It still seems odd to talk about grizzly bears in Washington state, but if you have an opinion on potentially recovering a viable population in the North Cascades ecosystem, now’s the time.
History is clear about human-grizzly interaction. In one 25-year period in the 19th century, fur traders shipped out 3,800 grizzly bear hides from the North Cascades.
The last legally hunted grizzly was shot and killed in 1967. The last known siting on the American side of that ecosystem was in 1996. A rough estimate is that there may be as few as 10 bears in the North Cascades, and fewer than 30 in the British Columbia part of the ecosystem.
But a movement to restore the grizzly bear population gained traction in 1983 when representatives from several agencies in the U.S. and B.C. formally began the process of re-introducing the bears in the North Cascades.
Now a draft environmental impact statement is on the table for review. The public is invited to look at alternatives and voice opinions about restoration proposals during a series of open houses sponsored by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Two open houses will be held in Snohomish County, from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Darrington Community Center and Feb. 23 at Sultan High School.
Webinars are scheduled for Feb. 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Feb. 26 from 5 to 7 p.m. To register, go to parkplanning.nps.gov/grizzlydeis and click on the “Meetings” link.
There is a no-action choice; other proposals would bring back a reproducing population of about 200 bears.
To put that in perspective, that’s about 200 bears in the 13,600-square-mile recovery area. When Lewis and Clark explored the West in the early 1800s, an estimated 50,000 grizzly bears prowled the land between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains.
Grizzly? Black bear? Should you meet a bear out in the woods and feel the urge to identify it, don’t let color or size be the major identifier.
Our black bears have tall, pointed ears, a straight-face profile, and don’t have a prominent shoulder hump. The grizzly has short, round ears, a dish-face profile and a distinct shoulder hump.
And should you get too close … the black bear has short claws, 1-2 inches long. The grizzly has serious long claws, up to 4 inches.
But who’s counting? It’s common to seeing thousands of snow geese gathered in large flocks feeding on the flats of western Skagit County during the winter. Serious numbers, however, are on the Stillaguamish and Skagit River deltas near Stanwood, where up to 100,000 snow geese will congregate.
Join naturalists on tours by foot or shuttle to see them at the 12th annual Port Susan Snow Goose Birding Festival Feb. 25-26. It features speakers, seminars and trips for experienced and beginner birders. For more information, go to www.snowgoosefest.org.
You’re counting. No need to be an experienced birder to participate in the 19th annual Great Backyard Bird Count Feb. 17-20. Count the number of birds, by species, in a 15-minute period; enter the information online at gbbc.birdcount.org.
GBBC is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, and it’s the world’s first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds, display results online in near real-time, and create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds
You won’t be alone. In 2016, 162,052 checklists were submitted, 5,689 species were observed, and 18,637,974 birds were counted.
Out and about. Area birders worked around cold and snow to sight the unusual: a golden eagle near Stanwood, a rusty blackbird among Brewer’s blackbirds at the Cliffhaven Jersey Farm on Norman Road, also near Stanwood, and a small flock of wood ducks in a retention pond on the north side of 164th Street SW in Lynnwood.
Columnist Sharon Wootton: 360-468-3964 or email@example.com.