Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are making plans to manage grizzly bear populations within their borders, including possibly allowing legal hunting of the bears for the first time on four decades.
In March, the Obama administration proposed removing grizzly bears residing in and around Yellowstone National Park from the endangered species list, a move that would shift grizzly bear management to the states in the region. The bears have been considered a threatened species since 1975, but federal wildlife officials say the population has sufficiently recovered to remove the bears from the Endangered Species List.
Before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalizes it decision by March 2017, it has required Idaho, Montana and Wyoming outline what their grizzly hunting seasons would look like.
Anticipating the Obama administration’s move to delist the bears, the states developed a coordinated plan late last year to guide their individual proposals, including monitoring the bear population each year, stopping hunting if the grizzlies’ overall numbers drop below 600 and banning hunting of female bears with their young. The three states have apportioned the bears that could be hunted according to their share of the Yellowstone area: Wyoming with 58 percent, Montana with 34 percent and Idaho with 8 percent.
Just because the bears are being removed from the Endangered Species List, doesn’t mean hunting will start immediately Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener. Hagener told U.S. News & World Report. “This doesn’t mean that automatically we’re going to start hunting grizzly bears as soon as they’re de-listed,” said Hagener.
“This is a historic undertaking because we don’t manage any other species like this,” Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesman Gregg Losinski told U.S. News.
Outside the Yellowstone area, other grizzly populations in Montana, Idaho and Washington state will remain protected.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.