(NEWSnet) – Grizzly bears, once nearly hunted to extinction, will be introduced again to the North Cascades of Washington state, federal officials announced Thursday.

The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced they will relocate a few animals each year from other areas over a five-to-10 year period into their historic range at the North Cascades ecosystem.

The goal is to establish a population of 25 bears; and it could take decades before population reaches 200 animals.

The last confirmed sighting of a wild grizzly bear in the U.S. section of North Cascades ecosystem was in 1996.

Research and review of this project began in 2022.

“Restoring this important species increases biodiversity and returns a keystone species to the environment,” the announcement said. “The species is also culturally significant to some Tribes and First Nations.”

Grizzly bears are currently listed as a threatened species in the 48 contiguous states.

The bears will be selected from stable, existing bear populations in the U.S. or Canda; and are  intended to be released in remote wilderness areas of National Park Service or U.S. Forest Service land. About 85 percent of the mountain region is under federal management.

Each relocated bear will be fitted with a radio collar for tracking purposes.

“It is likely that these bears would be seen only rarely by people during the first 10 to 20 years of restoration,” the NPS said.

Announcements for the public, including updates on the repopulation effort, will be posted on the NPS website for North Cascades National Park.

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