U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has indicated that he expects Yellowstone grizzly bears to lose federal protections by 2014. The Associated Press reports that Salazar, in a letter to Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, said he shares the governor's desire to lift the protections.
Grizzlies in the Yellowstone area bordered by Idaho, Montana and Wyoming were delisted in 2007 but a legal challenge from environmental groups relisted the bears in 2009.
According to the AP, biologists estimated that the Greater Yellowstone area has at least 600 grizzlies. But whitebark pine trees, an important food source for the bears, have declined by 90 percent in the region, leading to the federal protection for grizzlies. But in his letter to Mead last week, Salazar wrote that "the declines in whitebark pine do not threaten the future of the grizzly population."
Mead asked Salazar for the delisting in the wake of more grizzly attacks on humans in the region. Mead said bears killed four people in the area over the past two years.
Wildlife officials said the Yellowstone grizzly population had increased at yearly rates of 4 percent to 7 percent between 2000 and 2010, but has slowed in the last two years.