Federal regulations created to make Yellowstone National Park more “natural” caused a mass die-off of grizzly and black bears, according to next month’s issue of National Geographic.
The bears had been feeding on garbage since 1889 and were dependent on it as a food supply, but the National Park Service (NPS) decided to shut down the supply to make the park more “natural.”
“For 80 years, Yellowstone’s grizzlies and black bears consumed food refuse in vast quantities, coming to depend on it unwholesomely, with the blessings of the park managers and to the amusement of the visiting public,” next month’s issue of National Geographic states.
This stable food supply had caused the bear population to surge, and Yellowstone even set up wooden bleachers so visitors could watch the “Bear Show.” NPS estimates in 1920 there were an estimated 40 grizzly bears at bear dumps, but a mere decade later, that number grew to over 250.
In 1970, NPS shut down the food supply, using the justification that “the sight of one bear under natural conditions is more stimulating than close association with dozens of bears.” This led to a mass die-off and by 1975 the bears had been listed as “threatened with extinction” under the Endangered Species Act
“The closure of those dumps during the early 1970s, when management ideas shifted toward more ‘natural’ regulation, precipitated a crisis of hungry desperation among grizzlies that brought the population way down and resulted, in 1975, in the bear’s listing as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act,” National Geographic continued.
Currently, the park’s bear population is recovering and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering removing the bear’s protected status.
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