Wyoming Governor Matt Mead recently asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to remove grizzly bears from the federal endangered species list, saying that the grizzly bear population has “unquestionably recovered within the Yellowstone Ecosystem,” reports Fox News
An adviser to Mead explained, “At some point in time, we would envision hunting grizzlies. It’s an important tool for population management, just like it is for whitetail deer and elk.”
Conservation groups, who successfully sued to put the grizzly bear back on the endangered list in 2009 after it was removed in 2007, have objected to the governor’s request, insisting that the population has not sufficiently rebounded and may face a new threat due to a loss of whitebark pine trees, a principal grizzly food source that is being steadily killed off by a tree infection.
“Scientists say they need more time to understand why grizzly bear populations in Greater Yellowstone are leveling off, and to further study the implications of the whitebark pine’s demise,” explained representatives for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “Let’s let scientists do their work.”
In spite of lingering concerns, some conservation groups concede that the grizzly population is in much better shape today than it was previously. “The grizzly bear story in the Yellowstone is a great, great success story, said a representative of the World Wildlife Federation. “The population goals that we set through the federal recovery plan have been met and exceeded.”
Grizzly bears have been blamed for at least four deaths in and around Yellowstone National Park in just the last two years. An official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service explained the heightened incidence of grizzly attacks as a natural function of their population rebound: “We have more bears in more places, so . . . the probability of running into a bear is going up.”
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