Grizzly Collared Near Vital Ground Project in Washington

Washington Grizzly Collaring

State's First Capture in 30 Years Marks Recovery Progress

Slowly but surely, grizzly bears are returning to Washington state, and The Vital Ground Foundation is already lending a helping hand.

On June 29, a multi-agency team of wildlife biologists captured and radio-collared a young male bear in the Selkirk Mountains of northeast Washington. The event, which occurred near Sullivan Lake in Pend Oreille County, marked the state’s first grizzly capture in more than 30 years, according to a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service briefing.

Now, three months after the capture, the five-year old, 365-pound bear may be finding his way onto Vital Ground.

That’s because just over 30 miles are all that separate the collaring site from Bennett Meadows, a lush, wildlife-rich zone that Vital Ground helped conserve in 2014. Immediately south of the Canadian border and northwest of Sullivan Lake, it’s part of the larger Big Sheep Creek area, an important mix of forest, meadow and wetland that helps extend the habitat value of the Selkirk Ecosystem to the west.

With Vital Ground providing a $25,000 partner grant, Western Rivers Conservancy of Portland, Ore., purchased the 2,400-acre tract, which falls just outside the federally designated Selkirk Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone. A private inholding surrounded by Colville National Forest lands, the Bennett Meadows complex could eventually play a key role in connecting the Selkirk Ecosystem with the North Cascades Recovery Zone, located less than a hundred miles to the west.

That subpopulation of grizzlies represents the Lower 48’s smallest, with biologists typically estimating the number of North Cascade bears south of Canada at 5-20. And with Washington outlawing augmentation of the population through intentional capture and relocation, connectivity projects like Bennett Meadows represent the best hope for natural migration of grizzlies back into their historic range in the North Cascades.

For now, however, Vital Ground and its partners will celebrate hard evidence of grizzly activity in the Evergreen State, and the opportunity for biologists to track a bear’s travel through the region. Bennett Meadows, Vital Ground's first project in Washington, perfectly matches the goals of the organization's Right Place Campaign, which targets those lands that will help create the most important habitat connections for grizzlies.

With a healthy young bear now roaming the Washington Selkirks, the campaign stands one step closer to mission accomplished.

Source: The Vital Ground Foundation