BILLINGS, Mont. – Grizzly bear deaths neared record levels for the region around Yellowstone National Park in 2010, but government biologists say the population remains robust enough to withstand the heavy losses.

An estimated 75 of the protected animals were killed or removed from the wild, according to a government-sponsored grizzly study team. That equates to one grizzly gone for every eight counted this year in the Yellowstone region of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

The deaths were blamed primarily on grizzlies pushing into inhabited areas, where bears search out food in farmyards and from the big game herds also stalked by hunters. Despite those conflicts, researchers recently reported the population topped 600 animals for the first time since grizzly recovery efforts began in the 1970s.

Trapped and hunted to near-extermination in the last century, grizzly numbers have rebounded since they were declared a threatened species in 1975. An estimated 1,500 of the animals now roam the northwestern United States and adjacent Canadian provinces.