Cheyenne, WY. – For more than 40 years, grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park area have been protected under the Endangered Species Act, but now those protections will be lifted this summer. Officials with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced on Thursday, that grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have sufficiently recovered, and will be returned to state management. There are approximately 700 bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem which includes Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. This number is up from the 136 bears that roamed in and around Yellowstone when the Act was established in 1975.
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead praised the decision to delist Yellowstone’s grizzlies. “Grizzly bears have met or exceeded recovery objectives since 2003 and have long warranted delisting. In 2013, I asked Secretary Salazar to delist the grizzly bears and much work toward this end has been done. I appreciate that the Fish & Wildlife Service is proceeding now with the delisting,” Governor Mead said. “The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, which includes the FWS and Wyoming Game and Fish, must be commended for its years of great work. Thanks to the team effort, grizzlies will be managed appropriately by our experts at Game and Fish. I thank all involved in the delisting effort.”
A brief history follows. In 2007, the Fish & Wildlife Service delisted grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. A federal judge reinstated protections in 2009 after finding that the Fish & Wildlife Service did not adequately consider the impacts of the decline of whitebark pine nuts – a grizzly bear food source. In 2013, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team determined that the reduction in whitebark pine nuts did not significantly impact grizzly bears and again recommended delisting. In March 2016, the Fish & Wildlife Service published a draft rule to delist grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem.
States gave additional assurance regarding long-term viability. Wyoming has adopted a Grizzly Bear Management Plan outlining how management will occur after the bears are delisted. That document is available on the Game and Fish website. This ruling does not directly affect other populations of grizzlies that are still classified as threatened, such as the estimated 1,000 bears in the Northern Continental Divide area of Montana and Idaho.