Reaching up to 800 pounds and 8 feet tall when standing, grizzly bears boast tremendous size and physical strength and have almost no enemies. As a matter of fact, they have just a single natural enemy — humans. But we have proved to be a formidable one.
As we expanded westward across North America, motivated both by fear and the desire for profit, we undertook a massive kill-off of bears. Federal predator control of bears, which began in 1915 when grizzly numbers were already greatly diminished throughout the mountains of the West, eliminated bears from much of their remaining habitat. In 1975 when they had been wiped out almost entirely, grizzly bears in the lower 48 states were placed on the endangered species list. Today grizzlies occupy less than 2 percent of their original range.
Grizzlies now occupy five areas: the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem (including Yellowstone National Park), the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem (including Glacier National Park), the Northern Cascades in Washington, the Selkirks in northern Idaho, and the Cabinet-Yaak in northeastern Idaho and northwestern Montana. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also listed the Selway-Bitterroot area in Idaho as a critical recovery zone for these bears, though no known grizzly population currently occupies this region.
The Center advocates for an expansive and realistic recovery strategy for grizzly bears. In 2014 we filed a “recovery plan petition” asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to recover bears in more of their historic range — including areas in Colorado and Utah — and also petitioned the agency to reintroduce bears into the Selway-Bitterroot area in Idaho.
Unfortunately, in March 2016 the feds prematurely proposed to strip Yellowstone grizzlies of their Endangered Species Act protection, which would leave these persecuted predators even more vulnerable to critical threats like loss of major food sources due to climate change, genetic isolation, and increased human-caused mortality. The Center is closely watching management of the Yellowstone grizzly population and offering insight into its status. Most recently we won a court case challenging the Service's decision to allow up to four bears to be killed by hunters in the Grand Teton National Park, just south of Yellowstone.
2016 delisting proposal
2014 petition for revised reintroduction rule
2014 petition for recovery plan expansion
2013 factsheet: "Why Keep Yellowstone Grizzly Bears Listed?"
2007 rule delisting Yellowstone grizzly population
1975 federal Endangered Species Act listing
Download a grizzly bear ringtone for your cell phone
Contact: Andrea Santarsiere