The biologists from the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others who want to move up to 200 grizzly bears into the North Cascades of Washington state are playing with fire — and risking the public safety.
When grizzlies are surprised or protecting their young, they will attack. They can also attack totally unprovoked and often seriously injure or kill their victims.
A study of bear attacks during the years 2000-2017 by the Alaska Section of Epidemiology shows just how dangerous grizzlies are. During that time, 68 Alaskans were hospitalized and 10 others were killed.
“At least one bear attack hospitalization occurred every year during 2000–2017,” the report’s authors wrote. In 2016 alone, 9 people were hospitalized due to bear attacks.
Almost every injury was serious. The average medical bill was $43,345 and the maximum was $403,965.
Most of the attacks, 96%, were by brown bears — grizzlies.
Other studies attributed the increasing number of bear attacks in Alaska to a growing population and the increase in the number of people who hike or camp there.
Now consider this. Alaska, with about 737,000 people, has less than one-tenth the population of Washington state. Alaska, with 663,300 square miles, also has more than 9 times the area of Washington state.
Even with a population density far lower than Washington’s, Alaska is a place where bear attacks are still common.
By any measure, the plan to move hundreds of grizzly bears into the 9,500-square-mile North Cascades Ecosystem presents a huge risk to the people who live, work and recreate in that region. No other region where grizzly bears live is as populous as Washington state.
Ranchers, whose livelihoods depend on their ability to graze livestock in the area, correctly oppose the grizzly plan. They know their cattle will become a prime target for any bear in search of a meal. They also fear that anyone who comes across a grizzly could pay a steep price.
They’ve all seen the problems wolfpacks have caused in other parts of Washington, and how wildlife managers have struggled to come up with a plan to keep the predators from attacking livestock.
Any biologists who want to move hundreds of grizzlies into the North Cascades need to consider the likely consequences to livestock — and humans.
To ignore that would be irresponsible.
We urge the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to abandon their plans to bring hundreds of grizzly bears into the North Cascades.
The risks to ranchers, hikers, campers and others are far too great.
If they want to see bears, they can go to Alaska.