U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service



November 6, 1996

Dr. Chris Servheen 406-329-3223
Dianne Daley Laursen 612-725-3548
Sharon Rose 303-236-7905

Yellowstone Grizzlies on the Increase

Jackson, WY - Record numbers of grizzly bears have been reported in the Yellowstone ecosystem this year and state and federal wildlife managers say that the grizzly bear population in the Yellowstone ecosystem is growing and expanding.

At a recent Yellowstone ecosystem Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee meeting in Jackson, WY, Dr. Richard Knight, Leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, reported that biologists have counted a record number of reproducing female bears and a record number of cubs born this year. "We have confirmed 33 female grizzly bears with 70 cubs born this year. These are the highest figures since 1959 when we began keeping track of grizzly bears numbers in the Yellowstone Ecosystem", said Knight.

Not only are there more bears but they are well distributed throughout the entire ecosystem. For the first time all 18 Bear Management Units within the Yellowstone ecosystem were confirmed to be occupied by females with young.

National Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator Dr. Chris Servheen notes that these figures are a good sign for grizzly bear recovery. He attributes the increase in bear numbers to the efforts of the agencies and communities in the Yellowstone area. "We would not be seeing the increases in numbers of grizzlies and expansion of their range without the cooperative efforts of the state and federal wildlife and public land management agencies and public support of grizzly recovery. Outfitters, backpackers and hunters have taken the lead in insuring proper food storage in the back country, and communities like West Yellowstone and Cooke City, Montana have made great strides in keeping food and garbage away from bears. State wildlife agencies have developed world-class grizzly education programs and conservation groups have helped keep grizzly recovery a national environmental issue", said Servheen.

Servheen noted that the successes over the last decade have established a foundation for the future, but cautioned that this past diligence must be carried forward. "There are still challenges ahead for agencies and the public. Conflicts between bears and humans, increasing recreation use, habitat fragmentation and private land development remain problems that we all must work to solve."

In addition to the increasing populations, grizzly bears are showing up in places they have not been seen in nearly 50 years. Over the past several years grizzly bears have been trapped or observed well outside, especially to the south and east, of the current "recovery zone". With an increasing and expanding grizzly population agencies and conservationist agree that a strong information and education effort and public support will be crucial to continued grizzly bear recovery.

Biologists also report that human-caused grizzly mortalities are down this year. Eight grizzly bears were killed or removed from the Yellowstone ecosystem so far this year. Although this figure is lower than the two previous years, managers agree that some of these mortalities are preventable. Too often bears receive food or garbage from people and begin to associate food sources with humans. Biologists are often forced to remove or destroy a bear before it poses a threat to human safety.

Bear managers are now working on a plan for managing grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem in the future. "The Yellowstone Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy" is presently being drafted and will bring about a new era in grizzly bear conservation. Officials intend for the Conservation Strategy to provide them with needed flexibility and creativity in managing grizzly bears while providing for strong conservation standards to insure long-term survival of the species.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee is made up of high-level managers from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the States of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington and tribal governments. Their mission is to insure the continued survival of the grizzly bear in the lower-48 states.

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