GYE estimated grizzly population down by 43 bears, 6%, since 2015 say gov’t wildlife biologists

At the Jackson, Wyoming meeting of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee (IGBC/YES), a population figure of 714 grizzlies was announced yesterday. In 2014 the number was 757. The latter is a figure close to the estimate of 750 bears that has held since 2003.

The population estimate each year is taken as the bears emerge from their winter dens. Because at least 54 grizzly bears have died or been killed already in 2015, the actual number of grizzlies on the land today is no greater than 714-54 (660). IGBT Team leader Frank van Manen tried for optimism saying that is figure was within the range of variability for an estimate on a population that is in fact stable. He said “there’s no evidence of a major change in the long-term trend of the population.” This almost true by definition because it will take two data points (2015 and 2016) to show a trend.

Many non-government grizzly bear biologists have been predicting a downturn for a while now. Government biologists have said the grizzlies are doing well with a stable population. A view common to some of the folks living in the Greater Yellowstone is that the bear population growing rapidly — the reason grizzlies are seen at times near the far edges of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), such as NW of Cody, not far from Lander, WY, or along the Snake River near Ashton or Parker, ID. A view that is perhaps more data based is that the same, or now a smaller number of grizzlies, are spreading out from Yellowstone in search of food. The food sources in or adjacent to Yellowstone Park are failing because of the death of so many whitebark pine nut trees, and of Yellowstone cutthroat trout (eaten by the illegally introduced lake trout).

The controversy is taking place while the background is U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe saying he is only interested in delisting the grizzly because it is safe now in the GYE. Meanwhile, there have been 37 relocations of grizzlies this year and 24 grizzlies have been deliberately killed by various governments in the Greater Yellowstone area.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

11 Responses to Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear population shows significant decline according to data from IGBC subcommittee at Jackson, WY meeting

  1. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    Sounds like the perfect time to delist, doesn’t it. Not. For wolves and grizzlies, remedies are already in place for ‘problem’ animals. Anything else is to placate hunting ‘enthusiasts’. OR’s concern over 80 wolves is ridiculous. If livestock owners have had proven depredation, remedies already exist.

  2. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    A representative sample of anachronistic knuckle-dragger comments (forwarded from Wolf Patrol site, hope they don’t mind if I repost):

    “These photos/text from a Montana hunter/trapper:
    “Would have been a future alpha, this beasts nuts haven’t even dropped yet. Was the only surviving pup of the pack. 1 down 8 left in the pack 20 tags left, playing a new game this year, I’ll kill off one pack and then move to the next one…”

    This is what the Interior Dept. is supporting.

  3. avatar Theo Chu says:

    Many advocates and scientists predict the loss of whitebark pine and cutthroat represent a critical situation for Yellowstone grizzlies. If that is true, how then do you compensate for the ecosystem’s loss of grizzly bear carrying capacity? If the goal is to maintain the population at a level which depended significantly on whitebark pine and cutthroat what will they eat in the absence of those foods? Cows and apples will not be tolerated. Re-open the dumps? Air drop road kills into the back country? What? Or will the population make the necessary short or long term adjustment through various natural and quasi-natural mechanisms as it may already be doing, as do the populations of every other species when the carry capacity of their habitat is reduced.

    • avatar rork says:

      Air drop dead lake trout, high on traditional bear fising streams. I’m not really serious, but they currently send them to the lake bottom, and sticking them higher on the watersheds might be interesting (but may have downsides). I noticed reports that the cuts are finally increasing, but still perhaps just 25% of what they were.

      • avatar Theo Chu says:

        Perhaps not practical but a good way if it was to replace the nutrients that the cutthroat runs recycled up the watersheds.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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