A total of 28 grizzly bears have died, been found dead or been killed in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem so far this year.
That includes 17 in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone National Park; 11 were killed by wildlife management agents after human-bear conflicts, according to figures from an interagency bear management team.
Those 11 bears were killed either for preying on livestock or “food-conditioned” aggressive behavior toward humans, according to information posted online by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. The team is under the direction of the U.S. Geological Survey and includes members from Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The team’s study area includes grizzly habitat in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, as well as public and private lands adjacent to the parks in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The total number of grizzly deaths so far this year is roughly on par with what it was this time last year, said Jack Bayles of Team 399, a bear advocacy group that posts photographs and videos of Grizzly 399, a bruin with a worldwide fan base. Grizzly 399 gained immense popularity as one of the most highly visible bears in Grand Teton Park, as she frequently brought her cubs near busy roadways.
Earlier this year, she separated from her latest batch of offspring – an almost unprecedented four cubs that were born in 2020. She and her cubs made headlines in July, when wildlife agents captured and killed one of those sub-adult cubs for reportedly having become too acclimated to and aggressive toward people after getting food in and around rural residential areas.
Other causes of death listed by the interagency team included “killed by another bear.” Such was the fate of two cubs killed on May 28 in the Gibbon River area of Yellowstone Park. Male grizzlies are known to kill the offspring of other males, in hopes of breeding with the mother bears and replacing the dead cubs with their own.
An older adult male, “in poor condition” was killed by another bear on May 5 near Reef Creek in Wyoming.
An adult male found dead in the Crooked Creek area of Wyoming is listed as having died of natural causes.
Eight grizzly deaths were listed as still “under investigation.”
The first two bears listed in this year’s tally were thought to have perished sometime last year. They had “undetermined” causes of death that were not under investigation. The remains of one were discovered in May near the South Fork of the Shoshone River in Wyoming, while the remains of the other were discovered that same month near the Yellowstone River inside the park, according to the interagency team’s chart.
And adult male was killed by a hunter on May 28 near Timber Creek in Idaho, after being mistaken for a black bear. While black bears are fair game for licensed hunters in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, there is no legal grizzly bear hunting in the U.S. outside of Alaska.
Grizzly deaths are frequently tied to food rewards, usually because of people being irresponsible, Bayles said. Bears can be tempted toward habituation to human-provided food sources when people fail to adequately store things such as stock feed and pet food, or don’t use bear-resistant containers for their garbage, he said.