The Government Is Releasing Grizzly Bears Into a Popular U.S. Park

Grizzly Bear
© welcomia and through-my-lens from Getty Images/ via

Written by Sharon Parry

Published: May 2, 2024

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The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have joined together in an exciting new initiative. They aim to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades of Washington. The plan is to translocate grizzly bears from other ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains and the interior of British Columbia.

There is no fixed timetable for the translocations, but the agencies hope that they will be able to move between three and seven grizzly bears each year for around five or 10 years. They want to establish an initial population of 25 bears called a “founder population”.

Grizzly Bears in the North Cascade Ecosystem

Closeup of Large Grizzly Bear

Grizzly bear populations were damaged by hunting.

©Jacqui Martin/

The North Cascades region of Washington is a natural habitat for grizzly bears. They roamed the region for thousands of years and played an important role in distributing the seeds of native plants and maintaining the balance of other wildlife species. Thanks to hunting by humans, the numbers began to decline and the last confirmed sighting was in 1996.

However, the decision to re-introduce them has been controversial. Those who support the scheme claim that reintroducing the bears will benefit the ecology of the environment. Others, however, claim that the bears will present a risk to people. Also, farmers are worried about the safety of their livestock.

How Will the Bears Be Moved?

Moving grizzly bears is not easy! They are large animals who can weigh up to 700 pounds and can reach 8 feet tall when standing up on their hind legs. They will be captured in a ‘culvert trap’ which is essentially a long steel drum with a trap door. Once they are trapped inside, they will be sedated and fitted with a radio collar so that they can be tracked. Finally, helicopters will lift them into remote locations, and they will be released. By limiting the number of bears to 25, it is hoped that the local population will have a chance to get used to their presence. Hopefully, humans and bears can adapt to living with each other once more.

What Other Animals Have Been Re-Introduced Successfully?

grey wolf

Beaver populations have benefitted from the reintroduction of grey wolves.

©AB Photographie/

The Center for Conservation and Research (CCR) at San Antonio Zoo Texas Horned Lizard Reintroduction project is successfully reintroducing this reptile into native habitats in the state. Their numbers were steadily decreasing and they had disappeared from many areas thanks to loss of habitats and competition from non-native species. Private landowners are working with the zoo to release large numbers of recently hatched horned lizards into suitable habitats.

Wolves were successfully reintroduced to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 1995. Eight grey wolves from Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada were relocated by truck. They were the first wolves to set foot (or paw) there since the 1920s. Despite initial fears that the wolves would kill local livestock, the reintroduction has been a huge success. The presence of the wolves keeps the elk population on the move. This allows young willow, cottonwood, and aspen plants to thrive. Beavers are reliant on these species to build their dams so the beaver population has benefited immensely. Now, there are plenty of beaver dams, which are storing the water to recharge water tables and providing perfect habitats for fish. This is a good news story that has seen habitat degradation reversed, benefiting countless wildlife species.

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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