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Natural Resources & Energy

Grizzly bear mortality is high so far this year

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Yellowstone National Park
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There already have been more grizzly bear mortalities, including naturally caused and human-caused, this year than last year. But the Wyoming Game and Fish Department say this doesn't portray the whole story.

Sixty grizzly bears have died in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem so far this year. That's much more than last year's mortality of forty-nine. And the bears are still out and about for a few more weeks before they begin to hibernate.

Dan Thompson, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore specialist, said last year was a low mortality year for grizzly bears so the increase makes sense.

"People really focus on the mortality segment of it without thinking about reproduction and the other side of it, that there's a lot of bears out there. We always go to the negative; I think a lot of people do," said Thompson.

Although the grizzly population count isn't finalized just yet, Thompson said it will most likely be over one thousand. He said with higher population numbers it's not surprising to see more deaths. Thompson said that many bears in a small area means the density is high, which can lead to intense competition and bears turning to inappropriate food sources, like garbage cans and livestock food. That can sometimes lead to a bear having to be euthanized.

"Grizzly bears are a very smart species, but they're also extremely opportunistic, and perhaps to a fault. If they find a food source that's available, they're going to key in on it, and they're going to teach their young," he said.

Thompson said that's why there's so much proactive work done to deter that behavior, such as hazing and securing bear attractants like food.

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