It appears that another fight about the restoration of top predators is brewing out west. Should the state of Washington reintroduce grizzly bears to the Cascades?
Though the grizzly bear nearly went extinct in the continental United States, the species is in the midst of a remarkable comeback. Due to shrinking habitat and years of being treated as a dangerous pest by humans, grizzly bears are only present in a handful of pockets in the lower 48 states.
Since 1981, grizzly bear populations have tripled in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas. The only other sizable grizzly bear population in the continental United States is in Glacier National Park which spans the border between Montana and Canada. Glacier National Park is where a Texas man recently shot a grizzly after it attacked him.
Some conservation activists are now attempting to reintroduce the grizzly bear to areas where they used to roam, including parts of Montana, Idaho and Washington’s Northern Cascades.
There are more than 10,000 square miles of prime grizzly bear habitat in Northern Washington, much of it inside North Cascades National Park, areas that some conservationists think could support more than 200 grizzly bears.
Recently, land managers have tried to make it a hospitable place for any grizzly bears that might wander across the border from Canada.
However, there has not been a confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in North Cascades National Park since 2010.
“If all things go well, [there will be] bears on the ground three or four years from now,” says Mich Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest and a proponent of reintroducing grizzly bears to the Cascades.
Though some people are excited about reintroducing grizzly bears to the area, not everyone is enthusiastic about it. Many people in Washington still have considerable concerns about the return of wolves to the state, and fear that reintroducing grizzly bears will result in more dead livestock and land-use restrictions.