Nobody wants grizzly bears to disappear from the wild. But many people who live in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana would certainly like to see their populations reduced to levels that can actually be sustained by the habitat. As it stands, there are more grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem than can survive in the area.
Because of that, more bears are killing each other in territorial battles. More bears are getting into trouble in agricultural areas because they get out-competed for prey and carrion in the wilds. More bears are wandering into Cody, Jackson and other populated areas, because they’ve been forced out of the woods by stronger bears. And we’ve already seen bears displaying increased aggression, which could easily be due to the need for the animals to fight for their survival against other bears.
Population estimates show there are more than 700 grizzlies in Wyoming, but the habitat can only handle about 600. Even with the increased natural deaths of bears in recent months, as well as deaths from collisions with vehicles or officials having to euthanize problem bears, there are still more than the habitat can sustain. And here’s a little lesson in carrying capacity: If there are more animals in a habitat than the habitat can support, the animals will damage the food resource to a point that the carrying capacity will be lower yet the following year, and the problem just continues.
If people truly care about grizzlies, we need to manage them down to their carrying capacity. We need to be hunting a few bears in order to protect the rest.