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Grizzly bears to be reintroduced into North Cascades after disappearing in the 1990s

Officials say it will take decades for humans to notice the bears.
Grizzly Bears
Posted at 8:15 AM, Apr 26, 2024

Grizzly bears roamed the North Cascades of Washington for thousands of years but have disappeared more recently.

This week, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced a new rule to repopulate the region with grizzly bears once native to it. The last known sighting of a grizzly in the area was in 1996.

The NPS said that for the next five to 10 years, it will introduce between three and seven grizzly bears a year to get the area's initial population to at least 25. The goal is to have 200 grizzly bears live in the region within the next 60-100 years.

Given the small initial population, the NPS said the bears will largely be unnoticed by humans for the first 10-20 years of repopulation.

Officials, however, will monitor the bears with radio collars.

"We are going to once again see grizzly bears on the landscape, restoring an important thread in the fabric of the North Cascades," said Don Striker, superintendent of North Cascades National Park Service Complex.

Advocates say grizzly bears play an important role in the area's ecosystem. The NPS said grizzly bears help distribute seeds and keep other wildlife populations in balance.

“Today marks a triumph for park wildlife with grizzly bears returning home to North Cascades National Park. The decision to restore the grizzly bear is a testament to America’s courage to give one of our wildest animals the freedom to rebound,” said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. “For years, NPCA has worked to bring back the grizzly to the rugged alpine meadows they roamed for thousands of years. It’s proof that when we come together with a resounding call for conservation, we can do extraordinary things.”

The U.S. portion of the North Cascades is about 9,800 square miles, which is larger than the land area of New Jersey.

Officials did not say when exactly the first bears will be released into the area.