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Yellowstone Literally Can’t Afford to Lose Grizzly Bears

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Yellowstone Literally Can’t Afford to Lose Grizzly Bears

Apex predators have returned to Yellowstone – and that includes the iconic grizzly bear. Within the park, about 150 bears have established their home ranges, while in the greater Yellowstone area, nearly 600 grizzly bears have been counted. But with the return of the 500-pound bears comes the bear jams that are created on the park roads when auto-bound visitors slow down and even stop mid-road to watch a grizzly that has ambled into view. Referred to as roadside grizzlies, they are a big hit with visitors but not always with park management.

According to WyoFile, managing the traffic created by bear jams costs the park a minimum of $50,000 a year. It also requires park staff to be diverted from other jobs. Indeed in 2011, 2,542 staff hours were required to manage 1,031 impromptu bear jams that popped-up inside the park. “We are spending a lot of time, staff time and overtime,” said Kerry Gunther, bear management biologist for Yellowstone. “Managers are wondering…should we do something different?”

A recent report, “The Economics of Roadside Bear Viewing” co-written by Gunther, reveals the economic powerhouse those bears really are – and thus suggests the answer should be no. The $50,000 required to manage bear jams is dwarfed by the $10 million dollars generated for the local economy precisely because the iconic grizzly can be seen wondering roadside. The report shows that visitors would pay an additional $41 per person to ensure seeing a wild grizzly. Furthermore, roadside bears create 155 local jobs that otherwise would not be there if the bear disappeared deeper into the park.

The conclusion of the report was that while Yellowstone Park could save $50,000 a year by managing grizzlies away from roads, this internal park decision would have broader financial consequences amounting to nearly 4% of the regional economy. So, if you are planning a trip to Yellowstone anytime soon, you can rest assured that you still have a chance to spot a grizzly bear – or two.

 

 

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Cherise Udell

Cherise Udell is a mom, clean air advocate, anthropologist and feline aficionado with the nomadic habit of taking spontaneous sojourns to unusual destinations. Before her adventures in motherhood, she was an intrepid Amazon jungle guide equipped with a pair of sturdy wellingtons and a 24-inch machete, as well as a volunteer at a rainforest animal rescue center.

99 comments

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9:16PM PDT on Aug 5, 2014

I don't understand why Wyoming has such a hard time comprehending that the biggest draw to their state is WILDLIFE. The tourist income comes from people hoping to see wolves, bears, anything nature has to offer. It seems that since big polluters moved into the state they have lost their respect for their wildlife and the economic income it brings. Tourist income does not come from people hoping to see an oil well or fracking rig. Keeping wildlife somewhat accessible is what keeps tourism running. You can't even count on Old Faithful for being on time any more! I have made many, many trips to Wyoming all in the hopes of seeing wildlife. It has alot to offer if they were just smart enough to understand that.

2:59PM PDT on Jul 22, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

12:59PM PDT on Jul 20, 2014

I thought the whole point behind going somewhere like Yellowstone is to rubberneck the awesome scenery and the awesome wildlife! No point zooming straight through, is there?

$10 million versus $50 thousand...yeah the economics come down on the side of the beautiful bears as it should.

3:18AM PDT on Jul 20, 2014

Thanks for sharing

1:04PM PDT on Jul 19, 2014

Thanks for sharing the bears are wonderful

6:52AM PDT on Jul 19, 2014

Yellowstone is wonderfilled

6:36AM PDT on Jul 19, 2014

thank you

4:57AM PDT on Jul 19, 2014

I would definitely pay to see a Grizzly bear!

8:54PM PDT on Jul 18, 2014

Grizzly Bears like wolves are cornerstone species.

9:21AM PDT on Jul 18, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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