Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem Map, Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem[1] is the larger area surrounding the Recovery Zone, which is situated in northwestern Montana and northeastern Idaho. The Recovery Zone stretches over more than 2,600 square miles of forested and mountainous habitat throughout the Yaak River drainage and the Cabinet Mountains and is made up of approximately 90 percent public lands. The grizzly bear population in this recovery zone extends into Canada throughout the Purcell Mountain Range, and the interchange of bears across the border is well documented.

In the 1980s, only a few grizzly bears remained in this area, estimated at fewer than 10 in the Cabinet Mountains portion alone. In 1990, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a program in collaboration with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to restore the population and boost genetic diversity. As part of this augmentation program, young grizzly bears without a prior conflict history are occasionally captured in the nearby Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and moved to remote areas with similar habitat conditions in the Cabinet-Yaak Recovery Zone with the goal of the bears taking up residency.

Illustrating the intent and success of this augmentation program, the third bear moved through augmentation, a female in 1993, was responsible for at least 25 descendants through three generations. That female produced at least 10 first-generation offspring, which gave rise to at least 14 second-generation offspring, and among those at least one has produced third-generation offspring and counting.

In 2018, the 20th grizzly bear was moved to the ecosystem through this augmentation program.

As of 2018, there were an estimated 55 to 60 grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak Recovery Zone.

For more information about the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Grizzly Bear Recovery page

[1] The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has not defined ecosystem boundaries for any of the ecosystems across the lower-48 States.

Selkirk/Cabinet-Yaak Subcommittee

The Selkirk/Cabinet-Yaak Subcommittee represents both ecosystems and meets biannually to coordinate grizzly bear recovery efforts.