Bears, Beetles and Everything
It seems the pine nuts of the white pine are an important energy source for a wide variety of Rocky Mountain critters, including red squirrels, who work hard to cache as much of it as they can, only to watch the grizzlies come and raid those caches in the fall before hibernating. Bummer for the squirrels, one supposes, but life and death for the grizzlies who need to fatten up in order to increase their chances of survival.
Now, however, warming temperatures have introduced a new factor into the whole equation; namely, pine bark beetles. Previously kept to lower altitudes by the cold, the beetles, who have to kill the trees in order to successfully reproduce, have now invaded the furthest reaches of white pine habitat -- the very rooftop of the continent -- leaving whole stands of white pine dead in their wake. You see the problem.
Grizzly bears, you may know, are poised for de-listing under the Endangered Species Act. And this information calls that decision into question. It also brings home something the Australian scientist Tim Flannery wrote in his book, The Weather Makers -- something this kind of news always reminds me of. He wrote that, "In the years to come this issue [global warming] will dwarf all the others combined. It will become the only issue." I know not everyone agrees with that assessment, but the more I follow the news, the more I'm convinced it's true.