U.S. Department of Interior

05-83

For Immediate Release                               Contact: Hugh Vickery (DOI)

November 15, 2005                                                      202-501-4633

                                                                                        Sharon Rose (FWS)

    303-236-4580

                                               

 

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE PROPOSES TO DELIST

GREATER YELLOWSTONE POPULATION OF GRIZZLY BEARS

 

            After three decades of successful conservation efforts involving federal and state agencies and many other partners, the greater Yellowstone population of grizzly bears has recovered and no longer needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act, Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced today.

As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove the Yellowstone population from the list of threatened and endangered species. Four other grizzly populations in the lower 48 states have not yet recovered and will continue to be protected as threatened species under the Act.

“When it was listed in 1975, this majestic animal that greeted Lewis and Clark on their historic expedition stood at risk of disappearing from the American West,” Norton said. “Thanks to the work of many partners, more than 600 grizzlies now inhabit the Yellowstone ecosystem and the population is no longer threatened.”

“With a comprehensive conservation strategy ready to be put into place upon delisting, we are confident that the future of the grizzly bear in Yellowstone is bright,” she said. “Our grandchildren’s grandchildren will see grizzly bears roaming Yellowstone.”

Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area have made a remarkable recovery in the past three decades. When the species was listed, only 220 to 320 bears remained in the ecosystem, and these animals were jeopardized by loss of habitat and high mortality from conflict with humans. Cooperation, consultation and communication among numerous federal and state agencies, non-government organizations, local governments and citizens have reversed the trend.

Since the mid 1990s, the Yellowstone population has grown at a rate of 4 percent to 7 percent per year.  Grizzlies have occupied 48 percent more habitat since they were listed, and biologists have sighted bears more than 60 miles from what was once thought to be the outer limits of their range.

            The recovery of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem is the result of intensive scientific research, state and federal cooperation to manage habitat and limit mortality, and the implementation of regulatory protections over more than three decades.

In 1973 – two years prior to the bear’s addition to the threatened species list – scientists at various federal agencies formed a grizzly bear scientific study team. The team currently consists of scientists involved in grizzly bear recovery from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the USDA-Forest Service, the state wildlife agencies in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and several universities. This science team has developed protocols and techniques to monitor grizzly bear populations and habitat and to document the status of the grizzly bear population.

Later, in 1983, these agencies formed the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, also including the state of Washington, the Bureau of Land Management, province of British Columbia and the province of Alberta.

            In addition, the team developed a conservation strategy for future management of the Yellowstone population and its habitat should the species be delisted. The strategy incorporates the best available science and establishes an adaptive management framework that allows the Service and its partners to adjust management guidelines in response to new scientific information and/or environmental and population changes. State and federal managers will continue to work cooperatively under this framework to manage and maintain healthy grizzly bear populations throughout the Greater Yellowstone area into the foreseeable future.

The proposal to delist the Yellowstone population of grizzly bears will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, November 17. The proposal and more information about today’s announcement can be found at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/2yellowstone.htm

The public can submit comments on the proposal to: Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University Hall 309, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812.  Comments can also be sent by electronic mail to FW6_grizzly_yellowstone@fws.gov.  All comments must be received by February 15, 2006.

Grizzly bears are generally larger and more heavily built than other bears.  They can be distinguished from black bears by longer, curved claws, humped shoulders and a face that appears to be concave.  A wide range of coloration from light brown to nearly black is common. The bear’s coat features longer guard hairs over a dense mat of underfur whose tips lighten as the bear ages - hence the name “grizzly.”  In the lower 48 states, the average weight of grizzly bears is generally 400 to 600 pounds for males and 250 to 350 pounds for females.  Grizzly bears are long-lived mammals and generally live to be around 25 years old.

Grizzlies are opportunistic feeders and will consume almost any available food including living or dead mammals or fish, grasses, roots, bulbs, tubers and fungi.  The distribution and abundance of these grizzly bear foods vary naturally among seasons and years.

Biologists believe the Yellowstone area grizzly population and other remaining grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states and Canada are markedly separate from each other, with no evidence of interaction with other populations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

                                                           

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