Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.
Powered by Campus Explorer
Secretary of State Jim Waltermire wanted to give Montana school children a lesson in how government works by letting them choose Montana state's official animal, the Grizzly Bear, (Ursus arctos horribilis,) in 1982. The Office of Public Instruction, under State Superintendent Ed Argenbright, and the Montana School Boards' Association, under Executive Director Wayne Buchanan, endorsed the State Animal Project.
The grizzly bear (Ursus arctos ssp.) is any North American subspecies of the brown bear, including the mainland grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis), the Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi), the peninsular grizzly (Ursus arctos gyas) and the recently extinct California grizzly (U. a. californicus) and Mexican grizzly bear (U. a. nelsoni). Specialists sometimes call the grizzly the North American brown bear because the grizzly and the brown bear are one species on two continents. In some places, the grizzly is nicknamed the silvertip bear for the silvery, grizzled sheen in its fur.
How The Grizzly Bear Became Montana's State Animal
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Fish & Wildlife
This news release was archived on Saturday, April 16, 2011
The grizzly bear is Montana's state animal. The honor was conferred in 1983 through a democratic process conducted by more than 55,000 of the state's school children in 425 schools.
There were dissenting votes, but the grizzly with its innate charisma won in the end. The grizzly bear was listed as a threatened species in July 1975 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act.
Some of the dissenting votes cast were in favor of the bull frog.
Mark Chenovick, a sixth grader at Jefferson elementary school in Helena at the time, felt so strongly about the matter that he testified before the 'Fish and Game Commission' on behalf of the bullfrog.
"If we have the grizzly as our state animal we would have to put it on the map and this might scare away some of our tourists," he is reported to have said. He also thought the fact that he had never seen an elk or a grizzly bear himself limited these two species as a state symbol.
When the final student vote came, the grizzly won with 34,436 votes and the elk came in a distant second with only 18,354 votes. Votes for the bullfrog were not recorded, but a significant number of write-in votes- 2,259- were counted.
It is revisionist history, but imagine for a moment if the bull frog had become the state animal. The early days may have been fine, but in 2005 possession of the bullfrog- which is not a native species- was prohibited because of the potential harm it could do to native amphibians.
Secretary of State Jim Waltermire is recognized as the primary force behind the "state animal project." He wanted students to learn about how government works.
They held primary and general elections, complete with posters, voter rosters, speeches, campaign buttons, bumper stickers, and party caucuses. More than 1,000 school children attended the two hearings on the Grizzly Bill, some even testified or submitted written testimony.
The Grizzly Bill passed in both houses by wide margins. On April 7, 1983, Governor Ted Schwinden signed the bill into law, designating Ursus Arctos Horribilis as the official Montana state animal.
When asked recently if he was disappointed with how the election turned out, Chenovick, who is executive director of the SecondStory Repertory in Redmond, Wash., said not at all.
"I embraced the democratic process! I didn't need to win, I just wanted to be part of it. We sure had a good time," he said.
Grizzly Bears are large brown bears that live in cool mountain forests and river valleys. These solitary mammals can run up to 35 mph (56 kph) for short bursts. Grizzlies are a threatened species
Adult grizzlies can grow to weigh 1,500 pounds and be eight feet long. Their claws are sharp as knives and about four inches long. Their back feet leave paw prints as big as magazines. Grizzlies have been seen killing and eating over 100 fish in one day. They can run as fast as a horse for short distances. They are the biggest meat-eating land animals in America. Wildlife experts say fewer than 1,000 grizzlies are left in the western United States. When grizzlies are seen in northwestern Montana, it's usually in places like the Cabinet and Mission Mountains, or Glacier National Park.
The brown bear's distinctive features include humped shoulders, a long snout, long curved claws and a grayish, silvery back. They can weigh anywhere from 350 to 800 pounds and reach a shoulder height of 4.5 feet when on all fours (a male Kodiak bear can reach up to 1,400 pounds). Standing on its hind legs, a brown bear can reach up to 8 feet.
Brown bears can be found in coastal regions, while grizzlies prefer rugged mountains and forests undisturbed by human encroachment.
Some of a brown bear's favorite foods include nuts, berries, insects, salmon, carrion and small mammals. The diet of a brown bear varies depending on the season and habitat. Brown bears in the coastal areas of Alaska eat primarily salmon, which contributes to their larger sizes. Grizzlies in high mountain areas eat mostly berries and insects.
Bears hibernate during the winter, usually digging their own dens with their claws. They will often choose the side of a slope where snow collects, providing good insulation. Brown bears need to eat a lot in the summer in order to survive through a winter of hibernation. The brown bear defends its breeding territory, and mothers fiercely guard their cubs.
The law designating the grizzly bear as the official Montana state animal is found in the Montana Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 1, Part 5, Section 1-1-508.
Title 1. GENERAL LAWS AND DEFINITIONS
CHAPTER 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS
Part 5. State Symbols - Official Designations
1-1-508. State animal.
Universal Citation: MT Code § 1-1-508 (2013)
1-1-508. State animal. The grizzly bear, Ursus arctos horribilis, as preferred by a vote of Montana schoolchildren, is the official Montana state animal.
History: En. Sec. 1, Ch. 407, L. 1983.
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Grizzly Bear
Species: U. arctos ssp. - (Linnaeus, 1758)
U. a. californicus†
U. a. gyas
U. a. horribilis
U. a. middendorffi
U. a. nelsoni†