A coalition of conservationists is petitioning Idaho and Wyoming to make hunters carry bear spray when they’re within the Yellowstone ecosystem.
Humans are the leading cause of grizzly bear deaths in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and a lot of those deaths are from hunters.
In 2017, 59 grizzly bears died in the Yellowstone area, and 15 of those were caused by hunters acting in self-defense.
Here’s what happens: A hunter shoots an elk, and then starts to gut the animal.
"That gunshot is like a dinner bell," says Josh Osher with the Western Watersheds Project. He says grizzlies recognize that sound. “That calls them in for an easy meal of that gut pile and the carcass that might be available to them.”
Instead of shooting the hungry bear, conservationists want hunters to use bear spray. A study by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee showed that bear spray is actually more effective than firearms at fending off threatening bears.
Grand Teton National Park already requires hunters to carry bear spray during elk hunting season.
Find reporter Amanda Peacher on Twitter @amandapeacher.
Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.