GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

Grizzly bears on a teeter-totter

Back in 2009, when Yellowstone grizzly population had reached about 550, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the grizz. But Chris Servheen, acting for the USFWS, appealed that decision.

Now, just in time for my editor Beth and me to finalize the changes we want to make to Yellowstone Treasures for this coming spring’s reprint [for 2012], the judges reviewing the case decided that the bears must to returned to threatened status. This is a little surprising to me, since it comes at a time when many people are concerned about living with so many grizzlies in the area. Four people have been killed by grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone in the past two years.

A strong factor cited by the court in their decision is the collapse of whitebark pine seed production, which is due to warmer winter temperatures in the last decade. This affects the reproductive rate of grizzlies and contributes to greater human-caused mortality.

Just for the record—the word “teeter-totter” in my title this week reflects my Montana background; I guess most people call that playground object a seesaw.