IV. Management

photo: Charles JonkelManagement of wildlife is pretty much a North American creation, at least on the huge scale that we do it. It's keyed back to sportsmanship. Here, we, the common people, had access to wildlife, and we wanted to keep it that way. And so we invented management, and laws, and eventually wildlife research. We couldn't do much in terms of management with bears except kill them all, and hope you got the right one. It's not that long ago that people did that. I remember when I first started working on bears, Glacier Park had a bear incident, and they called the damage control people, who came in and killed seven bears. They said, "Well, we think we got the right one." The Park Service said "Thank you." And they said, "Well, call us again if you have another problem."

That's the way things were done right up into the sixties. That was poor management. But we didn't know enough about bears. You couldn't do research on bears. We were doing a lot of management on deer, and ruffed grouse, and things. We had data-bases for management, and all that. But it was impossible, literally, to work with bears until the invention of the dart gun and the quick-acting drugs, in the late fifties. All of a sudden, then, we could build data bases on bears. Also, that coincided with the changing attitudes toward bears that people started to have. People wanted data, and would fund research, and as the data came in, management improved.

Sure, they're such an intractable animal, how are you going to manage them. Well, you do it with the habitat. You do it with road closures. You do it with teaching the public to stay away from kill areas, as there could be a bear defending it. And teaching people about bear behavior. Give them a chance. They're trying to live with us. Just don't kill them every time you see them. It took a while for that to soak in, but people pretty much have that attitude now. And we've gotten used to the fine points in terms of productivity.

Bears are tough animals to manage, because there's a fear factor, there's the conflict of interest, there's people who just plain hate 'em and just want 'em dead. There's other people who think they're the symbol of wilderness, and want every one saved. There's others who want a trophy on the wall, above all else. How do you meet all those demands? So it's hard, from that standpoint.

They're also difficult to manage because they're a very expensive animal to manage. This is one problem Montana has had. Doing the research is very expensive, and doing the management is very expensive. We're not a rich state. We've got most of the grizzly bears. And we literally can't afford to do what needs to be done for the nation. So, with the Endangered Species listing as Threatened, that allowed federal money to come in.

And that was partly on purpose, done that way, to allow federal money to come in and help with the management and help with the research, because the state just couldn't handle it. We couldn't afford to manage the grizzly bears and do research that the nation needed. There has never been much talk about that, but that's what was going on. We had to get some federal money involved, even though it comes with all sorts of baggage, we had to have the federal money involved in order to do what needs to be done for the bears. Every single thing you do costs thousands of dollars. You can't even look at grizzly bear research without at least $100,000 a year for multiple years.

They live a long time, you know. There are bears that live in the wild over 30 years. Well, if you're going to find out about the whole species, you've got to keep the study going a long time. Who's going to pay the bills? But, with extrapolations from other bears, and other species, and the data bases we have, there's been some pretty careful management installed that takes pretty good care of the bears, I think.

Some people--Management? You're interfering with nature. Well, it's true, but of course we've interfered with nature so much for so long that we've got to do some things to help nature do what nature needs to do. And a lot of management is really keyed to letting nature be nature. She can kick our tail around yet, but she also needs help from people. Mother Nature doesn't run everything any more.