The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has proposed hunting 24 grizzly bears this fall. That’s 24 too many dead bears for this Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Despite strong opposition nationally and in Wyoming, the department charged forward with what it has been yearning to do since this iconic species was removed from the federal Endangered Species List last year.
The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce opposes grizzly trophy hunting. Certainly it is culturally unacceptable, to say the least, in Teton County, where our tourism economy relies heavily on wildlife watching. Millions of tourists visit our community and this region to see wildlife, annually generating $1 billion.
Nevertheless, once again, game and fish is bowing to its constituency: hunters and ranchers. Approximately 80 percent of the department’s budget comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses; so department managers think they need to provide “opportunities” to hunt species like the grizzly.
Game and fish also wants to reduce predator populations to theoretically reduce conflicts. That’s an iffy proposition and a management approach that has no basis in science. Yet, to appease ranchers and reduce compensation payments the department to them for livestock losses to predators, it will sanction a grizzly hunt.
The notion that this population needs to be “managed” through hunting is false. This grizzly population has been stable, at approximately 700 bears, for more than 10 years. Yet, game and fish personnel would have us believe it’s growing because bears are being seen in places they have not for many years.
Why are grizzlies being seen in new places? They are spreading out in search of food sources they’ve lost in their core habitat in and around Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Cutthroat trout has all but disappeared from Yellowstone Lake and whitebark pine seeds are practically extinct as well. These are two critical protein sources grizzlies must replace with other sources like elk.
The whitebark pine has suffered as a result of pine beetle infestation. These beetles are thriving in warming climates previously too cold for it. This phenomenon is but one of many threats grizzlies will face as our climate changes and other food sources are compromised.
This is a good reason for not hunting this fragile population and a reason why they should remain protected. We urge Wyoming to take the kind of cautious approach Montana has taken and postpone any hunt until we have better scientific information on the fate of this bear.
Game and fish is proposing what might appear to be a measured, cautious approach to their fall hunt. Only two female grizzlies in the Demoographic Monitoring Area, or core habitat, can be killed before the hunt is shut down. These could be pregnant grizzlies that had mated the previous spring. They likely would have had older cubs at their side in spring before leaving them on their own. It would seem that a spring hunt, where females have cubs visibly at their side would be a more cautious time for a hunt, since killing sows with cubs is not permitted.
The department also has proposed a no-hunt buffer zone on the east side of the parks. The boundaries of this zone are not entirely clear, but it does not appear to cover areas where famous park bears like 399 and daughter 610 seek out gut piles from hunter-killed elk in the fall.
Hunting grizzlies in the fall is a bad idea precisely because of the available gut piles that could be like bait near which hunters can wait for grizzlies to appear. The department should rethink this.
Grizzlies were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1975, when the population had plummeted to approximately 136 bears. Now, 43 years later, the population has slowly grown to approximately 700. Grizzlies are the slowest reproducing mammals in North America. This is another reason why the aggressive hunt proposed by game and fish should not occur.
Hunting in Wyoming and the West has a long tradition and is part of our culture. But hunting a species not for food but to put a head on a wall or rug on a floor is unacceptable.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will make a decision on this hunt proposal May 23 in Lander. It will accept comments on this proposed hunt until April 30. Please tell them you oppose grizzly trophy hunting.
You can submit your comments online here.
Or by snail mail here:
Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Hunting Season/Regulation Comments
3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY 82604