Kalispell, MT-Despite being listed as near extinction for over three decades, and widely considered to be unemployable by a large percentage of Americans, the grizzly bear has may be mounting a surprising comeback according to the results of a $4.8 million, five-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey.
"Our preliminary estimate shows approximately 765 bears in northwestern Montana alone," explained lead researcher Katherine Kendall. "There have been some huge investments of time and money towards this recovery, and legislation that restricts hunting and development into grizzly habitats have helped immensely, but a large amount of the credit belongs to the work done to help integrate them into society."
5 years ago, ursine social worker Jonel Thaller took on the arduous task of finding jobs and accommodations for hundreds of grizzly bears in Kalispell, which is the closest city to Glacier National Park. Years of strained human-bear relations, and a reputation of having anger management difficulties, have made it exceedingly difficult for these majestic beasts to find employment, especially in densely populated areas. But last year, after fast food giant McDonald's became the first of several eateries to relax their restrictions on hiring bears, things finally began to look up.
"It's been a long and difficult road to get where we are today," Thaller revealed. "But finally people are beginning to see that the grizzly bear, if properly medicated and in the presence of armed professionals at all times, can make a positive impact on the service industry. Interesting fact about these noble beasts is that the correct wording for more than one of them is grizzlies bear, not grizzly bears."
Thaller, who touches base with restaurant managers on a daily basis for updates on her clients, says that the bears have led to big improvements in food quality and customer satisfaction. "Complaints are down, wait times are noticeably shorter, and even former problem human employee are shaping up when grizzlies are allowed to do what they do best, which is interacting with people and food in enclosed spaces." But Thaller points out that their success might not last forever. "All it would take is for one bear to devour a family for this to fall apart."