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Fewer Grizzlies Are Dying at Yellowstone

Oct 30, 2014 01:12 PM EDT

Grizzly bears are making a comeback in Yellowstone National Park, according to a recent assessment of the threatened beasts. And this recovery has a lot to do with the fact that fewer grizzlies are dying in and around the park. Now officials are even considering lifting protections for the hardy animal.

That's because during meeting of state and federal wildlife agencies in Montana on Wednesday, scientists said a new counting method indicates that roughly 1,000 grizzlies are living in the Yellowstone region. Further field surveying indicated that the population could be actually growing for the first time in years - increasing by as much as two percent annually, according to The Associated Press (AP).

According to information collected in a collaboration between agencies like the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), grizzly bears currently inhabit a mere two percent of the range they once did prior to human colonization of North America.

Most modern grizzly deaths can be blamed on a combination of habitat loss, hunter self defense, and illegal hunting. Wildlife agents also occasionally are forced to capture or kill bears that attack livestock or damage property. Even unintentional bear deaths can occur during capture procedures, as it is difficult to predict how much tranquilizer is needed for a wild animal that has never been exactly weighed.

USGS researcher Frank van Manen told the AP that only 20 grizzlies have been killed in 2014 - an encouraging statistic as the year approaches its end. By comparison, previous years were far worse, with 29 killed last year, and a whopping 56 grizzlies killed in 2012.

"Things are looking really good for the second year in a row," van Manen said. "This is where we'd rather be, with fewer (bear) mortalities, fewer conflicts with hunters, fewer issues with bears getting into garbage or conflicts with livestock."

However, the National Park Service is quick to caution that with increased bear numbers near and around Yellowstone, humans will have to be as cautious as ever. You can find out how to reduce your risk of a bear encounter by visiting the link provided here.

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