A new study by the Interagency Team in charge of grizzly bears will be out soon that suggests that although the growth of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population has slowed it is nonetheless still increasing. This paper is in response to a study released last year which cast doubt on the trajectory of the population. It is good to see the Study Team work to address questions about the status of the population – though given that much of the data needed to accurately and thoroughly assess population trends is still not available for independent analysis, we continue to have questions and concerns about the accuracy of the population size and trend.
In the meantime, we know that several of the bears’ key food sources have declined dramatically causing a shift in how bears use the landscape - bringing them in closer proximity to people where they tend to have more conflicts. Grizzlies are also slow reproducers and any effect of the loss of these key food sources on the population may not be detected for some time. And ultimately, the Yellowstone population remains isolated from any other grizzly bears and for them to have a healthy population they will need to be able to establish contact with other bears in the future.
Recently, in response to other research by the Study Team, the Interagency Committee recommended removing the Yellowstone population from the Endangered Species Act. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is likely to move forward with this recommendation and as they do it will be important to make sure that these continued threats are addressed so that regardless of where the population is now, grizzly bear recovery can successfully continue in the future.