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North Cascades' Disappearing Grizzlies

Wildlife biologists argue for reintroduction to augment Washington's dwindling grizzly bear population

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Bet you didn’t know this: Washington has grizzlies. It just doesn’t have many—the last time anyone spotted a genuine griz in the North Cascades was 15 years ago. While wildlife biologists think the population still exists, the members number probably less than 20. Surprising news, given that the area is remote enough to support astonishing recoveries for wolves, lynxes, and wolverines.

This is especially disheartening since the North Cascades represents some of the best grizzly habitat in the Lower 48; wildlife biologists think the region could support as many as 200-400 individuals. But they won’t be able to make it on their own: The nearest breeding population is a similarly embattled group on the Canadian side of the border, and it’s unlikely the current residents have the genetic strength to make it on their own.

Wildlife managers aren’t going to take it lying down. They’ve offered reintroduction plans, but often get overshadowed by grizzly-superstar parks like Yellowstone and Glacier. Here’s U.S.F.S. wildlife biologist Bill Gaines, a member of the North Cascades Interagency Grizzly Bear Subcommittee:

Despite reintroduction controversy elsewhere (lookin’ at you, Yellowstone wolves) North Cascades superintendent Chip Jenkins thinks the idea is a good one:

So: More grizzlies in the Northwest. Would you support it?

—Ted Alvarez

Bloomberg News