The Yellowstone region's grizzly bear population appears to be doing well, according to a couple that has spent the past eight years studying the animals.

Steve and Marilynn French, independent researchers and founders of the Yellowstone Grizzly Foundation, have spent the past eight years studying the behavior of the bears and how humans affect the animals.And they say their findings in the 1990 grizzly season have been exciting, with a near-record number of sows with cubs seen, as well as the first recorded set of quadruplet cubs.

"The fact is that everything is good news about bears in the Yellowstone area, the behavior, the numbers, the habitat management," said Steve French. "I think the bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem are healthier now than they have been in over 80 years."

The Frenches attribute the recovery of the grizzly in part to interagency efforts to aid the bear following years of high mortality rates seen in the early 1970s after the closures of dumps that the animals had relied upon as their main food sources.

The challenge now, said Steve French, is long-term conservation, which depends on habitat protection.

"We're at a crossroads now," he said. "Grizzly bears, on one hand, are reaching recovery. At the same time, there seems to be a relaxed mood that we're doing OK with bears, that they're fixing to be recovered and so we can go back to business as usual. We seem, as a society, to be able to mount some response to crisis. But we don't do such a good job at steady-state conservation. To me that's the new challenge."

The main remaining threats to grizzlies are mineral development work in the area, he said.