The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the majority of the Western U.S., on Tuesday ruled that Yellowstone grizzly bears should remain classified as an endangered species.
Over the past several years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service argued that the bears, the largest land predator in Yellowstone Park, and their habitat have recovered enough to place them under less-restrictive state management.
However, the court sided with conservationists in ruling that the bears are still threatened by the overall loss of the whitebark pine due to pine beetles, which have increasingly attacked trees at higher elevations.
“In years when the whitebark pine seeds are less available, bears have higher mortality rates. In search of other food sources, they move to lower elevations where they are more likely to run into conflicts with humans,” wrote Sylvia Fallon of the National Resources Defense Council on Wednesday.She notes that the seeds are a “key food source” for the bears.