Tough Year for Grizzlies

Bear population dwindling in some regions.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Grizzly bears have big teeth and generally cause humans to shudder at the thought of coming face-to-face with one outside of a zoo. But the bears aren't as reluctant to get close to people, especially if it means an easy dinner at the neighborhood garbage dump. The foraging habits of bears in the Northern Rocky Mountains are a major factor in a record number of human-caused grizzly bear deaths in the region this year.

There have been 24 grizzly bear losses, of which, at least 14 were female, in the northern region of the Rockies, causing concern among experts for the stability of the population. Included in the losses are animals that have been killed and others that have been "removed from the ecosystem," meaning they have been relocated out of the area.

The most damaging statistic is the loss of so many female grizzly bears as the species is known for slow reproduction. Four young bears are also counted amongst the losses as they were shipped in pairs to zoos in San Francisco and British Columbia earlier this month.

The exact grizzly bear population of the region is not known, but a DNA study is ongoing to develop population estimates. Nonetheless, the losses for the past eight years have exceeded federal recovery standards established in the ecosystem's grizzly bear recovery plan.

The bears' proximity to humans poses a threat to both species, and as a result, many animals have been destroyed by Blackfeet Indian Tribe wildlife managers or relocated in order to prevent them from endangering people.