Grizzly Bears in the Yellowstone to Yukon Region
An estimated 100,000 grizzly bears once roamed over much of western North America, from southern Mexico to northern Alaska, and as far east as the Great Plains (see map below). By the early 1920s, the advance and expansion of human settlement had exterminated many western grizzly bears, and dramatically reduced the bears’ range.
Except for a fragile population of grizzly bears in the northeastern fringes of the Pacific Northwest, the only grizzlies to be found in North America’s interior live in the Yellowstone to Yukon region. Accurate numbers are surprisingly hard to pin down, but it is estimated that approximately one percent of the remaining grizzly bears occupy two percent of the remaining habitat in the lower 48 states. Despite this, the Yellowstone to Yukon region can support approximately 17,000 to 20,000 grizzly bears living in well-distributed, well-connected populations capable of exchanging individuals and genes among populations throughout the region.
The presence of a large, wide-ranging mammal like the grizzly bear signifies an intact, diverse environment, and this is why securing and recovering grizzly-bear populations is central to our efforts to maintain and restore the unique natural heritage of the Yellowstone to Yukon region.