Wyoming announced it would hold the first grizzly bear hunt in the lower 48 states in more than 40 years after the U.S. Interior Department (DOI) announced it would not be reinstating protections for the bears Grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.
Grizzly bears had been protected under the 1973 Endangered Species Act since 1975 when the small population in the Yellowstone region was listed as endangered.
Since then their population had grown to more than 700 bears which exceeds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) population goal for the region. As a result, FWS concluded the bears were no longer endangered, delisting them leaving it to the states in the region to develop management plans to maintain the population at sustainable levels.
FWS launched a review of its delising decision in 2017 after a federal appeals court ruled in separate case involving gray wolves in the Great Lakes region the department should give more consideration on how loss of historical habitat affects a species’ recovery.
Grizzly bears in the region, like wolves, have recovered from widespread extermination efforts, however, they are missing from most of their historical habitat.
After the review, FWS concluded it disagreed with the ruling in the wolf case, reiterating the Yellowstone grizzly bear population has sufficiently recovered, and other bears living outside of the three-state Yellowstone area are still protected as threatened.
Hunts On The Horizon
Llimited public hunts for grizzlies this fall are being talked about in Wyoming and Idaho, while Montana has decided against holding a hunt this year.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (GFD) voted to approve a limited grizzly bear hunt in the fall of 2018. Wyoming’s proposal would allow a maximum of one female (sow) or 10 male (boar) grizzlies to be killed by licensed hunters inside the state’s section of a federally designated “demographic monitoring area” — a zone of prime bear habitat where biologists track the species’ population. An additional 12, boar or sow grizzly bears could be hunted in areas the GFD describes as the more “human-dominated landscape” outside that area – for a maximum of 22 bears taken.
Idaho, with a much smaller population of grizzly bears, would allow just one boar to be taken this fall.
Wyoming’s GFD says is it committed to managing bears in a way that ensures a sustainable population.
“[T]housands of people commented online and truly made this regulation a better regulation,” Scott Talbott, director of the Wyoming GFD, said in announcing the decision to allow a limited hunt of the bears. “Many, many people have been part of this process since last fall in helping to set a direction for all grizzly bear management, from education, conflict reduction to hunting.
“Wyoming is committed to ensuring a recovered population to provide opportunity for anyone who is interested in grizzly bears and this decision is part of our management,” said Talbott.
Wyoming Republican Gov. Matt Mead (R) told C-SPAN in May a grizzly bears are a sustainable species and a hunt is merited based on the data.
“The question is not whether you hunt grizzly bears or not,” said Mead. “The question is whether grizzly bears have grown enough in terms of population and in habitat that they can be a sustainable species. And clearly they have.”
Bears Threats To Humans
Wyoming state Rep. Jim Allen (R-Lander), told the Washington Post the people who must live and work near have experiences people not living near the bears do not understand.
“Those of us that live, work and play [near] the grizzly bear have paid a higher price for the recovery of the bears,” Allen said. “I think that’s lost on the general public; Wyoming owns the wildlife.”
Wyoming officials say hunters could help weed out problem bears.
Brian Nesvik, GFD’s chief game warden told the Casper Star-Tribune his agency removes several grizzly bears every year that come into conflict with people or property.
“The agency is removing every year several female and male bears for conflict reasons, and if hunting reduces that, it’s a good thing,” Nesvik said.
The National Rifle Association and Safari Club International told the Associated Press (AP) hunting would help the region’s economy, allow states to better manage the animals and improve public safety.
Edwin Johnson, a 70-year-old hunting outfitter who lives in Gardiner, Montana, also told the AP hunting grizzlies would be both good for business and was necessary to for human safety.
“Having the ability to hunt grizzlies would be great for business,” said Johnson. “They need to be hunted so that they fear the scent of humans, rather than following it as they do now.”
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.