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Plan Envisions Restoring Grizzly Bears to Natural Habitat

It has been said that American Indians and grizzly bears shared dominion of the West Coast before the arrival of Euro-American emigrants in the 19th century.

By the late 1800’s, the Indians were on reservations, and Oregon’s grizzlies had retreated to three remote regions, including the Klamath/Siskiyou mountains, the Southern Cascades and the northeastern Wallowa/Blue mountains.  Shot, poisoned and trapped to near extinction, the grizzly population in the western half of the U.S. mainland has fallen from an estimated 50,000 to some 1,800 today, most of them in the Rocky Mountains and a handful in Washington State’s North Cascades.

Grizzly Peak, across the Bear Creek Valley east of Ashland, Ore., takes its name from when bear hunters killed a grizzly there in 1855, but not before it had attacked and permanently crippled one of them.  The last Oregon grizzly was killed in 1931 and the last in California in 1924. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering reintroducing grizzlies into Washington State, increasing the population of the North Cascades Ecosystem to 200 bears over 25 years.  Some wildlife enthusiasts envision grizzlies eventually returning to Southern Oregon and Northern California – as the wolf has already done.

Sources: Oregon Wild Blog, 15 July 2015, www.oregonwild.org/about/blog/ghosts-oregon-grizzly. Accessed 23 Jan. 2017; Shaw, Ethan. "Oregon as Grizzly Country: A Brief History of the Great Bear in the Beaver State." Oregon Wild Blog, Oregon Wild, 15 July 2015, www.oregonwild.org/about/blog/ghosts-oregon-grizzly. Accessed 23 Jan. 2017; Caroll, Carlos, Reed F. Noss, Nathan H. Schumaker, and Paul C. Paquet. "Is the Return of the Wolf, Wolverine, and Grizzly Bear to Oregon and California Feasible? ." Large Mammal Restoration: Ecological and Sociological Challenges in the 21st Century (Editors David S. Maehr, Reed F. Noss, Jeffery L. Larkin). Washington, D.C., Island Press, 2001, pp. 29-30. www.klamathconservation.org/docs/carrolletal2001b.pdf. Accessed 23 Jan. 2017; Source: "Plan Released to Restore Grizzly Bears in North Cascades National Park Service Proposes to Bring More Bears to Washington State." Center for Biological Diversity, 12 Jan. 2017, https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2017/grizzly-bear-01-12-2017.php. Accessed 24 Jan. 2017; Source: "North Cascades Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan/Environmental Impact Statement." National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Jan. 2017, https://parkplanning.nps.gov/documentsList.cfm?projectID=44144. Accessed 24 Jan. 2017.

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Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.