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Grizzly bears in Yellowstone not experiencing the best of times

April 21, 2009 |  1:35 pm


There's a troubling trend within Yellowstone National Park: Too many grizzly bears are dying or being killed by hunters, and the animals are being forced to expand range in search of food.

You may recall that Yellowstone's 600 grizzlies were removed from the endangered species list in 2007. Last year, 71 grizzlies died. Of those, 48 were shot by hunters, including at least 20 that were killed by hunters acting in self-defense.

Biologists say the Yellowstone grizzly population remains strong, but they're concerned because beetles in the high country are killing whitebark pine trees, which drop seeds that bears use as a dietary staple. Plus, there are concerns global warming will lead to even fewer whitebark pines.

With a traditional food source harder to come by, some believe, the bears will become grumpier, and danger to humans will increase. "The prospect is that every year is going to be a bad food year because of what's happening to whitebark," Doug Honnold, an attorney for Earthjustice, told the Associated Press.

Earthjustice has sued the federal government in an attempt to have Yellowstone's grizzlies placed back on the endangered species list.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: A grizzly at Yellowstone National Park. Credit: James Peaco / Associated Press