A Shrinking Symbol of the Spirit of the American Frontier: The Grizzly Bears of Yellowstone


Hundreds
of thousands of people visit Yellowstone Park each year to enjoy the
beautiful surroundings and marvel at the abundance of wildlife in the
park. From moose to birds, the park houses nearly 400 species of
animals. Unfortunately some of those animals, like the Grizzly bear
are no longer safe inside the park.

In
2017, the Trump administration’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
removed the Endangered Species Protection Act from the Grizzly bears
of Yellowstone Park. Grizzly bears have spent more than 40 years on
the Threatened Species list.

The
Grizzly bear can be found in portions of Yellowstone Park in Montana,
Wyoming, and Idaho. Their range is about 22,000 square miles. Experts
believe there is a Grizzly bear population of around 600-1000 bears.

While
both the range and Grizzly population have grown since conservation
protections were put in place in the 1970s, Yellowstone’s Grizzly
bear population is still very vulnerable. Scientists believe that
this small population of Grizzly bears, which is cut off from other
Grizzly bear populations, still needs help.

The
Grizzly bears face a food crisis in the Yellowstone Ecosystem caused
by human activity that led to a shrinking habitat and climate change.
Their small number leaves the population unable to breed properly and
puts the bear population genetically at risk for diseases. Scientists
estimate the population needs to more than double before the risk of
these genetic diseases is satisfactorily reduced.

While
Montana and Idaho have chosen not to allow Grizzly bear hunting since
Zinke removed the conservation protections on the Grizzly bear,
Wyoming voted to let hunters shoot as many as 22 Grizzly bears in
areas east of the park. Humans were already a huge threat to the
Grizzly bears, but now humans jeopardize these bears even more.

Most
Americans oppose big game trophy hunting and hunting just for sport.
However, Zinke has cronies in the National Rifle Association and
Safari Club International, two groups that have sued the Fish and
Wildlife Service to expand the list of countries that hunters can
import trophy kills from.

Zinke
may have applauded the conservation efforts that have been in place
since the 1970s for allowing the Grizzly population to rebound, but
his alliances with these groups will likely cause the Grizzly
population to dip. With the Grizzly bear population in grave danger
of declining again, America is in grave danger of losing a majestic
animal long symbolizing the pioneering, adventurous spirit of the
American West. Additionally millions of people may miss out on the
opportunity to see one of these animals when visiting Yellowstone.

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