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Grizzly Bears: Reducing conflicts key to sustainable future
Update (Nov. 7): More good news on Yellowstone grizzly bears — mortality in 2012 was cut by more than half in Greater Yellowstone and the population estimate is at 740. That's more than triple the numbers from the early 1980s. The information comes from the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the regional Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee's report on the status of the Yellowstone grizzly; the 30 scientists convened in Bozeman, Mont., on Nov. 6-7. Watch this video of executive director Caroline Byrd in response to the news.
Grizzly bear managers cited bear-education efforts as one reason for the decline in mortality and rise in numbers. Most human-bear conflicts in Wyoming involved livestock; in Montana, the culprit was apple orchards. Conflicts were down significantly in Wyoming and up only slightly in Montana.
Some food sources remain an issue — most notably whitebark pine nuts and Yellowstone Lake cutthroat trout — but the scientists said the Yellowstone grizzly is doing a good job of adapting. Another good sign: They counted 58 females with at least two cubs.
As we look ahead on managing the Yellowstone grizzly bear, GYC will continue to focus on what's best for the creature's long-term health in the region. Conflict reduction, linkage to other populations, and access to more habitat will be the keys going forward.
Earlier this year, thousands of people commented on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's proposed changes to its grizzly bear recovery plan, which includes changing where and how bears are counted to ensure their numbers don't fall below 500 total and 48 females with cubs. See comments submitted by Earthjustice on behalf of GYC.
GYC is closely following the revised methodology with our conservation partners as we review emerging science. We are promoting a connected grizzly population with northwest Montana and are continuing our work on conflict prevention. All of the issues being analyzed are driving population, distribution and mortality.
Overview: GYC has been protecting Yellowstone grizzly bears in Greater Yellowstone for 30 years. Grizzly bears embody the mystique of Yellowstone, and define what sets Yellowstone apart from the rest of the West. They can only thrive where their habitat is still vast and intact, in areas with few roads. We are determined to ensure that Yellowstone remains a stronghold for bears for generations to come.
To date, the Yellowstone grizzly bear is one of the great conservation success stories of our time. Once near extinction in Greater Yellowstone, protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act allowed the grizzly population to rebound from less than 200 to an estimate of more than 740 today. This success has been achieved through closing roads in grizzly bear habitat, buying out domestic sheep and cattle grazing allotments, eliminating garbage dumps and poor sanitation practices, and preventing large new developments.
GYC is working to find solutions to problems including securing community garbage dumps and limiting mortalities due to vehicle collisions, cattle depredations on public land grazing allotments, and fall hunting conflicts. This includes subsidizing close to 100 bear bins in Island Park, Idaho; providing 2 bear-proof garbage containers on the Bridger-Teton National Forest; and educating residents about how to safely co-exist with bears.
Goals: After three decades of playing defense for the Yellowstone grizzly bear, we are shifting our approach and asking the fundamental question: What's best for the long-term health of the bear? The answers: Conflict reduction, linkage with populations outside of Greater Yellowstone, and access to all habit in the GYE. We will push to outfit entire communities, campgrounds and trailheads in the ecosystem with bear-proof containers, strive to have every hunter and hiker in grizzly country carry bear spray, and work to foster coexistence between humans and the bear so that people in the region embrace their presence and what it embodies.
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* More than 740 grizzly bears now roam Greater Yellowstone.
* About 80 miles separate Yellowstone grizzlies from other populations.
* Grizzly bears are omnivores whose diet ranges from elk calves and carcasses to berries and moths.
December 04, 2013 - Grizzly delisting may happen in 2014
November 29, 2013 - Victim makes best of a very bad situtation
November 13, 2013 - Guest opinion: Working to sustain Yellowstone grizzly recovery
November 08, 2013 - Grizzly bears move closer to possible delisting
November 07, 2013 - Grizzly bear committee discusses bear population trends and models