Grizzly bears have been in the news because the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removed them from protection of the Endangered Species Act within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Yellowstone population of grizzly bears was designated, or listed, as threatened with extinction in 1975. Various agencies and stakeholder groups hold differing opinions about the status of the population and how it should be managed in the future. We'd like to share our thoughts about grizzly bears and their conservation.
1. Grizzlies have made a remarkable recovery. The growth and expansion of the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) is a remarkable conservation success story. The population has grown from 136 in 1975 to about 690 today. Scientists think the Yellowstone area population is recovered and may have reached its capacity for resident grizzlies. Efforts to reduce conflicts with people and preserve habitat for dispersal and, eventually, connectivity with other populations outside of the GYE will be essential for further restoration.
2. The decision to delist is made by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is the federal agency that administers the Endangered Species Act. They make all decisions about listing and delisting in consultation with other agencies, tribes, states, and the public. The National Park Service will review any future proposed delisting rule and accompanying conservation strategy and provide comments.
3. Delisting means bear hunting may resume outside national parks pursuant to state management plans. The states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming manage wildlife species outside Yellowstone (as long as they're not under the protection of the Endangered Species Act). Hunting will remain prohibited inside Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The National Park Service has asked to be included in future meetings with the states regarding where and how hunting will occur. We’ve also asked the states to focus hunting away from park boundaries and into areas with high levels of human-bear conflicts.
4. Management of bears will not change in the national parks. The conservation and management of grizzly bears will not change in Yellowstone and Grand Teton regardless of whether grizzly bears in the GYE are delisted. We will continue to follow our existing Bear Management Plans and maintain our long-term monitoring program. We value grizzlies as a dominant species in the ecosystem—and one that offers amazing wildlife viewing opportunities. Millions of people visit the park with the intention of seeing bears and connecting with the wildness of nature. Wildlife watching also brings economic benefits worth tens of millions of dollars to the region. We are proud that Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks will continue to be the heart of the grizzly population keeping this magnificent species in the wild.
5. Reducing conflicts with people is the key to grizzly conservation. Employing best practices for safety in bear country doesn't just protect people, but the welfare of animals as well. When bears kill people or damage property, bears lose. If you care about grizzly bears, learn how to share the landscape with them responsibly.