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Grizzly Bear Management & Conservation

Montana remains committed to maintaining the long-term viability of grizzly bears. The species is important to people, cultures, and ecosystems across Montana and is valued around the world. Yet, for good reason, grizzly bears are also feared and can affect people’s lifestyles and livelihoods.

Grizzly bears historically occupied most of Montana, as described in the journals of Lewis and Clark. Their numbers and range were greatly reduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to where they remained in only a few areas in western Montana. In 1975, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the grizzly bear in the lower 48 states as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Recovery efforts have been underway since. A recovery plan for the species identified six recovery areas, or ecosystems. Four are partially or completely within Montana: the Greater Yellowstone, the Northern Continental Divide, the Cabinet-Yaak, and the Bitterroot.

After decades of hard work by all Montanans, grizzly bear populations have reached and surpassed federal recovery goals in the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems. Densities of grizzly bears are increasing. Populations are expanding into areas where they have not been for decades, including connectivity areas between recovery zones. These areas include a greater percentage of working private lands and places where the human population is expanding, creating a greater potential for conflicts.

Although grizzly bears in the lower 48 states remain under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, much of the day-to-day management in Montana is done by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks within the bounds of what listing allows.

FWP maintains the integrity of its science, provides meaningful opportunities for people to engage in processes and management direction, and balances the diverse interests and values so that all have a voice in the future of grizzly bears in Montana.

Grizzly Bear Management Plans

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has released management plans for grizzly bears in various parts of the state to ensure the future success of conservation. These plans were developed to address the increase in number and distribution of bears in and around the Northern Continental Divide, the Greater Yellowstone, the Cabinet-Yaak, and the Bitterroot, as well as surrounding areas.

Ecosystems

The grizzly bear’s historic range stretched across western North America, from the plains to California, from central Mexico to Alaska. After the arrival of European settlers, grizzly bear populations were eliminated from all but approximately 2 percent of their historic range in the lower 48 states. By the 1930s, the population in the Northern Rockies dipped below an estimated 300, most of which lived in Montana near Glacier and Yellowstone national parks. Learn more

Research

Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) was formed in 1983 to help ensure recovery of viable grizzly bear populations and their habitat in the lower 48 states through interagency coordination of policy, planning, management, and research. The IGBC works cooperatively and coordinates recovery efforts over multiple jurisdictions.

The IGBC consists of representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey, various Tribal wildlife management agencies, and representatives of the state wildlife agencies of Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming.