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Grizzly bear conflicts with livestock increase while bear damage to property decreases

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department captured 45 grizzly bears in 2021 to prevent or resolve conflicts. The number of captured bears continued to increase in the past couple of years. And as the animals expand their habitat, management is more difficult.

Dan Thompson, the department's large carnivore supervisor, said more bears this year killed livestock than in the past. But he said looking back at data there's been a decrease in property damage.

"We've actually seen a decrease in the types of conflicts that we used to see more of such as property damage…garbage and property damage," said Thompson. "We've kind of cut it in half. Which is great to demonstrate the work and the sacrifice by the public, and our outreach and education efforts to try to reduce that conflict."

Thompson said as grizzlies continue to expand their area, managers need to expand the communities that they educate on bear safety and prevention.

Fifty-seven percent of the captured bears were outside of the Demographic Monitoring Area (DMA), which is the area deemed most suitable for grizzlies.

Thompson said that means bears have more chances to get into conflicts since they are frequenting more populated areas. Thompson also said the department has managed to reduce some types of conflicts like property damage and eating garbage through the education program: Bear Wise. But some management efforts are getting harder.

"So, as bears have expanded beyond because of this amazing successful recovery story, there is a higher potential for conflict," said Thompson. "And quite honestly, there's not a lot of solutions out in some of that country, when a bear gets into conflict."

One of those solutions is relocation. But Thompson said it's hard to make those work when the new area is already a habitat for another bear. Out of the 45 bears captured, 30 were removed (or killed) from the population.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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