Jack and Suzi Hanna greet guests at the 2012 Grizzly Bear Rendezvous
Jack and Suzi Hanna’s ”farm” was the perfect location for the 2012 Grizzly Bear Rendezvous held near Bigfork, MT, on Friday, July 13, 2012. The location of the event delighted the guests and added to the overall enthusiasm which characterized the event. Jack and Suzi were most gracious hosts and helped the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation get their message out about the Foundation’s support of grizzly bear recovery efforts in Montana.
By Matt Naber Bigfork Eagle
Cars parked all along the hillside as 197 guests checked out bear traps and spoke with regional grizzly bear experts and biologists for the Grizzly Bear Rendezvous at Jack Hanna’s home near Woods Bay on July 13.
Hanna has hosted the rendezvous for the last five or six years to raise funds for the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ grizzly bear management efforts. He described grizzlies as an “icon species” like the killer whale, koala and penguin. He said if grizzlies aren’t properly managed someone will get hurt or killed and that could lead to the destruction of the species and a piece of Montana’s culture.
“If we can’t save the icon species, we can’t save anything,” Hanna said. “This state represents one of the best ecosystems, not only in the United States, but probably throughout the world.”
This is where the Grizzly Bear Rendezvous comes into play, a yearly event organized through the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation to raise funds for the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to provide grizzly bear management and augmentation in the Kalispell and Libby area. For the last five years, events such as this have raised about $50,000 each.
According to Executive director of Montana FWP Foundation George Bettas, Montana’s grizzly bear population is growing at an annual rate of 3 percent and they are expanding to different regions. FWP wildlife program manager Jim Williams estimates there are currently about 1,000 grizzlies in Montana.
When this combines with Montana’s human population growth, the number of instances where FWP is needed for management increases as well.
Chris Servheen, 28-year grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the event is set to make a good contribution to keep the grizzly bear management program going thanks to the good turnout on Friday.
“We have more bears these days and more people, so that means more interactions,” Servheen said. “So it’s important to keep this going, these guys are where the rubber meets the road with bear management.”
Hanna compared the grizzly bear management work the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is doing in the Flathead Valley to the work done by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Ducks Unlimited. He said if Montana wants bears to be a part of its future, like elk and ducks are, that management is necessary.
Bettas said there are three components to what FWP does for grizzly bears, management, augmentation, and trend monitoring. Management consists of trapping and relocating bears that spend too much time near people. Augmentation involves relocating female grizzlies to places such as the Cabinet-Yaak area to promote breeding in new areas. Trend monitoring involves using GPS collars on bears to see where they go and what habitats they prefer.
Montana FWP grizzly bear management specialist Tim Manley said a lot of the people he spoke to at the Rendezvous were ones he was already familiar with and most had questions about how the season is going so far.
“For me, it’s been fairly busy with nine captures just for management reasons,” Manley said.
Mike Madel, grizzly bear biologist for Region 4, said it has also been a busy season on the east side of the mountains as well with eight captures so far. They typically handle between 20 and 25 captures each year.
“It’s mostly bear-human conflict management and between livestock and bear,” Madel said. “They get into sheep and goats and calves. Electric fences work really well.”
Bigfork’s Pride Johnson, owner of Counter Assault in Kalispell, was among the guests at the rendezvous. Counter Assault was the first bear-spray manufacturer in the country, which was invented by Bill Pounds from Polson and tested by University of Montana bear biologist Dr. Chuck Jonkel in the 1980s.
UDAP Pepper Power TM bear deterrent pepper spray developer Mark Matheney had his UDAP products on display at the rendezvous and assisted guests with using inert training canisters of bear spray. “Many people carry bear spray when they are in bear country, but it is important that they know how to use the spray in an emergency,” noted Matheney.
Jonkel’s son, Jamie, is a wildlife management specialist for region 2 and he was at the rendezvous as well. Part of Jamie’s job is to educate the public on ways to prevent bear management issues from occurring by limiting attractants on property such as bird feeders. The rendezvous served as a good opportunitiy to share this kind of information and to strengthen public ties with FWP as well.
“A lot of folks are interested in our community efforts, you need to reach common ground and friendship with people to talk about (bear) problems and solve them,” Jamie said. “As soon as you get the community involved then you can work with neighbors and the problem sort of disappears. It’s like night and day, went from 100 calls a month in Nine Mile Valley to almost zero.”
Many of the guests stayed late to enjoy the music of the Leftover Biscuits, singing along with Jack Hanna and dancing, enjoying the ambiance of Jack’s Farm.*Donate to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation