While I'm not sure the old adage "they're more afraid of you than you are of them" applies to grizzly bears, they should be more afraid of us: During 2008, humans directly or indirectly caused 29 bear deaths in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. While the bear population continues to grow, the news is still troubling to wildlife researchers.
17 bear deaths came from hunting incidents, and 12 resulted from other human-caused deaths, like euthanizing problem bears. Male grizzlies have already passed a 15 percent mortality threshold that could require a species management review by the state of Wyoming it persists for three years. Likewise, if just one more female is killed by a hunter this year, it would put female mortality rates beyond a 9 percent threshold that would require similar review.
"A lot of bears have been shot in defense of life,” (U.S. Geological Survey researcher Chuck) Schwartz said from his office in Montana. “We wanted to get the word out before a large number of hunters hit the field so we don’t end up with a bunch more dead bears on the ground. We want to emphasize to the public that you have to be careful out there. We don’t want to reconsider delisting the bear.”
The Greater Yellowstone ecosystem bear population is growing 4 percent annually; this year scientists count 596 bears, up from 571.
Yellowstone grizzlies, watch out for people. We may look tasty, but we're really your worst nightmare.