Grizzly bears are currently considered “least concern” according to the IUCN list of endangered animals.
However, grizzly bear populations are declining in Canada and the US because of human intervention in nature, negative mortality, poaching, oil and gas development, and the building of roads.
Even though grizzly bears are currently considered to be unthreatened when it comes to their existence, there are some areas where they are also threatened, such as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In such areas, grizzly bears are protected under the law and they are also being taught to survive better. Similarly, bears are fully extinct in California.
Why Are Grizzly Bear Populations Declining?
Even though grizzly bears are not considered to be endangered in the vast majority of areas in the United States and Canada, the species has seen sharp declines in population in recent years and decades.
Here are the main reasons why grizzly bear populations have been dwindling in the past few decades.
1. Habitat Loss
The first and biggest threat to the existence of grizzly bears is habitat loss because of human incursion into nature. This includes the building of houses, roads, and industrial plants, which causes grizzly bears to be forced to relocate and lose habitat. In some cases, this might cause the grizzly bear to die out.
Grizzly bears need very large spaces to survive – even areas of up to 500 square miles. They like to roam around, so they don’t like to be disturbed by human presence. They will avoid contact with humans whenever possible, but because humans are constantly developing new infrastructure across the country, it’s forcing the grizzly bear to hide.
And in some cases, this relocation and loss of habitat are so severe that it causes entire grizzly bear families to die out. Grizzly bears become unable to find food because they lose their habitat, which makes them vulnerable to extinction as they face the threat of not being able to roam around freely.
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2. Negative Mortality
From 1975 up until 2018, grizzly bears were considered to be threatened and vulnerable in some areas of Canada and the United States due to the natural declines in population, in combination with other factors such as habitat loss.
That’s when conservational efforts were started to protect the grizzly bear, and in some cases, they have proven to be very successful. Grizzly bears were, for some time, protected by the law and there were clear efforts to increase grizzly populations over the few decades and years, which have proven to be successful.
In 2018, grizzly bears were delisted from the list of endangered animals, which is due to the increase of bear populations in the United States and Canada. Some estimates say that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 grizzly bears still left across the United States and Canada.
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3. Oil and Gas Development, Logging
Another important factor in the decline of grizzly bear populations has been oil and gas development, as well as logging.
In some parts of Canada and the northern part of the United States, such as Alaska, people are starting to exploit the natural resources given by the remote areas where grizzly bears live. They have started building oiling plants and other industrial plants, which has caused habitat loss for grizzly bears.
In addition, logging has also been a crucial factor in the decrease of grizzly bears populations. Another concerning factor is particularly the uncontrolled and low-quality logging without prior planning. To make sure that bears are undisturbed, careful planning needs to be done, and in some cases, this is not present.
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4. Other Factors
Other factors for the decline in grizzly bear populations include:
- Global warming – this is a more important factor than some people would like to admit. Because of yearly increases in temperatures, grizzly bears start to den much later than usual. This causes them to come into conflict with humans, leading to habitat loss and death.
- Poaching – poaching is still a big factor in the decline of grizzly bear populations, but it has been controlled in recent decades thanks to strict laws as to how and who can poach grizzly bears.
- Road building – another factor is road building, which in some cases, causes grizzly bears to retreat to areas where there are no natural foods for grizzly bears.
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What Happens if You Shoot a Grizzly Bear?
Federal laws apply if you shoot a bear. This means that in some states, you might get away with shooting grizzly bears, but in other states such as Idaho where grizzly bears are protected, you would face fines and even a prison sentence if you shoot a grizzly bear on your property.
Each state has different laws when it comes to the poaching of grizzly bears and other animals. Some states, such as Idaho, strictly forbid shooting grizzly bears since they are protected as they are considered to be endangered. In those cases, you would face fines and potentially even prison sentences for shooting grizzly bears.
In other states, it would depend on the circumstances and whether you have endangered yourself or been attacked by a grizzly bear. If that was the reason for shooting the bear, you would likely face milder consequences.
In the vast majority of cases, the act of attacking or shooting a grizzly bear would have consequences. Those would largely depend on federal laws since they dictate how protected grizzly bears are and what the fines are for shooting them. In some states, you would face no consequences.
Conservation Status Comparison with Other Bears
|Type of Bear||IUCN Conservation Status||Read More|
|Grizzly Bears||Least Concern||This Article.|
|Giant Pandas||Vulnerable||Are Giant Pandas Endangered?|
|Sun Bears||Vulnerable||Are Sun Bears Endangered?|
|Black Bears||Least Concern||Are Black Bears Endangered?|
|Polar Bears||Vulnerable||Are Polar Bears Endangered?|
Go Deeper: Are Bears Endangered?
Grizzly bears are one of the most popular bear species in North America. Grizzly bears are generally not considered to be dangerous when attacking humans, but grizzly bear attacks can be lethal.
That’s why some people see grizzly bears as a threat and this causes different types of reactions to them. Grizzly bears are threatened by habitat loss and negative growth rates, and in most cases, they are threatened because of human factors. That’s why they are protected in some states and counties.
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