Bitterroot Background

"When famed explorers Lewis and Clark traveled through the Bitterroot Mountains of central Idaho in the early 19th century, they found a large and healthy population of grizzly bears living in the area."

Thus begins the National Wildlife Federation's Web site on Grizzly Bear Reintroduction in the Bitterroot Ecosystem of Idaho and Montana. See

There may indeed have been "a large and healthy population" in the Bitterroot Mountains, but the explorers didn't see them. In fact, Meriwether Lewis summarized his observations on their habitats in his journal entry for Febuary 16, 1806:

The brown, white or grizly bear are found in the rocky mountains in the timbered parts of it or Westerly side but rarely; they are more common below the rocky Mountain on the borders of the plains where there are copses of brush and underwood near the water courses.

Actually, there were at least a few grizzlies in the Bitterroots until the 1940s. Recently, a proposal to reintroduce them into that ecosystem has become a controversial issue in western Montana and eastern Idaho. In the next video interview, Dr. Charles Jonkel discusses his views on the proposal.