Fires at Yellowstone National Park during the summer probably benefitted the area's endangered grizzly bear population, rather than hurt it, according to a researcher.
Dick Knight, head of the federal-state Interagency Grizzly Bear Team, said the forest fires resulted in deaths of some elk and deer, which the grizzlies were able to use for food.Drought-like conditions that fueled the fires in Yellowstone last summer normally drive grizzlies into river bottom areas to forage, where the bears come into potentially disastrous contact with humans, Knight said.
"But this year, the bears went into the burned areas to feed on animals killed by the fires," Knight told the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Tuesday. "We didn't have nearly as many problems as we thought we would."
Knight said researchers don't think any grizzlies were killed in the forest fires. The fires did prevent researchers from staying in contact with several radio-collared bears. He said the bears probably went into hibernation before scientists could relocate them.