Published: June 2019
Author(s): Jeffrey C. Lewis
The grizzly bear is a native carnivore that once occupied much of the Cascade Mountain Range and much of eastern Washington. The grizzly bear was extirpated from the large majority of its range in Washington as a result of direct killing, loss of habitat, and habitat degradation. Grizzly bears are federally listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and classified as an endangered species in Washington. Grizzly bears currently occupy the Selkirk Mountain Range in the northeastern corner of Washington, and this area coincides with the extent of the Washington portion of Selkirk Mountain Recovery Zone for grizzly bears, as defined in the federal grizzly bear recovery plan. Grizzly bears are not currently known to occupy the North Cascades Ecosystem in north-central Washington (i.e., the North Cascades Recovery Zone) which is a large area (24,600 km2) dominated by suitable bear habitat.
In the Selkirk Mountain Recovery Zone (SMRZ), grizzly bears are currently threatened by human-caused mortality, and grizzly bear recovery is hindered by small population size and continued or excessive motorized access in core grizzly habitats. In the NCRZ, grizzly bear recovery is hindered by the isolation and distance of the recovery zone from the closest existing populations (i.e., south-central BC, SMRZ) that could provide immigrants, and by the lack of secure habitat necessary to facilitate successful immigration from an existing population to the NCRZ.
The reintroduction of grizzly bears into the North Cascades Ecosystem is a recovery measure that could improve the conservation status of grizzlies in Washington and across their range. Multiple options for reintroducing grizzly bears in the North Cascades are currently being evaluated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, and these options are documented in the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan Environmental Impact Statement. Efforts by federal, state and tribal agencies to reduce motorized access to core grizzly bear habitats within recovery zones is expected to benefit grizzly bears in Washington. New hunter education efforts are being instituted in Washington state in 2018 to reduce grizzly bear mortality by reducing the likelihood that black bear hunters will mistakenly kill a grizzly bear.
Ongoing human-caused mortality in the SMRZ and the absence of bears in the NCRZ indicates that continued conservation measures and protections are required to protect and reestablish viable and selfsustaining populations within the State. Because of the small population size, limited distribution and continuing threats to grizzly bears in Washington, we recommend that the grizzly bear retain its status as a state endangered species in Washington.
Lewis, J. C. 2019. Periodic Status Review for the Grizzly Bear in Washington. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington. 15+ iv pp.
Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.