I. Attitudes

photo: Charles JonkelWhen I first started grizzly bear work, on the east front of the mountains, here in Montana, grizzly bears hadn't gone out on the great plains for about fifty years. They were not tolerated. If they went out there they were killed. Those that weren't killed learned not to go out there. It was just a layover thing from when bears, and wolves, and all those kinds of animals were bad, were bad for agriculture especially. Stockmen of various types, lumber people. They all wanted the bears dead.

And there was continent-wide sentiment, both in Canada and the U.S. to kill those kinds of animals, because they interfered with the good animals, and they interfered with agricultural interests. Of course, both countries were agriculturally based at that time and everybody thought in terms of agriculture. And this hung over clear into the mid-1900s, and in Montana the attitude was essentially still that way along the East [Rocky Mountain] Front. Bears were bad. They weren't allowed out there.

With the Endangered Species Act [of 1973, 1978, 1982] and with the research, we started talking to people, and teaching people things about bears, and finding out things about bears, and gradually the attitude changed. Now a good lot of the people think it's great that grizzly bears go out 30, 40 miles onto the plains from the mountains. And this has happened in about 15 years, this change in attitude.

And the bears learned it very quickly. They found out they don't get shot when they go out there, and so they now go way out past Choteau, past Augusta [west of Great Falls, Montana], and places like that.