Grizzly Bears 101
Once common throughout much of western North America, the grizzly bear (also known as the brown bear) has been reduced to 2% of its historic range in the lower 48 states. A total of roughly 1,600 individuals still survive in five populations.
Why They’re Important
Grizzly bears are symbols of truly wild country. As omnivores, they eat a variety of types of food from berries and bugs to elk. Their scat helps disperse seeds ready to germinate and nutrients that revitalize the soil. Bears are considered an “umbrella species,” which means that they roam through a large area using a variety of habitat types. So when we protect them and their habitat, we’re also protecting many other species.
The greatest threat to grizzlies today is conflict with people. Bears are often killed by wildlife officials once they start to frequent residential areas for easy meals of garbage, livestock, pet food and birdseed, or by hunters or hikers who encounter them in the field and shoot out of concern for personal safety rather than use bear spray.
Much of the grizzly’s habitat has been lost or degraded as a result of development, road-building and energy and mineral exploration. And climate change also poses new challenges to the bears; they are denning later, putting them on the landscape longer in the fall when unintended shootings by hunters are most common.
What Defenders Is Doing to Help Grizzly Bears
Defenders of Wildlife is a leader in working with communities by offering a variety of resources, like installing electric fences around livestock and providing bear-resistant garbage containers, to prevent conflicts. In addition, we have created the Grizzly Compensation Trust to help compensate ranchers for confirmed and probable losses due to grizzly bear predation, which helps promote tolerance for grizzlies among the ranching community.