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Federal officials reintroduce apex predator decades after it was hunted to extinction: 'The odds are in their favor'

The bears will help restore balance to the ecosystem.

The bears will help restore balance to the ecosystem.

Photo Credit: iStock

Federal officials have decided to reintroduce grizzly bears to the North Cascades in Washington state, Phys.org reported. Though grizzlies are native to the region, there has not been a confirmed sighting in nearly three decades after the apex predators were hunted to near-extinction by settlers.

The officials plan to relocate 25 grizzly bears to the mountain range, and they hope that their numbers will swell to 200 over the next 100 years. The bears will help restore balance to the ecosystem by tilling the soil for plants and spreading seeds with their scat.

Now that hunting the animals is prohibited, the grizzlies of the North Cascades will hopefully have an easier time surviving. Though animals have had to compete for resources due to the effects of human-caused pollution, changing climates and habitat loss, experts are optimistic about the bears.

"In terms of whether they can survive or not, the odds are in their favor," said Jason Ransom, a North Cascades wildlife biologist. "And they're also generalists. They're really good at figuring out where the food is, and they can adjust, and they're pretty flexible in their diet."

This dietary flexibility has led to problems for bears in many areas, as they have begun eating plastic and garbage generated by humans, causing health problems. However, in the North Cascades, a protected national park (roughly 85% of the region is under federal management), their diet is expected to be around 90% plant-based, with a small portion coming from salmon, as reported on Phys.org.

Ecologists have reintroduced several other animals to areas where they had been driven almost to extinction, including wolves in the American Northwest and European bison in Romania.

Just as human activities have greatly harmed populations of wild animals across the world, humans can also help those animals thrive with concerted conservation efforts.

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