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Did NPR go off the deep end over Yellowstone Park’s bears?

Photo: Dr. Christopher Servheen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

NPR is wondering out loud about an interview suggesting that climate change may be depleting the natural food supply for bears at Yellowstone National Park, causing them to attack and kill people.

Global warming is reducing the production of fish and pine nuts, thus prompting hungry bears to assault several campers last year. That was the implication of an NPR Weekend All Things Considered interview with the author of a Men’s Journal article on the subject.

The piece took huge heat from a representative of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who challenged many details in the article—among them how starved these bears really were, and the reasons for the decline of certain kinds of trout around the region.

“The complaint I have is NPR featured this story as if it were factually correct and you interviewed this guy as if he had knowledge about grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem,” wrote Chris Servheen. “Neither of those things is true. All of us look to NPR as a source of factual information. That was the most egregious thing I’ve ever heard on NPR.”

“This was a fascinating story but it needed more of the government’s perspective,” concluded NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard. “NPR needs to be very careful when using an outside reporter’s story – and find different ways to vet it.”

“This incident also illustrates the inherent difficulty of tackling complicated, controversial subjects by interviewing outside reporters whose work NPR cannot vet or verify. NPR often interviews outside journalists, and usually is not a problem. But when a problem does arise like this one, listeners do not get the full story.”

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2 Responses to Did NPR go off the deep end over Yellowstone Park’s bears?

  1. James in Texas May 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    You are more than right about the truth. It could simply be there are more bears than the area can sustain.

    Global warming is not truth. Every time the earth had a Tsunami or a great earthquake; there is a shift of the earth on it axis. This causes all kinds of problems for the poles and where true north or south is. Not to mention one of the things that had melted the north pole is deep under the north pole volcanic activity has warm up the underside of the snow cap and caused it melt. Not to mention shifting of weather with the earth shifting on it axis.

    As stated in the story. Shame on NPR for not checking the story out themselves. If you’re trying to give an unbiased point of view as news is suppose to then check your facts.

    James in Texas

  2. Matthew Lasar May 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    [sigh]. I knew when I wrote this story that it would be used to take potshots at legitimate climate science. Sorry Mr. Texas, Global Warming is truth. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that global temperatures have risen around 1.3 degrees F (0.74 degrees C) over the last 100 years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says post 2001 has seen seven of the eight warmest years ever recorded. In the last three decades, warming rates across the world have accelerated at around 3x faster than they did over the last 100 years.

    More here. The big disagreements are over the impact that this will have, thus generating these sort of alarmist lions and tigers and bears stories. But Global Warming is the truth, James. See you on May 22.

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