Grizzlies Outgrowing Traditional Habitat | Big Horn Basin Media

Grizzlies Outgrowing Traditional Habitat

Written by on May 28, 2019

Grizzly bears are expanding their range in the U.S. Northern Rockies.

New government data from grizzly population monitoring show that bears in the Yellowstone region of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho expanded their range by about 1,500 square miles over the past two years, spreading from remote wilderness into farmland amid a legal fight over proposed hunting.

They now occupy almost 27,000 square miles – a range that has grown 34 percent in the past decade. That means more bears on private lands where they can encounter humans and attack livestock, according to Frank van Manen with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Run-ins with bears are happening in agricultural areas where the animals hadn’t been seen for decades, raising tensions in communities over the grizzly’s status as a federally protected species in the U.S. outside Alaska.

An estimated 700 bears live in the Yellowstone area. Biologists say that’s a conservative figure and doesn’t include grizzlies that are outside a designated monitoring area that’s centered on Yellowstone National Park.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contends the animals no longer need federal protection. State officials say hunting would give them a tool to better manage their numbers, but that it would be limited to sustainable levels.

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