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article imageSome N. Rockies grizzly bears to come off endangered species list

By Karen Graham     May 15, 2014 in Environment
At one time, long ago, there were over 50,000 grizzly bears roaming North America. Today, there are about 1,800 grizzly bears remaining in the lower 48 states, primarily the Northern Continental Divide Population and the Yellowstone Population.
The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks director Jeff Hagener announced on Thursday that federal officials will seek to lift federal protections on some threatened grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies in the next couple years.
Hagener said he expects the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to formulate rules that would remove two populations of grizzlies from the Endangered Species list. One rule could remove protection for the grizzly population in and around Yellowstone National Park by 2015. The second rule would apply to the grizzly population in the Northern Continental Divide region by 2016,
Grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park.
Photo taken: Feb. 24  2013.
Grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park. Photo taken: Feb. 24, 2013.
Servheen Chris, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Even though U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin Shire would not confirm there was a time-line for the proposed rules, he did say the agency is evaluating the status of grizzly bears. But Hagener said the time-line has been mentioned in several discussions with Fish and Wildlife Service officials over the past year.
Hagener says that estimates show about 740 grizzly bears live in and around Yellowstone National Park and about 1,000 live in the Northern Continental Divide region. Hagener says his agency is pushing for the delisting. "We think it's clearly warranted," he said. "We're convinced that population has recovered."
Alaska has the highest number of grizzly bears, with an estimated population of over 30,000. They are usually found along the coast of Alaska because food supplies, such as salmon are more abundant. In British Columbia, the grizzly still inhabits almost 90 percent of its original territory. When Europeans first arrived in B.C., there were over 25,000 grizzles, and today, their number is still fairly high, at 16,014 grizzly bears.
The Yellowstone grizzly population was delisted on 2007, but reinstated in 2009 because a U.S. District Court said the Fish and Wildlife Service had not shown the grizzly population would be able to withstand the loss of as vital food source, the nuts from white bark pine cones. Since that time, the agency has done additional research and determined the bears can switch to other food sources, like elk.
A tranquilized grizzly bear is monitored closely by field biologists while measurements are taken an...
A tranquilized grizzly bear is monitored closely by field biologists while measurements are taken and a radio collar is attached. Managers of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (of which Glacier National Park is a part) are striving to keep 25 bears (primarily females with cubs) radio collared with state-of-the-art GPS/ARGOS collars.
The way the delisting works is long and involved. First, when the rules are proposed for delisting the grizzly bears, a 60-day public comment period will follow, and Hagener expects thousands of comments to come into the agency. Only after the agency analyses the comments could a final ruling on lifting federal protection be issued. After that, a five-year period of recovery monitoring by state and federal wildlife agencies will go into affect, like the one going on now with the delisted wolves in Montana, said Hagener.
Rep. Sam Krone, R-Cody, who also serves on the Wyoming legislative committee that oversees wildlife issues, said on Thursday that he expected that Wyoming would start issuing permits for trophy hunting of the Grizzlies once they are delisted.
More about Wyoming, Grizzly bears, northern rockies, 'continental divide, federal endangered species list
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