Grizzly bear researchers say the number of bruins in and around Yellowstone National Park is holding steady as state wildlife officials begin discussions about the first public hunts for the animals in decades.
Biologist Frank van Manen with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team says there are an estimated 718 bears in the region that includes portions of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The figure released Thursday is up slightly from last year’s tally of 695 bruins. But Van Manen says it shouldn’t be considered an increase because of uncertainties around the study team’s estimates.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed Yellowstone grizzlies from the threatened species list in July, turning over management of the animals to states. Wildlife advocates and American Indian tribes have sued to restore protections.