Mountain lions and wolves aren’t the only charismatic megafauna expanding their range. Grizzlies, long confined to the mountains, are beginning to re-occupy their traditional flatland range.

From this story in the Great Falls Tribune:
Dan Danreuther, who farms and ranches along the Teton River near here, once let pheasant and deer clean up the barley that dribbles out of a hole in one of his grain bins. “Can’t be doing this anymore,” Danreuther said Tuesday as he used an electric drill to put a piece of metal over the hole. Two grizzly bears recently showed up on his plains ranch, scooping out paw-fulls of grain. _So far, the grizzlies have avoided the traps set out to capture them and remained out of sight, either in steep coulees or the thick brush of the Teton River, but not out of mind. At night, the bears dine on grain, with Danreuther finding fresh scat at the site each morning.

Northwest Montana grizzlies, which number about 800, the largest population in the Lower 48, are a federally protected “threatened” species. But bears on the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains, which are part of the larger ecosystem, aren’t waiting to be delisted to establish new home ranges on the prairie ˜ more than 100 miles east of the core population. The two young grizzlies that have been eating Danreuther’s grain first showed up at Floweree on June 7, near the Missouri River, where they haven’t been seen in a century. They have since retreated to the Teton River, which the bears followed to get to the prairie. Now they are thought to be moving between the ranches of Danreuther and his neighbors, the Reichelts, who live 35 miles northeast of Great Falls on the Teton. “It’s kind of unnerving,” Danreuther said. It’s the second time in two years that young grizzlies have made marathon journeys from the mountainous Front to the rolling plains of Chouteau County. Last summer, a lone grizzly traveled 177 miles along the river, reaching Loma. That bear passed right past the Carter area._

Thoughts? Should the US Fish & Wildlife Service consider de-listing the grizzly? Do you think we’ll ever see a lower-48 grizzly hunt again?