Background and Recovery
Then and Now
Historically, there were around 50,000 grizzly bears in the lower 48 states. Today, there are roughly 1,600 grizzly bears remaining in five separate populations—a mere 2% of their historic range. Grizzlies were once common on the Great Plains; however, human encroachment has allowed grizzly bear populations to survive only in the most rugged and remote mountains and forests where they are relatively secure from human threats.
Note: In Alaska, these bears are called brown bears and, with approximately 30,000 bears in the state, they are not considered threatened.
Key Recovery Milestones
In 1975, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the grizzly bear as a threatened species in the lower 48 states, under the Endangered Species Act. Grizzly bears reproduce very slowly and as a result it takes decades for their populations to rebound.
In April of 2007, the Yellowstone population of grizzly bears was declared recovered and removed from the list. The decision was challenged in court and overturned by a judge in 2011.The other four populations also remain listed as threatened. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has written recovery plans describing what needs to take place in each recovery zone to increase and recover grizzly bears.