A recent article in USA Today (and published elsewhere–I actually found this copy in a Tucson paper) blames this summer’s bear attacks on the drought. It quotes a Texas wildlife biologist as saying that the bears will not hibernate this winter if the drought persists.
It may be true that bears in Texas will not hibernate if the drought persists in Texas and the Southwest, but that certainly isn’t what has precipitated the unusual spate of grizzly killings this year which occured mostly across the intermountain West and Alaska.
In places where the bears attacked–Yellowstone, along the Idaho/Montana border, and in Alaska, for example, there is no drought. But don’t take my word for it–here’s the drought monitor from NOAA.
Needless to say, there’s no drought on the Idaho/Montana border, the site of the most recent attack. In the most recent attack, the bear had been wounded by a hunter. It turned on the group, killing one of them, before it was in turned killed by another of their group. But perish the thought than anyone should actually be acquainted with the facts.
Here’s a take on bear maulings–including the one that provoked the mistaken weather info–from a blogger for High Country News. While it has nothing to do with weather, really, it sheds additional light on the latest incident.
In the Alaska case, a group out in the wilderness actually came between the feared “Mama Grizzly” Sarah Palin talks about and her cubs. So the bear was attacking to protect her cubs. And in Alaska, grizzlies rely on salmon for food, not berries so much–so there goes that drought theory all over again.
All this is not to say that there has not been unusual weather in these places. Most of the West has been unseasonably cool throughout the spring and into the summer. This delayed the berry and nut crop that the bears rely upon for food just as much as drought does. So the bears could be starving–just for a different reason.
But drought is not causing these grizzly attacks anymore than sunspots are–and to suggest otherwise is to mislead the public and to do them a grave disservice and perhaps to put them in unreasonable fear for a totally wrong reason.