Grizzly Bear De-Listing Leads To State Management And Controversy

Jun 26, 2017

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Credit U.S. Department of Interior

Grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone National Park have been removed from the endangered species list. The bear has been considered endangered since 1975 when there were only 150 of them remaining. Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke said, with a population now close to 700 in the area, the species has been sufficiently recovered. Governor Matt Mead agreed saying it's been true since 2003. 

The decision will put management into the hands of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and local tribes in about a month. 

Brian Nesvik, Chief Game Warden for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said the state will consider a hunting season in 2018, adding hunters could play a role in removing problematic bears. 

Nesvik said, “If we can somehow develop some type of management tools, whether that be hunting or others, where we can reduce the number of bears we have to remove as an agency, and potentially at the same time give hunters a hunting opportunity, I think that’s that’s a win-win.”

WildEarth Guardian’s Bethany Cotton said trophy hunting would hurt grizzly bear recovery by prohibiting bears from reaching other habitats. 

“If those bears all die during trophy hunting season you’ll never achieve that connectivity and genetic exchange and you won’t strengthen these other still dwindling populations,” Cotton said. 

She added Yellowstone bears have also been facing increased mortality rates in the past three years due to threats to their food sources. Eight died in the Greater Yellowstone Region this year. 

Nesvik said the state will be able to better manage the species without federal oversight. They’ll have more discretion to use innovative management techniques.

“In the past, the options were limited to a couple. Trap and relocate. Trap and potentially remove the bear,” Nesvik said. "I’m not saying they’re bad techniques, but I’m saying the state would have the option to look at maybe things things we don’t even know of that are out there and available options, that we haven’t been able to in the past."

One method they may begin is using a beanbag to stun bears so they will associate certain behaviors with pain.