While the official count of grizzly bears in key habitat inside and around Yellowstone National Park remains stable, the leader of the interagency team responsible for conserving the species says it’s possible there are about 40%-45% more bears than reported.

Grizzly bears are once again a federally protected, “threatened” species.

U.S. Federal Court Judge Dana Christensen has ruled in favor of environmental groups and Native American tribes that challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2017 decision to remove Endangered Species Act protection for Yellowstone area grizzly bears.

The decision will prevent grizzly bear hunts from going forward in Wyoming and Idaho.

Christensen’s opinion was circulated around 5 p.m. Monday.

“The decision just came in like 10 minutes ago,” Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso said.

See the Tuesday edition of the Jackson Hole Daily for more information.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067, or @JHNGenviro.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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(40) comments

Johanna Love Staff
Johanna Love

Some comments have been removed because they violate our site policies. Please keep conversation about the topic at hand and avoid personal attacks. Avoid denigrating someone just because they have an opposing view to yours. — Ed.

sean henry

great debate here, would be better without the childish attacks coming from jay thou

William Addeo

‘Earth justice attorney?” Don’t you just love the titles? “Green peace, PETA, Clean Air, Earth Justice?” It’s all politics and money. Antifa admitted today to getting paid to disrupt anything Trump. In the end, people get killed by bears, bears wipe out the game and then.......the bears start eating the bears. Ask Alaskans about the bear huggers. We will only learn when a senators son gets killed by a bear. Nobody else is important enough. Abortion is a prime example. God Bless America!

Thomas Woods

So I am also disappointed that a judge, not a wildlife biologist has made this decision. It needs to be said that apex predator numbers are controlled in two ways with out man's input; starvation from eating all the prey and disease. These bears will continue to thrive until your elk numbers get so low, and conflicts with humans increase so much, that action has to be taken. Sorry Wyoming, love your state actually just returned from there on my vacation. By the way - was told by everyone everywhere, and signs up everywhere, carry bear spray (I did), Ironic!

Jay Westemeier

I guess there were no elk when there were thousands of bears roaming the lower 48 Mr. Woods. I suggest you read up on the subject outside of your favorite hunting forum before soliciting debunked doomsday scenarios. And why is it ironic that there are warning signs for bear spray in the middle of grizzly habitat? Did it scare you?

Ken Chison

Actually Jay, Mr. Woods is probably closer to fact than yourself. Elk were once a plains animal habitating much country where no large population of grizzlies lived. With the encroachment of man onto the landscape in the 1800s, the elk were forced more into the mountains. Overslaughter by man, and other hardships, almost caused the demise of the elk. As few as only 500 we're in the entire state of Colorado at one point. But, thru great conservation efforts from Teddy Roosevelt, large tracts of land we're set aside to bring the elk and other species back from the brink of extinction. Now, all species are recovered somewhat well, for all sportsman and viewers to enjoy. Sound like a success story? Well it is. Just like the Yellowstone Grizzly. They were brought back from Extinction and now they need to be regulated, thru hunting, to sustain a healthy bear population for all to enjoy. Be it a photographer never leaving the hiway of GTNP who gets uninformed people to buy his overpriced pics, or a trophy Hunter like myself that would love the opportunity to harvest a giant, troublemaking bruin that keeps destroying my camp and running my mules off.

Jay Westemeier

Ken, there is a lot of available information on the historical and current grizzly bear range in North America. You're correct that elk once ranged across much of the continent but you might be surprised that grizzlies once roamed as far east as Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas. That range also included the entire western lower 48, the western half of Canada and the northern half of Mexico. Altogether, grizzly bears were eliminated from 98% of their original range in the contiguous United States during a 100-year period from 1850 to 1950. Keep in mind that your personal problems with bears are experienced by what is considered to be a very small percentage of our country's population. One man's garbage is many men's gold in this case. And by the way, I own four Mangelsen prints that are proudly displayed in our home as reminders of fantastic vacations. And they don't cause any conflict with any hunters or non-hunters we entertain. I'm sure you can't say that about the trophies in your home, unless you only entertain other trophy hunters.

Chad guenter

More bears will die as a result of this decision. Human - bear conflicts will continue to go up, bear on bear competition for food/territory will go up. This robe wearing Politician making wildlife management decisions is a joke.

Jay Westemeier

You pretending to care about the bears is akin to Democrats pretending to care about women's rights and illegal immigrants in this country.

Chad guenter

You ignore the truth of my comment to cast aspersions on whether "I care about bears", Mr. Westemeier? You confuse my views on NATIVE grizzly bears with non-native wolves. Hunting these bears now is for the health of the overall population, they have overreached their habitats carrying capacity in the GYE.

Jay Westemeier

There's no wildlife biologist, federal judge or hunter qualified to decide how many grizzly bears are too many for any one area. As I've told my friends in Chicago....If you're living in fear, either accept the law and circumstances or move.

Chad guenter

No one is "living in fear". Just don't get bent out of shape and tell your Eco brethren not to either, when reported bear deaths continue to go up every year.
If hunting isn't an option, I would wager griz deaths will go over a hundred a year in the next 5-10 years. We are 2/3 to that number already in the last few years.

Michael Grasseschi

Hmm, Chad...
How the heck do you know what the "' carrying capacity ' is in the 22 -35 million acre ( depends on how/where one draws the boundaries) Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem?
You are a hunter, not a scientist ( not that I'm opposed to hunters, or hunting, no, not at all)
But how can you possibly know exactly how many bears are 'too many', unless you are a Wildlife biologist ( etc-) with intimate knowledge of the species, etc...???
I'm curious where your ' expertise' comes from ( and open to your facts/ science/ proof, of course)...

There is currently 700-1000 grizzlies in that GYE...
That's a pretty small number in 34,375 square miles...
In 1975, when they were put on the endangered species list there was maybe 150 in that entire area..
Who knows for sure-? But:
It's taken them 43 years to get to their current numbers...
Meanwhile, there used to be, in the early 1900s, a heckuvs lot more , all across the Western States ( this is easy to research, so I won't go there-but read this:

"Between 1850 and 1920 grizzly bears were eliminated from 95% of their original range, with extirpation occurring earliest on the Great Plains and later in remote mountainous areas.

Unregulated killing of bears continued in most places through the 1950’s and resulted in a further 52% decline in their range between 1920 and 1970 (Fig. 1b). Grizzly bears survived this last period of slaughter only in remote wilderness areas larger than 26,000 km2 (10,000 mi2).

Altogether, grizzly bears were eliminated from 98% of their original range in the contiguous United States during a 100-year period.n the end...

We slaughtered the bejesus out of them, basically-

So, now, 700- maybe 1000-? That aint very many you gotta admit ..and we lose at least 45/ year due to human activity/ causes....
I have a proposition...
anybody reading this: I Believe, based on my careful observations over the years, that 2000 Grizzlies would be plenty in the GYE, given all the human factors that are going on now I don't think we need to ever go much higher than that..
For a LOT of reasons, including human safety, of course...

What do you think-??

I'm serious ( I have been following this species and it's many controversies for many years, and in fact am a Wildlife/ ecosystem tour guide who is responsible for trying to always present the latest science, unbiased as possible, to the public...daily-
I do my best to be nuetral, understand the complexities of humans living with such a fierce yet gentle creature ...and I don't get involved in saying "I know what the carrying capacity is "because I surely don't..
But if I were to take an educated guess, 2000 sounds about right...

Anyhow whoever answers this-please try to be mostly scientific, nuetral, not reactive and based simply on 'feelings'...etc-

Tony Rutherford

Michael Grasseschi you make some very good points. YSE grizzlies have recruited since 1975 at about 14 bears per year. Basically.....without hunting them their population is controlled. I never supported the hunt.....but I'm not convinced taking 20+/- bears has all that much impact. I wouldn't jump on a plane and fly out to Cheyenne and protest though. But, at least in my opinion, Wyoming's aggressive approach to quotas impacted the judge's decision. I believe if Wyoming would have based it's quota on annual recruitment.....the judge may have decided differently? There are numerous articles written claiming that Wyoming rounded up it's quota numbers and claimed that they were using Montana's quota.....since Montana wasn't holding a hunt. Like I's not likely to impact me.....but I find it very interesting and will continue to follow.

Chad guenter

Mr. Grasseschi: 2000 grizzly in the GYE proposition? Sounds like the 100 wolf 10 breeding pair agreement made 20+ years ago. With 2000 grizzlies will you be prepared to remain in silent grief when 150 grizzlies are reported dead every year from "violent" causes? My guess is than human caused deaths of grizzlies would top 100, that's a heII of a lot more than 24 that SHOULD have been hunted this year to keep the numbers "managed".

How much time do you spend in the back country, how many others do you now that spend even more time than you and a good chunk of summer and most of the fall? That is what I base my "carrying capacity" on. My experiences and countless guide and outfitter conversations of how many bears are in EVERY drainage from Pinedale to the Montana border. 8 years ago I lived in Cody and the story was the same there, every drainage of the North and South fork of the Shoshone were filled with grizzlies.
The bears are not endangered in the least. This is just one more decision by a political hack dressed in a black house coat.

Jay Westemeier

The only ones getting "bent out of shape" over this are you and a few other usual characters on this site. When the grizzly was delisted and a hunt was planned, instead of just being satisfied, you and a few others used it as an opportunity to rub salt in the wounds of people who opposed a hunt. That's a prime example of a malcontent who loves to argue about anything. There are a lot of more important issues in this country that people on both sides of this debate should be concerned about. If the majority of the fly-over states are complacent and don't show up to vote this year, grizzly bear hunts will be nothing but an afterthought. There's a sickening socialist ideal spreading throughout our country that has to be somehow contained and eliminated, or our beliefs and way of life could be snuffed out within our lifetime.

Ken Chison

Michael. Chad is correct. A typical grizzly can have a home range of up to 1500 square miles. It may seem like a lot, but it really isn't that far. If there is an estimated thousand bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, simple math will tell you that there are too many bears for the square miles of area. Say they only range in 1000 square miles, and the math still tells you they would need way more room then the35,000 in the GYE. Granted though, they do overlap home ranges, but even at that, it would tell you that the small amount of space could only be home range for no more than 50 bears. Numbers change with sows that have 1 to3 cubs, but still there is not enough territory for there not to be conflict. Have ever spent time in the wildernesses of Wyoming for any amount of time? I have. Alot of time from Cody to Dubois and into the Winds and the upper green. I have some of the most magnificent grizzly bear pictures that one would ever see. We're not talking bears from a hundred yards off the highway in Grand Teton like a lot of photographers do. These are bears in some of the most remote regions in Wyoming. I can tell you though, that it is not uncommon now to see 4 to 8 separate bears in a 1 day horse ride. I don't need a piece of paper on the wall to think that I'm smarter than the average guy that is out there beating feet and seeing what is going on in the mountains. 1 bear in a hunting season 30 years ago was quite the spectacle. Now, 5 in a day is not uncommon. So you tell me your experiences in the wilderness and how many bears You Don't See. If you have actually even entered any place outside of a national park

Ken Chison

I really need to get back to the mountains! But, here's an interesting little thing for everybody to do that thinks there are not enough bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Take a standard piece of notebook paper that looks like is about 8 and 1/2 in by 11 in. This represents the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Now cut a piece of paper that is about 1 and 1/2 inch by 1 and 1/2 in. This represents just a little bit over 800 square miles. Trace that square out on the blank piece of paper 700 times, which is the conservative side of the bear population. Or, 1000 times for what is actually the real number of bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Each Square represents a very conservative home range for a grizzly bear. Take into account also that much of that country is uninhabitable for bears due to people or rivers and lakes. 700 squares on that piece of paper seem like a lot of overlap to you?

Tony Rutherford

Ken Chison I like the notebook paper theory.....but I don't believe it could be accurate, without lots more information? First wouldn't we have to know a lot more about the population gender and age ratios? For order for there to be any sort of accuracy wouldn't we first have to know how many adult males, juvenile males, barren females, juvenile lone females, and sows with cubs (and the average number of cubs each sow has)? Without this information we would assume that there are 700-1000 bears all having the same ranging characteristics....wouldn't we? But research shows that cubs and sows remain together for as long as three years. So if cubs and sows make up 3/4 of the population........we wouldn't need to cut nearly as many of those 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" squares would we? Maybe we really only need 200 or so of those squares? But then, without knowing the bear range overlap data......we really couldn't have much confidence that our paper was anything more than an art project....could we?

But without any notebook paper, and any little paper squares representing bears......the fact that the bear population could only support the removal of one female based on a quota set by the most intelligent bear experts in the world......we all can logically conclude that even the most educated bear specialist recognize that the population is simply too tenuous to risk hunting them?

Ken Chison

Tony. I realize it is an exact science that I was doing. I just wanted to show that the greater Yellowstone ecosystem is not that big an area for that many bears. 800 square miles is very small range for the Bears and I just wanted for people to put into perspective how many bears are in such a small area with their home range. Mortality on bears from other bears and conflicts from people are the biggest threat to the Bears. These bears are at a disadvantage due to all the encroachment of people wanting to live in or around the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The same people that are trying to save them are the exact same people swallowing up their home range. Hypocrisy? I would think so. We will now hear from other uneducated people unfamiliar with the facts that will state that ranchers own all the land anyhow before. Yes, large tracts of land was owned by Ranchers but the animals were able to use the land with the small activity from ranchers to begin with. Every new million dollar house built just adds another potential for conflict between bears and people. If we're going to Build That Wall, we need to Build That Wall all the way around California to confine those people and keep them from coming here and swallowing up all the prime habitat the animals once had.

Jay Westemeier

Good points Tony. Another aspect that is being overlooked is the fact that if the area is oversaturated with bears, some grizzlies will attempt to migrate out of the area into other suitable habitat. That expansion of range is the goal of grizzly advocates and is exactly what the anti-grizzly crowd want to prevent. They'll argue that there isn't any other suitable habitat outside or near the GYE, which is obviously not true. Historical grizzly range spread far beyond the confines of high altitude and mountainous wilderness areas. That being said, there are still some of those types of mountainous wilderness areas in close proximity to the GYE that still don't have an established and viable bear population.

Ken Chison

Yet more cluelessness. Grizzly bears are well expanded beyond the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. That's why the dma Zone was set up. we used to have saber tooth tigers and wooly mammoths running around also. But in case some didn't know they're gone. The greatest place for the Bears to migrate would be towards Idaho or Montana to intermingle with other other Grizzly populations. Inbreeding being a major concern in seeing what it's done in the Midwest and Utah. Only problem is is that there are major transportation corridors that jeopardize the Bears. And there's the population expansion which doesn't allow for Bears to live in populated areas also. Just facts stated from people that know the real articles at hand. Guess I really don't know who is anti grizzly. It's like the Wolves. Just another thing for us to hunt

Jay Westemeier

"Inbreeding being a major concern in seeing what it's done in the Midwest and Utah".
I hope you're referring to grizzly bears in that statement Mr. Chison. If so, please explain what you mean.

Ken Chison

Yes, inbreeding. Many parks and areas from Pennsylvania to Kansas have areas were no hunting is allowed and the animals overpopulate and become an isolated herd. It's been happening throughout the Midwest for years. Also what concern in areas were mule deer become isolated for the Sheep herds become isolated. Wyoming tries to keep sheep from different herds planted and moved around to try to take care of the inbreeding problem

Jay Westemeier

Mr. Chison, Please list the Midwestern states and species that have inbreeding issues due to their hunting policies. Otherwise, provide any printed articles on the subject.

Tony Rutherford

I'd bet Wyoming is wishing now it took a much more conservative approach. If Wyoming would have decided it would only allow a handful of bears to be taken, perhaps the season would have stood? I'm wagering this isn't the last we'll hear on this topic?

Ken Chison

Tony. 22 bears out of a population they are saying may be as high as 1200 is pretty conservative. The only thing to change is that now the feds will also be able to kill bears as well as the Wyoming game and fish. I would almost bet that at least that many more die before year's end.

Tony Rutherford

Ken.....I agree....22 bears won't have an impact. I've hunted my entire life, and likely wouldn't kill a grizzly if it were legal. I've had tons of black bear kill opportunity and I've always passed. This doesn't make me right or wrong. It's just how I feel. I wasn't supportive of the grizzly hunt.....but I wouldn't hop on a plane and fly to Wyoming and protest.

But, at least in my opinion, Wyoming made it easy for this judge to say no.....and here's why. The regulatory authority would have been turned over to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming I believe? This year, Idaho said ok......but only one bear. Montana said nope.....we're gonna wait and see. Wyoming said "heck yeah"...….20 or so sounds like a good number. This is why I made the statement that Wyoming is probably wishing it had taken a much more conservative approach with regard to the number of bears it would take. Heck......Wyoming could have said we'll allow 6 for example. Then if those six were could have set another season. They have all the tag applicants they'd need.

I'm guessing the judge took these three positions into consideration......and realized that the states didn't agree, probably wouldn't agree in the future......and this influenced his decision?

And you're probably right.....the bears will get killed regardless of whether there's a hunt or not......which is a fact that the judge likely also took into consideration?

Arguing grizzly bear encounter/attack risks won't work......unless other risks that are higher than grizzly bear encounter/attack are also argued......and addressed.

Whatever decision was reached won't have much of an impact on me way over here in VA......but as a hunter/conservationist I find the story very interesting.

Ken Chison

Tony. The numbers that were established for each state was due to the number of bears that were in each state. What a lot of people don't understand about Montana's decision to back out is the fact that their director of their fish and game retired during the process. The new appointee for Montana's Fish and Game has an attitude that the whole state should be turned into a Game Preserve. Doubtful that they will last long when the pushback from the hunters starts hitting them. The old director was totally on board with a hunt for Montana before he retired. Nothing to do with the fact that it wasn't a good plan. Removing the Bears from endangered species was at the recommendation of the United States fish and wildlife service.

Tony Rutherford

Ken Chison….thanks for the civil discussion. I remember reading that the quotas were based on the amount of area each state had in the targeted zone? I think Idaho had 8%. Wyoming 58% and Montana the balance?

I still believe we'd see hunting this year if Wyoming had taken a more conservative approach?

Ken Chison

Tony. I meant to say that using the notebook paper is not an exact science.

Tony Rutherford

Ken Chison I recognized the typo. I appreciate the healthy back-and-forth. Did you apply for a tag? If you apply each year until you're too old to climb the you believe you'll ever draw? The fact that only 7,000+/- applied for a tag for the first hunt in four decades may speak to the level of support for hunting grizzlies?

I believe Wyoming will see the errors they made and we'll see hunts in the near future? Maybe next year?

The first thing I would do if I were any of the three states is agree not to allow any females to be taken. Set a quota of "0" for females from jump street. Set a quota for boars at 1 in Idaho, 2 in Montana and 4 in Wyoming. Gain a little social acceptance and then let the scientific proof support increases in quota's.

Coming out the gates with a quota that included sows, and a number over 20 proved fatal.

Ken Chison

Yes. I applied as well as every member of my family. what may seem as a relatively low number of applicants is probably due to the sheer complexity of hunting one of these giant beasts. It definitely wouldn't be for everyone and there would definitely be a lot of inherent dangers. Then there is the money factor which probably scared a lot of non-residents away, though there are probably some areas where you could hunt them out of a pickup truck. regardless, you have to make room for mortality on females though. It is too hard to distinguish between a male and female that may not have Cubs. You wouldn't want to shoot a female and then get penalized for doing it. On that note, most Trophy Hunters would not want to harvest a sow anyhow. Myself as well as many others I know would much rather Harvest a giant Troublesome boar that is nothing but a terror on any other bears in his neighborhood.

Tony Rutherford

I suspect there are some guides who, with close to 100% confidence, could assure their client would only pull the trigger on a boar based on size? Force residents to be guided.....just like Wyoming would force me as a non-resident. There's a way to make a hunt'll require compromise......and one of the things hunters tend to hate the worst......shaking hands and conversing with the folks from groups like HSUS, etc.. I speak from personal experience. We got a couple of major hunting regulations adopted because I sat down and spoke with our state rep from HSUS. The one thing I learned is they aren't as anti-hunting as most believe. Sure they'd be good if there was no hunting.....but they can be reasonable and rational.

Good luck to you. If you and everyone you know aren't keenly involved in the regulatory process, and don't have a decent relationship with Fish and Game and your Congressional Delegate you need to change that.

I'd look into creating a Rocky Mountain Grizzly Bear Foundation if one doesn't exist?

Ken Chison

No surprise here. But that's ok. Bears will get harvested by game and fish personnel rather than hunters. And, like the wolves, we will eventually get them removed after the great Donald Trump gets the majority of these judges replaced. Alot more bears are yet to die this hunting season. Way too many of them and this judge is doing nothing to save them. Just a feel good feeling for the antis that they will soon forget about once a news crisis arrives. Happy hunting to all back country hunters. SSS.

Tim Rieser

Regardless of what the nit-wits say, this is how our justice system works. Trump isn’t going to get a majority of judges replaced. A small fraction at best. And guess what? They’ll follow the law too.

Ken Chison

Tim. Are you referring to the nit wits that filed the law suit after the bears had already been removed and deemed not endangered? If a level headed and non political judge ruled in favor of the state would you have believed the justice system was following the law and you would live with it without whining? Yeah. I thought not.

Jay Westemeier

Bet there's a run on Kleenex at the local stores today. I've said it before and I'll say it again. There's no wildlife biologist, federal judge or hunter qualified to decide how many grizzly bears are too many for any area. Just relax and let nature take its course.

Jay Westemeier

"If a level headed and non political judge ruled in favor of the state would you have believed the justice system was following the law and you would live with it without whining?"
I did, while you and a few others childishly gloated after the bears were delisted and the hunt was planned. I warned that this wasn't over and Wyoming would pay in the end. Listen to yourself now.

Chad guenter

Mr: Rieser: this politically motivated "judge" is legislating from the bench. The current state of the "Just-us" system in the USA is nothing to be proud of.

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