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A grizzly bear and her cubs cross a road in Yellowstone National Park.
AP photo/Tom Mangelsen
Jim McMahon
Grizzly bears sometimes stand up because they can see, hear, and smell better that way. An average-size grizzly bear stands about six and a half feet tall.
George Sanker/Minden Pictures
Good News for Bears?
Grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park were just taken off the nation’s list of endangered species. But not everyone agrees with that decision.

By Karen Kellaher

More than 40 years ago, grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park were in danger of dying out. The United States government decided to help. It put grizzlies on its endangered species (a type of animal or a plant that is in danger of dying out) list to protect them. Since then, the number of bears has grown. In fact, the government recently decided to take Yellowstone’s grizzlies off the endangered list.

Many people say the news is something to celebrate. But others say the bears still need protection.

SAVING GRIZZLIES

Thousands of grizzly bears once roamed the western U.S. But in the 1800s, settlers began building homes and farms on the land where the bears lived. Grizzlies had less room to roam. Settlers also hunted the bears out of fear.

Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming and small parts of Montana and Idaho. It became one of the only places in the U.S. with a grizzly bear population (the total number of animals or plants that live in a place). By 1975, only 136 grizzlies were left there.

That’s when the U.S. government took action. It added the bears to its list of protected animals. That meant people could no longer hunt them or take their habitat. Now about 700 grizzlies live in and around Yellowstone.

“We’re seeing the bears in areas where they haven’t been for over 100 years,” says scientist Frank van Manen. He studies Yellowstone’s grizzlies.

OUT OF THE WOODS?

Not everyone is happy to see grizzlies taken off the list. Some wildlife groups, like the Sierra Club, are taking the government to court. They’re trying to get the decision changed.

One reason has to do with hunting. It will still be banned inside Yellowstone. But states can decide to let people hunt the bears outside the park. This might cause grizzly numbers to drop again.

It could take years for the courts to decide whether the grizzlies should be back on the list. Until then, Bonnie Rice of the Sierra Club hopes that the government will keep a close eye on the bears.

“There are so few places left where grizzlies can exist,” she says. “Yellowstone is one of them.”

This article will appear in the September 11, 2017, issue of Scholastic News Edition 3.