Can The Yellowstone Grizzly Be Saved By Barack ‘Black Eagle’ Obama?

Even those who disagree with President Obama’s policies have to admit that he’s probably the coolest president ever. He shoots hoops, has coffee with Jerry Seinfeld, and little kids love him. So, what could be cooler than having your own Native American name?

Obama made a stop on the Crow Indian Reservation in May, 2008, where he was officially adopted by Hartford and Mary Black Eagle. The Orange County Register describes how they held a private traditional Native American ceremony, naming Barack Obama an honorary tribal member.

According to Lee Juan Tyler, vice chairman of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Fort Hall, Idaho, Obama has been a great friend to the American Indian.

“Obama has advocated for Indian ways more than any other president of the United States. You can’t take that away from him.”

Tyler is hoping that President Obama will step in to protect the grizzly. On Thursday, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declared it time to remove Yellowstone grizzly bears from the nation’s endangered and threatened species list.

An article in Discovery.com said that FWS says the bears have rebounded from an estimated 136 in 1975 to a population of more than 700 today. FWS Director Dan Ashe stated that the proposal gave consideration to the needs of the iconic bears.

“Our proposal today underscores and celebrates more than 30 years of collaboration with our trusted federal, state and tribal partners to address the unique habitat challenges of grizzlies.”

The proposed delisting will be followed by a 60-day “comment period, wherein biologists and others can weigh in on the implications of removing the bears.

But bears are “not out of the woods” yet, according to National Geographic. After a long and slow recovery since 1975, bears still have to contend with the bulk of the tourism industry. Yellowstone teems with visitors, trampling over once-pristine back country and posing a threat to the cyclical nature of the bears’ reproduction.

This is combined with a massive reduction in food sources, namely the dying off of cutthroat salmon and the shrinking of the whitebark pine tree’s habitat. Bears have become the nemesis of ranchers when in desperation they have turned to sheep and cattle as a food source.

One high-profile example of this came from a ranch in Island Park, Idaho, which lost 14 cows to grizzly bears over a four-year time frame.

Bears are also notoriously slow to reproduce. Encouraging their recovery is a much larger investment in time than that of other predators such as wolves or eagles.

Debate over the sport of trophy hunting once again raises its decapitated, wall-mounted head as the grizzly becomes a topic of delisting. In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, many fear that a famous bear named 399 could be hunted and killed, flaming the fan of public outrage still burning over Cecil the Lion.

Bonnie Rice, a senior representative for the Sierra Club who works on wildlife issues in the Yellowstone and Northern Rockies region, said that delisting bears is a very big deal.

“If bears are delisted, they’d still have some protection in the national parks, but once they go outside the parks they are going to be completely at the mercy of hostile state management policies. And they go outside the parks — they don’t understand those arbitrary political boundaries.”

In 2007, the grizzly was delisted by the federal government. But the decision was reversed within two years by federal judge, saying the government had underestimated the dwindling food supply and effects of global warming.

The grizzly is considered sacred to nearly 40 Native American tribes in Western states, who are counting on President Barack Obama to intervene. Tyler said he has hopes that they can count on President “Black Hawk” to step in on the bear’s behalf.

“It’s a sacred animal, our brother, our sister. It would be like going out there and murdering.”

[Image via Martin Mecnarowski/Shutterstock]