The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly

NATURE’s The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly looks at the grizzly bear’s remarkable recovery and examines the controversy behind the conservation success story.

After a decades-long comeback, the grizzly bears of Yellowstone National Park appear to be thriving. Should they now be removed from the protection of the Endangered Species Act? This question has provoked one of the most emotionally charged wildlife controversies in America today.

In the mid-20th century, Yellowstone’s grizzlies had been reduced to a relatively small number of bears that had stopped hunting and were living on trash intentionally left by the park’s attendants. In 1972, park officials reversed their policy, and the garbage dumps were closed.

Today, after 30 years of protection under the Endangered Species Act, grizzlies have learned to hunt once again, and have made a resounding return, with an estimated 600 thriving in the 17,000 square miles that comprise the Greater Yellowstone area.

With the rising bear population, however, comes conflict, as the grizzlies interact more and more with encroaching humanity — roaming in residential areas, raiding dumpsters, attacking livestock, and unknowingly inspiring tourists to take chances on roads and trails so they can glimpse the great bear.

In short, the success of grizzly restoration has spawned a complex web of social and environmental issues that many disagree upon. While some lawmakers argue that grizzlies should be delisted as an endangered species, others believe this would be a premature maneuver.

Discover the complex issue of grizzly bear management and conservation from ranchers, conservationists, and government officials who share their stories and insights on The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly.

To order a copy of The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly, visit the NATURE Shop.

Online content for The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly was originally posted November, 2004.

  • Dave & Sue

    I’m glad for shows of this nature, being true animal fan, the bear being our favorite. We’re so happy to see the return of the numbers. But the one thing that as always made us mad is the way people have moved into there area. What do thes people expect living in there backyard? Don’t move there, easy as that. Thanks to people they area losing there natural homeland. Plus the good ‘ol hunter, the redneck with a gun. These bears have no chanse against these scumbuckets in camo. It makes us so mad because in the end the bear is the loser. Think about it. IT IS UP TO US.

  • marty gawenda

    i also think that these so called nature reserves are nothing but a place to actually ruin nature.bears were here long before any of us.all things were.let them be.the problem is that vacationers with there stupid summer vacationing trips do not care or have a clue about these animals or anything else that goes on with this enviroment.true statement give the land back to native americans

  • gloria sapp


  • Michael Platt

    I have never been to Yellowstone Park and hope to one day visit that vast and beautiful place. My only hope is that when I able to do so that there are bears still there to see along with the other animals. Instead I fear that all I will see is people and houses. Its time that federal and local governments step in and stop the building and development of this beautiful land and its surrounding areas. This land belongs to the animals that have been there long before people.There should be no homes or businesses built within 100 miles of the parks borders. We the people should not be allowed to encroach on such beauty. As for the hunting of bear anywhere. This practice should not be allowed. There is no sense in killing for a trophy. I am a hunter of whitetail deer and turkey for the sole purpose of putting food on my table. I see no glory in shooting an animal to hang on my wall. People should only be allowed to enter that park for visiting only and then leave. It belongs to the animals. Stop the BUILDING and leave the park and the animals who inhabit this beautiful area of our great nation to roam free as God intended them to do so.

  • Deano

    Very Happy to hear of the emerging numbers of the grizzly in Yellowstone and surrounding areas. As the ranchers complain about the grizzly bears taking from their herds, how many kills were are are being done by the growing population of wolves? This area is theirs (wildlife) and having ranches near them is pure stupidity. Kansas is one state away, get going! If aliens extract humans from our planet and use them for their research it’s an injust action against us, now how do you think the bears plight from us is? ALASKA is NOT the only state Grizzly bears should in! Co-existance can be achieved, very carefully.

  • db bagherian

    I am so upset by this documentary, I can hardly even write this…taking them OFF the list? That is the solution? No, its the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard. Euthenizing a bear on TV? At least take it to a zoo to live out the rest of its life or some protected reserve or something. The real worry on my mind is what type of pseudointellectual thinking believes its okay to disregard wildlife? If bears are in the road, close the (expletive) road. I’ve been to Yellowstone & it felt like someone punched me in the chest to hear they are not going to be protected anymore, I actually saw 3 bears, from a distance. There is NOTHING in AMERICA like this place for those who’ve never seen it. And a few locals who happen to leave out garbage, or own cows shouldn’t dictate policies for our country. So what if you have to pick up a few apples, if you don’t like that, move to a major metro area & breathe smog. Those bears belong to AMERICA not just a few people who lost a few cows & oh by the way, why not grow soybeans instead of raising cattle? Ever thought of building a bigger taller fence to enclose the cattle? or a fence within a fence to keep the cows more interior? There are plenty of cows living in the midwest that i’m sure would be happy to share their pastures with the northern cows, in order for the bears to have a place to stay. This is WAKE UP TIME for the environment. Its the last place for these bears to go, and that obese women who pretended to kick the bear, she could totally MOVE somewhere else & keep her trash picked up. That is completely ignorant.

  • gordon

    The Bears need to be protected,why should they pay for human stupidity.

  • Rick Forest

    Maybe those of us who would like bears to stay around for our grandchildren could start a fund
    to “Save The Bears”. We could then hire lobbiests
    to bend the same polititians’ ears who voted to
    De-List the bears.
    I’ll give the first buck.

  • bob

    Redneck with a gun? Scumbuckets in camo? I would encourage Dave and Sue (1) not to rely on ill grounded stereotypes and (2) to do something about their ignorance.

    Their use of stereotypes is pretty scary when you consider how some others have used stereotypes based on race, religion, nationality, etc.

    As for Dave’s and Sue’s ignorance, hunters and other sportsmen have contributed in a way to which few others have come close when it comes to conservation whether it be in support of habitat restoration and preservation, scientific based game management, self policing with a strict code ethics, or education. Their contributions include financing (Dave and Sue, Google “Pittman-Robertson” as just one example), volunteering, and working in collaboration with state and federal officials.

    I really enjoyed this episode of Nature. I, too, am a big animal fan and have a particular fondness/respect for bears. I am also a hunter, highly educated and not considered a “scumbucket” by anyone who knows anything about me.

  • John Bilbro

    The show called “Good, Bad and the Grizzly” was well presented and balanced in presentation of viewpoints. I am a native of Wyoming and raised to camp, hunt and enjoy the great outdoors. Some of my relatives have been ranchers who have lost substantial livestock to predators over the years be they coyote, eagle, bear or human. I do have some sympathy for those whose financial bottom line can be affected by these events. While I now hunt with a camera I do understand that man provides a useful process in hunting by eliminating those game animals that may outgrow their food supply if they have an especially bountiful year. Land in this world and most particularly America is limited by our current supply, but the number of people keep increasing. Therefore this pressure on wildlife can not help but continue, unless you favor turning all of America into one big wildlife refuge.

  • shane Pape

    I live in Alberta Canada and in this province we are just starting to here the goverments plans to recover the bears here. In 2005 they closed the hunting season and have yet to do anything to stop the real problem, that is the out of control industerial greed that is taking place. I am still very bitter about the hunt being closed up here. hunting was not the bears trouble, it is logging oil and gas digging deeper into what little wild remote country we have left and none of these industrys have been slowed down or made to change the way they extract resoures. It is good to see so many bears in the Yelllowstone area It looks like you have all the bears your limited range can hold without them moving to areas out side the park were they get into trouble on private land. Why don’t you let hunters harvest some of these problem bears that keep getting into trouble around humans, you have to remember hunters were the first conservationists.I notice now there is more and more natural gas drilling going on in the mountians in your country is this being allowed because you took grizzlies off the endangered list I hope your goverment does not let big oil and gas rape your wild country the way they are doing it up here in Alberta.

  • carol lombard

    Apparently you didn’t hear them describe the oh so noble hunters who leave dead carcases lying around & ( gee whiz) the bears smell that & then change their feeding patterns, travels & habits. This is an outrage. All hunting of the bears & elk & other animals IN A NATIONAL PARK should be halted immediately, or Washington should discontinue ALL FUNDING TO THESE STATES IMMEDIATELY. Its obvious they aren’t protecting the animals, when its what part of the national tax dollar is allocated for. Its the same thing when mountain lions attack, they’re looking for food, and are FORCED to go into more urban areas… or lets just shoot all the wildlife & nothing will be left except for zoo animals, then all the complainers living in the Yellowstone area can travel thousands of miles & pay the same hiked up hotel rates to go to a major metro zoo. Let them look out THEIR windows & see highrises & oil derricks. We’re importing all our beef from south america anyway – therefore its not necessary to have cattle grazing near a bear park. and oh by the way, “hunting” in a confined area isn’t hunting at all. when an animal has no where to go, & you shoot it down, its helpless. that doesn’t make anyone a hunter.. they’re already “trapped” into this section of the mountains. What a joke.

  • A Jean

    The bears should ALWAYS be protected. This is their land. If people choose to live in close proximity they should have to learn ways to deal with the bears rather than pulling out their guns. Bears have to search for their food and ignorant people who go into nature and leave their trash behind are the problem and have caused bears to get closer to humans. A bear gets 2 chances and then it’s killed – how many chances should humans get? I don’t consider 600 to be a “thriving population” of any animal.

  • bob

    Carol, before declaring that all hunting “IN A NATIONAL PARK should be halted immediately,” you might consider that hunting in national parks is not allowed and has not been allowed for a long, long time. You aren’t even allowed to pick a flower or remove a rock from a national park!

    As for hunters leaving behind “dead carcasses”, I can in part fault the show for some level of vagueness in this realm. There was a sequence that showed the head / antlers of an elk being loaded on a horse and the narrator said something about “while hunters pack out their trophy”. Had I not been more informed, I would have been left thinking that hunters cut off the heads and leave the remainder of the animal. The fact is that hunters of elk pack out not just a “trophy” but also the meat and hide from the animal. Yes, the hunter leaves behind bones and guts, but they aren’t cutting off the head and leaving the rest and are doing NONE of it in a national park. Any killing of animals (I’ll plead ignorance on whether taking fish when angling is allowed) by humans (other than those on behalf of the government) in a national park is done by poachers, not by hunters.

  • Heather Frioche

    I think Carol meant hunting “in or around” a national park, in that it effects the surroundings or ecological balance of the park itself. I can see that point.
    You can believe I know for a fact there are hunters who leave carcasses strewn about, because I’ve seen it & it doesn’t have to be an entire carcas, even blood or guts will put of a rotten meat type smell that draws carnivores.
    Not only that, but the trash that campers leave behind is also a draw to these animals. The animal in the documentary that had been hunted & cast aside were in fact, headless.
    And all of America won’t ever become a wildlife refuge because we’re destroying the whole country as it is.
    most people who historically used stereotypes & prejudice to hurt others were gun toters.

  • bob

    Heather makes some valid points, but without hard data to show that “most people who historically used stereotypes & prejudice to hurt others were gun toters”, I would be careful. Certainly, some, even many people using stereotypes to hurt people have used guns as well, but many haven’t also.

    I implore you not to use stereotypes even if in certain circles it’s okay to use stereotypes of certain types of people.

  • Tod Clarke

    I returned a week ago from a week’s stay at Yellowstone National Park and was blessed with the opportunity to see 5 grizzly bears (one cub) and 4 black bears, among numerous other wildlife. My blessings included seeing where a lone wolf in Hayden valley took down either a sick or old bull bison. Over the next three days we observed wolves and grizzly bears taking advantage of the kill.
    I’ve been a bit amused by most of the comments posted here today. Frankly, there is a good chance that each of you are living on land that was once inhabited by the grizzly bear, given that in 1850 the grizzly bear inhabited virtually all of California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico. The first hunters in this great land were my ancestors and they hunted throughout North America for centuries before Europeans arrived to explore, conquer and settle this nation. In the past 50 years, we have observed all types of wildlife rebound in numbers and re-establish their original habitats. Even the black bear has re-established itself in 95% of its original habitat. All of this due to conservation and, thanks in large part, to the taxes paid by hunters.
    Was there a time when hunters exploited the animal resource? Absolutely. Just as we see people today exploiting the resource of oil and gas by speeding down our freeways and burning needless amounts of electricity in their homes. Chief Dan George said, “The time will soon be here when my grandchild will long for the cry of a loon, the flash of a salmon, the whisper of spruce needles, or the screech of an eagle. But he will not make friends with any of these creatures and when his heart aches with longing he will curse me. Have I done all to keep the air fresh? Have I cared enough about the water? Have I left the eagle to soar in freedom? Have I done everything I could to earn my grandchild’s fondness?” Chief George was a great man with tremendous love for God’s creation. He understood the balance of use of resource and preservation of resource. I recall him saying in his later years, “When the white man came, we had the land and they had the bibles. Now they have the land and we have the bibles.” Chief George understood the duty of managing His creation given to Adam. I pray you all will come to understand that it is through management of the resources, a balance of use and care, that makes His creation flourish.

  • vicky willrink

    All you have to do is watch “You Might be a Redneck if”…fill in the blank with….” if you kill animals at all & then leave their remains where a bear will smell it, and then feel like you’re some type of boy scout”

  • martha rogers

    “the first hunters in this great land were my ancestors” …gee…everything our ancestors have done was always a okay. right? Slavery? Small-pox laden blankets for indians? Not being able to vote if you’re black? a woman? and now, lets KILL helpless bears for NOTHING but foraging for food when they’re hungry?.using your logic…next time any people go to the grocery store to get some food, be prepared to be shot yourself.

  • Tod Clarke

    Ms Rogers,
    “May the stars carry your sadness away,
    May the flowers fill your heart with beauty,
    May hope forever wipe away your tears,
    And, above all, may silence make you strong.”
    (Chief Dan George)

  • martha rogers

    Mr. Clarke:
    “May you not spit on the Constitution, which guarantees us freedom of speech” ( m. rogers)

  • J C

    M.R. – Who is “spitting on the Constitution” here (as you say)? A gentleman shared his thoughts and beliefs, AND, like an American – you tried to squash em! I hope you feel great about yourself. This is not a board to tear people apart. This is to express opinion and thoughts about the creations that we were blessed with in this country. I feel his comments were very respectful, of both animal and descendants of the Europeans. I doubt that he was saying anything to insult someone, as you so quickly tried to achieve in his regard. Last time I checked, our country was founded on giving people freedom to believe what they feel is right without persecution!! I agree with a lot of what Mr. Clarke had to say. If you knew a hunter, (not a poacher) I’m sure you would understand the importance of “balance” as well. As Mr. Clarke says, are we doing all we can to help?

  • Tony Spencer

    Tony says:- It’s too bad the bears don’t have a say in this, as they were here first.We have killed most of them off, and are squabling about what to do with what’s left. These are wild animals that could kill a person with one swat, and people are standing
    within a few car lengths taking pictures like they are
    tame because their in a park.The bears should be able to thin out some of the ignorant people pestering them.we have people poaching bears up here in Canada,
    just to take their gall bladders and sell them to the Chinese for their selfish medical use.What chance do the bears have between the hunters, the farmers, and the poachers.They are put in a park for the humans to amuse them selves.Discusting. Why should a hunter be
    able to shoot a grizley bear?All animals should be treated with respect. T.Spencer, Creston,B.C.Canada.

  • karen wonderly

    I think Mr. Clark was trying to silence Martha ( may silence make you strong ), while touting his own beliefs. The truth is we can all voice our opinions on here, because this is a free country, whether the opinions are the same as Mr. Clarks, or otherwise. I know some hunters who are ( let me say this respectfully ) totally in it to get a pelt, a head, or brag about a kill. They are not eating bear meat, and do not need to eat bear meat to survive. This begs the question: why kill the bears? Bloodthirstiness. Forward thinking persons would realize that when the bears are gone, people will be less likely to visit these areas on a vacation & the locals will lose business. Then, will they be satisfied when their ecotourism dries up? No. They’ll wish they didn’t kill all these bears. If you are honest with yourself, you’ll realize killing of these bears is completely unnecessary, and its the people (hunters, trash polluters, livestock owners) who are causing the problems. To illustrate this point, I think I’ll go into chicken farming on the edges of the Serengetti. Sounds reasonable?

  • bob

    Martha, I think that you have confused what your ancestors (apparently of European extraction based on the list of actions that you have called out) did vs. what Tod’s ancestors (presumably native American, given the reference to hunting for centuries before Europeans came) did. I’m assuming that this confusing was a mistake on your part vs. another delivery of blankets as you trash Tod’s native American ethnicity.

  • J T

    I wonder how this name calling and principle bashing will help the grizzly ? Could be that more can be solved through rational debate and sound management of people,flora and fauna. I certainly hope it will be resolved with the best interest of all aforementioned.

  • molly

    same here!!!
    i am doing my speech at school and i am doing it on different kinds of bears!!!

  • rodney

    wildlife is a publicly owned resource. Hense ,the politics.Fish and game departments are the police and science behind those decisions.All things in nature come and go in waves.As the human wave looms, it will take special, understanding people willing to discipline themselves to learn nature’s song and realize her lessons apply to us . We can’t live without her!I hope that I belong here , don’t you?

  • Melanie Toren

    I am a nature and wildlife lover. I have been to Yellowstone and it is absolutely breathtaking! But, when I see a grizzly bear I admire it from afar, I don’t get out of my car and try to get close to it like it’s a tamed animal!! I get close to the animal through the lens of my camera and that is close enough. This land it THEIR land, and let’s stop invading on their territory! We have other country we can inhabit, why do we feel the need to invade theirs?! We consider this back country majestic and pure, yet we keep moving in closer to take the very thing we love about it away. KEEP IT SPECIAL!! Don’t deminish it to the ordinary!!!!

  • Mike Mcqueen

    Chief dan george also said “we endeaver to perserveare”. Any family that has three or more children does not have the right to comment on ecology or conservation. One rat, one piece of cheese no problem. Ten rats, one piece of cheese big problem. Wake up. If the GOV would pay for the incidental kills without all the hoopala it would be cheaper in the long run.

  • bobbie

    Thank you Bob for your wisdom. I would be considered one of those “REDNECKS”, and guess what, I have no desire to go kill a grizz. I have been to Yellowstone and have worked in Cody WY for outfitters. I have been face to face with these bears, and I do have respect for them. However this is not there land, it is ours. If the F & G decides to let people hunt Grizzlys, THEY are the experts.

  • leonelmokeythe artist

    The bears was here before all of ud so what the problem and you know something the real problem is people

  • Emmett Dillahunt

    May 5th, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 THIRTEEN Productions LLC. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.