Good news for the original Yogi Bear … the grizzlies of Yellowstone National Park have been taken off the endangered list. The bears of the world’s first national park have been federally protected since their numbers fell to just 136 half a century ago.
Now, the species has been taken off the critical list with the grizzly population in Yellowstone rebounding to an estimated 700 today. That doesn’t mean the bears will be left to their own devices though, and they will still get protection from the states and tribes where they can be found. The US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said the story was “one of America’s great conservation successes, the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of the state, tribal, federal and private partners”.
The bears had been protected by the US government in an area covering parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The population there is one of the best studied in the world and their habits and breeding have been closely followed for decades. Since the mid-1970s, they have more than doubled their range and can now be found across an area of 22,500 square miles – an area larger than New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut combined. The population is now considered “stable”, and the park may well be at around the limit of how many bears it can actually support.
Yellowstone is the best known – and oldest of – the national parks of the United States and has been in existence since 1872. It is well known for its wildlife, but perhaps even more so for its geothermal features like Old Faithful Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring. Grizzly bears are not the only animals living there of course, with wolves, buffaloes, black bears, elks, and Canadian lynx all calling Yellowstone home.