North Cascades Grizzly Bear
On the edge of extinction? A very small population of grizzly bears continues to roam Washington's North Cascades. They need our help to persist and recover.
September 2016 update - What's next for North Cascades grizzly bears
The National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have announced a public planning process (EIS) for restoring a healthy grizzly bear population in Washington’s North Cascades Ecosystem. These endangered Northwest natives need your support.
Now is the time to restore a healthy grizzly bear population in the North Cascades!
More links and helpful resources
How can you help?
The public comment period for the first phase of the North Cascades grizzly bear restoration EIS is now closed. But you can still share our recommended statement (below) with friends and family to share your support!
Grizzly bears have been an important part of the North Cascades Ecosystem for thousands of years. They play a vital role for the health of the environment and other wildlife species, figure prominently in regional Native American and First Nations’ cultures, and contribute to the richness of our natural heritage in the Pacific Northwest. Now is the time to restore a healthy grizzly bear population in the North Cascades.
Did you know Washington state is grizzly country?
With nearly 10,000 square miles stretching from I-90 north to the Canadian border and anchored by North Cascades National Park, the designated North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Area is one of largest blocks of wild federal land remaining in the lower 48 states. But it is isolated from viable grizzly bear populations in other parts of the U.S. and Canada.
Research indicates this wilderness landscape has quality habitat capable of supporting a self-sustaining grizzly bear population. A few grizzly bears have recently been sighted in the Canadian part of the ecosystem, but no grizzly bears have been sighted in the United States portion for several years.
Given the low number of existing grizzly bears, their very slow reproductive rate and other constraints, the North Cascades grizzly bear population is considered the most at-risk grizzly bear population in the United States today. With so few grizzly bears left in the North Cascades, biologists believe they may soon disappear entirely from the area if recovery actions aren't taken.
Washingtonians and Grizzly Bears
In the past decade, polling has reflected strong public support for North Cascades grizzly bear restoration that transcends geographic and demographic lines.
In an independent poll conducted in 2005 in and adjacent to the North Cascades GBRZ, residents demonstrated strong support for grizzly bear recovery. The survey was consistent with previous polls. The findings included:
Did you know? Grizzly bears are primarily omnivores, with up to 90% of their diet consisting of plants, berries, seeds and insects. The other 10% is meat and fish, and most of that is typically carrion from winter-kill deer and elk.
Why Do We Need Grizzly Bears?
Even though many thousands of people live, work and recreate in bear country every year from Wyoming to Montana, Idaho and Washington state, grizzly bear attacks are extremely rare.
Why Grizzly Bears in the North Cascades?
Grizzly Bears and Recreation
“There hasn't been a permanently closed trail or area in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 40 years because of grizzly bears.” - Kim Barber, senior grizzly bear biologist, Shoshone National Forest
The Flathead National Forest in Montana has the highest density of grizzly bears in the Lower 48. Even with populations of several hundred bears, persistent access closures are almost nonexistent and dangerous encounters between humans and grizzly bears are exceedingly rare. While there are occasionally temporary grizzly-related closures, these are usually the result of food-related considerations.
With education and awareness, steps to live and recreate safely in grizzly country become commonplace. North Cascades National Park already requires visitors keep their camps bear-safe by using bear resistant trash receptacles, bear canisters, or by hanging food, trash and other fragrant items at least ten feet off the ground and more than 100 yards from tents or sleeping areas.
Many thousands of people already live, work and recreate in grizzly bear country every year from Wyoming to Montana, Idaho and NE Washington state, and conflicts with grizzly bears are very rare. Bear attacks are extremely rare. With some education and awareness, steps to recreate safely in grizzly country are really pretty easy and straightforward.
For more information on being “bear aware” please visit http://westernwildlife.org/grizzly-bear-outreach-project/bear-safety/.
Even after restoration efforts move forward, it is very unlikely that you will see or encounter a grizzly bear in the North Cascades Ecosystem. Grizzly bear numbers will likely remain low and there are many more black bears. Regardless of the species, if you do see a bear, respect its need for space. Try to make a wide detour or leave the area. If you suddenly surprise a bear at close range, STOP. Don’t crowd the bear – leave it a clear escape route and in most cases it will quickly exit.
A Cultural Icon for Native Americans and First Nations
Grizzly bears have long been part of the heritage and cultural identity of Northwest First Nations and Native American tribes. Several nations have previously voiced their support for grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades, including the Lillooet First Nation, the Okanagan Nation Alliance (including the Colville Confederated Tribes) and the Tulalip Tribes.
“Having grizzly bears in the Cascades is part of our region’s heritage and identity, and the Tulalip people have long held a cultural connection with these bears,” said the Tulalip Tribes in a 2007 statement.
“Having grizzly bears in the Cascades is part of our region’s heritage and identity, and the Tulalip people have long held a cultural connection with these bears,” said the Tulalip Tribes in a 2007 statement. “It would be tragic to lose those connections. We must act before they are gone for good. We support efforts by North Cascades National Park and the USFWS to begin environmental analysis regarding measures to save and recover the North Cascades grizzly population in a way that incorporates thorough citizen, community and stakeholder input, and fully respects tribal treaty rights.”
Restoring our Grizzly Bear Legacy
What Happens During the EIS Process?
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process is completed in the following ordered steps: Notice of Intent (NOI), draft EIS, final EIS, and record of decision (ROD).
Restoring a Critical Piece of the North Cascades Ecosystem
The return of a self-sustaining population of grizzly bears to the North Cascades would bode well for the ecosystem: an ecosystem capable of supporting grizzly bears – complete with healthy vegetation and prey populations, and secure habitat – is also capable of supporting the other species that call this ecosystem home.
As the agencies move forward with the EIS process, conservation and recreation communities will be actively engaged to ensure this process is led by the best science, stakeholder and citizen input, and the deeply held value of Washingtonians that grizzly bears deserve a place in our wild North Cascades for many generations to come.