cabinet yaak

WEC Alumni in the World - Kim Annis

Kim Annis

Kim Annis (WEC M.S. 2007) of Libby, Mont., is always ready and on call when bears are awake. She is a Bear Management Specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. She is responsible for management of the Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Ecosystem in northwestern Montana, where part of her job is to respond to any human-bear conflict. This usually means that a hapless black bear has wandered onto someone's property and discovered a trash can. It is Kim's job to track and relocate those bears, or kill them if necessary. As Kim explains, once a bear learns it can get into trash cans on someone's property, it can never unlearn this method of finding food. Hence the expression: "A fed bear is a dead bear."

Part of Kim's job is working with homeowners to ensure that they are not attracting bears to their homes. "If it attracts a dog, it can attract a bear," Kim says. She regularly conducts outreach programs to promote bear awareness and bear safety in the two-county region where she works. She speaks to school groups, civic and law enforcement organizations and at public events.

As a graduate student under Dr. Melvin Sunquist, Kim's research focused on how well the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission dealt with bear-human conflict. During her research, she worked with Walter McCown of FWC, who says that her results "Are still often cited by FWC." According to Dr. Sunquist, the result of her research tracking translocated bears in Florida was that "she was able to show that the effectiveness of translocation was of questionable value and suggested that more effort be placed on public education to reduce bear-human conflict." As Kim did this work, she realized she enjoyed wildlife management more than research. As luck would have it, the bear management position in Montana opened up as she was preparing to graduate.

Kim Annis

Kim often emphasizes the importance of knowing how to act in a surprise encounter with both black bears and grizzlies, whose instincts are very different from one another. A human's best chance for survival in a grizzly bear encounter, she says, is to lie down and play dead. Adversely, in a conflict involving a black bear, she advises people to "fight tooth and nail" in the unlikely case that the bear becomes aggressive or predatory.

Kim has found that conflicts involving grizzly bears are far less common than those involving black bears, which is attributed to the grizzlies' aversion to developed areas as well as their smaller population. Across the nation, black bears are beginning to make a comeback in areas where they have not been seen in a century. For example, Kim says that many abandoned farms in Ohio have become small wooded patches where black bears can live. Grizzlies, on the other hand, are still listed as a federally threatened species in the lower 48 states. Their population has recovered in the greater Yellowstone area, and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee has been working to get the species de-listed for over 25 years. For more information on this issue, visit http://www.igbconline.org/.