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Grizzly bear history

A brief history of grizzly bears in the West, including Washington state.

A story of loss–and hope

Grizzly bear range, historic and current. Courtesy Grizzly Bear Outreach ProjectBefore Europeans arrived, some 50,000 to 100,000 grizzly bears lived in the lower 48 states. Over the last 100 years, grizzly bears have been eliminated from 98% of their original range in the contiguous United States. Commercial trapping, persecution, habitat loss, and poorly regulated hunting have been the leading causes of grizzly bear declines.

Grizzly bears now survive largely in remote wilderness areas, living on less than 2% of their former range and numbering approximately 1,100 bears. 

See an animated map of historic and current grizzly bear distribution.

As one of only five remaining grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states,  the North Cascades population is critical to the future of the species and to our region.

While their range has been significantly reduced, we in the Pacific Northwest are fortunate to still have one of the last remaining grizzly bear refuges in the lower 48 states.

The North Cascades ecosystem is the westernmost of only six grizzly bear recovery zones in four states in the US where we are recovering grizzly bears. Scientists agree that these bears face certain extinction if we don't act to recover them. the hope is that we still have bears, perhaps though fewer than 20 in the North Cascades and some 40 in the Selkirk Mountains, shared between Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia. There is still a chance to protect these grizzly bears.

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