Spokane, Wash. (AP) — Environmental groups on Nov. 10 hailed a decision by the Biden administration to resume studying whether grizzly bears should be restored to the remote North Cascades mountains in Washington state.
The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they would jointly prepare an environmental impact statement on restoring the endangered bears to the North Cascades ecosystem.
Humans killed the bears off from the ecosystem long ago, and restoration there will contribute to the general recovery of the endangered animals in the Northwest, the agencies said.
Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, who represents central Washington, criticized the plan.
“The introduction of grizzly bears into the North Cascades would directly, and negatively impact the people & communities I represent,” Newhouse tweeted.
Newhouse said introducing an apex predator to the area would threaten families, wildlife, and livestock.
The agencies began a study of restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades through a trapping and relocation process in 2015. But in 2020, the Trump administration terminated the process without explanation. The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the termination in federal court in the District of Columbia.
The North Cascades is one of the largest wild areas in the lower 48 states, encompassing more than 9,500 square miles centered on North Cascades National Park. It also includes large areas of surrounding national forest.
Bird Flu Detected in Black Bear Cub
Juneau Alaska (AP) — A black bear cub in southeast Alaska was euthanized after it became ill with avian influenza, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said.
It is believed that the cub, which was located in Bartlett Cove in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve west of Juneau, is the second bear diagnosed with the highly pathogenic bird flu, the Juneau Empire reported.
Bird flu “passes really easily to poultry, but mammals aren’t really susceptible to it,” said Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen, a wildlife veterinarian for the department. “It’s difficult to get, but we suspect the cub probably ate a bird that died from avian influenza.”
The bear likely became ill because it was a small, young animal with a weak immune system, she said.
Since the virus first was detected in an adult female black bear in Canada in
June, Alaska state officials have tested scavenging animals for it. So
far, it’s been found only in two other animals, both red foxes in Dutch
Harbor and the western Alaska community of Unalakleet.
Finding bird flu in the bear and foxes is not an indication it’s likely to spread to other animals or to people, Beckmen said.
“This particular strain, people are pretty much immune to it,” she said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this strain of bird flu poses a “very low” risk to humans.