Why Grizzly Bears Deaths Are Near Record Highs This Year in Yellowstone Area

by Michael Freeman

The grizzly bear population in certain areas is closely monitored and regulated to keep things in check. Though the Yellowstone area is near record-high numbers concerning grizzly bear deaths, that may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Officials say grizzly bear deaths are reaching a record high in the Yellowstone area. According to KPVI though, this is actually a result of the population growing so much. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team guesses the current population inside the Demographic Monitoring Area (DMA) spiked to 1,069 bears, a record high. Regarding deaths, in the three-state area 63 grizzly deaths occurred this year so far. 42 of these deaths happened inside the primary conservation area for the species.

Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore team leader Dan Thompson feels disappointed the primary focus is on deaths and removals, rather than the population expanding. “The use of the term ‘record’ or ‘record high’ is always used when talking about mortality, or removals,” he stated. “I never hear the term ‘record high’ when we give the highest population estimate … since tracking them in the 1970s, or highest occupied range of grizzly bears in the GYE since perhaps the 1800s.”

Continuing, he adds “Records without context lead to false narratives. “One thing that is continually lost is that there is a focus on mortality, but we don’t talk about reproduction and the several hundred cubs that are born every year and overall high survival rates.” He’s not wrong, as the overall mortality rate is still within the set limits for grizzly bears.

Further, officials are seeking more non-lethal ways to deal with problem bears like electric fencing and hazing. This should help curb unnecessary bear deaths.

Katmai Ranger Cheryl Spencer Explains What Distinguishes Brown and Grizzly Bears

You often hear stories about brown bears or grizzly bears, but what separates the two from one another? As it turns out, it’s a bit more confusing than you might think.

We spoke with Cheryl Spencer, Katmai National Park & Preserve Ranger, about several topics, one of which was distinguishing bears from one another. So, how do you know whether a bear is a brown one or a grizzly? “We get asked this question all the time, because it is confusing! To keep it simple, though, they are technically the same species.”

Few things in life are as simple as they appear and this is no different though. Elaborating, Spencer notes “All grizzly bears are brown bears. Grizzlies are simply a sub-species of brown bear. So they’re all Ursa Arctos.” Further, she states grizzly bears live in interior lands, meaning they can’t access coastal resources. Brown bears, on the other hand, do have access to coasts. Also, brown bears tend to be larger than grizzly bears.