Last week, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, a panel consisting of federal, state, local, and tribal representatives, recommended that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) remove the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) from the list of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If the Service agrees, it will initiate the rule-making process to delist the species. The Service is expected to make a decision next month.
The Yellowstone grizzly bear population is found in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. When initially listed under the ESA, the population consisted of approximately 136 members. Today, reports indicate the species has more than 650 members.
Environmental groups contend that delisting the species is premature because the bears’ primary food source has declined due to climate change. Specifically, whitebark pine trees, which produce a nut that the bears eat, are less prevalent due to pests that previously could not survive in cold temperatures. However, according to the interagency panel, the grizzly bears’ fat levels have remained the same, thereby indicating that the species is adapting by seeking out alternative food sources.