Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting

Photo by angela n. | CC BY 2.0

With the recent cold snap, some Yellowstone grizzly bears are slowing down — but it will still be another week or more before they are snug in dens and out of harms’ way for the winter. In a disturbing trend, this year the bear body count continues to mount at a time when the population has been, by weight of evidence, declining. This problem will likely worsen with the federal government’s decision last spring to strip endangered species protections from Yellowstone’s grizzly bears and give management authority to the states (“delist”).

Here, as elsewhere in the lower-48 states, government scientists have found that most grizzly bears die from human causes. This year is no exception. Only three of the 51 recorded grizzly bear deaths may be from natural causes.

And the rate of killing is shocking — one bear approximately every two days since hunting season began in October. Never have so many bear deaths been investigated for possible foul play in one year — 26 bears and counting, more than half of all known deaths.

Applying an official estimator that accounts for unknown mortality, about 77 bears are dead, or more than 11 percent of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population of approximately 690 grizzlies occupying the Demographic Monitoring Area (DMA), the core of grizzly habitat.

Government officials have shrugged off the problem, claiming that population estimates are biased low, while failing to admit that, by their own…

Read more