Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) can be found within the continental United States in Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming. Idaho has populations of grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, the Selkirk Ecosystem, and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Grizzlies roam through a diverse habitat including forests, meadows, and grasslands. The bear is characterized by the large hump between its shoulders used for digging and grizzled fur.
Wildlife experts estimate 50,000 grizzly bears populated a range stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Plains in the 1800’s. Human settlement expanded during the 1900’s causing widespread habitat reduction, only about 1,000 bears remained. Consequently, the grizzly bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975.
After a remarkable recovery, in 2007, grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) were removed from the endangered species list. However, this population was relisted as threatened in 2009 after the district court in Montana ruled that regulatory mechanisms designed to conserve a delisted population were inadequate and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to consider the impacts of whitebark pine decline on grizzly populations The pine nuts from whitebark pine are one of the many food sources used by Yellowstone grizzly bears.
In 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s decision on inadequate regulatory mechanisms, but set aside the final delisting rule because of the lack of analysis on the impact that whitebark pine declines would have on the bears. This prompted a team of scientists to conduct an analysis which ultimately showed that despite a decline in whitebark pine seed availability, the GYE grizzly bear population continued to thrive and expand.
Efforts to delist the grizzly bears in the GYE are now underway once again. In March 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published the long-awaited proposal to remove the population of more than 700 bears from the endangered species list. The population has been recovered for well over a decade and it is past time for the states to regain full management authority over this species.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Governor’s Office of Species Conservation have reviewed and provided comments on the draft delisting proposal, as well as the draft 2016 conservation strategy and the supplement to the 1993 recovery plan. In addition, the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have agreed to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that will guide grizzly bear mortality management across the three states post-delisting. While not necessary for delisting, this MOA further demonstrates the states’ commitments to grizzly bear conservation in a post delisting environment. For more information, visit the Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear page.
Idaho Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Plan [PDF] - 54 pages
Grizzly Bear fact sheet [PDF] - 2 pages - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service