As human settlers from Europe settled in and in expanded westward across North America — motivated both by fear and the desire for profit — we undertook a massive kill-off of bears. Federal predator control of bears, which began in 1915 when grizzly numbers were already greatly diminished throughout the mountains of the West, eliminated bears from much of their remaining habitat. In 1975, when they'd been wiped out almost entirely, grizzlies in the lower 48 were placed on the endangered species list. Today they remain in less than 2 percent of their original range.
Grizzlies now occupy five areas: the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem (including Yellowstone National Park), the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem (including Glacier National Park), the Northern Cascades in Washington, the Selkirks in northern Idaho, and the Cabinet-Yaak in northeastern Idaho and northwestern Montana. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also listed the Selway-Bitterroot area in Idaho as a critical recovery zone for these bears, though no known grizzly population currently lives there.
Just a few of the threats faced by these persecuted predators are loss of major food sources due to climate change, genetic isolation, and increased human-caused mortality.
To learn more about issues facing our Grizzlies and please visit the Center for Biological Diversity.
© Joshua Able, Photographer