Historical Timeline of Grizzly Bears

Oct 23, 2018 | Grizzly Bear Resources

grizzly bear in sage
Historically, an estimated 100,000 grizzlies lived in North America from Alaska to Mexico, the West Coast to the Mississippi River. And an estimated 50,000 in the contiguous United States around the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804.

Current Status

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to delist the Yellowstone grizzly in June of 2017. Delisting means stripping the Yellowstone grizzly of Endangered Species Act protections. Delisting triggered a trophy hunting season of Yellowstone grizzlies in Wyoming and Idaho, targeting 23 bears. Lobbyists and anti-wilderness forces (NRA and Safari Club International) close to the administration pushed hard for more trophy hunts and the elimination of the Endangered Species Act. All in an effort to sell off public land to extraction industries.

On September 24, 2018, Judge Christensen returned the Yellowstone grizzly to the Endangered Species List. Part of the judge’s decision was based on connectivity and that the federal government can’t split up the grizzly populations into smaller segments without considering the health of the species as a whole. Even though the judge’s decision will have an impact on the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, the process has begun to delist the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bears (Glacier National Park and Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex).

  • 1921 – New Mexico, last grizzly shot
  • 1922 – California, last grizzly shot SE of Fresno
  • 1923 – Utah, last grizzly shot
  • 1932 – Bitterroot Ecosystem last verified grizzly bear death
  • 1935 – Arizona, last grizzly shot
  • 1937 – Oregon, last grizzly shot
  • 1979 – Colorado, last grizzly shot
  • 1975 – Grizzly bear listed as threatened species, lower 48 states under Endangered Species Act, estimated population 136.
  • 1980 – Grizzly bear listed as an endangered species by State of Washington.
  • 1982 – National Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan approved by United States Fish and Wildlife Service; revised in 1993.
  • 1983 – Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee established
  • 1985 – Mexico, the last grizzly documented
  • 1996 – Bitterroot Ecosystem recovery plan developed, plan estimates Bitterroots could support up to 300 bears
  • 1997 – North Cascades Ecosytem added to National Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan
  • 2000 – Bitterroot Ecosystem, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a Record of Decision for a Final Environmental Impact Statement to reintroduce grizzly bears
  • 2001 – Bitterroot Ecosystem reintroduction plan scraped by the Bush Administration
  • 2004 – North Cascades – A grizzly bear recovery plan completed for the British Columbia portion of North Cascades ecosystem
  • 2005 – United States Fish and Wildlife Service classifies Yellowstone grizzlies as a Distinct Population Segment (DPS)
  • 2007 – Yellowstone grizzlies removed from the endangered species list
  • 2009 – Yellowstone delisting overturned, United States Fish and Wildlife Service did not adequately consider the impacts of the potential loss of white bark pine nuts due to climate change
  • 2014 – North Cascades – National Park Service/United States Fish and Wildlife Service begins Environmental Impact Statement on grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades ecosystem
  • 2017 – United States Fish and Wildlife Service removes the Yellowstone grizzly from the endangered species list
  • 2018 – Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem – process begins to delist the NCDE population of grizzly bears
  • 2018 – Yellowstone Ecosytem – Federal hearings in Missoula to put the grizzly back on the endangered species list and stop the trophy hunt in Wyoming and Idaho
  • 2020 – On July 8, 2020, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision to keep the Yellowstone grizzly on the endangered species list