WASHINGTON, DC – The Yellowstone grizzly bear population suffers from increasingly fragmented and disconnected habitats, according to a new report released November 18, 2015 by the Endangered Species Coalition, which highlights ten rare or endangered species that lack safe, navigable corridors to connect them to important habitat or other populations. Without wildlife corridors, migration routes, and other connected habitat, wildlife like grizzlies cannot continue to reproduce, find food, disperse, and maintain enough diversity in their populations to survive into the future.
“You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that declining population, loss of food sources, and isolation from other bears are threats to the long-term survival of the Yellowstone grizzly. Yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is poised to remove these bears from the endangered species list, an action that would likely leave the population isolated forever,” said Sylvia Fallon, a Senior Scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“To remain viable, this population of grizzlies needs a secure future with a diversity of food sources and an effective plan to help people and bears avoid conflicts. And, above all, the bears need the freedom to roam so they can maintain genetic diversity by breeding with other grizzly bear populations found to the north and west,” added Fallon.
Yellowstone grizzlies are featured in the report, No Room to Roam: 10 American Species in Need of Connectivity and Corridors. The full report, along with a slideshow, links to photos and species-specific info can be viewed and downloaded from the Coalition’s website.
Grizzly bears used to occupy much of the western United States – from California to the central plains and from Canada down to Mexico. But by the beginning of the 1900s, grizzly bears had been eliminated from nearly their entire range. Only a small population survived in and around Yellowstone National Park with most remaining bears occurring along the Canadian border to the north. By the 1980s, the bears in Yellowstone National Park had been isolated from any other population of grizzly bears for around a century. Today there are about 600 to 800 bears living in and around the park; those bears, and another population near Glacier National Park, are the last significant populations of grizzlies in the lower 48 states.
“Habitat loss and fragmentation are the biggest drivers of species decline and extinction,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “Fortunately, there are actions that wildlife management agencies and the public can take to better connect these species. We owe it to our future generations of Americans to protect the special places that wildlife need to survive and migrate.”
Other species featured in No Room to Roam include the Karner blue butterfly, the lesser prairie chicken, the Chinook salmon, the eastern prairie fringed orchid, the Mexican gray wolf, and the palila – a rare Hawaiian finch-billed honeycreeper.
Endangered Species Coalition member groups, including NRDC, nominated wildlife species in the report. A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations, and decided which species should be included in the report. The report also includes everyday actions that people can take to help promote habitat connectivity, such as urging land management agencies to protect important wildlife corridors and supporting efforts to add wildlife crossings to roadways.
The Endangered Species Coalition has also produced a slide show to accompany the report, featuring stunning photos of each of the ten species in the report, as well as maps indicating the important habitat for each species. The report and all accompanying materials are located here: www.endangered.org/no-room-to-roam.
The Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports are also available on the Coalition’s website.
For more information, see Sylvia Fallon’s blog “No Room to Roam.”