Yellowstone Grizzlies Will Continue Federal Protection

By B. McPherson

Yellowstone Park Grizzlies will continue their federal protection. There had been a move to remove them from the endangered list within the park, but evidence of a diminishing food supply due to climate change has them keeping their protected status. Like wolves in the park, grizzlies are an essential part of maintaining a natural balance.

Climate warming is being blamed for the widespread destruction of pine forests that provide the grizzly bears with what was an abundant supply of highly nutritious seeds. The pine forests are being attacked and killed by the mountain pine beetle. The insect burrows into the trees and introduces a fungus which eventually kills the trees. The beetles’ numbers have exploded in the past 20 years due to a series of milder winters. Previously a quick hard freeze killed enough of the marauders to keep their numbers in check.

While the megafauna receive the most attention, smaller animals are being affected by the warming trend as well. Rock pikas like their surroundings cool and are disappearing from some of the warmer mountain tops.
The change in snow depth and speed of snow melt also affects many of the other high country animals, whether there is a change in shelter availability or a change in food sources.

The recent UN climate change conference in Durban South Africa saw little agreement among world leaders as to how to cope with and possibly mitigate the warming world. A colleague of mine recently said about climate change, “Adapt or die.” Unfortunately, for many of our cousins in the wild, their only option is the latter.

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