The first grizzly visible from Yellowstone's roadside recently appeared. He walked straight to the partially thawed Blacktail Pond, reached in, and dragged out the remains of a bison. He's a smart bear: Earlier in most winters, a bison will walk onto this snow-covered pond and crash through thin ice. Unable to escape, the bison drowns; the carcass freezes. The pond becomes a meat locker for emerging grizzlies.
Hoping to see the bear, Mary and I left home well before daylight and drove to a pullout near the pond. In luck, we spotted him as he awoke from a night's rest atop the carcass. For the next three hours, we enjoyed watching him eat, sleep, play with his toes, and intimidate hungry ravens and coyotes.
While observing, I fretted about the US Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) plan to delist from the protection of the Endangered Species Act all grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Scientists and conservation organizations question the plan; I dread it. I don't want to see bears-like this one delighting in his first meal in months-at the mercy of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. The governor, legislators, and fish and game department of each state have shown that to them management means killing. Look at how they have wasted two other Yellowstone icons.