Three bears are likely to be dead by next winter if the park’s grizzly population continues to decline, and they could be the most likely victims of the devastating drought that has devastated Montana and Idaho, according to a study published Monday in the journal Science.
Researchers from the University of Utah and Yellowstone National Parks said the study was the first to look at the potential impact of climate change on grizzly bear populations in Yellowstone, which includes the state’s most populated park.
Scientists also said the population of grizzlies in the park was declining, with fewer than 1,000 remaining in Yellowstone’s central park, which is home to a number of species including elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and moose.
The park is home not only to the grizzly but also to wolves, mohegans and bears, which can be found in Montana and in parts of Idaho.
The study looked at how the park is managing its grizzly populations, with some scientists saying they should be relocated to other protected areas.
Grizzly bears in Montana are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Yellowstone has not yet taken any steps to relocate grizzlies from the park, but that could happen if the warming climate worsens.
A grizzly in the middle of a campfire near Yellowstone National Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming.
Dr. Robert H. Ketchum, the lead author of the study, said he hopes the findings will spur the public to act to save the bears.
“The threat is real, and we need to do everything possible to save these beautiful bears,” Ketchums said.
“We’re losing them because we’re not doing enough,” said Yellowstone National Recreation Area Superintendent Mark Cundey.
The park’s bear population declined by about 35 percent in the last 20 years, according a report released last year by the National Academy of Sciences.
In Montana, the number of grizzly sightings plummeted by 80 percent from 2007 to 2013, and grizzly numbers declined by nearly half from 2002 to 2011, according the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Yellowstone grizzly has been known to travel from the north to the south, which scientists believe is the result of changes in precipitation in the Rocky Mountains, said Robert Wooten, a biologist at the University at Buffalo who was not involved in the study.
“What’s happening is a combination of the melting of snowpack in the Rockies and a lot of climate changes,” he said.
In Idaho, the state was the last state in the U, and the largest in the nation, to take the bold step to relocate the bear population.
According to a 2015 study by the U., the number and distribution of grizzlys in Idaho dropped from about 6,000 in the 1960s to fewer than 3,000 today.
The decline in population and habitat has been attributed to climate change and other human activities, but the authors cautioned that a large-scale relocation effort could be necessary if climate change persists.
Hannah J. Hager, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game, said the loss of habitat and the loss in bear numbers have contributed to the overall decline in bear populations.
Hunting for grizzlies is now the largest industry in Idaho, with more than 200 businesses in the state and an estimated $1 billion in economic impact annually, according in the Idaho State Museum.
Hager said she hoped that the study will prompt more people to consider moving grizzly habitat, and help people realize the risks of not doing so.
As of last summer, the park had 1,839 grizzly animals in its captive population, with another 2,000 left in the wild.
Despite the loss, the study found that a population of 1,400 bears had a chance of survival in the next winter.
That’s because the researchers said they could predict that the bears would be able to keep up their social structure and survive in the cold.
For the study to be considered accurate, they said, scientists would have to find the bears in the natural habitat, where they were in good health and had the ability to breed, so they could provide accurate information on the bears’ reproductive success and survivorship.
“We need to keep these bears in their natural habitat,” Hager said.