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S23 Ep3

The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly

Premiere: 11/20/2004

Once on the edge of extinction, grizzlies have made a remarkable recovery. But this fierce predator is no longer content foraging in the back country. Today, bears are everywhere. And everyone has something to say about it. This program documents the return of the grizzly as a conservation success story that comes with a price.

2009 Update


The Yellowstone grizzly bear was removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007. Their population continues to grow, increasing by 4 to 7 percent a year. Their range is still expanding both north and south of Yellowstone National Park.

But conflicts remain. In 2008, grizzly deaths in the Yellowstone ecosystem were reported to be high. Seventy-nine bears were killed. Another year of such high mortality could trigger a review of the grizzly’s listing status.

Two of the grizzly’s key food sources, cutthroat trout and white bark pine seeds, are increasingly uncertain. Trout runs have been eliminated on many streams, and white bark pine trees are suffering from blister rust and beetle damage across much of their range. But this year, the remaining trees are producing a strong seed crop and the bears are harvesting good calories from seeds and moths in preparation for winter.

The agencies and concerned conservation groups are monitoring the bears closely. For more information, please click on the links below:


MAN: You got to get away now.

You guys got to get back-- go!

( ) ( ) We're in a dead-man's spiral with this cattle industry in the middle of those bears.

This program was made possible by... We don't see much wildlife back at home.

RANGER: If you can, stay right here.

COOPER: It's summer in Yellowstone, and these visitors are witness to a comeback 30 years in the making.

( ) MAN: They're right here-- holy cow!

Stay right there.

COOPER: They've come face to face with a grizzly bear.

MAN: This is a bonus.

( ) PARK RANGER: Go back behind the cars right now.

Right now-- I mean it.

( ) You guys got to go back, you got to get back!

You guys got to get back-- go!

COOPER: Not long ago, grizzlies were scarce in Yellowstone-- so scarce they were on their way to extinction.

You could spend years in the backcountry and never see a single one.

WOMAN: Oh, gosh, is that gorgeous.

COOPER: But something remarkable is happening here.

BOY: It's really cool.

I've never been this close to a real live bear before.

WOMAN: Oh, gosh.

COOPER: America's greatest predator is back, and its return may be the biggest success in conservation history.

( ) COOPER: But success always comes at a price... and someone has to pay.

MAN: Let's go, bear, come on.

Let's gLet's go!come on.

( ) MAN: It's really easy to be for grizzly bear recovery when you live in Fort Lauderdale, but to be for grizzly bear recovery when they're on your back porch is a challenge.

The only thing that separated us was this screen and this door, and I was... I kept thinking, 'How can I get rid of this bear?'

It was about a 500-pound grizzly.

I opened up this door probably about this far, and the grizzly bear, was right here and I had my nightgown and stuff on and I opened it up and I hit it-- I hit the grizzly.

And he turned around and he hit the door right back at me, which knocked me down inside of the... inside, um... and I got up and I stood there and I thought, 'That couldn't be what I just thought it was.'

I've got a videotape of him here about a month ago, and I'm pretty sure it's the same bear that we've had around for probably about a month, a month and a half.

COOPER: Amee and John Barrus are surrounded by national forest, part of what's called the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

It's always been bear country, but bears never used to give them any trouble.

AMEE: I have no desire to get any closer than what I've already been.

JOHN: Now is your chance, Amee; now is when you do it!

COOPER: Lately, however, like many of their neighbors on the front lines of wilderness, they're calling state wildlife officers to tranquilize and move bears several times a summer.

( ) AMEE: It's getting worse, you know.

You go from seeing, you know... once or twice a year you see one, maybe two, to now it's just, we see them, you know, every month we see two or three.

The way we coped with them back until, like I says, the early '70s was there was a hunting season on.

We coped with them, I mean... coexisted.

You know, like I says, they were scared of us and we were scared of them.

But now they're not scared of us and we're still scared of them.

He's all shed out.

If he was... had a full amount of hair on him, he'd be... COOPER: Mark Bruscino is Wyoming's bear management specialist.

He and his four-man team at the game and fish department are responsible for keeping the peace between bears and humans across more than 6,000 square miles of mountains and forests.

It's their job to trap and relocate problem bears-- bears that have become a threat to livestock, property and public safety.

Each bear trapped is an opportunity to monitor what's happening in an expanding population-- somewhat of a new problem for wildlife managers.

( ) A radio collar will let Mark know if this bear heads safely back to wilderness or gets in trouble again.

If the bear returns, it may have to be euthanized.

Every case is a judgment call.

( ) And it's not just the bears that Mark and his team have to cope with.

It's fearful and frustrated people, too.

That's real typical, the way they hit them.

COOPER: The calls begin as early as April, lambing and calving time.

MAN: Well, yeah, you can see it's got a lot of trauma... along the spine.

COOPER: From August through September, the phone rings around the clock.

MAN: God dang it.

COOPER: Last year alone, the team traveled 50,000 miles responding to bear conflicts.

That's a big bear.

COOPER: And every year the calls increase.

BRUSCINO: In the early days, most of our calls were in the backcountry, because that's where the bears were-- around hunters' camps, fishermen's camps, outfitters' camps, and where we've kind of evolved to now is most of our complaints are coming from farms, ranches or rural subdivisions, resorts and those sorts of places.

COOPER: It's getting harder for Mark to find wild country where he can safely release the bears.

BRUSCINO: It is difficult to find good places to relocate bears anymore.

It's kind of fish jumping out of a bucket.

You know, you put one in and another one jumps out.

COOPER: After a long history of declining predators, America is faced with an extraordinary turnaround-- an abundance of the biggest, baddest carnivore in the lower 48.

How ever did we achieve such a thing?

In the 1800s, grizzlies roamed much of North America.

But in our efforts to subdue the West, we eliminated them nearly everywhere in their range.

In the end, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks were almost all that remained of grizzly habitat in the lower 48-- isolated islands where a few hundred bears were just hanging on.

Bears and people have always had an unusual history in Yellowstone.

From the first days of the park, bears were drawn in to entertain tourists by the promise of food-- primarily garbage from the tourists themselves.

Bear viewing was so popular, Yellowstone established dumpsites all through the park and regular feeding schedules for the bears.

By the 1960s, the majestic grizzlies of the western frontier had lost their glory.

Dependent on handouts for generations, they had forgotten how to fend for themselves.

The icons of American wilderness were now squabbling over garbage.

Yellowstone itself had been reduced to an amusement park.

To restore its wildness, the dumps were closed.

Some predicted that without garbage, grizzlies would not survive.

Hungry, the bears grew desperate and dangerous.

It was the greatest gamble in Yellowstone's history-- and it almost failed.

In the spring of '72, the bears came out of their dens for the first time in 80 years and didn't have garbage in Yellowstone.

It was well over 100 over a course of a two-year period of bears that were killed-- had to be destroyed.

There was no garbage, they went into campgrounds, they got aggressive, they were destroyed.

COOPER: In 1975, in a last bid to save the bear, the grizzly was placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

With the park as the core, 9,000 square miles were set aside for the bear's recovery.

Greater Yellowstone had become a refuge where the few bears remaining would make their last stand.

With no handouts available, the bears went to work.

Their survival would depend on rediscovering their ancient ways.

They began by hunting elk.

Gradually, year by year, grizzlies struggled back from the brink, reclaiming their place in the heart of Yellowstone.

have recently emerged from their winter den.

She's not just any female, she's bear 264-- a familiar face in what's become the most studied bear population in the world.

With some 400 collared bears and years of painstaking fieldwork, the story of Yellowstone's grizzlies is finally unfolding.

( ) The family has laid claim to the carcass of an old bison the winter killed for them.

They'll feast on the remains for several days until nothing's left.

The cubs don't know it yet, but the security of their childhood is almost over.

The time is coming for their mother to send them off on their own.

And 264 has not kept them safely in the backcountry.

This carcass lies near a stream that runs along one of the major roads in the park.

It's only April, but 264 has attracted a crowd.

Many of these people are devoted followers of this particular bear.

She's almost always by this road in spring, and they come every year just to see her.

264 is a pioneer of a new approach to bear-human relations in Yellowstone.

Collared when she broke into an abandoned backpack, she was a likely candidate for relocation.

But the park realized that these roadside areas are key habitat for bears in spring, and they couldn't relocate every bear that used them.

Instead, rangers post a close watch on them for the short time they are near the public.

This allows more visitors to see a grizzly and gives the bears access to the habitat they need.

Besides, 264 has never shown any aggression toward people at all.

( ) Folks, get back to your cars!

COOPER: So far, it's working surprisingly well for everyone.

But 264's remarkable tolerance is not what rangers want people to expect from bears.

We keep on reading things that say, you know, look out for, you know, bear evidence... Activity.

or bear activity, and we're not quite sure what all that is really.

Well, of course, 'bear evidence' is either scat or an evidence of tracks.

Then, you might possibly come on a kill area, and that's when you got to back out of there and get away from it really quick.

You don't want to be anywhere close.

And that gets to be a dangerous situation, so don't get in that.

They're in here because this is an elk-calving area, and they come in here to kill the elk calves.

And that's steak and mashed potatoes to a bear.

( ) So, you guys watch your step when you're in the backcountry.

COOPER: Elk calves have only one defense against a hunting grizzly.

They play a game of hide and seek, but for the calf, it's life or death.

Grizzlies have honed their hunting.

30 years ago, most bears merely stumbled into prey, unsure of what to do.

Now they anticipate where elk will calve and search in a pattern for the faintest scent.

An elk can't take on a full-grown grizz, but the bear runs a terrible risk of her own.

Her young is now exposed, and in turn becomes a target.

( ) This time, the cub is lucky, but the wild has its own brand of justice.

The most aggressive hunters win the meat they need, but fewer of their cubs survive.

By the end of June, the tables have turned.

Elk calves are now too fast and strong for bears to catch.

The bears turn their attention to very different prey.

In the cool waters of the backcountry, cutthroat trout are heading up hundreds of streams to spawn.

In decades past, people nearly fished out Yellowstone's cutthroat.

But in the 1980s, trout were protected, and, like the bears, they, too, began to recover.

Now fishing's pretty good on these streams.

( ) COOPER: It's high summer, and for park rangers keeping an eye on bears is easy-- next to managing the people who come to see them.

RANGER: Hey, guys?

Take one quick and move it on.

( ) You got to remember these animals are pretty fast and they're aggressive, and the only two times I've ever been charged... well, I've been charged four times, but two times were at bear jams.

You get in these situations where you just forget where you're at, and all of a sudden you're within me to Doug away from a bear and two cubs.

And that's a bad place to be.

RANGER: This is hard work, and people just don't listen, you know.

And they're all excited, they want to see a bear and stuff.

RANGER: These guys can run 35-plus miles an hour.

You really want to make sure that we're keeping ourselves safe and these bears.

Okay, well, that's a zoom, too.

I mean, I was zoomed in, I wasn't that close.

MAN: Oh, ( ). ( ) Back to the road!

RANGER: Let's go!

RANGER: There are bears in the Indian Creek area that have really worked on the garbage cans.

In some of the places you can see scratch marks on the top where the bears have been after the garbage can.

But they haven't gotten in them.

MAN: It works, huh?

You bet it works.


COOPER: The first step in keeping bears alive is preventing them from breaking into people's trash and food stores.

At the Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, container designs are 'tested' by the experts.

MAN: It's going to be bolted down in a campground.

It's self-resetting.

You don't depend on the camper to remember anything or make any effort.

They won't get into the latch, but the pouncing on here, if it caves in, it could create a gap right here, and that would be the only thing that we're worried about.

COOPER: This tester is a four-year-old and something of a juvenile delinquent.

Like all the grizzlies at the Discovery Center, he's a rescued problem bear, adept at breaking and entering.

MAN: When they push on the side, it flexes.

When they push on the doors, that could be where they get in, which isn't a typical bear movement-- they push down, not sideways.

But so far, so good-- it's holding up quite well.

And we're actually hoping in the back of our mind a little bit that they do break in to tell us what the weaknesses are.

MAN: Ho-ho!

MAN: It's all for the bears.

Whatever we learn is going to be for them and how to keep them out of the food, how to preserve them, and that's the whole idea here.

COOPER: This container passes the test and could save bears' lives, sending them off to search for wild food.

The campers who were here today left and left a mess of... it looks like carrots, rice, macaroni.

This would be a bear magnet right here.

Bears are quick learners.

One of them is going to get a meal and they're going to come back.

And if they start coming back, then the bear is in trouble.

The bear will be... many times, it's going to be marked, it may be transported to the backcountry.

And if it comes back, it's the bear that gets destroyed and not the people that have done the damage.

So we've got to remember that we are in bear country.

This is their land.

COOPER: By the end of July, the bears just seem to disappear.

They vanish right into the landscape.

Where grizzlies go at the height of summer was a mystery for years.

It wasn't until the late '80s that a pilot spotted a few bears on rocky slopes way above the tree line.

What could possibly tempt a grizzly up here?

There seemed to be nothing to eat, and yet a steady stream of bears was making its way to the peaks.

The answer came as a complete surprise.

( ) True to their nature, the bears were here in pursuit of food.

the army cutworm moth.

The moths arrive in the high country in July to feed on summer alpine flowers.

They've come from as far as the wheat fields of Kansas following the flowers as they bloom.

They spend the night in fields of Indian paintbrush, lupine and daisies, retreating at sunrise to the cool crannies in the rocks.

For grizzlies, the moths are like candy-- loaded with nectar and fat.

They're only a calorie apiece, but a bear may consume 40,000 a day, packing on the weight it will need to get through the winter.

It's astonishing that here at the very top of the continent, it's a tiny moth that sustains the mighty grizzly.

And with the nice cool temperatures up here, it's well worth the rugged climb.

Winter will come early to these peaks, but before it descends, the high country has one more gift for the grizzly.

High in a whitebark pine, a red squirrel is busy stocking up for the season ahead, and the seeds of the whitebark are among the most nutritious foods available.

The pines rely on the Clark's nutcrackers to spread their seeds.

But squirrels present a problem for the trees.

They are notorious seed thieves, caching thousands in well-dug middens where they will never germinate.

The trees' only way of controlling this crime is to vary their seed crop from year to year.

A great seed year may be followed by a poor one, keeping the squirrel population in check.

And the squirrels have thieves of their own to contend with.

( ) Bears are wise to their tactics.

They have only to key in on the squirrels' foolish chatter to locate and plunder their larders.

Whitebark pine seeds are the last wild food source of the year for bears, a make-or-break harvest to send them into hibernation.

( ) From the tree to the squirrel to the bear-- a good seed crop in the autumn will keep grizzlies in the high country and out of conflict with people.

( ) And outweighed by a thousand to one, what's a squirrel to do?

In 30 years of protection, grizzly recovery has come a long way.

Left on their own, they have proven more resilient and resourceful than anyone predicted.

MAN: In the early '80s, we thought there were perhaps as few as 30 adult females in the whole Yellowstone ecosystem.

Today we're very comfortable with the fact that there's more than a hundred females out there that are producing cubs.

There's probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 550 plus around the park.

Exactly how many, I don't know, but I'm very confident that it's more than 550 bears.

COOPER: Grizzlies now range across 17,000 square miles of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, including three states, six national forests, two national parks and lots of private land.

But the bears don't recognize these boundaries, and one man's wilderness icon is another's worst nightmare.

MAN: Once a bear starts killing livestock, he doesn't stop.

I mean, it's easy for them.

I mean, it's easier than chasing down an elk, or easier than fighting with a mother moose.

You know, meat is a big part of their diet.

What goes on out there at night would horrify any livestock person in the country, you know, bears just constantly testing these cattle even though they were in a guarded position.

They would work on them and work on them and work on them until they would finally get them to break and run and then they would get their kill.

COOPER: Terry Schramm ran cattle in the Bridger-Teton National Forest south of Yellowstone for 20 years.

His cattle allotment was on public land inside the Grizzly Recovery Area.

In the old days, Terry could have shot a marauding bear to defend his cattle.

But under the Endangered Species Act, protection goes to the grizzly.

SCHRAMM: I was having a lot of problems in 1992.

I had found about six kills in about a two-week period.

I didn't know what to do.

I didn't want to illegally kill the bear, so I called the Game and Fish and I asked them to come, and they caught the infamous 203 bear.

I asked them what they were going to do with it.

They said they were just going to put a collar on it and turn it loose.

I said, 'Right here?' And they said, 'Yeah.'

And I said, 'Well, I didn't call you guys 'because I wanted to know this bear's weight or what his temperature was; I want him out of my cows.'

And they said, 'Oh, no, he'll leave you alone now.

'We've trapped him and that'll discourage him.

He'll run back to the wilderness or whatever.'

So they turned him loose, and he went right back to killing cattle again.

He was probably responsible for well over a hundred cattle kills, and he's not the only one, but he was one of the major players.

COOPER: In the end, the grizzlies won out.

Terry pulled his cows off the allotment and left it to the bears.

SCHRAMM: I figured that the bears ate 25 tons of Walton beef that summer, and I said that's quite a significant food source and I think I'll just take it away from them.

Well, I did.

Now who's got the problem?

MAN: Thank you.

Good afternoon.

I'm Stan Murdock; I ranch in Pinedale, Wyoming.

My family's been on this ranch for 105 years.

Both of my grandfathers helped found this Upper Green Cattle Association.

I am the second-largest operator in our organization.

Five years ago... COOPER: Stan Murdock has come before a special meeting of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to testify on his livestock losses.

As the number of kills escalates, so does the frustration with bears.

Commissioners, we're in a dead-man's spiral with this cattle industry up there in the middle of those bears.

These losses are killing us, absolutely killing us.

And we have got to get some relief somewhere.

Getting rid of the problem bears would be a start in the right direction.

I'm not a killer, and I'm not advocating that we start killing every wolf and killing every grizzly bear, because I don't think that's the answer either.

But I'll tell you, I don't believe that we ought to leave predators running two-legged on our streets or four-legged in our cattle, because the outcome can be expected.

So if we have a problem... COOPER: For Mark Bruscino and the Game and Fish Department, things are going from bad to worse.

They're trying to relocate bears and reduce the problems, but they're not getting a lot of cooperation.

BRUSCINO: Yeah, we caught two bears today; we've got bears all over the place.

Federal guidelines say we got to relocate him, and he's got to go somewhere, so if he doesn't go to the park, he's either going to you guys or Dubois, and Dubois, he'll run back here in two weeks.

( ) I hate to say it, but I just got to be totally frank with you, I feel like I keep getting the run-around by your staff people and, you know, excuses why we can't make this thing work.

And I need some places to put these bears.

WOMAN: We've been bearless... oh, in the past month and a half we've been bearless for three days.

They're trying to get into the dumpster.

And once in a while, you have to clean up a mess.

They'll try and get grease once in a while.

Try to get in the grease barrel.

She mock-charged the one night. Yeah.

Case absolutely dove through the house window to get in the house.

We run one way, they run the other basically.

COOPER: In the small community of Wapiti, Wyoming, bears are becoming more than a nuisance.

Okay, my daddy taught my mommy all about bears, my mommy taught me all about bears, and then I taught Francesca all about bears.

INTERVIEWER: What do bears like to eat?

They like to eat anything-- they're not that picky.

They like to eat humans.

( ) Is that true?

Sometimes they do.

Sometimes they'll eat... COOPER: The real problem in Wapiti is the orchards of apple trees-- for the bears, forbidden fruit.

BOY: No, there are three more red apples... Grab one up there-- got it?

WOMAN: Hey, Jamie?

All right.

( ) I get frustrated sometimes with the bears.

You go out twice a day and pick up any apples that have fallen on the ground.

You make sure your garbage is either locked down or behind an electric fence.

You try to live with them and do the best you can and be as responsible as you can, but even all that being said doesn't mean that you won't have trouble.

COOPER: Wapiti's grade school sits just outside the Shoshone National Forest.

18 bears have been trapped in and around town.

I've seen bear prints on my dad's truck.

Was that scary?


The new rule for when you see a bear is to drop your equipment-- the ball, whatever you're playing with-- and then carefully walk over to the door.

COOPER: To keep grizzlies from wandering right into the schoolyard, parents have erected an eight-foot-high fence all around the perimeter.

Inside, the children can play safely out of the reach of bears.

( ) A bear only gets two chances.

Someone fed this one and changed its behavior.

Now it thinks humans are a source of food.

Mark Bruscino has a problem with only one solution.

As hard as he tries to prevent this step, Mark has to euthanize several bears each summer.

And the most dangerous season is yet to come.

( ) Like you see on this one, uh... it's run lengthwise, but it's got Biothane straps-- you can hang it off your pack saddle.

COOPER: Every fall, thousands of hunters-- expert and novice alike-- head into the backcountry.

Now, we should run into a sow and two cubs out here a ways.

MAN: Done deal.

COOPER: They seek a wilderness adventure, camaraderie and a trophy elk.

For bears, hunting means an elk carcass-- food.

Nothing gets their attention faster.

Elk hunters are both good and bad for grizzlies.

As they pack out their trophies, they leave behind some 300 tons of nourishing leftovers that help the bears just before hibernation when they need it most.

This puts bears and hunters on a collision course, and the danger cuts both ways.

Hunters do everything you're advised not to do in bear country.

They're active at dawn and dusk, moving as silently as they can, until they mimic the bear's prey.

( ) Mark Matheny knows the potential for a showdown all too well.

Ten years ago, Mark and his friend Fred Bonson-- both experienced bow hunters-- were after elk when they surprised a female with cubs.

MATHENY: I'm thinking, 'This is it.'

And that's when she really put on the hard bite.

She actually put a tooth through my temple-- right up above my temple-- and that's really where time stopped for me and... um, but Fred got his spray out, came in yelling at the bear... ( ) and sprayed the bear right in the mouth as she just lunged towards him.

But he only got a split second of spray on her because she was only five, six feet away and then knocked Fred down to the ground.

And I remember glancing up and seeing Fred just getting knocked right over and thinking, 'This is horrible, she's getting both of us.'

COOPER: Miraculously, both men survived.

But conflicts with bears are escalating all around the Yellowstone ecosystem.

( ) With bears in backyards threatening both people and livestock, do bears still need our protection?

FRENCH: I look at having this many bear problems as success of recovery efforts.

We're not trying to... to save the bears anymore.

We're trying to conserve the bear population in its habitat.

COOPER: After 30 years, many think the Endangered Species Act has done its job and it's time to delist the grizzly.

The Endangered Species Act is a very dynamic law that tells us to fix what's been broken with these species so that they don't need to be listed under the act anymore.

And that's how we operate.

We work to get the problems fixed and to make sure the bears are going to be okay and then turn over the management to other agencies.

So that's, you know, the whole job for us is to get to recovery and delisting.

WOMAN: Delisting the grizzly bear means renewing a hunt which stopped in 1975 when the animal was put on the list; unleashing and allowing development pressures to continue on lands outside Yellowstone Park.

And particularly we're concerned with energy development-- natural gas, oil development.

Why take a chance ( ) COOPER: This issue of delisting grizzlies has brought a group of reporters here to Yellowstone to explore the status of the bears.

But first they get to explore the park, and in Lamar Valley, they're treated to a thrill only Yellowstone can provide.

MAN: Is that a wolf just this side of the bear?

WOMAN: Yeah.

MAN: They're so big, they look kind of close.

COOPER: The pack is back in Yellowstone.

Reintroduced in 1995, wolves are real competition for bears.

They take most all the winter kills before the bears wake up in spring.

Their hunting means there are more carcasses, but it takes a tough fight to get a share.

( ) MAN: There he goes again, after the wolf.

WOMAN: Whoa, whoa, whoa!

MAN: Chased the wolf.

MAN: The bear just chased him.

Just chased him out from behind the tree-- here.

WOMAN: Yeah... no, I think I see it.

COOPER: One of the experts here is Dr. David Mattson of the U.S. Geological Survey.

He's spent 20 years studying how grizzlies use the landscape with an eye to the long-term future of the bears.

His research tells him that everything depends on the four foods the bears need most.

MATTSON: If you're going to look at the bears' future here in Yellowstone, really what it comes down to is looking at what might happen to the bears' foods.

And with all four of the foods, there's either grave threats or at least considerable uncertainty as to what's going to happen to them.

COOPER: Yellowstone's grizzlies rely on meat for 60% of their diet.

But a devastating disease called brucellosis may force wildlife managers to reduce bison herds by half, cutting back on vital food for the bears.

Cutthroat trout are losing ground to an aggressive predator.

It's an introduced trout from the Great Lakes that's decimating the cutthroat.

The park gillnets Yellowstone Lake all summer to keep the invading lake trout from taking over.

Moths face threats at both ends of their migration.

Considered agricultural pests on the plains, they're under attack from pesticides.

More alarming is the warming trend at high elevations.

The summer snowfields are disappearing, and climate experts predict that the alpine flower meadows where the moths come to feed will be overtaken by trees if temperatures continue to rise.

It's the moths that bring the bears to the high country.

If moths should fail, bears will be forced to find food elsewhere, sending them down into the path of people and potential conflicts.

This is virtually indistinguishable... COOPER: But Mattson is most concerned about the whitebark pines.

An alien pathogen called blister rust is killing the trees, and their seeds may be the bears' most important food of all.

MATTSON: There's very clear evidence that when a female eats more whitebark pine seeds, she gives birth to more cubs the year after, and she's more likely just to produce a litter.

COOPER: Pine seeds may determine how many cubs are born each year, but they also determine how many of their mothers survive.

MATTSON: It relates to where whitebark pine grows.

It only grows at very high elevations-- above about 8,400 feet-- and that's a long ways away typically from where humans are, where our houses are, where our roads are, where we're active.

And so when pine seed crops are large, most of the bears are up there and when they're up there, they're quite safe from humans.

When pine seed crops are small, they're down low, they're operating a lot more near people, and when they're near people, they die at about twice the rate they do when they're far away.

COOPER: In Yellowstone, the fate of the bears seems to be tied to natural foods that keep the bears away from people, and all of them are in trouble.

MATTSON: If we stand to lose a significant part of the four foods that are currently really important, it sort of begs the question of, well, what should we do to compensate?

Maybe we can compensate for loss in our ability to support bears on any given square mile by just allowing them to live on more square miles over a larger area.

COOPER: But all around grizzly country, development is picking up pace.

WILCOX: The habitat threats outside Yellowstone Park have increased.

The grizzly bear has had this open space, agricultural land, large chunks of ranchland available to them for many years.

That will not be the future.

COOPER: It's not just ranchland that's being developed.

National forests may move forward with logging that was put on hold by the Endangered Species Act.

all through the Rockies-- even in important grizzly habitat-- has moved to the top of the national agenda.

And most of all, thousands of people from all over the country are moving to the Rocky Mountains, making it one of the fastest- growing regions in the country.

As grizzlies attempt to expand their range, they're running head on into civilization building up on their border.

WILCOX: The grizzly bear's protected status changed how people lived on the landscape, how we did business and made people think about ways to resolve our conflicts in such a way that bears and people could survive together.

Removing all of that will mean that bears will just walk into the same old conflicts that they have historically unless there's a thought process in place that says we can have people and bears both.

COOPER: Having people and bears both is proving to be no simple task, even inside the park, where it's supposed to work.

On the night of June 15, 2003, Bear 264, the symbol of successful bear-human relations, was struck and killed by a pickup truck.

Her lack of fear around humans proved fatal.

The fate of her cubs remains unknown.

Yet somewhere in the backcountry, a female and her family are being given a second chance.

And in the story of Yellowstone's grizzlies, it's a second chance for us as well.

WILCOX: The story of Yellowstone grizzlies goes to the heart of our American commitment to protecting wild country and to protecting wild creatures in a landscape where some of these creatures like the grizzly have nowhere else to go.

They don't have a choice.

They have been relegated to the last one percent of habitat that there is, and it happens to be around our nation's oldest national park.

There should be celebrations that we've taken this population from a couple hundred bears up to where we are now and that we've expanded their numbers and their range and that everybody's willing to do something a little bit different in order to maintain bears.

We've come a long way.

Are we at a place we can walk away and reduce the amount of annual spending on monitoring bears, on dealing with communities and garbage?

Are we at a place where we can walk away from this animal and renew a hunt?

And we think not.

And we think that there's no point in playing Russian roulette with an animal that's the icon of Yellowstone.

SERVHEEN: Recovery and delisting doesn't mean that we can forget about bears and their needs.

We have to continue to fund the important things that need to be done-- management and monitoring of the bears, management and monitoring of their habitat.

And if you look at it as the big picture of what we spend money on in this country, it's not even a drop in the bucket; it's mist in the air.

COOPER: America will soon decide if Yellowstone's grizzlies are still threatened or not.

But the outcome of that debate will not change the needs of the great bears or diminish the challenge of living with them.

Grizzlies will continue to test our resolve, as they did on the frontier so long ago.

The frontier and its wildness was once a measure of American mettle, and wherever grizzlies roam, that frontier lives on.

But in our time, the task is not to tame this wildness... ( ) but to find the courage to let it be.


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