Grizzly bear conservation in the Lower 48

It’s reckoned that 500 years ago, around 50,000 grizzly bears roamed in the area that was later to become the Lower 48 of the USA.  Today that number stands at a pitiful 1,850.  This however is considered a major conservation success in some circles, as the number had dropped to below 700 by the middle of the last century.

So chipper were the federal authorities (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) feeling about the grizzly bounce-back that, in 2017, they decided it would be a damned fine idea to take the animal off the endangered list – de-listing, it’s called – thus allowing it to be hunted again.  Not inside National Parks, of course, but that’s little consolation to a creature that must roam far and wide to sustain itself.   Management of grizzlies outside the National Parks would be turned over to the State wildlife agencies of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.  The former two States were obviously itching to start shooting grizzlies again, and issued hunting licences for autumn 2018 on the basis of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision.

Just days before we were due to fly out to Denver conservationists challenged the decision through the courts, and on 24 September the federal judge blocked hunting of grizzlies in the Yellowstone area.  This is great news as it means the grizzlies we saw while in the Park, including the cubs, should be safe even if they stray beyond its borders.    The situation is less encouraging in Montana, where hunting may begin in 2019, but let’s hope that good sense prevails there too.

The articles quoted here were published on the website of The Vital Ground, whose mission is:

To protect and restore North America’s grizzly bear populations for future generations by conserving wildlife habitat and by supporting programs that reduce conflicts between bears and humans.

This is a brilliant charitable organisation that we’ve supported for many years.  Its existence and hard work gives me some hope that despite the loud noises made by the hunting lobby there are some Americans whose with a serious commitment to conservation.