Grizzlies To Be Reintroduced in North Cascades: What It Means for the PCT

Washington’s North Cascades region is set to welcome back a long-lost resident: the grizzly bear. Grizzlies were eradicated from the region in the 20th century. The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced a decision this week to restore the iconic animals to the region.

Grizzly bears once thrived in the North Cascades, but they dwindled over time, largely due to humans killing them. The last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in the U.S. portion of the North Cascades was in 1996.

Officials plan to relocate grizzly bears to the North Cascades from other regions, such as the Rocky Mountains or interior British Columbia. The goal is to establish an initial population of 25 bears over five to ten years, introducing between three and seven individuals each year during that period.

Will There Be Grizzlies on the PCT?

The Pacific Crest Trail passes through the North Cascades in the final leg of its 2,650-mile journey to Manning Park. However, it will be a long while before PCT hikers are likely to spot grizzlies on the trail.

The reintroduction program aims to establish a population of 200 bears over the next 60 to 100 years. The North Cascades is a sprawling ecosystem: the US side alone is roughly 9,800 square miles, and the system continues into Canada. The odds of spotting a bear on the trail, especially in the early decades of the program, will thus remain fairly low.

For now, the northern Continental Divide Trail remains the only stretch of the Triple Crown (comprising the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide trails) that has active grizzly populations. In contrast, black bears are common on all three trails, including the PCT.

Officials have kept the target population deliberately low in response to concerns that the grizzlies could harm humans, livestock, and threatened species. Additionally, Endangered Species Act protections for the bears will be loosened to allow direct intervention in the event of human-bear conflict.

The government will release bears in remote wilderness areas on public lands. This includes areas within the Stephen Mather, Pasayten, and Glacier Peak wilderness areas.

As of now, there is no set timeline for when the translocation of grizzly bears will commence. However, the National Park Service will provide updates through the Park website and notify partners and the public accordingly.

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Featured image: A grizzly bear photographed in Montana in 2012. Photo: Venture West

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Comments 1

  • Shelly : May 10th

    Did they not listen to anyone? No one in Washington wants grizzlies in the north cascades. As an avid hiker, it’s sad that I’m going to have to hang up my hiking poles as I will not hike in grizzly country. Were there any ecological, economic, and social considerations in this decision? Doesn’t sound like it. Leave it to our lack luster leaders in the federal government to make such a poor decison.


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