Hey, We Made a Boo-Boo
Yellowstone grizzlies may lose protections, while also losing food source
What do beetles, pine trees, grizzly bears, and global warming have in common? Check it: the U.S. plans to lift Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone-area grizzlies. But that move may be premature. Enter: high-altitude whitebark pines, the seeds of which are Yellowstone bears’ main food source in late summer and fall. Enter: the mountain pine beetle, destroyer of pines, which used to chow only on mid-altitude trees but has increased its range as temperatures have risen. Thanks in large part to beetles, “We are very worried the whitebarks may be locally extirpated, if not driven extinct,” says Diana Tomback of the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation. And that spells bad news for grizzlies. The bears could seek refuge in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, which computer models predict may stay cool enough to avoid beetle infestation until 2100. But greens, worried that bears may be hunted in the range if not protected, may sue to stop them from being delisted. And those are the bear facts.