Jul 012017
 


To see how far we’ve come in restoring grizzly bear populations in and around Yellowstone National Park, consider: There are five times more grizzlies now than there were in 1975, when they were first protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The area grizzlies roam has increased by half. And conflicts with bears attracted to landowners’ chicken coops now pose a greater threat than hunting.

Thus far, Yellowstone grizzly bear recovery is by most measures a massive American wildlife success story. But is that enough?

A grizzly bear on the move in Yellowstone National Park. Photograph by Ronan Donovan, National Geographic Creative

As Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on Thursday that the Trump administration plans to remove Yellowstone’s bears from protections afforded by the ESA, state officials around the park offered a resounding “yes.” Conservationists almost uniformly answered “no.”

The federal government announced its plan to hand over management of the storied predator to the states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana—the culmination of a process that began under the Obama administration, and a decision that could ultimately lead to legal grizzly bear hunting seasons.

In his announcement, Zinke, a former Montana congressman, lauded the decades of work and progress.

“As a kid who grew up in Montana, I can tell you that this is a long time coming and very good news for many communities and advocates in the Yellowstone region,” he said in a statement.

Laurie Wolf, acting administrator for communication with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, a state agency, agreed. “It’s time to be happy and proud of this. We’re pretty excited.”

But reaction from conservationists ranged from skeptical to outright hostile.

“This decision is extremely premature and could set grizzly bear recovery in the Yellowstone region back by decades,” said Bonnie Rice, with the Sierra Club’s grizzly bear program in Bozeman, Montana.

Andrea Santarsiere, with the Center for Biological Diversity, said her organization is “seriously considering a legal challenge.”

A Legacy of Hunting

Once numbering 50,000 or more, grizzly populations by the mid 20th century had been decimated by hunters. Only 136 remained in the Yellowstone region, with even fewer in parts of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The battle over the future of Yellowstone bears has been waged for more than a decade, with the states eager to take back bear management even before the Bush administration announced in 2007 that it would remove bears from ESA protection. That decision was successfully challenged in court.

Environmentalists and some scientists on Thursday said they fear the new plans for state control will leave Yellowstone bears isolated, preventing them from someday connecting with populations in northern Montana and Idaho. They worry that even if the Trump administration sticks with preliminary plans announced by Obama, states would be allowed ultimately to kill too many bears, perhaps even letting the ultimate population dip below what it is today.

Famous Grizzly Bear #399—and Her Improbable Cubs—Cross Road

The proposal “fails on multiple levels,” said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association, and it “ignores multiple issues raised by the public and wildlife managers.”

Wolf, with the state of Montana, said if Zinke’s decision survives challenges, little would change right away. The same conservation strategy would guide managment, she said, and the state is in no hurry to start hunting bears. Any move to do so will go through the same public process used to set all seasons, she said.

“We are planning to continue counting females with cubs, monitoring bear distribution and bear mortality,” Wolf said. “Hunting will be dependent on population levels and overall mortality rates.”

Still, environmentalists worry that hunting is an inevitable part of state management, and that public reaction will further polarize bear recovery.

Sooner or later, Rice, with the Sierra Club, said, “there will be trophy hunting on the doorstep of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. If and when that happens there will be a real backlash.”

Some wildlife advocates also worry that the threats posed by climate change have not been taken seriously enough. Rising temperatures already have decimated whitebark pine trees, making them more susceptible to beetle infestations. In some areas, the trees’ nuts have long been a staple food for grizzlies. But many bears already seem to be thriving in areas where the trees aren’t found, a reminder that in many ways grizzlies are omnivores that can be quite adaptable.

The fact that populations around the northern Rockies and North Cascades of Washington already are limited to a mere half-dozen distinct areas makes the future that much more tenuous. Some advocates are most concerned that grizzlies not be hemmed in by political boundaries.

“I do know that if people work to coexist with grizzlies and allow them to continue to expand their range, grizzlies can do the rest,” said Jonathan Proctor, with Defenders of Wildlife. “They will survive and thrive and expand, if we just let them.”

This article was first published by National Geographic on 22 Jun 2017.


We invite you to share your opinion whether Yellowstone Grizzlies should be removed from the Endangered List?Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should Yellowstone Grizzlies be removed from the Endangered List?

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Nkirote Christine

Absolutely NOT!

Penny Claytor

Leave them on the endangered species list along with wolves!

Tracy Whitcomb

No!!!

Donna Elaine Agar

No

Billy Angus

OVER MY DEAD BODY!!!
LEAVE THE GRIZZLY BEARS ALONE!!
THEY WERE HERE ON EARTH BEFORE
HAPLESS HUMANS EVEN EXISTED!!!

~MAY THE SWAMIS OF TIBET LEAVE YAK DUNG IN YOUR MARTINI~

Kathleen Colley

My comment was meant for JD Creager!

Jolene Gibson

NO!!

Barbara Hohenberg

No.

Phyllis Rygh

NO!

Carol Anne Coughlin

no

Jean Daniels

No!

Victoria Mitchell

NO!

Joanna Fantazy Sahnnah

I’m sorry! I meant to say No but I accidently press Yes on my Vote!
How Can I revote? It was an Accident….

Diana Faulkner McCoy

Hell No

Ricki Pederson

As long as their are asshole humans on the picture, ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!

Ricki Pederson

Nooooooooo

Meeche

NO – do not remove Grizzlies from the Endangered List! That will just open the door for so called “Macho” hunters to slaughter them. We can never have too many! Once the Grizzlies are gone – they are gone forever! We don’t need more idiots out there with guns taking down these magnificent Bears. If they are removed from the endangered list – that is exactly what will happen –

JD Creager

What few people know is the grizz was a plains animal. How do we know how many there were before Whitemen settled America? We donot!! it is a guess.

As for removing animal from the endangered list. Why is that list so discombobulated?
Why does this list include animals not native to America?

Again America has proved 80% of the Money for CITES?

Look at the lack of game in Western Europe!! My point exactly.

Western Europeans cannot take care of what they have let alone spend America money on the rest of the worlds animals.

Kathleen Colley

You don’t seem to understand that the animals on this planet belong to all of us, everywhere. None of us own the animals in America, Africa, Europe etc. They have been on this earth much longer than us humans, and they must all be protected wherever they are. All of us at this moment in time are responsible for these wonderful animals everywhere, and we need to make sure they go on living and thriving for your grandchildren and everyone else’s.

John Tobias

Post WWII Europe has developed many conservation projects and has much stricter hunting rules then the US. But it is wrong IMHO to say they have few “game” animals. Red deer, fallow deer, roe deer, moose (elk), reindeer, wild goats, chamois, plus many smaller mammals and birds inhabit Europe. Conservation programs include Wisent (old world bison) linx, and wolves. Non-North American endangered species are on the list to help provide protection.

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

as long as manunkind plods carelessly upon this earth, all species, including his own, are endangered!

Frank Robey

Instead of saying “there are 5 times as many grizzlies as there were when they were first put on the Endangered Species list” how about we say, even though they’ve been listed for 40 years the population is only back up to 10% of what it originally was before European settlers arrived in North America?

Andrei Hanches

Taking into account the new Trump administration and the new laws that are given,grizzlies should stay on the endangered species list.

wpDiscuz

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