Not In My Backyard...

<B>Lesley Stahl</B> Reports On The Growing Grizzly Bear Population Out West

It's one thing to appreciate and protect the grizzly bear as an American icon. It's another thing when a giant brown predator with those big teeth and those big claws shows up in your backyard looking for a snack.

That's what's happening in parts of the West, and a battle is brewing to do something about it. Correspondent Lesley Stahl reports.
The story starts with good intentions: The protection of the grizzly back in 1975.

When the bear population was teetering on extinction, the grizzly was put on the endangered species list -- large areas of the West were set aside as protected zones, and killing a grizzly was declared against the law.

Guess what? It worked, almost too well in some places. Now there are so many grizzlies that later this month, the government will propose that the bears from the so-called "Yellowstone Zone," which covers parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, be "de-listed," and taken off the endangered list.

Tourists in Yellowstone National Park are wild about grizzlies. When they spot one, there's an instant and massive traffic tie-up – what the park calls a "bear jam."

Dr. Chuck Schwartz, head of the federal government's grizzly bear study team, says the bear population in the park has rebounded from 200 to 600. Yellowstone is full of grizzlies, so full they are spilling out of their protected zone and into the rural communities that surround it: Places like Wapiti, Wyo., near Cody, where fascination with grizzlies has turned into fear.

"I was afraid to let my kids out of my sight," says Amber Oswald, who moved with her family from California eight years ago. They built their dream house along a creek in Wapiti. "I was sitting there one day with a gal from the parent-teacher group. And she looks out the window and she says, 'There's a bear in your playhouse.'"

The bear, she says, was literally in her backyard. The grizzlies came even closer: One right onto her back porch, chewing on her hot tub, wrestling with the barbecue. Another bear did some real damage. "It actually ripped the siding off of my house trying to get into the garage," says Oswald. "And that was scary."

  • Rebecca Leung

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