U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wrote to Wyoming Governor Matt Mead last month, supporting him in his desire to delist Yellowstone’s grizzly bears. According to the Missoulian, Salazar expects the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to complete their analysis of the issue and come to a decision by early 2014. There are an estimated 600 bears in the Greater Yellowstone area, which contains the iconic national park and runs through Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. If the USFWS does decide to remove the grizzly from its protected status, it is likely that management hunts will be set in place soon after.

Yellowstone is one of the few areas south of Canada that has a significant number of grizzlies, but only due to conservation efforts over the last three decades. Outside Magazine reports that due to being protected by the Endangered Species Act, grizzlies in Yellowstone tripled their numbers.

“It’s taken us 30 years to get to this point,” says Chris Servheen, USFWS grizzly bear recovery coordinator. “We consider the species recovered.”

However, it is not the first time the USFWS made this announcement. The agency made the same statement in 2007 and removed grizzlies from the threatened-species list. That decision was overturned in 2009 and the bears returned to the list. The latest proposal to delist the bears surfaced in May of this year and hinges partly on the dwindling number of whitebark pine in Yellowstone. As nuts from the tree make up one of the major food sources for grizzlies, the decline of whitebark pine could play a crucial factor in whether or not the bears get delisted. Some conservationists are worried that the loss of a valuable food source coupled with pressure from humans could prove disastrous for the species.

“The gains are precarious,” says Louisa Willcox of the National Resources Defense Council. “Grizzles are low-reproducers. You can turn increased numbers into a decline very quickly.”

Biologists with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (GFD), who have supported the delisting, disagree.

“Bears are the world’s greatest omnivores,” said Mark Bruscino, carnivore supervisor for the Wyoming GFD. “They live in lots of areas without whitebark pine, or anything similar to that, across the Northern Hemisphere, and they do just fine.”

Bruscino says the state intends on allowing hunting to manage problem bears or overpopulation.

“The Yellowstone grizzly population is doing fantastic, it’s the wildlife management success story of the last 30 years in North America,” he added. “We will probably never hunt large numbers, just because there won’t be a lot of probably surplus mortality that could go into a hunting quota, but we will probably hunt some bears.”

This plan does not sit well with some animal rights groups, who compare grizzlies to wolves, a species that has already been removed from protections in several states and is looking at a national delisting in the lower 48.

“The states want the keys to the car,” says Willcox. “And when they get them, they will do what they’re doing with wolves now—they’ll hunt them.”

Other conservationists are unsure if it is the right time to remove the bear from federal protections, including one of the original organizations that sued to block the 2007 delisting.

“Certainly it’s too soon to tell. There’s a reason they’re taking the next year or two years to look at whitebark loss,” said Hannah Stauts of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Stauts mentions that the group is open to a delisting proposal, given the right circumstances.

Photo courtesy Kim Keating/U.S.Geological Survey

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19 thoughts on “Federal Officials Ready to Delist Yellowstone Grizzlies, Possibly as Soon as 2014

  1. Anyone who has ever hunted in the areas near Yellowstone knows the over population of grizzly bears. If you are lucky enough to harvest a big game animal it is a race to get to your harvest before a grizzly claims it. It is amazing to see how many bears will show up at the gut pile before days end. Before anti hunting groups try to block this they should go afield and observe exactly what is going on in the wilderness instead of watching bears from the side of the road. When you see a herd of elk and less than 10% of the cows have calves there needs to be a management plan in place. Delisting wolves was a step in the right direction now the same should be done with bears, If nothing is done Elk will be an endangered species.

    1. Really? When are Elk going to do that? The Elk population in the northern Rocky Mountains has increased over 40% (from 89,000 animals in 1994 to over 149,000 animals in 2012 – source RMEF) since Wolves were reintroduced to the area. Wyoming issued extra tags last year (due to the overabundance of Elk according to Wyming DFG). Hunter success rates and Elk numbers are all within management goals. Like Wolves (nobody eats them), few people eat Bear. So, if you aren’t going to grill it then there is no reason to kill it. That is, unless you are protecting yourself or your property which has nothing to do with hunting. Trophy Rooms (and those that fill them) need to go the way of shag carpeting and Afros. This is the 21st Century in most parts of America, let’s try acting like modern humans and not brutal, archaic Neanderthals for a change.

      1. Skippy are you trying to get a job on MSNBC? Other wise your posts are nonsense from the left . The northern elk herd in Yellowstone has been reduced thanks to wolves ,bears and other predictors from over 18,000 to less than 1000 since the wolves were reintroduced in the park.
        As far as the big bears go they are doing just fine and frankly any one who lives in the area knows the States Fish and Game agencies are much better qualified to manage them than some eastern liberal arts grad bureaucrat in Washington DC!

      2. Frank, the Yellowstone Elk herds stood at 19,000 in 1994 (the year before Wolves were reintroduced). It now stands at 3,900 (source RMEF and WDF&G). Perhaps you should read Authur Middleton’s three year Elk study of the Yellowstone Elk herds which was released in May of this year. Low calf/cow ratios are the result of habitat destruction caused by global warming (which is human caused). The 19,000 head of Elk that existed before Wolf reintroduction was the result of human manipulation (killing off all of the predators and feed yards). Feeding wild animals in the winter time is still common practice and is stupid and environmentally destructive. The Elk in Yellowstone got so complacent (due to a lack of predators) that they even stopped migrating! The 19,000 head was three to four times larger then that environment could naturally support. The wild life management practices of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana are based completely on the social tolerance of animals and have nothing to do with current, fact based science. That is why feed yards are still used and that is why Wolves are treated like vermin in Wyoming (shoot on site) and hunted 365 days a year in Idaho. Being brutal and archaic and treating our wild species like a bunch of Neanderthals is what social intolerance by backward thinking, narrow minded, arrogant, ignorant, intolerant people is all about. Using the same wild life management techniques (shoot, trap and poison) that my great Grandfather used is what being intolerant and archaic is all about and it has no place in the 21st Century.

      3. So you do agree that the elk herds inYellowstone have been reduced but not by wolves , bears etc but only by man??? caused global warming?.. That’s insane like saying slaughter houses don’t kill cattle the ride to the pens does. I agree that feeding the elk as they do in Wyoming should be stopped but I do disagree that wolves OUT side Yellowstone park should not be managed by the states Fish & Game agencies who obviously have a better handle on the problems too many of the critters in a given area cause than some liberal arts bureaucrat in DC.
        Even liberals have to admit that 2000 is more than 300 though some liberals probably have trouble with math this advanced . and 300 was the number of wolves the target set for their reintroduction . I have no problems with that number in Yellowstone but 2000 I do with out proper LOCAL management of these corn flake eaters as eastern liberal seem to think the cuddly critters eat.

      4. Frank, what’s with all the references to liberals? That seems to be the focus of your posts, what political affiliation someone has or their political philosophy. Ethical, humane, current, fact based scientific wild life management has nothing to do with political philosophy. Doing what is right should be human nature. Wolves have had an impact on the Elk herds in Yellowstone, no question. They are not the primary reason for the decline of those herds. 19,000 animals was about three to four times more than that environment could support and wild life officials in Montana and Wyoming were fine with that because it was socially acceptable to overpopulate the environment with Elk because Elk are “good” animals where as Wolves are “bad” animals. This has nothing to do with biology or science but everything to do with social tolerance. The reintroduction agreement allowed for a 3% depredation rate on livestock and a minimum of 150 Wolves per state. Depredation of livestock has never been above 1% and has stayed below 1/10 th of 1% consistently (2,500,000 cows in Montana in 2011 – Wolves ate 77- source USFWS Annual Wolf Report). 150 Wolves per state is not a viable population. I have no idea where your 2000 number comes from. All animals need to be managed with the same consideration and criteria. Social tolerance should not be the main reason we have X number of these animals and Y number of this other animal but that is how things are done at the local level and that is wrong and environmentally destructive. Most of the land in the NRM is owned by the Federal government so it belongs to everybody, not just the locals. Federal taxpayer dollars are used to kill Wolves through WS and taxpayer dollars are also used to partially reimburse ranchers for livestock lost to Wolves. That means it’s everybody’s land and everybody’s money being spent so everybody should have a say. The wild life also belongs to all of us, not just the locals. Laws exist (beyond hunting) that allow people to protect themselves and their property so dealing with animals that are causing a problem is legal. Indiscriminate killing (hunting) of an animal that you can’t eat is wrong and inappropriate. That goes back to social tolerance. The hatred and intolerance foisted on the Wolf is based on myths, legends, and superstitions, not on current, fact based science. Hatred and intolerance (and killing) based on myths, legends and superstitions is unacceptable and inappropriate but that’s what happens when Wolf (and other wild life) management is left up to the locals. Locals have killed more than half of the Wolf population in the NRM in the first two years of legal hunting. All states are ramping up efforts to kill more. Shooting and trapping pregnant females and pups is unethical, immoral, archaic and brutal. Locals (and local wild life managers) don’t see it that way. Everybody else does.

      5. This is number two apparently I violated a yahoo rule —spoke the truth something liberals have problems with if it runs counter to their radical left sing views.
        Any way the 2000 number is the high end (1700 to 2000) wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Eco System covering parts of Idaho , Wyoming and Montana. The original plan was for 300 and 10 breeding pairs. Yet now that that number has been exceeded the enviro whackos still resist delisting and turning the control over to the States Fish and Wild life agencies. I guess that would limit their use of the EATJA law that pays their fees for all the law suits they file against the Feds.
        I doubt any State agency wants to eliminate the wolves just keep their numbers in check , the Yellowstone wolves have more than enough protection and that’s not the problem.
        Surely any federal program that actually worked as well as the wolf reintroduction effort is rear probably non existent but as with all liberal inspired programs the unintended consequences need addressing and that’s what I call for.

      6. If local officials had any interest in using fact based current science (instead of social tolerance) as the main barometer for wild life management decisions then we wouldn’t be having this discussion to begin with. Local wild life managers have a very long and well documented history of ignoring current, fact based science and instead using social tolerance to make most, if not all wild life management decisions. Bears have suffered the same fate as Wolves and that is why both wound up on ESA. Both the Mexican Wolf and Red Wolf became biologically extinct in the wild only 30 years ago because of human extermination. When all of the killing is done in the NRM there will be less than 500 Wolves left and over 150,000 Elk (300 to 1). That doesn’t sound like balance to me and anybody that wants to argue such would have a very hard time defending those numbers as having anything to do with science or sound wild life decisions. By the way, after hunting Wolves became legal in Wyoming and Montana, over 20% of the Yellowstone Wolf population has been killed by hunters in the last two years. The term “decimation” is defined as reducing by more than 10% so it is accurate to say that the Yellowstone Wolf population has been decimated by the wild life decisions made by local wild life officials in Montana and Wyoming. Decimating wild life populations (especially those that are supposedly “protected”) is not sound wild life management by any stretch of the imagination. You can also look at the Elk study Idaho DF&G did in 2012 on the Lolo herds. That study showed that 1) Bears, 2) Coyotes, 3) weather and 4) Wolves were the reasons for that herd’s low calf/cow ratios. Despite the findings in this study IDF&G had WS send the helicopters up and kill 18 Wolves in 2012. With increased trapping and hunting in that zone over 80% of the wolf population was killed in less than six months. Wolves weren’t the problem for this herd’s decline but they became the solution by killing almost all of them off. Sound wild life decisions, I don’t think so and that is why locals can’t be trusted with managing the wild life species that belong to all of us that live primarily on land that also belongs to all of us and is paid for with funds that primarily belong to all of us. If locals were responsible they could have control but they aren’t and so they shouldn’t.

      7. Actually quite a few slaughter house animals die on the ride to slaughter. They freeze or burn in those metal trucks. Ever seen someone pry a dead frozen cow off a slaughter truck with a crowbar? Stop murdering animals you don’t intend to eat. Sociopath.

      8. OK so maybe one in 10,000 die before they reach the slaughter house but since we kill about 250,000 a day to feed the US meat eaters the trip to the house is hardly a big deal.
        I haven’t hunted since I was in college so your barking up the wrong tree in fact I have made two trips to Kenya just to view the animals. But I do understand the problems of too many wolves etc out IDE the Parks something liberals mostly from east of he Mississippi fail to grasp. It’s a local problem and should be handled by local state agencies not some liberal arts grad from an Ivy League School.

      9. Just wondering Skip do you hunt ? Do you ever get in the back country and see for yourself what is actually going on or do you just read reports someone puts out. Everyone agreed a certain number of wolves would be good for the area but when it far exceeded it all the little activist filed suit with their prepaid lawyers to block hunting to keep the wolves in check. Stick to the original plan ! I hope some of they data you report wasn’t prepared by the same people claiming global warming. A lot of holes in that data. We as sportsman contribute to maintain all wildlife. Its like voting if you don’t vote you don’t have a say, my opinion is if you don’t contribute you don’t have a say. By the way these animals are not mine, yours are anyone’s. Just like the land we are care takers. So if we as sportsman want to buy our tag , fund restocking programs so that we may harvest an animal for us to consume and share with others that is our right. If it wasn’t for us most of the wildlife in the US would be gone. The Federal Gov. has proven time and time again it can’t manage. It takes people with common sense, boots in the field that understand wildlife and can see first hand what is happening.

      10. I used to hunt alot when I lived in Maine many years ago. Like most folks I have no problem with fair chase subsistence hunting. That means no bait, no traps, no dogs and no calls. It also means that you eat what you kill. All of that is fine with me. Nobody eats Wolves and few eat Bear. I live outside of Cody Wyoming, been here since ’72 and I go out alot. Have lots of hunting and ranching friends and am very familiar with all forms of ranching and hunting. All predators have an effect on game herds and the environment. In a healthy, balanced environment all wild life species self regulate their numbers based on predator/ prey numbers and relationships. That is what kept everything and everybody in check for thousands of years. Before white Europeans came to North America (about 400 years ago), it all worked fine and stayed in balance without man’s “help”. The native population didn’t manage the animal population, they respected what God had created and were thankful that an animal gave it’s life so the Indians could survive. That is how hunting used to be here (along time ago). Responsible and a true sport. Today, that is not the case and it is one reason that I no longer hunt. The “original plan” (NRM Wolf Reintroduction Plan) called for 150 Wolves per state. That was based on information gathered about Wolves prior to 1983, more than 30 years ago. Since that plan was put together humans have learned much more about Wolves and how they interact with both humans and ungulates. 150 animals per state is not a viable Wolf population and any scientist worth his salt will tell you that. You talk about alot of holes in my data but offer nothing to dispute my numbers. Please provide verifiable information of your own if you doubt mine otherwise I stand by my numbers and information. What is a “sportman” in your mind? I hear that term used alot for sport and trophy hunters. Those that kill animals for fun, for recreation, to add to the Trophy Room are not sportsmen to me. You hunt to eat and that is it. There is no other logical reason to kill an animal except to eat or to protect yourself or your property. That is how most folks see it, just as I do. I do agree with you that wild animals belong to nobody where as domestic animals do. You talk about getting a tag and “harvest an animal for us to consume”, that is subsistence hunting, not sport and trophy hunting which makes a big difference to most people, including me. I am no fan of the Federal government but when I look at the long and well documented management of wild life done by officials in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, especially when you are talking about predators, I see no science and environmentally destructive practices like feed lots. It’s all based on social tolerance, not on science and that is the problem. Biologically, there is plenty of room for more Wolves and more Bears but socially there is not and so these animals are killed, even when minding their own business because of social intolerance. This social intolerance is based on fears, myths, legends and superstitions, not on facts. That is also the problem. People are afraid of the animals because of ignorance, arrogance and intolerance, not because of factual information and that is a big problem. The Big Bad Wolf is none of that. Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood have nothing to do with reality but lots of folks in the NRM will swear that these fairy tales are the truth, that is the problem and that is why local wild life officials manage these animals the way that they do. With fear, hatred and intolerance, not with current, fact based science.

      11. Since the wolves have been overpopulating it has created 4 ultimate predators preying on the Elk, Moose etc. Each have their own perfected way of hunting where one fails another succeeds. Starvation and disease are the managing tools of nature. Since the wolf and the grizzly bear don’t have any predators we Neanderthals must assume the role. I don’t know your knowledge of wildlife if it is by experience or by book but before you judge another as archaic maybe you should walk in their shoes. As for myself I enjoy hunting and managing wildlife for a healthy herd and managing predators as well. Key word there is manage ! If this isn’t for you then so be it. Don’t know where you live but bet it didn’t bother you that habitat and wildlife were destroyed to provide you with a place to live, work, etc. I don’t care if it’s a damn grasshopper you ran over to get to the store you Neanderthal just killed and bet you didn’t stop to eat it. I prefer to provide my family with meat I harvested. As for your global warming everything is a cycle if not why are they finding remains under melting glaciers ? Before you know it we will be freezing our butts off but wait all the extreme snow storms and cold last year were due to global warming LMAO. Leave wildlife managing to local officials who see it everyday instead of a researcher with a grant and an agenda.

      12. So, how long have the Wolves been “overpopulating”? Since their numbers went above 150 animals per state? The “original plan” also said ranchers would tolerate depredation rates of 3% annually and that rate has never been above 1% and is typically less than 1/10 of 1%. I prefer disease and starvation instead of poison, traps and lead. That is the difference between dying of “natural causes” and being “murdered”. One is natural, the other is man made. Are you saying wild life managers don’t have an agenda? Are you kidding??? As stated below, social tolerance of animals is the agenda, not science. That is why the Elk population grew to 3 or 4 times what Yellowstone could support, because that was socially acceptable- the more Elk the better even if it destroys the environment. I suppose feeding wild animals (feed yards) is OK too? Is that a scientific way to manage animals? How dumb is that, feeding wild animals? Feed the Elk (because they are “:good animals”) but don’t feed the Wolves or Bears (because they are “bad animals”). I’ve been an outdoorsman my entire life (almost 70 years). Grew up on a dairy farm in Maine and lived outside of Cody for over 40 years so I’ve pretty much seen it all. I can remember my uncles talking about predator derbies, bounties and shooting Wolves from airplanes back in the 50’s and 60’s. Glad to see that most folks have moved forward since that time. Unfortunately alot of folks haven’t and many of them live in prime Wolf and Bear habitat. That is a problem because it is also a death sentence for these animals when the locals are so backward thinking, narrow minded and intolerant. And yes, they are my neighbors. I am surrounded by people who hate wild life and wish to kill it “just ’cause I can”. How sad …

      13. I would suggest Skippy you vent your thoughts on the Wyoming officials not on Montana and Idaho who unlike the Cowboy state actually have put in plans that manage the predictors in their state to keep a healthy number. You wild ass vents should address your local boys where they have only shoot to kill plans and feed the elk in the winter!

      14. Hey Frank, my state is by far the worst but Idaho and Montana aren’t very far behind. None of these states use science when managing the wild life populations that live there. Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin aren’t much better and folks in Michigan are taking this battle where it belongs, to the states voters. If any of these states based their management of wild life primarily on current, fact based science instead of on social tolerance and brutal, archaic inhumane (shoot, trap and poison which are the same tools my great grandfather used) management methods weren’t the only methods used (nonlethal deterrents work great when used, killing isn’t the only way to manage) then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Idaho kills year ’round with no state quota and Montana now allows trapping (indiscriminate and inhumane). Nothing to be proud of and methods that haven’t changed in hundreds of years.

    2. There’s to many people on this planet that are damaging every domain possible . Canned Hunting , Taking Control of Wildlife Management by making it Their Right to Kill them, Whales, Dolphins and for some reason we never here anything about the enjoyment of being around Wildlife from the Fish and Wildlife Management. All I’ve seen are some Dumbass Hunters , sometimes with their wife and kids grinning from ear to ear while crouching beside a dead Wolf that they killed ! Even legalized killing of African Wildlife
      And let’s not forget about the The Noisy Idiots that Tear up the Forest Floor with their A.T.V’s , Motor Bikes, Ski Doo’s and the list gets longer all the time. Then there are the people like myself who Enjoy All that Nature Gives. When is all of this Need to Control going to Stop !?
      I will continue to do what I can to protect Wildlife and All Natural Habitats against ‘ Greedy, Selfish Humans’ who have forgotten about our enjoyment of All Wildlife !.

      1. We as Hunters have a right to harvest wild game for our families it was placed on this earth as a food supply. A food supply that is chemical free ! Marilyn if it wasn’t for the money generated by hunters you wouldn’t be seeing half the wildlife you are able to see now. Our money is used to purchase land to secure habitat for wildlife , provide research to maintain healthy populations etc. Before you call someone a Dumbass Hunter get to know the majority of the people involved don’t generalize all because of a few rouge people. My entire family hunts 2 girls, my wife , and myself. It is some of the best quality time we spend together, outdoors without electronics etc. I as well as all of my fellow sportsman donate to wildlife organizations , plant food for wildlife , build nesting areas and bedding areas for wildlife. When we go out of state to places such as Wyoming to Elk hunt , fish etc. we put dollars into wildlife management to help your wildlife. Last year we spent tens of thousands of dollars in Wy. and the only damage we done was to give some trout the sore mouth. We could have shot an elk but we let them walk because we were looking for a mature animal. By doing this we let the young live to reproduce and create a better herd, In turn we left Wy. a pile of money to help local merchants, Wyoming Game & Fish with $ to better the wildlife population. Don’t know how you help to protect wildlife but we do more per person than 100 tree huggers ever will. With all the lawsuits that are filed by anti hunters look at all the taxpayers dollars that are wasted on lawyers when it could be used to benefit wildlife. We are not selfish , we harvest what we can consume and no more. The dumbass you refer to is not us maybe its the uninformed tree hugger !

      2. One more thing Marilyn how are you going to help. Are you going to go afield and remove nonnative plants. Are you going to replant habitat ? Or are you going to shout from a pedestal then drive home over what used to be wildlife habitat, go to Starbucks which used to be habitat, the mall etc. I’m sure your lifestyle as well as the rest of ours has done more to kill off more wildlife than we all care to admit. Everyone has a different way of enjoying the outdoors just because our way doesn’t agree with yours doesn’t make ours wrong. If everyone would take the time to see the others point of view maybe it wouldn’t resort to name calling ” Dumbass”. It always amazing that the antis always resort to the personal attacks, the violent attacks and we are called Neanderthals, Dumbasses etc. Bottom line is this article is about grizzly, if this area was not inhabited by us it wouldn’t matter but we stuck our nose in mother natures business by reintroducing the wolf and they are in direct competition with the bears thus other game is being diminished. End result manage the bears too. Sad truth not enough food to sustain all the predators. Post a pic of a moose calf around Yellowstone if you see one. When you see a herd of elk and less than 10% have a calf makes you wonder what their population will be 2, 5, 10 yrs. from now. This is first hand observation from being in the Wyoming back country over the last 10 years. We love and enjoy wildlife as much or more than the anti-hunters. Sportsman/hunters work to supply the wildlife needs, take the time to research all that we do ie. RMEF, Sheep Foundation, Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Quail Forever, SCI the list goes on and on. We more than do our part so the next time you see a family posing for a picture it just might be me and my 3 girls so let it be known we were enjoying every minute of hunting together and also enjoyed all the sweat we poured out throughout the year to have that one family moment.

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