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Wyoming Plans For Grizzly Hunts

Charles Preston

Grizzly bears may be taken off the endangered species list soon. And, a Wyoming Game and Fish supervisor said the state will make plans for grizzly hunts. Yellowstone’s superintendent said he wants Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho to consider the impact on park visitors who come to see grizzly bears. A Sierra Club representative said it is too soon to remove federal protections.

For 40 plus years, the only people who have hunted grizzlies here were tourists and photographers. The Yellowstone area grizzly bear was listed as threatened under the endangered species act in 1975, and was delisted in 2007 before a 2009 court ruling put them back under federal protection.

The federal government proposed delisting last year.

Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department Cody area wildlife supervisor said, “We’ve been told by the Fish and Wildlife Service that it’s imminent.”

Alan Osterland said once the state takes over management, bear hunts will be pursued.

He explained, “That’s our management tool is hunting. We will propose a season, which will go to public comment.”

Yellowstone’s superintendent recently told the Cody business community the National Park Service is not against delisting.

Wenk explained, “But the National Park Service is concerned about what delisting means in terms of the visitor experience.”

We asked Wenk if he wanted a no-hunting buffer zone around the parks.

He answered no, but, “We’re working with the states so that discretionary mortality could be concentrated in areas of livestock, property damage, or human, bear conflict.”

Osterland said some hunts could be focused on so-called problem bears.

He added, “Whether it’s a black bear or big game animal, we always try to use hunting to mitigate that problem. I anticipate that might be some of the same processes we will use when hunting grizzly bears. However, the department doesn’t feel that it’s our place to be telling where they can go, which bear they can shoot.”

Sierra Club spokeswoman Bonnie Rice in Bozeman said there shouldn’t be any hunts at all.  She pointed to official estimates of grizzly numbers, that have gone down from 750 to 690 bears in recent years.

Rice said, “We think that has a lot to do with the decline in food sources because of climate change that grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem are facing, and record high mortality.”

Rice said more bears are being killed because they’re looking for food. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received more than 600,000 comments on the delisting proposal.

When Penny Preston came to Cody, Wyoming, in 1998, she was already an award winning broadcast journalist, with big market experience. She had anchored in Dallas, Denver, Nashville, Tulsa, and Fayetteville. She’s been a news director in Dallas and Cody, and a bureau chief in Fayetteville, AR. She’s won statewide awards for her television and radio stories in Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and Wyoming. Her stories also air on CBS, NBC, NBC Today Show, and CNN network news.
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