The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a long tradition of scientific excellence and always uses the best-available science to inform its work to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitat for the benefit of the American public.
Created in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, today's National Wildlife Refuge System protects habitats and wildlife across the country, from the Alaskan tundra to subtropical wetlands. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Refuge System's 560-plus refuges cover more than 150 million acres and protect nearly 1,400 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
While national wildlife refuges were created to protect wildlife, they are for people too. Refuges are ideal places for people of all ages to explore and connect with the natural world. We invite you to learn more about and visit the national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
The Mountain-Prairie Region's Office of Ecological Services (ES) works to restore and protect healthy populations of fish, wildlife, and plants and the environments upon which they depend. Using the best available science, ES personnel work with Federal, State, Tribal, local, and non-profit stakeholders, as well as private land owners, to avoid, minimize, and mitigate threats to our Nation's natural resources.
Providing leadership in the conservation of migratory bird habitat through partnerships, grants, and outreach for present and future generations. The Migratory Bird Program is responsible for maintaining healthy migratory bird populations for the benefit of the American people.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program in the Mountain-Prairie Region helps conserve, protect, and enhance aquatic resources and provides economically valuable recreational fishing to anglers across the country. The program comprises 12 National Fish Hatcheries.
Law enforcement is essential to virtually every aspect of wildlife conservation. The Office of Law Enforcement contributes to Service efforts to manage ecosystems, save endangered species, conserve migratory birds, preserve wildlife habitat, restore fisheries, combat invasive species, and promote international wildlife conservation.
External Affairs staff in the Mountain-Prairie Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides support to the regional office and field stations to communicate and facilitate information about the Service's programs to the public, media, Congress, Tribes, partners, and other stakeholders in the 8-state region.
Grizzly bears in the lower-48 states are currently protected as a threatened species. It is illegal to harm, harass, or kill these bears, except in cases of self defense or the defense of others. (See this rule for more information, starting on page number 115.) Grizzly bear conservation is complex and only made possible through a variety of partnerships with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, state wildlife agencies, Native American tribes, federal agencies, universities, and other organizations.
This 2018 map depicts the six grizzly bear recovery zones. Map by USFWS. View Full Screen.
There are six recovery ecosystems for grizzly bears in the lower-48 states today: the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, the Selkirk Ecosystem, the North Cascades Ecosystem, and the Bitterroot Ecosystem. The North Cascades Ecosystem contains no confirmed grizzly bears in the United States, and an estimated six individuals reside in the adjacent British Columbia portion of the ecosystem. The Bitterroot Ecosystem currently has no known bears present but provides suitable bear habitat. These six ecosystems, each containing a recovery zone, were identified in the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan and thought to support grizzly bears at the time of listing.
Do you have additional questions about grizzly bears and their recovery? Contact us.
May 24, 2019 The Grizzly Bear Recovery Program’s first annual report for the year 2018 is now available. Download as a PDF.
May 24, 2019 The Service filed a brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit appealing a Montana District Court’s September 24, 2018 ruling that vacated and remanded our rule to delist the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population. The State of Wyoming filed a notice of appeal on December 6, 2018. The Service filed its original notice of appeal on December 21, 2018.
Currently, all grizzly bears in the lower-48 states are protected as threatened.
Recovering Grizzly Bears
A grizzly bear cub in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem outside Glacier, Montana. Creative Commons licensed photo by Marshal Hedin.
Grizzly bears in the lower-48 states were originally listed in 1975 as a threatened species. There is one umbrella recovery plan for all grizzly bears in the lower-48 that was developed in 1982 and revised in 1993, and some ecosystems have supplements that add or update habitat-based and/or demographic recovery criteria for that particular population of bears.
Recovery plans are developed by wildlife experts and use the best available science at the time of publication. They outline reasonable actions that are believed to be required to recover and/or protect a species. Our goal is to recover each ecosystem population as they reach recovery targets. Populations remain protected until the recovery criteria specific to that ecosystem are met, at which point we may put forth a proposal to delist the population.
Status Assessments, Management Guidelines, and Regulations
In 2011, the Service conducted a status review to evaluate whether or not the species’ status had changed since the time it was listed. The five-year review also includes information on grizzly bear biology and life history.
Photo: Terry Tollefsbol, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Hilary Cooley, Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator
Hilary leads the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s grizzly bear recovery program across the Mountain-Prairie and Pacific regions. Previously, Hilary worked for the Service served as the Polar Bear Program Lead in Alaska, and the Wolf Coordinator for the Pacific Northwest Region. Hilary also has experience working for Idaho Department of Fish and Game as a regional wolf biologist. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont, and a Masters and PhD from Washington State University in wildlife biology.
Jennifer Fortin-Noreus, Wildlife Biologist
Jennifer is a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Grizzly Bear Recovery Program. Previously, Jennifer worked for the USGS Alaska Science Center researching grizzly, black, and polar bears. Jennifer specializes in bear capture, handling, nutrition, and habitat use. She earned her Bachelor's of Science in Environmental Science from the University of Portland, then received her Master’s and PhD at Washington State University in Zoology.
Kate Smith, Program Administrator
Kate has been the program administrator for the Grizzly Bear Recovery Program for 15 years. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Sociology from the University of Vermont and her Masters from the University of Montana’s College of Business
Wayne Kasworm, Wildlife Biologist
Wayne oversees recovery and monitoring efforts for grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk Mountains grizzly bear; serves as the science advisor to the Cabinet-Yaak / Selkirk subcommittee and the North Cascades subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee; provides consultation support to federal agencies on grizzly bear issues; maintains collared samples of grizzly bears to estimate reproductive rates, sex and age specific survival, cause specific mortality rates, and population trends; assesses the genetic health of grizzly bear populations; and monitors the effects of resource management on grizzly bear recovery. Wayne received his Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Idaho and his Masters in Fish and Wildlife Management from Montana State University.
Tom Radandt, Wildlife Biologist
Tom radio collars grizzly bears in the Cabinet Yaak ecosystem, maintains a project database of captured black and grizzly bears, updates annual reports for the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk ecosystems, leads training for capture and handling of grizzly bears in all six recovery zones, and also serves as the grizzly bear recovery program’s safety officer. In addition his field research, Tom advises advanced degree candidates on research methods and protocols, conducts an annual handling workshop, and contributes to international research projects. Tom received his Bachelor’s of Science in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana in 1988 with a B.S. in wildlife biology.
Justin Teisberg, Wildlife Biologist
Justin leads a capture team radio-collaring grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem, maintains the photo and genetic encounter database of Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bears, helps coordinate interagency genetic sampling, updates reports for the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk ecosystems, and conducts research on grizzly bear physiology and nutritional ecology, population estimation, genetics, connectivity, and habitat use of Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk grizzly bears. In addition to Grizzly Bear Program research, he advises graduate students’ research design, produces research on bear handling techniques, and contributes expertise and assistance to myriad collegial research projects. He received his Bachelor’s of Science in Natural Resources from the University of Illinois in 2006 and Ph.D. in Zoology from Washington State University in 2012.
Grizzly bears were listed as a threatened species in 1975 in the conterminous 48 States. Currently grizzly
bear distribution has been reduced to 5 areas in the western United States, including the Bitterroot in central
Idaho and western Montana. Despite numerous studies of this area, there were no verifiable sightings of grizzly
bears in the last 60 years until an adult male grizzly bear was mistakenly killed by a black bear hunter is
September 2007 in the northern mountains of the Bitterroot. Recovery programs include activities such as
improving management of grizzly bears on public lands, genetic research, population monitoring, public
education, and implementing the recovery plans for each population.
Grizzly bears were listed as a threatened species in 1975 in the conterminous 48 States. Currently grizzly
bear distribution has been reduced to 5 areas in the western United States, including the Cabinet-Yaak in
northern Idaho and northwest Montana. The Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population is estimated to be approximately
50 individuals. Active research began in the Cabinet-Yaak recovery zone in 1983 when one bear was captured and
radio collared. The Cabinet–Yaak ecosystem encompasses the Yaak River drainage and the Cabinet Mountains. The
ecosystem is bisected by the Kootenai River, with the Cabinet Mountains to the south and the Yaak River area to
the north. Approximately 90% of the study area is on public land administered by the Kootenai and Panhandle
National Forests. The Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area encompasses part of the study area at higher elevations
of the Cabinet Mountains.
Annual Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Research and Monitoring Reports (Archives)
In 2006, the Service issued a non-jeopardy biological opinion for the Revett Silver Company’s proposed
Rock Creek Mine project in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana. The non-jeopardy opinion concludes that the
project incorporates a conservative approach to ensure adequate measures to conserve grizzly bears and bull
trout. The mitigation plan for the Rock Creek mine will be protective of threatened bull trout and should
produce a positive net effect for the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem grizzly bear population.
Map of the Cabinet-Yaak recovery area. Credit: USFWS.
The North Cascades is a large ecosystem in north-central Washington State and south-central British Columbia.
The largest area of the ecosystem, about 9,800 square miles, lies in the United States, with an additional
3,800 square miles across the international border in British Columbia. The North Cascades ecosystem (NCE) is
isolated from other ecosystems in the United States and Canada with grizzly bear populations.
While study of this very rugged and remote habitat indicates that this ecosystem is capable of supporting a
self-sustaining population of grizzlies, the population is estimated to be fewer than 20 animals within the
recovery zone in the United States. The population in adjacent British Columbia portion of the ecosystem is
estimated to be less than 25-30 grizzly bears. Given the low number of grizzly bears, very slow
reproductive rate and other recovery constraints, the NCE grizzly bear population is the most at-risk grizzly
bear population in the United States today.
The main threat to grizzly bears in this recovery zone is a small population size and population
fragmentation, with resulting demographic and genetic risks.
In 2013, The Fish and Wildlife Service reaffirmed (78
Fed. Reg. 70104 [Nov. 22, 2013]) that the North Cascades ecosystem grizzly bear warrants uplisting from
Threatened to Endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
To date, efforts toward recovery in the NCE have focused on habitat protection through a strategy of no net
loss of core habitat, information and education efforts regarding grizzly bears and their habitat, and enhanced
sanitation for proper garbage and food storage in bear habitat.
North Cascades Ecosystem. Credit: USFWS.
In accordance with the
NCE Recovery Plan chapter (1997) and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the National
Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife have jointly initiated (2014) an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
planning process to evaluate a range of alternatives for recovering the North Cascades grizzly bear population.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service
are cooperating agencies in the process.
A recovery plan for the British Columbia ecosystem was completed in 2004.
To learn more about the EIS process and how to participate, or to view related documents, please visit: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/NCEG
FAQ on the North Cascades Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan and
Environmental Impact Statement
Grizzly bears were listed as a threatened species in 1975 in the conterminous 48 States. Currently grizzly
bear distribution has been reduced to 5 areas in the western United States, including the Northern Continental
Divide in northwestern Montana. The grizzly population in this area includes Glacier National Park and adjacent
areas in Canada, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. This population has approximately 1,000 animals and
continues to grow each year.
May 24, 2018 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today the availability of the final
Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan Supplement: Habitat-Based Recovery Criteria for the Northern Continental
Divide Ecosystem (Recovery Plan Supplement). The final Recovery Plan Supplement provides objective,
habitat-based criteria for the recovery of Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bears, and builds
upon the existing roadmap to grizzly bear recovery for the Service and our conservation partners.
December 11, 2017 - DENVER –The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting input from the
scientific community and the broader public on draft criteria set for the eventual recovery of the Northern
Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) grizzly bear. The NCDE region encompasses Glacier National Park and other
parts of northwestern Montana.
May 2, 2013 – A draft conservation strategy for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental
Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) is now available for public review and feedback. This document describes the
management and monitoring programs that would be in place if and when this population is delisted from the
Endangered Species Act. These measures are designed to maintain a recovered grizzly bear population in the
NCDE. This document does not change the legal status of this population of grizzly bears. The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service will not sign this conservation strategy or delist this population until agencies
demonstrate their commitment to implementing it.
Funding was received in 2003 to begin the process to determine the total number of bears in this ecosystem
with statistical confidence. Additional population monitoring ecosystem wide is necessary to further
recovery and any potential delisting.
More than 17% of this ecosystem is private land and the majority of bear-human conflicts and bear deaths
occur on these private lands. We must continue to work with private landowners to minimize these conflicts.
Grizzly bears were listed as a threatened species in 1975 in the conterminous 48 States. The current
population estimate within the 2,200 square mile Selkirk Mountain recovery zone is approximately 80
individuals. Threats to the species in this recovery zone include incomplete habitat protection measures
(motorized access management), overutilization by human-caused mortality, small population size, and
population fragmentation that produces genetic isolation.
December 16, 2016 - Members of the the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee (YES) of the
Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) signed and finalized the 2016 Conservation Strategy for Greater
Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bears on December 16, 2016. Finalization of the Conservation Strategy does
not remove GYE grizzly bears from the list of threatened and endangered wildlife. Please see links below for
March 3, 2016 - The Service is requesting public review and input on Proposed Revisions to the
Demographic Recovery Criteria for the Grizzly Bear Population in the Greater Yellowstone Area Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2016–0042. These proposed revisions and supporting
documents are listed below:
May 21, 2013 - The Service is providing the public an additional 30 days to review and
comment on the Draft Revised Supplement to the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan in the Greater Yellowstone Area.
Previously submitted comments do not have to be resubmitted because they have been incorporated into the public
record and will be fully considered in our final Supplement.
November 15, 2011 – The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming in part and reversing in part the district court’s decision
vacating the final rule delisting grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Area. The Appellate court affirmed
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s determination that existing regulatory mechanisms are adequate to
protect grizzlies in the Yellowstone area while ruling that the Service had failed to adequately explain its
conclusion that the loss of whitebark pine was not a threat to the population. In compliance with this order,
the Greater Yellowstone Area population of grizzly bears remains federally listed as “threatened”
under the Endangered Species Act while we consider more recent scientific data.
March 22, 2007 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Greater Yellowstone
Area population of grizzly bears was recovered and should be removed from the Federal list of threatened and
On March 22, 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that the Yellowstone Distinct
Population Segment (DPS) of grizzly bears is a recovered population no longer meeting the ESA’s
definition of threatened or endangered. This DPS has increased from estimates as low as 136 individuals when
listed in 1975 to more than 500 animals as of 2006. This population has been increasing between 4 and 7 percent
annually. The range of this population also has increased dramatically as evidenced by the 48 percent increase
in occupied habitat since the 1970s. Yellowstone grizzly bears continue to increase their range and
distribution annually and grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area now occupy habitats they have been absent from
for decades. Currently, roughly 84-90 percent of females with cubs occupy the Primary Conservation Area (PCA)
and about 10 percent of females with cubs have expanded out beyond the PCA within the DPS boundaries. Grizzly
bears now occupy 68 percent of suitable habitat within the DPS boundaries and may soon occupy the remainder of
the suitable habitat.
Intensive monitoring of the population and its habitat will continue so that managers can continue to base
management decisions on the best available scientific information. The Yellowstone DPS represents a viable
population which has sufficient numbers and distribution of reproductive individuals so as to provide a high
likelihood that the species will continue to exist and be well distributed throughout its range for the
foreseeable future. The State and Federal agencies are committed to implementing the extensive Conservation
Strategy and State management plans. They have formally incorporated the habitat and population standards
described in the Conservation Strategy into the six affected National Forests' Land Management Plans and
Yellowstone and Grand Teton's National Park Compendiums. This commitment coupled with State wildlife agencies'
approved grizzly bear management plans ensure that adequate regulatory mechanisms are in place and that the
Yellowstone grizzly bear population will not become an endangered species within the foreseeable future
throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, based on the best scientific and commercial
information available, we are finalizing the delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS. More information
on this action and other post-delisting management documents are available below.