A recent appeal that has been heard in the Federal Appeals Court has seen the Yellowstone Grizzly Bears put back onto the endangered species list after a few years when they were not included on it.
These animals had previously been removed from the list by wildlife managers who believed that these creatures were no longer at risk as their numbers were on the increase in Yellowstone Park and surrounding areas.
The decision to remove these iconic American animals from the list was taken back in 2007 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
However, the new ruling which was made by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and saw the Yellowstone Grizzly Bears being placed back on the Endangered Species List and back under protection once again.
Why Grizzly Bears are Endangered Again
The reason given for this ruling was that the bears are suffering as a result of climate change which has increased the numbers of beetles that destroy the whitebark pine trees.
With fewer trees in their native area the bears will have to start foraging for food in areas that are more highly populated. This would then result in grizzlies, livestock and people coming into contact with each other, which is something that experts want to avoid.
Over the past few years grizzly bears have been responsible for the deaths of several tourists and hikers. This has led to around 75 grizzly bears being removed from the park or euthanized in 2010.
Obviously putting these bears down is not something that wildlife experts want to do, however, when they start to attack and kill humans are livestock there is little else that can be done. This is the reason that the Yellowstone grizzly bears needed to be back on the endangered species list.
Arriving at this Decision
The panel that was responsible for putting the Yellowstone grizzly bears back on the endangered species list was made up of three people.
After reviewing the evidence that was put before them they stated that the wildlife agency who had made the previous decision had “failed to adequately consider the impacts of global warming and mountain pine beetle infestation on the vitality of the region’s white-bark pine trees.”
Due to the unseasonably warm weather over the past few years the beetles responsible for decimating the trees in Yellowstone Park had not died off as they normally would do. This left the beetles to damage in excess of 25% of the trees in Yellowstone and destroy around 16% of them. Clearly this was a high percentage and the effects of these beetles could not be ignored.
Diana Tomback who is a whitebark pine expert from the University of Colorado discussed the fact that the scale of the problem that is being caused by these beetles is unprecedented and it could lead to the ravaging of much of the ecosystem within Yellowstone Park.
Studies have shown that trees that have been ravaged by beetles have a 90% plus chance of dying, which means that these beetles could destroy large areas in a short space of time.
The beetles responsible for this will bore into the tree barks and lay thousands of larvae within the tree. This will cause the tree stress and many of them will then turn red as a result.
How Endangered Status Helps
Thanks to previously being placed on the endangered species list, coupled with a recovery strategy, the grizzly population in the Yellowstone Park and the surrounding region had tripled in the past 35 years. In fact the population of these bears is estimated at 600 although the growth of this population has started to level out over the past few years.
As a result of this ruling the white bark pine has been scrutinised and the Fish and Wildlife Service believes that the trees themselves should be put on the endangered species list. Doing this would help to put strategies and processes in place that could help to increase the number of these trees in the Yellowstone area.
Rulings like this also highlight the fact that the executive branch and courts are realising the impact that global warming is having on areas across the globe. In some places global warming is totally transforming the natural landscape and this is leading to problems such as this one.