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Defenders Magazine

Fall 2015

Volume 90, Issue 3


Grizzly Bear, © Tom Mangelsen

Not long ago, nature photographer Tom Mangelsen and I stood along a roadside in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming with a crowd of onlookers mesmerized by a grizzly that suddenly rose up on hind legs. Sniffing for danger, she dismissed us and went back to digging for biscuitroot and pocket gophers with her long claws. No anonymous member of Ursus arctos horribilis, this bruin is the most widely known bear on the planet. Called 399, she inhabits Jackson Hole, a valley where grizzlies disappeared half a century ago. Back then, many believed the species would never again find a home in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Instead, 399 has today become an enduring symbol of one of the greatest wildlife conservation success stories in history. “I’ve lived in Jackson Hole since the 1970s and over most of that stretch had to travel northward to Yellowstone if I wanted to see grizzlies,” Mangelsen says. “Even there, they were rare.” Today, thanks to a deliberate decision to make space for the them, grizzly bears are showing up in places where they’ve been absent for a century. Ted Turner, founder of CNN and owner of several large bison ranches west of Bozeman, Mont., has put out an informal welcome mat on his lands to recolonizing grizzlies, as he has done for wolves. “Bringing back the wolf to Yellowstone National Park 20 years ago was a momentous, unprecedented feat that many said could never be done in our lifetime,” Turner says. “But truthfully, saving the Yellowstone grizzly has been a challenge even more remarkable. I’ve heard it described as nothing short of a modern miracle.”


Bighorn Sheep, © Magnus Kjaergaard/Creative Commons
The struggling desert bighorn population—a fraction of what it once was—is now growing and expanding thanks to conservation actions over the past several decades. The Soda Mountain project could pose a big setback to that progress.
Ensatina salamander, © Tiffany Yap
Cats and dogs steal the show when it comes to most-loved pets, but American households also hold their share of salamanders.
Jaguar, © David Stein
With muscular shoulders and forearms and powerful jaws, the jaguar is no pussycat.

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