Yellowstone Grizzlies by the Numbers

Yellowstone Grizzly Bears By the Numbers

The grizzly bears that inhabit the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have played an important role in one of the nation’s greatest endangered species success stories. Since 1975, the bears have been beneficiaries of the Endangered Species Act that enabled the grizzly population to beat all odds after teetering on the brink of extinction. It grew from 136 bears in 1975 to around 700 in 2016, although estimates range from 674 to 839.

On March 3, 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced its proposal to delist the Yellowstone area grizzlies, which includes Grizzly 399, from the federal threatened species list. It is expected to make a final decision by the end of 2016.

The Numbers

50,000
The number of grizzly bears that roamed between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains during Lewis and Clark Expedition, 200 years ago.

674-839
The approximate number of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem according to the National Park Service in 2016. No one knows the exact number.

150
The number of grizzlies that live within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park in 2016.

More than 524
Of Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzlies live outside Yellowstone National Park.

22,500 square miles
Is the range of the Yellowstone area grizzly bears, which has doubled since 1975 – that’s an area larger than Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire combined.

37
Grizzly bear populations were present in the lower 48 states in 1922.

31
Grizzly bear populations were extirpated by 1975.

136
Grizzlies lived in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 1975.

10
is number of years it takes a female grizzly to replace herself in the population.

1,000
Grizzly bears live in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which stretches from Kalispell, Mont., all the way up into Canada and includes Glacier National Park.

DSC_0033

The Future of Grizzly Bears

Taking Note

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park.
JIM URQUHART / REUTERS
By ROBERT B. SEMPLE Jr.
MARCH 4, 2016

The 1973 Endangered Species Act, a landmark environmental measure much detested by developers and other commercial interests, is credited with saving the bald eagle, the peregrine falcon, the American alligator and the gray wolf, among other species. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has its way, the grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will soon join that company of once-close-to-extinction creatures that no longer needed the act’s protection. On Thursday, the service proposed to remove grizzlies in the Yellowstone region — meaning the national park, and the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming — from the endangered species list, whose protections the bears have enjoyed since 1975.

If the bears are ultimately “de-listed” — a comment period on the proposal is now underway — it will represent another triumph for the act. By 1975, the grizzly population had dwindled from an estimated 50,000 animals in the Lower 48 to fewer than 200 in the Yellowstone region, and bears were dying faster than they could reproduce. Protected from hunting and trapping by the act, the Yellowstone population has since grown to between 700 and 1,000 animals, a number the agency’s scientists and many independent observers see as proof of biological recovery and sufficient to guarantee an expanding, sustainable population going forward.

But whether de-listing will ultimately prove to be a triumph for the grizzlies remains to be seen.  The draft conservation strategy published along with the proposal contains strict mortality limits as well as protections against development of grizzly habitat….

Most crucially, the future of the grizzlies depends on the states to which their protection is now entrusted. And here there is reason to pause and cross one’s fingers. Consider the case of the Rocky Mountain gray wolf.  The service de-listed the wolf in Idaho and Montana after scientists concluded that it had reached sustainable populations in its range, and turned wolf management over to the states. Both states soon embarked on wolf hunts; the wolf was not de-listed in Wyoming, where the anti-wolf animus characteristic of the region was particularly virulent, and where the wolf is still under federal protection. The service says that wolf populations have remained stable throughout the region, but this is testament to their ability to breed rapidly, not to any particular affection or sense of responsibility among the politicians of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The environmental groups that have decried the service’s new proposal, including the Sierra Club, argue not only that the proposed de-listing is scientifically premature but also that the states simply cannot be trusted to make it work. They have sound historical reasons for feeling that way. It will ultimately be up to this administration and its successors to insure that its promise to the grizzlies — and it is indeed a promise — is honored.

Red Wolf Population Plunges to as Few as 50 as Feds Gut Recovery Program

For Immediate Release, February 16, 2016

Contact: Brett Hartl

 Anti-wildlife Groups Spur Halt to Recovery Efforts, Poaching Investigations

WASHINGTON— The nation’s only population of red wolves is in an alarming free-fall, declining by 27 percent from 2014 to 2015 to as few as 50 individuals, according to new population counts released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Red wolf population graphThe total estimated population has declined by about 50 percent since 2012, from 100 to 120 individuals to just 50 to 75 in 2015. The declines have occurred since the Service bowed to political pressure from the state of North Carolina, eliminating the program’s recovery coordinator in 2014 and stopping the introduction of new red wolves into the wild in July 2015.  The agency also ended a coyote-sterilization program to prevent hybrid animals from harming the gene pool, drastically reduced law-enforcement investigations of wolf deaths, and stopped publicizing cases where poaching was determined to be the cause of deaths.

“Director Ashe and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are deliberately condemning the red wolf to extinction,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The red wolf recovery program was once a shining example of successful conservation. Under the direction of Dan Ashe, the program has been quietly dismantled to appease a few anti-wildlife zealots. It’s disgraceful.”

Red wolf releases in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge began in the mid-1980s and pushed the population to more than 100 wolves by the mid-2000s. The population stopped growing in 2011 as gunshot mortalities increased. Red wolf mortality skyrocketed after North Carolina authorized nighttime hunting of coyotes because red wolves and coyotes are nearly indistinguishable in the dark. Following a successful lawsuit to stop nighttime hunting, the Fish and Wildlife Service faced increased political pressure to curtail the red wolf recovery program.

“Conservation scientists have shown that recovering the red wolf is completely achievable and know what steps need to be taken next,” said Hartl. “Rather than following the science, the red wolf program is in disarray because the Service won’t stand up to this political pressure.”

A 2014 report from the independent Wildlife Management Institute concluded that if the red wolf is going to recover, two additional populations need to be established in the wild, and additional resources need to be invested to build local support for red wolf recovery.

There is strong local and national support for red wolves. Recently 100 citizens who live in the red wolf recovery area in North Carolina sent a petition to the Fish and Wildlife Service expressing their support for keeping endangered red wolves in the wild. In addition, 110,000 people from around the United States, including more than 1,500 North Carolina residents, submitted letters in support of the red wolf program.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Is the Mexican grizzly bear extinct?

by Karen Kirkpatrick

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Many people may think grizzly bears are vicious, but they’ve gotten a bad rap.

The answer to this question depends on a definition that has changed over time. At one time, scientists thought that brown bears and grizzly bears were separate species, but today, they are considered the same species, Ursus arctos. There isn’t a consensus on how best to classify them or how many subspecies there are, however. An estimated 200,000 brown bears live primarily in North America and Russia

. The Mexican grizzly is a subspecies of brown bear, so cursory research would seem to indicate that the Mexican grizzly is not extinct.

However, if you do a little more digging, you’ll find that the International Union for Conservation of Nature produced a book in 1982 stating that Mexican grizzlies were extinct. The IUCN is the organization that tracks the conservation status of plants and animals and ranks animals as threatened, endangered or apparently safe. The group also classifies Mexican grizzlies as a subspecies of brown bear.

The story goes like this: Once upon a time, in the not-so-distant past, a subspecies of brown bears called Mexican grizzly bears lived in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. By all accounts, they were smaller than their counterparts in Canada and the northern United States. In the early 1960s, a Mexican rancher began a campaign to eradicate the bears because he blamed them for slaughtering his cattle (in reality, the bears eat mainly plants and insects and rarely go after small mammals). Due to the cattleman’s efforts, the Mexican grizzly was probably extinct by 1964.

So is the Mexican grizzly really extinct? It is presumed to be so, although the brown bear species continues to thrive in parts of North America, Europe and Asia. Ecologists consider the Mexican grizzly extirpated, which means it is locally extinct.

More: http://animals.howstuffworks.com/extinct-animals/is-mexican-grizzly-bear-extinct.htm

Endangered Species Act Under Threat/Challenging New Mexico’s War on Wolves, Bears and Cougars

From Project Coyote Newsletter:

Wildlife Killing Contests Featured at Speak for Wolves Conference

In August at the Speak for Wolves Conference in West Yellowstone, Project Coyote Founder and Executive Director Camilla Fox led a team of panelists to discuss the pervasive and cruel practice of “wildlife killing contests” that award prizes to those who kill the most and largest animals including coyotes, bobcats, foxes and even wolves – often on public lands. Conference attendees also got a sneak peek of Project Coyote’s film trailer that will help expose this unconscionable practice and empower citizens to take action to end it.

Watch the Trailer »

Challenging New Mexico’s War on Wolves, Bears and Cougars

In late August, Science Advisor Dave Parsons spoke out on behalf of Project Coyote at a rally and a public hearing as part of a coalition opposing the New Mexico Game Commission’s new rule allowing increases in cougar trapping and bear hunting. The Commission also denied a federal request to release more Mexican Gray Wolves into New Mexico.

Watch the Video »

Federal Endangered Species Act Under Threat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed draconian changes to the long standing regulations for citizen petitions for adding species to the Endangered Species Act’s list of threatened and endangered species. The proposed changes would make it difficult if not impossible for most citizens and conservation organizations to file petitions. Project Coyote will submit a comment letter endorsed by members of our Science Advisory Committee opposing the proposed changes. The deadline for comments is September 18.

Read the Comment Letter

Grizzly “recovered” in Yellowstone Ecosystem

https://wlj.net/article-11907-grizzly-recovered-in-yellowstone-ecosystem.html

Aug 21, 2015

A male grizzly bear feeds on a carcass in Northwest Wyoming.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

The number of grizzly bears has reached the point of recovery and it’s time to delist. So say ranchers and wildlife management officials in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem area. This area includes a large section of northwest Wyoming, southeastern Montana and eastern Idaho, as well as Yellow stone National Park.

It should be noted that the Yellowstone Ecosystem extends far beyond the boundaries of the national park and sometimes causes confusion by people who don’t want grizzly bears managed in an area they perceive to be the park.

The grizzly bear is currently listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to Scott Talbott, Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. This is somewhat different than “endangered,” Talbott said. But the bottom line remains: They are federally protected in the Yellowstone Ecosys tem.

The bear has been under scrutiny for many years. Grizzlies were listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the authority of the ESA in 1975. At that time, 136 grizzlies were thought to live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The goal of an ESA listing is to recover a species to a self-sustaining, viable population. In the case of the grizzly the sustainable goal was set at 500.

Recovery levels were attained and the grizzly was delisted in 2007 with a conservation strategy in place. However several parties including environmental protectionist groups sued, arguing not enough evidence existed to show adequate habitat and that one of the bears’ primary food sources— whitebark pine nuts—was in decline. A judge ruled in favor of the environmentalists and the bear was relisted in 2009.

Talbott said a new study was completed and made public in December 2014. Since that time the study group has been working with USFWS and he said they are hopeful a new rule will be released soon, although there is not a clear timetable. “We (representatives from Montana, Idaho and Wyoming) have repeatedly met with the service (USFWS) to initiate that process and move it forward,” Talbott told WLJ.

The study examined populations of bears based on guidelines that determined 500 to be a sustainable number. The agencies and scientists studying the animal reported 757 bears.

Another study reports numbers as high as 1,200 animals, but Talbot noted that difference is due to different study methods.

The Yellowstone Ecosystem subcommittee (YES) study team, which consists of state and federal biologists, uses a process known as Choa2, a statistical estimate for counting grizzly bear concentrations. This study provides the official count of 757, which Talbott calls a very conservative estimate.

The other group conducting bear population studies is the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), which uses a mark-resight estimate. This method looks at animals that are trapped and tagged due to conflicts. Officials then count how many times they are seen verses unmarked bears in the population. Talbott said this method hasn’t been finalized and provides a much higher number than the Chao2 method.

Dan Thompson, Large Carnivore Section Supervisor with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, spoke about the different numbers when counting the grizzly population, saying, “I know that people think we are being disingenuous but we’re trying to make sure that we’re not portraying something that’s not defendable by science. I’m very comfortable saying that the 757 number is accurate based on the data analysis technique we’ve used for years, but we know it’s biased low.”

Clearly we have exceeded all of the recovery criteria, Talbott said. “We feel we have a very strong assessment of whitebark pine habitat and have answered all of those questions and we need to move forward with delisting.”

Although the grizzly bear lives throughout the three-state ecosystem, its population is largest in Wyoming, with about 50 percent outside of the national park and only 25 percent within park boundaries. Talbott said the remaining population is pretty evenly split with 12.5 percent in Idaho and 12.5 percent in Montana.

YES and IGBC have both recommended that grizzly bears be removed from threatened status.

From a financial standpoint delisting also makes sense. Talbott said the state of Wyoming currently spends $1.4 million per year on grizzly bear management. A portion of that is spent to compensate landowners and livestock producers for confirmed losses from grizzly bears. The amount of compensation in 2007 was $83,000 and in FY 2015 the state paid $486,842 for livestock loss reimbursement.

Albert Sommers, a cattle rancher and President of the Upper Green River Cattle Association (UGRCA), who also serves in the Wyoming House of Representatives for District 20, talked with WLJ about some of the issues he and his organization have seen with the grizzly.

The UGRCA knows firsthand the impact of bear depredations. That association consists of about nine ranchers who have grazing allotments within the Yellowstone Ecosystem. He said they are permitted 7,000 cattle on the allotment of approximately 130,000 acres, and currently run between 5,900 to 6,000 head (a cow/calf pair counts as one).

Sommers said the first bear kill on their allotment was confirmed in 1993. Cattle losses between 1990-1994 from all sources and prior to the arrival of large carnivores including wolves were about 2 percent annually. As the bear increased its range and population, by 2000 calf losses were closer to 8-10 percent. Sommers said wolves are included in the conversation, but of 75 head of cattle killed last year, a majority were taken by grizzlies. He added that as of Aug. 14 of this year, more than 50 animals had been lost to bears and four to wolves.

Managing the bear means managing cattle, and Sommers said it’s harder to manage grass when the cattle won’t go into timbered pockets to graze because grizzlies are in the area. “We’ve moved from having riders just moving cattle to grass and watching for sick animals to having their primary goal being to look for depredated carcasses. That’s the only way you can get a management action,” he told WLJ. “We’re trying to think outside the box on what we can and can’t do to reduce predation, but there’s no silver bullet.”

Because a large population of bears resides in northwest Wyoming, conflicts with livestock are occurring more often. Talbott said the expansion of grizzly bears extends off of forest land to private property east of Cody, WY.

There have also been documented sightings west of Lander, WY, in the Wind River Mountains and as far south as the Big Piney, WY, area.

Our number one priority is human safety, Thompson said. “But with increased population and increased human activity, there’s more opportunity for conflict.”

Although human engagements with bears are rare, earlier this month Yellowstone National Park officials confirmed a hiker was killed by a grizzly bear attack within the park. Evidence pointed to a female bear as his attacker, they said. The bear was captured and euthanized and her cubs will be relocated to a zoo this fall.

So far there hasn’t been any movement by the USFWS or any other group to delist the bear. When a new rule is published it will go through the federal rule-making process, which includes a public comment period before being enacted.

All of the officials WLJ spoke with pointed out that if the bear is delisted it will still be managed. And while there may be limited hunting, it will not be a significant number. More importantly, delisting will give state wildlife officials more flexibility in dealing with problematic grizzlies. Currently when the decision is made to capture, relocate or put down a bear, the state must work with USFWS. Thompson said state and federal wildlife officials work together, but as long as the bear remains on the threatened list, all final decisions rest with the USFWS.

Sommers said he tells people that maintaining endangered species on the landscape requires working landscapes in the West to continue, and working landscapes are all about ranching. “If we want to keep sage-grouse, grizzly bears, wolves, all of that, we as a nation have to find a way to make it work for ranchers. And work for working landscapes—that is absolutely essential.”

Sommers concluded, “This is really good proof that the Endangered Species Act worked. So this is actually a success story, if the environmentalists will allow it to be a success story.”

Ltr: Don’t cater to trophy hunters when it comes to wolves

http://www.theoaklandpress.com/opinion/20150706/dont-cater-to-trophy-hunters-when-it-comes-to-wolves

Some members of Congress are catering to trophy hunters by proposing to remove Endangered Species Act protection for wolves. The federal government tried this in several states, the states immediately opened hunting seasons, and wolf numbers plummeted. The fate of these animals should be determined by science, not Congress.

The stories about wolves constantly gobbling up all livestock and children are myths. They only account for just 0.1 percent to 0.6 percent of all livestock deaths. There have been no documented attacks by wolves on people in the lower 48 states.

Let’s be clear: hunting wolves is completely counterintuitive. It actually increases the tendency of wolves to pray on livestock because it breaks up stable wolf packs and allows younger animals to start breeding and expanding into new territories.

Wolves are trying to survive after centuries of persecution. I would like to urge my Representative, Brenda Lawrence, to support keeping federal protections for wolves.

Please contact your Congressional representative and let them know you want our remaining wolves to stay protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Kristina Pepelko,

West Bloomfield

copyrighted wolf in river

Feds decline to reclassify gray wolf under Endangered Species Act

1384140_564330240283396_857016214_n

What happens when the states try to manage wolves…

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/246578-feds-decline-to-reclassify-gray-wolf-under-endangered-species-act

Gray wolves across most of the Lower 48 are classified as endangered, which is more protective than a threatened designation. Advocates hoped a change to threatened would pre-empt intervention from members of Congress who want to lift federal protections altogether.

http://flatheadbeacon.com/2015/06/30/wildlife-officials-reject-petition-to-reclassify-wolves/

Wildlife Officials Reject Petition to Reclassify Wolves

Advocates sought to designate gray wolves as a threatened species to pre-empt removal of federal protections

South Carolina Congressman Wants to Neuter Migratory Bird Treaty Act

http://www.bornfreeusa.org/weblog_canada.php?p=4945&more=1

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative

 by 06/19/15

Hudsonian Godwit

I’m a Canadian, so I’m not entirely familiar with how things work legislatively in the bustling and powerful nation to the south of me. But, what I do know is that there is a Republican congressman from South Carolina who wants to place a rider on an appropriations bill that “prohibits the federal government from prosecuting any person or corporation for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”

The Act, first passed in 1918, has the word “treaty” in it because it is an agreement between two separate, sovereign nations—Canada and the U.S.—and there is a reason for such a mutual understanding.

Look at the word “migratory.” Just four years before the law came into effect, the once most abundant bird species in North America had become extinct, and others were gone or on the verge. It was recognized even then, and all the more so now, that apart from any moral or aesthetic consideration, these birds performed valuable utilitarian services (such as the non-toxic control of insects) and that the health of the environment depended on the diversity of wildlife.

Even as the great Industrial Revolution rolled out of Europe and across America, it was as true then as it is now that the very foundation of our lives, and our ability to do commerce, depends on the viability—the health—of the environment from which we have sprung, and upon which we ultimately and totally depend. No gram of food, drop of water, or breath of air exists but for the workings of the nonhuman, “natural” world. And, we are corrupting all of that at an alarming rate.

How can people who don’t realize that get elected to high office?

A large percentage of protected species are essential to Canadian interests, but how can we protect them when they are migrating to, or through, the U.S.? People continue to kill even the most benign and beautiful of songbirds; or simply mow down habitat; or shoot hawks, herons, Hudsonian godwits, or hummingbirds.

What is particularly incomprehensible is that this unscientific, unneighborly, unilateral decision should come at a time when we are seeing so much loss not only in birds, but in other wildlife species, in America and worldwide. Wildlife species that were abundant in my childhood are now being listed as threatened or endangered. Even still, common species are not as common. In the 1970s, a drive from my home to Lake Simcoe, about 45 miles to the north, was filled with sightings of Savannah sparrows, bobolinks, thrashers, vesper sparrows, meadowlarks, kestrels, barn swallows, and so on. Now, I can make that drive in the absence of seeing any of them; they are not necessarily endangered yet, but they are clearly in serious decline.

Meanwhile, what was once Eurasia’s most abundant bird species, the yellow-breasted bunting, has seen a 90% decline in population since 1980. It is a migratory songbird, roughly the size of our native song sparrow—but it lacks protection. Robins and rails, sandpipers, and shrikes need protection wherever they occur, and they know nothing of politically chosen borders.

The yellow-breasted bunting has been over-hunted in regions, especially China, where there is nothing like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or legislation to enforce it.

We can’t keep destroying what is so essential to us, even those who see no inherent value in the song of a hermit thrush, the dramatic stoop of a falcon, the cheerfully bright colors of a goldfinch or tanager, or the drama of a flock of scoters flying in a string just over the breaking waves in the low light of a coastal dawn.

I understand that the president and the senate have the ability to veto the bill, but it seems a shame to promote such divisiveness in the first place. I can only hope, for the sake of all, that compassion prevails.

Keep Wildlife in the Wild,
Barry

Washington residents split on reintroducing grizzly bears

http://www.king5.com/story/tech/science/environment/2015/06/15/north-cascades-reintroducing-grizzly-bears-debate/71252514/

Teresa Yuan, KING 5 June 15, 2015

NORTH BEND, Wash – The debate to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades has drawn support and criticism.

The National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service drafted a plan to bring the endangered species back to the North Cascades almost 30 years ago as the their numbers were dwindling.

This process has been slow until public meetings held by the federal government around Western Washington in March. In total, nearly 500 people showed up.

The government received more than 3,000 comments throughout the process, with grizzly bears being called “man-eating monsters” to “mystical creatures.”

Under the federal government’s plan, the protected grizzly bear would be returned to federal lands running from the Canadian border to Wenatchee, and extending west to Darrington and North Bend.

Biologists believe there used to be as many as 100,000 grizzlies on the West Coast. Now, there may be only two dozen left in Washington.

In one of the 3,000 comments, a supporter wrote: “Grizzly bears are an icon that represent healthy wilderness eco-systems in the Pacific Northwest. To sustain an integral part of what makes our country unique and wonderful we must sustain umbrella species such as the grizzly bear.”

On the other side, someone posted: “As much as I love wildlife, I am not supportive of re-introduction of grizzlies to Washington state. I also find that hiking in Glacier and Yellowstone to be extremely scary, and I want a wild place to go where I don’t have worry about grizzlies.”

The federal government is expected to make a final recommendation in late 2017 about whether or not to reintroduce the grizzly bears back to the North Cascades.

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

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