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Wildlife on the BrinkRockies/Prairie : Grizzly Bear
Grizzly BearSpecies Gallery

Grizzly Bear
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ursus arctos horribilis

STATUS: Threatened in the lower 48

HABITAT: Open areas near streams and rivers, grasslands, forests

LIFE HISTORY: Solitary except for mother-cub family groups. "Light hibernator" with only moderate drops in heart rate and body temperature. Seventy-five percent of diet consists of vegetable matter.

THREATS: Habitat loss due to oil, gas and other development; conflict with humans

FORMER RANGE: Much of the American West, from the Pacific Coast to the western Great Plains

CURRENT POPULATION: 1,200 in the lower 48 states.

This rugged, lone hunter has long been a symbol of America's frontier spirit and western wilderness. In the early 19th century, roughly 100,000 grizzly bears roamed the American West. Today, only about 1200 remain in the lower 48 states, confined to 1 percent to 2 percent of the habitat in which they used to live. A thriving grizzly bear population reflects a healthy ecosystem -- where there are grizzlies, there are elk, trout and clean water.
Grizzlies were among the first animals protected by the Endangered Species Act. Grizzlies have the slowest reproductive rates of any mammal in North America, and are especially vulnerable to development and industrialization of their habitat. Energy development pressures are mounting around Yellowstone, yet the Bush administration removed the population from endangered species protections in 2007, a move that NRDC and others are challenging in court. The delisting allows the hunting of grizzlies in the three states surrounding Yellowstone Park, and reduces protections for grizzly habitat. Grizzlies are also threatened by global warming, which has allowed an explosion in the mountain pine beetle population. These beetles are wiping out large tracts of whitebark pine, which provide a primary food source for grizzly bears.
NRDC, together with longtime grizzly conservationist Louisa Willcox, established NRDC's Wild Bear Project to address the threats to Yellowstone grizzlies in the northern Rockies and adjacent ecosystems in Canada. Willcox and NRDC are fighting to reverse the Bush administration's decision to delist the grizzly and are pressing for the creation of connected habitat from Yellowstone to northern Canada, linking American and Canadian grizzly populations to ensure the species' long-term survival.


Photos: Yellowstone National Park © J. Schmidt, National Park Service; black footed ferret © Tami S. Black, USFWS; gray wolf © Gary Kramer, USFWS; grizzly bear © National Park Service
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