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  • Grizzly bears are an iconic symbol of wilderness, ecological integrity and of healthy, thriving

  • landscapes across western North America.

  • Grizzlies once roamed over a massive territory spreading

  • over half the US up into Canada, and down into Mexico.

  • But between 1850 and 1920, the bears were hunted down to 95% of their original range.

  • But now, a conservation initiative is succeeding in bringing those numbers back.

  • Some species are needier than others when it comes to survival.

  • More than just the basics; food, water and shelter.

  • They need wide ranges to roam a vast diversity of things to eat, and even specific weather

  • patterns to follow.

  • So, it makes sense that when the neediest species are doing well, the ecosystem benefits as

  • a whole.

  • Grizzly bears are a perfect example.

  • If they're thriving in an area, that's a sign that lots

  • of other species are thriving too.

  • Their numbers have rebounded a bit since being added to

  • the endangered species list in 1975.

  • But the population remains fragmented in areas where the bears can no longer move or mix

  • with each other.

  • Grizzly populations get fragmented, because people like us like to live, recreate, and

  • develop in the places that grizzly bears also use.

  • That's a real problem, and the things that we do like building those roads and putting

  • them in places that animals need create real problems for these wildlife populations, all

  • of that adds up and makes it really hard to coexist with big toothy carnivores like

  • grizzly bears.

  • That's where the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative comes in.

  • They're one of the groups working to relink these isolated populations from Yellowstone

  • National Park in Wyoming to the Yukon in northern Canada.

  • In doing so, they're restoring habitats, not just for grizzlies, but also for many other

  • species.

  • One of the reasons we need grizzly bears in a landscape is because they are something

  • called an umbrella species.

  • And that means, if you can keep grizzly bears in this landscape, you will inadvertently

  • keep up to 16 other large and medium-sized mammals.

  • Others foxes, coyotes, lynx, wolves.

  • And it's not just other predators that are under the grizzly umbrella.

  • It's also prey animals like big horn sheep and deer, and even flora like white bark

  • pine trees.

  • We need a way of saying, this is the species we're gonna focus on most, not exclusively, but

  • a lot of our efforts focus on grizzly bears, because they are so important as this umbrella systems

  • for the system.

  • Grizzlies are an ideal umbrella because they live in such diverse places throughout

  • their lives.

  • They use places like this river valley.

  • They use the high alpine areas, and all forest in between.

  • In its lifetime, a single bear may cover a home range as largest 3,883 square kilometers.

  • So because they move over such big areas and they need a diversity of habitat.

  • Every year, and for their whole life, they're going to cover lots of the same areas that

  • other animals live.

  • Finding these giant spaces for grizzly bears to move seems like a Herculean mission, and

  • that's where the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative comes in.

  • They're a group of conservationists

  • and scientists working to restore land all the way from Yellowstone to Yukon.

  • When I was doing my undergraduate degree in biology, about 20 years ago.

  • I remember learning about this big, bold plan that some conservationists and scientists

  • and people who cared about the Rocky Mountains had, and they wanted to connect and protect

  • all this habitat from Yellowstone to Yukon, and I just thought I thought two things.

  • One, that's amazing.

  • And two, that's crazy it's never gonna work.

  • The crazy thing though is that the plan

  • is working, and the evidence is in the maps.

  • We are looking for these critical linkages that are either fractured or broken, and we

  • want to try to fix them.

  • So that animals can keep moving throughout there.

  • In the end, the goal is to be fully connected, so that the bears in southern Wyoming

  • meet the bears in northern Canada before their individual populations get too small.

  • For healthy populations, we need to have movement, you need movements of animals so that they

  • can find mates, so that they can breed, and we can have genetic diversity.

  • The alternative is that they'll be inbred, and will get smaller and smaller populations

  • that aren't gonna be able to withstand problems that come in the future.

  • It's not just genetic problems that face grizzly populations where they become fragmented.

  • It also means that the bears are coming in contact with more roads and cars, or that

  • they're forced to enter into areas with humans as changing temperatures and extreme weather

  • events due to climate change continued to occur plant communities and wildlife will

  • move in search of more favorable climates ecologists believe that the grizzlies are

  • sure to follow.

  • Animals need to move normally they need to move even more under climate change.

  • So we need to allow populations to be moving from sometimes from the south to the north,

  • so that they can find the cool habitats and they're adapted to.

  • It doesn't always take a giant reserved area like Banff National Park to serve as a wild

  • space for animals.

  • There are all kinds of wildlife corridors because there's all kinds of wildlife.

  • In fact, the valley that we're in right now is an example of a wildlife corridor.

  • So you've got this river behind me here and going out onto the floodplains that's going

  • to be an area that is naturally easier for animals to move in, but then we get smaller

  • ones too, like the wildlife overpasses that's in an area along the highway that's been fenced

  • to keep animals off the highway to keep people safe and we drive on it.

  • Once Y2Y helps create a new wildlife corridor.

  • They'll carefully track how the grizzly bears and other species respond and whether they

  • actually use the new space.

  • The research that's happening inside this national park on on grizzly bears and other wildlife

  • is super cool.

  • This all helps us to learn more about what animals need in places like this, and

  • how we can live better with them, so that could include hair snagging to tell us about

  • the genetics.

  • It can include wildlife cameras that show where they go in and what's their behavior,

  • and how do people effect that?

  • The latest studies show that the estranged populations of bears

  • in the south and north are the closest to each other, they've been in more than 100

  • years.

  • Not only are the Yellowstone girzzlies moving north, but the northern Grizzlies are moving

  • south via the new wildlife corridors.

  • If we don't let them move in their natural corridors or we don't restore the broken corridors.

  • They will die.

  • We will have populations that continue to get smaller and smaller, more and more isolated

  • until they're gone.

  • We think a lot about climate change, and the work that we do to connect landscapes, is

  • one of the critical things we can do to adapt to climate change.

  • There are so many things that individuals can do to help with conservation that ranges

  • from you could spend your whole life doing this kind of work, or you can show up and help

  • count bumblebees and plant trees.

Grizzly bears are an iconic symbol of wilderness, ecological integrity and of healthy, thriving

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B1 INT grizzly wildlife yellowstone yukon conservation umbrella

How To Get Grizzly Bears the Space They Need to Survive

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    Summer   posted on 2020/10/13
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