Are There Bears in the Grand Canyon Area?

Black bear sighting are rare but there is talk of introducing grizzlies to the Grand Canyon to promote plant diversity and control grazing animals.

Yes, there are some reported sightings of black bears in the North Rim area of the park, and every few years in the South Rim. But it’s rare.

Black Bears

Black Bear by Jean-Edouard Rozey
Black Bear by Jean-Edouard Rozey

Black bears prefer wooded areas and they can make their homes among the conifer trees near the North Rim. They also need to be near water which can be in short supply in desert regions.

Grizzly Bears

Grizzly bear. Notice the hump.
Grizzly bear. Notice the hump.

Grizzly bears, on the other hand, like open valleys. There are currently only 1,800 grizzly bears in the continental United States, most of them in Wyoming, and Montana. The national parks in those states protect the grizzly from hunting and provide habitat away from humans and roads.

There has been talk of reintroducing grizzly bears to the Grand Canyon to promote wildlife and plant diversity. Grizzly bears like to dig. And when they do, they spread seeds. The bears also help protect new plant life by controlling the population of grazing animals, and by keeping those animals at arms length of the meadows when plant life is budding in the spring.

First proposed in the 1990’s, the Center for Biological Diversity has recently made another effort to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the reintroduction of grizzly bears in more states. The petition outlines a plan for up to 4,000 grizzly bears to be moved into 110,000 square miles including the Grand Canyon area, southeastern Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and California.

The grizzly bear has been on the endangered list since 1975. “The science is clear that, if we’re serious about recovering grizzly bears, we need more populations around the West and more connections between them so they don’t fall prey to inbreeding and so they have a chance of adapting to a warming world,” says Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Opponents to the plan say that it’s a waste of taxpayer money and that it hurts the hunting and livestock industries.