Bringing Grizzly Bears Back to the North Cascades

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Grizzly Bear Restoration

In places where grizzly bears thrive, so do the other wildlife, plants, and people with whom they share the land. Our Living Northwest program joins the majority of Washingtonians in calling for the return of grizzly bears to the North Cascades. Woodland Park Zoo endorses a scientific, community-engaged process for restoring grizzlies to this ecosystem. Together, we can make grizzly bear recovery happen—for the grizzlies, and for ourselves.

Because it takes a village to raise a population of bears, the zoo is a member of Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear. This broad coalition was formed in 2015, and represents millions of members and grizzly bear supporters. Woodland Park Zoo advocates the efficient and effective restoration of grizzlies, and a careful planning process that will allow people and grizzlies to safely coexist in perpetuity.


Visitors to Woodland Park Zoo love to watch our orphaned brown bear cubs, Fern and Juniper, evoke the spirit of wilderness by serving as charismatic ambassadors for their wild relatives—who thrived in the North Cascades until a century ago.

Meet Juniper and Fern

Take Action for Grizzlies

With your support, grizzly bears will once again roam free in the North Cascades

Decades ago, the North Cascades region was officially identified as 1 of 6 ecosystems in the lower 48 states where grizzly bears can be recovered, and the only such area outside of the greater Rocky Mountains. The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are finally drafting a plan to restore grizzlies here—a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will soon be released for public comment.

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We expect that the draft EIS will be released this summer, including an analysis of the anticipated effects of each of the proposed alternatives on natural and human communities. The agencies will then invite public comments—which is where YOU come in!

In response to the initial draft of an EIS, published in 2017, more than 21,000 Washingtonians submitted public comments—with 88% supporting grizzly bear restoration. We need to be ready to give our support for grizzlies when the current draft EIS is released this summer. Grizzlies in the North Cascades may not get another chance.

Once the agencies have reviewed and considered comments from the public and other entities, they will develop a final EIS that identifies a preferred alternative for recovery.

Coexisting with Grizzlies

It will take many years—perhaps a century or more—before a restored grizzly population in the North Cascades reaches its natural capacity. Models suggest this habitat can ultimately support at least 200 grizzlies. Grizzlies reproduce slowly and are generally shy of humans. But now is a good time be thinking about coexistence.

We know from locations like the Rockies and Alaska that people can safely hike and coexist with grizzly bears. Even in Yellowstone National Park, which is much smaller than the North Cascades Ecosystem, hosts millions of visitors each year, and is home to at least 150 grizzlies, bear encounters and especially attacks are exceedingly rare.

Photo by Robert Long

Grizzly bear experts recommend the following measures to minimize the chance of conflict:

  • Properly store food, garbage, and other bear attractants.
  • Hike in groups, leash your dog, and avoid hiking at dawn, dusk, or after dark.
  • Don’t surprise a grizzly bear. Make noise and watch for fresh tracks and other bear signs.
  • Enjoy grizzlies and other wildlife from a distance. Never approach, or run from, a grizzly.
  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it in the rare case that physical contact is imminent.

The EIS process ensures that human-bear safety and bear awareness will be top priorities during the grizzly bear recovery process. Washingtonians already know how to coexist with black bears and other wildlife, and are proud to live in one of the wildest states in the country.

Let’s celebrate this rare opportunity to help make Washington the next Grizzly Bear State!

Grizzlies Dig Our Landscape

Grizzlies aren’t just symbols of wildness; these magnificent bears help keep the landscape healthy and wild. As omnivores, most of their diet consists of roots, berries and other plants, whose seeds are distributed through their droppings. Grizzly bears are also prolific diggers in their search for bulbs and burrowing small mammals, thereby aerating the soil and maintaining vibrant meadows.

Comprising more than 6 million acres of mostly public wildlands (with adjacent habitat in British Columbia), Washington’s North Cascades Ecosystem has witnessed the recent recovery of gray wolves, wolverines, and Pacific fishers. Grizzly bears remain the key missing piece needed to complete the rewilding puzzle.

North Cascades grizzlies coexisted with Indigenous peoples for thousands of years, playing an important role in cultural and hunting traditions. But with the expansion of European settlers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, grizzlies were trapped, hunted, and poisoned into regional extinction.

Before any of us were born, grizzlies had already been erased from our region’s rich natural heritage. Now we have the opportunity—and the moral imperative—to bring them back home.

Like many of us, grizzlies are opportunistic eaters—they make the most of what nature brings their way. In spring, they scavenge for winter-killed animals, and they won’t turn up their noses at newborn deer and elk. Termites, ants, and other insects also rank high on the grizzly’s menu.

Scientific models show that the North Cascades can provide more than enough food and space for a self-sustaining grizzly bear population. But existing grizzly populations in the Rocky Mountains and British Columbia are too far away, and the Cascades are too isolated by human development, to realistically enable bears to re-establish a population here on their own. That’s why we need a science-based blueprint to return grizzly bears to the North Cascades.

Common Questions

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The Grizzly’s Long Trail Home

If grizzly bears want to return to Washington’s North Cascades Ecosystem, can’t they come home on their own?

Is there enough space and food for grizzlies in the North Cascades?

Will people be able to hike safely and live in the North Cascades if grizzlies are restored?

Do Washingtonians want to see grizzly bears returned to the North Cascades?

Where can I learn more?

Our Mission

Woodland Park Zoo saves wildlife and inspires everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives.

Land Acknowledgment

Woodland Park Zoo recognizes that these are the lands of the Tribal signatories of the Treaty of Point Elliott. We acknowledge their stewardship of this place continues to this day and that it is our responsibility to join them to restore the relationship with the living world around us.

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Association of Zoos & Aquariums

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5500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103   |  206.548.2500  |