federallyprotected animal pushes farther into human-occupied areas. The 10-part series, comprised of more than 20 stories, was produced by outdoor reporters and photojournalists across the Rocky Mountain West.

 

For the first 20 years as a state wildlife biologist along the eastern front of the Beartooth Mountains, Shawn Stewart followed up on every report of a grizzly bear.

“I could not verify a grizzly bear on the Beartooth Face,” he said.

Stewart began working for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks in 1976 – a year after grizzlies were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. At the time, it was estimated about 210 grizzlies occupied the 28,000 square miles of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

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During the 19th century, the big bears had been eliminated from 98% of their historic range in the Lower 48 States. This included the Beartooth Face – deep glacier-carved valleys and tundra-like mountaintops in south-central Montana that stretch from

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