Forty years ago, things were looking bleak for the grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park. Hunting and habitat loss had reduced their numbers down to just 136 bears.
But everything started to change when grizzlies were listed as threatened and the might of the federal Endangered Species Act kicked in.
Grizzly bear hunting was ended, logging and mining were reduced, and humans became much more aware of, and tolerate to, the plight of the majestic bears.
In a turn around that many have called one of the greatest wildlife conservation success in history, the Yellowstone grizzly population is now up to around 700 bears and growing.
With such a stunning result, it’s now expected that the federal government will remove the Greater Yellowstone grizzlies from federal protection. But it’s still hotly debated what the impact of such a move would be on the bears.
The National Wildlife Federation says that “over a decade of work has gone into creating a conservation package for Yellowstone’s grizzlies to ensure that the bears continue to thrive once taken off the list.”
Meanwhile, the Wyoming Wildlife Advocates group argues that until the Yellowstone population is connected to the only other major bear population in the north, any talk of delisting is premature.
Three dozen Native American tribes have also voiced their dissent, joining a petition to oppose the delisting and the reintroduction of spot hunting.