14-Day Hazing For Grizzly Family Initially Successful, Felicia Will Stay Put
An intensive 14-day hazing operation on a grizzly family has seen initial success. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) said that Grizzly 863, who is also known as Felicia, and her two cubs are learning to avoid vehicles and people.
The agency announced the hazing policy due to unsafe situations created by humans. The grizzly family would regularly appear on a section of Togwotee Pass. Wildlife watchers have been parking illegally on the side of the state highway and approaching, disturbing, or feeding the bears. The agency said this could lead the bears to become habituated to humans.
Hilary Cooley, the USFWS Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, said, since hazing began, the agency has seen her behavior change over time in a positive way.
"But we're going to continue with what I guess we're calling intermittent hazing. We have staff scheduled for each day of the week to go up, and monitor and haze when needed," said Cooley.
She said they recognize that her home range straddles the highway, and she's not going to leave the area. Cooley said the grizzly is allowed to cross the highway when she wants to. Rather they don't want her to slowly meander up to the highway, stop and graze right next to it. She said that's not attempting to cross so that's when they would try to haze her.
The announcement of hazing caused an uproar in the public thinking euthanization was a possibility—causing many to call for a volunteer group solution.
Cooley said they need more than just volunteers.
"My first priority was to get experience, or people that are experienced with hazing, and you know, certified to operate firearms," she said. "We do not want inexperienced people to be shooting bears with rubber bullets or beanbags or anything. So, it's not as easy as just getting volunteers to do that."
The agency said a volunteer group solution could cause safety concerns since any attempt to facilitate viewing of the bears would encourage unsafe conditions along the busy highway. They ask the public to continue to avoid the area.