Grizzly bear deaths in Yellowstone National Park were at an all-time high in 2015, but the population is growing and stable.
State and federal biologists and scientists are saying that more than 700 grizzly bears live in and around famed Yellowstone National Park. In 2010, that number was about 600, which also marks a substantial improvement in population as the number of bears in the region in the 1980s was barely 200.
Grizzlies were listed as a threatened species in the mid-1970s, but now are in the process of being removed from federal protection. At issue is the number of bear deaths, which reached an all-time high in 2015, due in part to the rise in population. Biologists still say they're not worried about the animal's long-term survival in the park.
Frank van Manen, leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, said, "The known or suspected deaths of 55 bears shouldn't interfere with plans to remove the region's grizzlies from protection under the Endangered Species Act"
Food availability in the region can cause bears to roam, and roaming, hungry bears can make for dangerous bedfellows where humans are concerned.
Yellowstone Wildlife managers were forced to euthanize 24 bears during the calendar year because of issues with people including property and livestock. Of those bears, four groups of cubs were taken in by zoos including the cubs of a sow grizzly that was confirmed as having killed a hiker in the park in August 2015.
Some of the known sources of death in grizzlies were hunting, vehicle impacts, and euthanization. Although 19 cases are still under investigation by environmental officers, cubs taken to zoos as a result of losing their sow are counted as mortality. While biologists acknowledge that they can never fully determine the number of bears that die in Yellowstone, the total count in 2015 may be as many as 70.
It is also important to remember that some of these deaths may not have occurred had hikers and campers taken correct grizzly bear precautions, including not leaving food out or aggressively approaching bear territory in hopes of getting the perfect Instagram picture.