Grissly Bear Management Concepts Grizzly Bear Management









Policies: Dealing with Grizzly Bears within Yellowstone

 Policy Process          

Wildlife policy development and implementation are influenced by interactions among government agencies, non-governmental organizations, scientists and the general public. The goals for these organizations are to:

1.) Identify the formal and informal process in which recent conflicts surfaced in development of grizzly bear recovery policy.

2.) Analyze competing positions on grizzly recovery.

3.) Analyze the relative influence of biophysical, the value of the grizzly bear, social-structural and institutional-regulatory forces in shaping those positions.

4.) Identify the lessons from the case history and make it applicable to recovery policies for all endangered species. (MacCracken, 1998)

The policy process starts with recognition of a problem then alternative solutions are developed, appraised; one is eventually implemented, evaluated and modified. Public attitude towards grizzlies, as expressed through laws and regulations, has definitely changes significantly within the last two decades.

US Fish and Wildlife Policy

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife is part of the Department of Interior and is responsible for managing wildlife programs and administering federal aid to these programs.  As with most Federal regulations, a species is first proposed to be listed to the endangered lists (50 CFR Part 17) in the Federal Register.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s recovery plan for the grizzly bears of Yellowstone requires a conservation strategy to guide state and federal agencies in managing and maintaining the bears to reach recovery and no longer need the help of the Endangered Species Act. 

 Forest Service Grizzly Bear Policy

The Forest Service’s role is to manage the habitat in the National Forests in a way that recovery can be accomplished. The FS emphasizes actions that contribute to conservation and recovery of the bear within areas identified in the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan. The FS is to manage habitats essential to bear recovery for multiple land use benefits. Land uses which conflict with grizzly recovery will be under FS control, and the land use could be redirected or discontinued entirely. Moving up the steps to achieve recovery the Forest Service is establishing and implementing management procedures as followed:

1.) Grizzly bear habitat mapping and cumulative effects analysis process (a tool for assessing effects of land management activities).

2.) The resource management guidelines and grizzly management situations as established in the "Interagency Grizzly Bear Management Guidelines"

3.) Quantification of recovery objects in Forest Plans including: (a) the amount of habitat needed for recovery, (b) objectives to decrease preventable human-caused moralities.

Park Service Grizzly Bear Policy

In 1960, Yellowstone National Park (YNP) implemented a National Park Service (NPS) bear management program (NPS 1960). This program was designed to reduce the number of bear-caused human injuries, property damage events and to restore bears in a "natural" state. The Park Service has identified, within Park boundaries, grizzly habitat requirements. If necessary the Service will control visitor use and access to required habitat. Management policies are designed to:

1.) Restore and maintain the natural integrity, distribution and behavior of bears in the parks.

2.) Provide visitors with knowledge to understand, observe and appreciate bears. Expand efforts to educate visitors about bear behavior, methods for reducing bear-human conflicts, and proper storage of food and garbage.

3.) Provide for visitors safety by minimizing bear/human conflict by reducing human generated waste (food sources).

4.) Stricter enforcement of regulation prohibits the feeding of bears.

5.) The use of garbage cans designed to prevent tipping by bears and development of new bear-proof garbage cans.

6.) The removal of potentially hazardous bears, habitual beggar bears, and bears that destroy property in search of food.

Management actions for the protection of the grizzly bear are incorporated into the resource management plan for the pertinent National Parks. Bear management policy within Yellowstone (YNP) has progressively intensified efforts to reduce bear-caused human injuries and property damage and to maintain natural populations of grizzly bears.


Closing of the Dumps and Sanitation Policy

As early as 1891, the acting Park supervisor reported that bears had become very bothersome at all hotels, camps, slaughter houses and other place within the park where human food loomed. He stated at the time it might be necessary to kill bears occasionally, if they became destructive. As park visitation and the number of bear-human conflicts came about, park managers became increasingly concerned and in 1931 began keeping more detailed records.

These detailed records as well as opinions sparked a major controversy in 1967, due to the closure of the open pit dumps which caused 189 grizzly deaths (MacCracken, O’Laughlin, 1998). While the dumps were open, grizzlies would assemble each night at hotel garbage dumps in and around the park. Theodore Roosevelt even wrote about watching the bears feast on lettuce and potato peelings nightly. This activity became entertainment for many visitors in Yellowstone. However, in the 1960’s the National Park Service terminated this action and by 1972 all dumps in Yellowstone Park were "bear proof". This issue became a famous environmental dispute after this event took place. In response, two noted biologists, John and Frank Craighead, challenged the Park Service’s decision to close the dumps. In the 1960’s the Craigheads had suggested if the dumps were to be closed then it should be done over a period of time with studies monitoring their status. The Craigheads had been conducting intensive studies on the grizzly bears between 1951-1971 and knew that these bears had been feeding at the dumps since the late 1800’s. "What will the bears eat?’ "Will they return to their instincts and strictly eat what they have for centuries?" These were some of the questions that were moving through many scientists as well as park servicemen about the bears fate. The sudden closing of the dumps proved to be fatal to some bears. For many grizzlies were destroyed either because they were invading campgrounds and homes in search of food, or they died from their own starvation. (Eberhardt) Before the dumps were closed the last fatal grizzly mauling of a human had happened in 1942, however one year after the dumps were closed, the first fatal grizzly mauling in three decades happened due to their previous habituation and current starvation. 

The National Park Service is continuing to erect poles in the backcountry of Yellowstone Park for backpackers and hunters so they can raise their meat and supplies beyond a bears reach. Some backpacker bear-resistant containers and bear-resistant panniers are also available on loan basis from Forest offices. It is also standard that the Yellowstone grounds have bear-resistant garbage containers and food storage boxes to help bears not to associate campgrounds and lodges as food award areas.


 Recovery Plan 

Federal and State personnel cooperatively developed guidelines for grizzly bear protection and management in the National Forests, National Parks, and Bureau of Land Management in the grizzly bear ecosystem in compliance with ESA. Based on the extensive research and monitoring of Yellowstone grizzlies, the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (1993) set the following population goals:

1.) To have fifteen females with cubs born each year, calculated as running six-year average, both inside the recovery zone and within a 10-mile area immediately surrounding it;

2.) To have 16 of 18 Bear Management Units (BMU) occupied by females with young during each 6 year period and to have no two adjacent BMU's unoccupied. Occupancy requires verified evidence (sightings or tracks) of at least one female with young (cub, yearling, or two-year-old) at least once during the period.

3.) Known human-caused mortality shall not exceed 4% of the minimum population estimate. In addition, no more than 30% of the known, human-caused mortality shall be females. This goal must be met for at least two consecutive years.

Managers and researchers will continue to monitor the grizzly population for long-term trends. Efforts began in 1995 to prepare a conservation strategy to guide this long-term management of the grizzly (Gunther, 2000). In the end the ultimate goal of the Endangered Species Act is to return the bear to a stable population with adequate habitat so that it is possible to de-list and return these creatures to a natural state.



The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee

Fish and wildife service recovery plan - pdf download

FWS - pdf download on the yellowstone grizzly