The Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Is About to Lose Its Endangered Status

For over four decades, the Yellowstone grizzly bear has been protected as part of the endangered species list, but all of that is about to change.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that the bear would imminently have its protections revoked due to population growth. “The achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes, the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of state, tribal federal and private partners,” said Zinke.

Indeed, the species has recovered greatly in the past 42 years. At the time, the population had bottomed out at 136, whereas the number currently hovers at about 700.

Perhaps the biggest change the bears would face after being uncategorized as an endangered species is attacks from humans. Landowners will be able to kill the bears when they encroach on their property, and a hunting season specifically to shoot the bears is likely to be established as well. Grizzly bears who remain within the bounds of Yellowstone National Park (not that they understand where those boundaries are, of course) will remain protected.

The biggest proponents of delisting grizzly bears are the ranchers, who have a lot of political clout in that portion of the country. Since the bears attack livestock, the ranchers want to be able to shoot the bears to protect their animals and livelihood.

Mind you, the change wouldn’t affect all grizzly bears. Another species of grizzly bears that resides in Glacier National Park is classified separately. However, because that species’ numbers have also recovered, it’s possible that all grizzly bears could be off the endangered list in the foreseeable future.

Since Donald Trump was elected, the GOP has started making more noise about scrapping endangered species protections. Accordingly some conservationists  have labeled this move another careless move by the Trump administration.

That said, both the Bush and Obama administrations took steps to delist the Yellowstone grizzly during their respective tenures, as well. Ten years ago, the courts blocked Bush’s Fish and Wildlife Service from following through because whitebark pine trees, from which the bears eat lots of pine nuts leading up to hibernation, were then being ravaged by an insect infestation.

As for why it may still be a bad decision, Derek Goldman, a member of the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC), reminded NPR that grizzly bears are the “slowest reproducing mammal on the planet.” Therefore, if the population does start to drop after the protections are eliminated, rebuilding the bears’ number will be another slow process.

Goldman is worried that the dwindling money allocated to grizzly bear conservation and the looming effects that climate change will have on bear habitats and food sources could mitigate the Yellowstone grizzly’s progress. As such, he says that the ESC will be watching the delisting plan closely.

Other organizations, like Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center, have indicated that they may demand more immediate action by filing a lawsuit against the U.S. government.

Even if the lawsuits are not successful, the comforting news is that the federal government cannot wipe its hands of the bears permanently. The U.S. will be obligated to keep tabs on the bear population for the next five years to ensure hunting and climate conditions don’t reverse the grizzly’s trajectory. If the population dips below 600, the government will have to again increase protections.

Take Action!

No matter how much the species has grown, it’s a far cry from the 50,000 grizzly bears that roamed North America at their peak. If you want to see the bears remain on the endangered species list, sign this Care2 petition.

191 comments

Danuta W
Danuta W6 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R6 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Kelly S
Past Member 7 months ago

omg

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Marie W
Marie W9 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padillaabout a year ago

So sad, animals more than ever should be protected. They are endangered because of HUMANS, all animals need and deserve space and resources to live. F**** selfish humans who think they are better than other species, so sick of that.

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Jennifer H
Jennifer Habout a year ago

Nicole - it has been the ranchers for DECADES pushing the extinction of wolves, bears and anything else INCLUDING wild horses (up north it includes elk) because these animals compete for the land and livestock. The ranchers are a greedy, self-serving lot who think only of themselves. Listen to them sometime at a discussion about wildlife. In addition, ranchers are money and rump caters to money. How the hell do you think he has appointed his cronies.

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Carl R
Carl Rabout a year ago

Thanks!!!

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Janis K
Janis Kabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Elaine W
Elaine Wabout a year ago

Noted with alarm and petition signed.

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Lynn R
Lynn Rabout a year ago

I really hate gun-grazed lunatics!!

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