150 years ago, between 50,000 and 100,000 grizzlies roamed
western North America, ranging from the Great Plains to the
California beaches. Grizzly bears were once common in the
Southwest, where 1,000 to 2,000 grizzlies likely inhabited
grasslands, riversides, and mountains. Today, barely 800 grizzlies
live in the contiguous states. None remain in the Southwest.
Grizzly bears currently occupy less than two percent of their
original range and numbers.
introduction of millions of cattle and sheep in the late 19th
century—without regard for the land’s capacity to produce
forage—led to the disappearance of this widespread, intelligent
bear. Livestock eliminated much of the vegetation that comprises
around 90 percent of the grizzly’s diet. As a result, some
bears turned to livestock. And starting in 1914, Congress
began appropriating money to a special government agency designed
to exterminate stock-eating animals.
bears were almost wiped out through predator control, habitat
destruction, commercial trapping, and hunting. In the 1930’s,
the last known grizzly bear in New Mexico was killed in the
Gila Wilderness after being discovered near a dead cow. Grizzlies
were first listed as threatened with extinction in the lower
48 states in 1975.
Center has renewed the call for grizzly bear reintroduction
into the Gila Headwaters. We are in the process of working
with other groups and scientists to update a 1974 grizzly
reintroduction study and to begin educating the public on
the very realistic, achievable, and socially desirable goals
of bringing the great bear back to the wilds of the Southwest.
trying to recreate and rebuild the pieces of a shattered ecosystem,
the Center has been heartened to learn that there are millions
of people who see the beauty and majesty of wilderness areas
and know that creatures like the grizzly bear have a rightful