Two hundred years ago, grizzly bears ruled the Montana landscape. Today, people have taken that throne and relegated the animal to a fraction of its former range. But the bears - backed by legal protection and decades of recovery effort - have begun reasserting themselves, in some cases wandering through areas they haven’t been spotted in for decades. The slow expansion has led to an increase in bear conflicts that run the gamut in severity - trash can rummages, chicken coop break-ins, attacks on large livestock, fatal human maulings. And as both human and bear populations continue to swell, experts say the number of conflicts will grow as well. That leaves stakeholders to grapple with how people should react when grizzlies eventually meander through their properties and whether the bears will adapt to the limits we impose on them.
For the next two weeks we are going to do things a little differently on this podcast as we focus on a new series of reporting called “Grizzlies and Us” that launches January 9th. A team of reporters from newspapers across Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have devoted the better part of a year to this project that digs into our sometimes successful and sometimes fraught coexistence with one of the west’s most iconic animals. The aim is to dissect and answer two major questions: how do we live with grizzly bears and how do they live with us?