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Officials: Yellowstone-area grizzly bear deaths up from 2019

Officials: Yellowstone-area grizzly bear deaths up from 2019

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BOZEMAN — A Montana state report made public this week showed that grizzly bear deaths in parts of Yellowstone National Park increased last year and were higher than the 10-year average, wildlife officials said.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear management specialist Kevin Frey said the data showed that there were 17 grizzly bear deaths recorded in 2020 in Montana's portion of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. There were 10 bear deaths in 2019, the report said.

The data revealed that nine female bears, seven male bears and one cub of an unknown sex died last year — seven more than the 10-year average, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Thursday.

The data was presented Wednesday during a Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee meeting. The committee is made up of government agencies responsible for helping grizzly bear populations recover in Yellowstone National Park and parts of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

Frey said most the bear deaths were caused by a decline in livestock as a result of predator competition, habitat loss and human safety concerns. He said two bears died when they were hit by vehicles.

The report also said that so-called grizzly bear conflicts decreased last year but remained above the 10-year average. Conflicts listed in the report ranged from encounters with humans to livestock depredation.

There were 87 grizzly bear conflicts recorded in the region last year compared to 111 recorded in 2019, the report said. The 10-year average for grizzly bear conflicts is 81.

Of the 87 grizzly bear conflicts reported last year, 14 were between bears and humans.

In response, wildlife officials are increasing efforts to reduce the encounters, including increasing food and game carcass storage, developing consistent food storage orders for hunters and organizing more "bear-aware" education programs.

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Henry Wood Elliott was a dedicated conservationist and explorer who, in 1871, helped create the first bathymetric map of Yellowstone Lake. Unlike many of his contemporaries, however, he declined to leave his name on any feature in Yellowstone. Geologists now honor Elliott’s legacy by referring to a very large explosion crater beneath Yellowstone Lake as Elliott’s Crater.

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