Trump Administration to Strip Yellowstone Grizzlies of Endangered Species Protection

For Immediate Release

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Andrea Santarsiere, (303) 854-7748, asantarsiere@biologicaldiversity.org

Trump Administration to Strip Yellowstone Grizzlies of Endangered Species Protection

Famed bears face trophy hunting despite recent population decline

WASHINGTON - The Trump administration today announced plans to strip all Endangered Species Act protections from Yellowstone's grizzly bears, paving the way for trophy hunting in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. 

The most recent scientific data demonstrates a decline in grizzly bears over the past two years, largely from a spike in managed kills due to livestock conflict, as well as car crashes and deliberate poaching. Despite those losses the Trump administration has opened the door to trophy hunting, which could take place as soon as this fall in the three states.

“It’s tragic that the Trump administration is stripping protections from these magnificent animals just to appease a tiny group of trophy hunters who want to stick grizzly bear heads on their walls,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This outrageously irresponsible decision ignores the best available science. Grizzly conservation has made significant strides, but the work to restore these beautiful bears has a long way to go.”

Grizzly bear numbers in the Greater Yellowstone area have improved since the animals were first protected in 1975, but the bears continue to be isolated from other grizzly populations and are threatened by recent increases in human-caused mortality. Climate change and invasive species have reduced whitebark pine and cutthroat trout populations around Yellowstone, putting several food sources at risk.

Overall grizzly bears still occupy less than 4 percent of their historic U.S. range. Historically grizzly bears ranged from Alaska to Mexico, with an estimated 50,000 bears occupying the western half of the contiguous United States. With European settlement of the American West, they were shot, poisoned and trapped to near extinction. Today just 700 live in the Yellowstone area.

“It’s incredibly disturbing to see the Trump administration end protections for these beloved Yellowstone bears even as their numbers are falling,” said Santarsiere. “The ongoing threats the bears face will now be compounded by trophy hunting and lethal removal by trigger-happy state agencies.”

Today’s announcement to remove federal protection comes at a time when key grizzly bear food sources in the heart of the Yellowstone ecosystem have been collapsing and grizzly mortality rates have been increasing. The dramatic decline of whitebark pine and Yellowstone cutthroat trout has prompted bears to eat more meat, such as big-game gut piles and livestock. That has increased conflicts with humans and grizzly bear mortality. Drought and climate change are likely to worsen these problems.

Yellowstone’s bears have long been isolated from other bear populations, forcing the government to truck in other bears to avoid inbreeding. This fact highlights the need to recover grizzly bear populations in more places. 

“This deeply misguided decision just isn't supported by the science, so the Trump administration may be leaving itself vulnerable to a strong legal challenge,” Santarsiere said. “The evidence clearly shows we need to protect Yellowstone grizzlies, not turn them into targets for trophy hunters.” 

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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