Summer getaways offer great chances to view mountain wildlife in Arizona.

For many, an encounter is a magical, moving experience.

Unless it’s too close. And it’s a bear. Maybe even a grizzly bear.

But wait. Arizona has no grizzlies, right? Well, it once did, and a Tucson-based environmental group is suing the Trump Administration to bring the big bears back to the state.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit contends the administration has failed to update a grizzly recovery plan, required because the bear is protected under the Endangered Species Act.

If done properly, the group contends, it should lead to the reintroduction of grizzlies in more than a half-dozen western states.

The center and other groups have identified the Grand Canyon area as a prime candidate for reintroduction.

Grizzlies, the brown bear with a reputation for its power and aggression, vanished from Arizona and all but a pocket of the country centered around Yellowstone National Park, a long time ago.

Fewer than a couple thousand remain in the lower 48 states.

Is reintroducing the Grizzly a good idea? Well, it’s appealing when introduced as “that iconic symbol of the American West, the _______” (fill in name of animal, whether wolf, bear, wild horse, etc.)

It may be less appealing come face-to-face with one in the wild, since those encounters are dangerous. There’s also a question about how it is that threatened species become the favored species of the day.

Consider: A large controversy over non-native bison on the North Rim of Grand Canyon was perpetuated by the damage caused by bison. They scar trees and uproot vegetation. The herd is being thinned. And the grizzly? It’s cast as a benefit to Grand Canyon partly because it digs a lot, which spreads seeds.

Bad bison. Good grizzly.

Part of those characterizations are based on a human desire to undo past damage caused by earlier people. Often, though, human guilt doesn’t fully weigh other variables, such as the difficulty large carnivores have surviving in areas of low rainfall and low populations of pretty.

In the case of the grizzly, there will be special significance to the prey question, since a hungry grizzly might wander beyond the park to find meals of domestic cattle. Or bison.

Simply because a type of animal lived in a place shouldn’t make it automatically a candidate for re-introduction.

Maybe it was smart. It needed new resources. It moved on.

— Today’s News-Herald


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