Bring Back Grizzlies

Many thanks and kudos for Matt Kettmann and Paul Wellman’s January 7 article on the condor recovery program; well produced and comprehensive [“The Great California Condor Comeback”]. Whether condor decline is due to the loss of suitable habitat or to changes in their commensal environment seems more semantic than substantive. The species’ decline was mostly caused by a lack of available food resources, related to the numbers of two other carnivore species: brown bears and coyotes. When the condor flourished, it mainly ate the leavings of grizzly bears; after [the bears’] demise in California, the growth of coyote populations brought the canines into direct competition for carrion resources. We might consider a pair of modest proposals: How about reintroducing the North American brown bear, also known as the grizzly bear, to condor country? Coyotes would be displaced, and condors would have plenty to eat. As a secondary benefit, there might also be a decline in illicit backcountry marijuana cultivation with a significant grizzly bear presence there. Alternatively, we could assist the recovering Gymnops californianus population by adopting the Tibetan practice of “air burial,” disposing of our corpses on elevated platforms at the margins of the condor refuges. — Zail Coffman

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