Wildlife officials have divvied up how many grizzly bears can be killed by hunters in the Yellowstone region of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho as the states seek control of a species shielded from hunting for the past 40 years, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The region’s grizzlies have federal protections, but that could change in coming months, turning control over to the states. The AP obtained a draft agreement detailing the states’ plans for the animals.
The deal puts no limits on grizzly bear hunting outside a 19,300-square-mile management zone centered on Yellowstone National Park. Inside the zone, which includes wilderness and forest lands near the park, hunters in Wyoming would get a 58 percent share of the harvest, a reflection that it’s home to the bulk of the region’s bears. Montana would get 34 percent, and Idaho, 8 percent.
The management zone has an estimated minimum 717 grizzly bears. There is no estimate of how many live outside the area, although the number is increasing as they expand into new habitat, biologists say.
Wildlife advocates say the bear population remains too small to withstand much hunting. That’s a particular concern given the large numbers of bears already dying, including during surprise run-ins with hunters and after livestock attacks that prompt officials to trap and kill problem bears.
In 2015, at least 59 Yellowstone-area grizzlies were believed to have been killed or trapped and removed by government agencies. That’s the most since the animal received protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975.
Despite the deaths, state officials say the grizzly population has recovered from excessive hunting and trapping that exterminated grizzlies across most of the U.S. in the early 1900s. The officials have increased pressure on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe in recent months to revoke the animal’s threatened status.
Directors of the three states’ wildlife agencies told Ashe in a Dec. 4 letter that such a step was long overdue.
“It is critically important that we capitalize on our tremendous progress and momentum … by proceeding with a long overdue delisting” of bears from the threatened species list, the directors wrote. It was signed by Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener; and Wyoming Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott.
Wildlife advocates and some bear researchers dispute government claims that the Yellowstone bear population is stable or increasing. A closer look at the trends suggests it’s actually in decline, said David Mattson, a former grizzly researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey.
“All indicators are we have a population that’s in trouble,” Mattson said Monday. “It boggles my mind that people would consider going down this path that could consist of implementing a sport hunt.”
Mattson said he retired in 2013 in part so he could be more vocal on the issue of protecting bears. He helps run a blog called Grizzly Times, which he co-founded with his wife, Montana wildlife activist Louisa Wilcox.
Legal hunting of Yellowstone-area grizzlies last occurred in the 1970s.
At least 58 bears were killed in Montana and Idaho in the five years leading up to a prohibition on hunting in 1975. Historical harvest figures for Idaho were not available.
Any future hunts would be conservative and need approval from wildlife commissioners following a public comment period, said Quentin Kujala, chief of wildlife management for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.
The size of each harvest would be on a sliding scale, with the intention of keeping the bear population viable and avoiding the need to reinstate federal protections, Kujala said. More hunting would be possible when the population tops 675 bears, and hunting would be largely barred if the number falls below 600.
“We’re definitely not talking about a large number. We’re not talking hundreds or anywhere near that,” Wyoming Game and Fish spokesman Renny MacKay said.
A decision on whether protections should be lifted is due early this year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Barring a successful court challenge, it would take approximately a year for such a rule to go into effect.
The pending agreement between the states is not required for federal protections to be lifted, state officials said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
William Hays says
How do Grizzlies taste? I have eaten Black bear, and the roasts are delicious. Don’t Grizzlies dine on ‘soft tacos’ (asshole hikers in sleeping bags)? They should be tasty, too.
With all the assholes in the Government, we don’t really have to call each other assholes, except for the ones that are party people, thinking they can trust either party, the asshole in chief just violated the law with his gun control bill.
Henry Kissinger stated that this imposter was put in to get the new world order going, we don’t elect the president, they are selected for the Illuminati’s (Bigbrother), so now we got that out of the way, it’s ok to have a limited hunt on Grizzly bears, although I don’t need to shoot one, I have shot several bears, but no grizzly, I am not even sure that people eat Grizzly bears, but would be interested to know.
Robert Cassidy says
The problem is habitat encroachment by self centered ranchers … The USA already has grossly excessive food production , 40% of which is wasted .. These lands in prime wildlife should be seized under imminent domain policies … The redneck land barons should be moved out and engage in legitimate occupations elsewhere .. In peripheral areas where cattle grazing is tolerated, an expanded staff of wildlife protection officers should be mobilized at ranchers’ expense to strictly enforce the laws against killing or harassing wolves , bears and other apex wildlife …problem solved !
Good gravy another stupid CITY IDIOT who has probably never done anything except pick up a paycheck and watch the Nat Geo channel howl at the moon.
Amazing how many are against ranchers, they buy their food in the grocery store and there is no reason greedy farmers/ranchers should encroach on the wild life’s habitat, although they provide jobs for many people in the auto and machine industry, not to mention the food industry, guess we could get all our food from China, perhaps these people could move to China and make more rooms for the illegals.
Bobby The Sea Going Hillbilly says
Hello, William Hayes
I was just wondering how you knew they were a bunch of ass hole hikers.
You must have you been hanging out with them other wise you wouldn’t
have know they were ass holes and hikers.
You just slipped up, now we know who you been hanging out with! HA! HA!
Thanks for the laugh, I didn’t known hikers in sleeping bags were referred
to as soft tacos.
What do you call hikers that don’t sleep in sleeping bags, hard tacos! HA! HA!
Thanks again for the laugh.
MN1 Robert Briggs
USN Retired in TN.
Rio Garcia says
STOP killing our wildlife. The animals were created first…so-called humans were created to care for all God created.
Greed continues to be the mantra of those who ignore God’s design.
JEAN FLEMING says
I AM AGAINST HUNTING ANYTHING
Yeah, I personally am against hunting too, especially women! There are some decent women out there but they are few.
Hermine Willey says
Every time an animal disturbs of interferes with a human asshole they want to set out mindless hunters to kill them.