WYOMING — New monitoring methods revealed a record number of grizzlies living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) since the U.S. Geological Survey’s Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team began taking count in the 1970s.
In 2020, the estimated grizzly population in GYE was around 727 animals, while this year it was reported to be closer to 1,096.
However, experts say this population jump does not confirm actual population growth, but rather the fact that data collection in recent years has produced a more accurate reflection of the grizzly population size.
The report reads that “The overarching objective of the analyses presented in [the] report was to provide a more accurate representation of the GYE grizzly bear population using the current methodologies in place.”
Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Large Carnivore Supervisor, Dan Thompson told the Cowboy State Daily that the new data findings need clarification.
“It’s important to relay that the population hasn’t jumped up by several hundred,” said Thompson. “It’s just the numbers that we are reporting are more reflective of what is real, based on the data we’ve been collecting for decades.”
In their study, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team found that the overall range of grizzly bears in the GYE has expanded to an area of over 27,200 square miles, some of which fall outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.
Recently, the public has witnessed an increase of incidences in which bears have wandered out of park boundaries and into highly populated, residential areas like Hoback and East Jackson. These events have generated concerns for the safety of both humans and bears.
With population growth now backed by data, the discussion of whether or not grizzlies should remain under Endangered Species protections grows complicated.
In September 2021, Governor Mark Gordon announced that the State of Wyoming would petition the federal government to delist grizzlies from federal protections.
The Governor argued that following 46 years and more than $52 million in investment from Wyoming, grizzly bears, by all measures, have been fully recovered since 2003.
“The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear has met and exceeded all scientific benchmarks for recovery,” Governor Gordon said in a press conference on Sept. 16, 2021. “We have proved time and time again that we are experts in wildlife conservation for our state’s valued and iconic species. It’s time for grizzly bears to be returned fully to the states for management, as our citizens have supported recovery efforts and seen monumental success.”