As the population of grizzly bears steadily rises in Yellowstone National Park, talks of removing them from the Endangered Species list begin.
Grizzly bears in Yellowstone have finally reached their appropriate population marker after being granted protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975.
In Molecular Ecology, a study was published that stated “Yellowstone grizzly bear growth since the 1980s” has sustained high, independent levels of success. Of the 729 bears studied, genetic diversity was found to be alive and well, producing an effective population where traits were passed on to the next generations.
The resource capacity in Yellowstone National Park can only sustain a certain amount of bears, however, and there is worry that the population has reached this peak point of sustainability for the confines of the land. This year, 24 grizzlies have been euthanized by wildlife managers in Yellowstone due to local livestock hunting in search for food sources based on the limited availability of natural food sources.
“Grizzly bears are moving into areas outside the recovery zone,” Frank von Manen, a wildlife biologist and leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, said. “They are getting into more and more of those areas where the potential for conflicts are greater.”
The talk of de-listing began in 2013 when the Yellowstone Ecosystem and Interagency Grizzly Bear Study team recommended the bears’ removal following an intense study. However, these talks have also met opposing thoughts. Harmony Kristin Szarek, an Ohio State University graduate student, found that “60 percent of experts believe delisting [the bears] would be an incorrect decision, or a violation of the precautionary principle.”
In addition, it is important to note that delisting the bears comes equipped with a complex conservation package for the Yellowstone grizzlies, “including a six million acre Primary Conservation Area where the needs of grizzles come first.”
There’s also the question of money in this scenario, as is the case with most conservation efforts. Nature-related tourism in Yellowstone National Park is a “$1 billion industry, and without the potential of seeing a roadside bear, a 2014 study reported that Yellowstone would lose about $10 million annually.”
Do you think the bears should be delisted, or do you believe more time is key in determining the future outcome of the grizzly population in Yellowstone?