Grizzly Bear Bargain Notecard

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Grizzly Bear  (Ursus arctos)

Since ancient times the bear has been regarded as a special being.  Native American believed that the Great Bear was their paternal ancestor.  Ancient cultures believed that bears were the very voice of the earth.

Bears embody many qualities that we humans are losing as we distance ourselves from a life closer to nature.  They are wily, agile, independent and have instincts finely tuned to their environment.  They can stand upright, move their forelimbs freely in their shoulder sockets, and have eyes positioned in a nearly frontal plane.  They sigh and snore, act moody, gruff and morose, and have a taste for sweets– beneath the furry coat is a being not so different from us.

Grizzly bears occupy a unique place in the food chain.  They are supreme omnivores that forage vast areas to maintain their substantial bulk.  Grizzlies will nibble a single acorn or beetle, or ravenously consume a whole deer or blueberry patch.  They graze on sedges and grasses, dig for roots or ground squirrels, tear logs apart for ants and grubs, and feast on wild honey as often as they can get it.  Because they thrive in unspoiled wilderness, the presence of a grizzly population shows that a tract of forest is relatively healthy and able to support a wide variety of other species.

Grizzly cubs are born during hibernation in midwinter.  Though they begin as tiny beings weighting less than a pound, they grow to become the most powerful and pugnacious of all carnivores.  Strong beyond belief, they move with grace and precision.  A full-grown grizzly can outsprint a horse or kill a musk-ox with a single blow. 

Grizzlies once were abundant in the western United States.  Now their numbers are steadily declining as humans take over their habitat.  As the west was settled in the 19th century, the grizzly’s natural prey dwindled and the bears turned to killing sheep and cattle.  Ranchers waged all-out war on the grizzly with guns, traps, and poisons.  Today the grizzly bear exists only as a remnant species south of the Canadian border. 

The survival of the grizzly relies on our ability to conserve and expand their habitat.  But, although the U.S. Forest Service has a legal mandate to assure the protection and recovery of this magnificent bear, development often takes precedence over wildlife in management decisions.  Like so many other threatened species, the Great Bear too deserves to live wild and free!

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