Quantcast

Wyoming Votes to Allow First Grizzly Bear Hunt in 40 Years

Animals
A grizzly bear at Montana Grizzly Encounter in Bozeman, MT, a rescue and educational sanctuary. jerseygal2009 / CC BY-ND 2.0

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the largest grizzly bear hunt in the lower 48 states, despite opposition from environmental groups, tribal nations and wildlife photographers, The Washington Post reported.


The vote comes less than a month after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service affirmed its June 2017 decision to delist grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYE) from protections under the Endangered Species Act and pass management of the bears' population off to the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. This will be the first grizzly bear hunt in Wyoming since 1974.

"Allowing a trophy hunt of these majestic animals—the second-slowest mammal to reproduce in North America—so soon after they lost Endangered Species protections does nothing to build public confidence in state management of grizzly bears," Sierra Club representative Bonnie Rice said in a statement reported by The Washington Post.

There is still a chance the hunt will not take place. A U.S. District Court judge will decide several lawsuits challenging the delisting of the GYE bears this summer.

If the bears remain delisted, the hunt will occur this fall and will allow hunters to kill one female or 10 male bears in a "demographic monitoring area" of prime habitat and an additional 12 male or female bears in a more "human dominated landscape," for a potential kill of 22 bears. Montana decided not to allow a bear hunt in February and Idaho has permitted a hunt of one male bear, also this fall.

More than 200 tribal nations opposed the hunt, saying the bears are sacred to their culture, and want to move the bears to tribal lands. One-hundred and seven wildlife photographers and 75 scientists also wrote letters condemning the hunt to Wyoming's Republican Governor Matt Mead.

"To be in the presence of a bear for the first time or the hundredth, is something to be savored for a lifetime. Allowing a bear hunt will change their numbers and their demeanor, making them skittish and much harder to see. It will take away that experience from countless people and Wyoming will lose a part of the wildness that is its hallmark," filmmaker and photographer Trip Jennings said in a statement about the photographers' letter.

"Yellowstone's bears are national treasures. Hunting them is like defacing the Statue of Liberty or filling in the Grand Canyon," Endangered Species Director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) Noah Greenwald agreed in a press release. "Millions of people come to see these bears every year. It's so disturbing that Wyoming thinks they're more valuable dead than alive."

According to the CBD, 125,000 people sent comments opposing the hunt.

No hunting will be allowed in Yellowstone National Park itself, or in the nearby Grand Teton National Park or the road between them. A bear-favored region east of Grand Teton will also be off limits to hunters.

According to The Washington Post, federal biologists say the population has recovered enough to support a hunt, a view shared by Mead.

"The question is not whether you hunt grizzly bears or not," Mead told C-SPAN, according to The Washington Post. "The question is whether grizzly bears have grown enough in terms of population and in habitat that they can be a sustainable species. And clearly they have."

However, the scientists who opposed the hunt expressed concerns that it could prevent Yellowstone grizzlies from connecting to a still-protected population in northwest Montana. Further, they said that the population, which has rebounded in GYE from 136 when it was first classified as endangered in 1975 to around 700 today, is still vulnerable due to climate change, which is threatening food sources like white bark pine.

The CBD pointed out that the bears still occupy less than four percent of their historic U.S. range.

Defenders of Wildlife also issued a statement arguing that too many grizzly bears in the GYE already die due to human activity to justify a hunt. These deaths occur when bears are killed when they get into garbage or attack livestock, are run over by cars or trains or are poached illegally.

"This hunt will add unnecessary mortality to a population already experiencing high human-related grizzly bear deaths. [The Wyoming Game and Fish Department] should instead focus on minimizing human caused mortality through proactive conflict prevention, outreach and education while allowing the Yellowstone grizzly bear population to expand into historic habitat," Rockies & Plains director at Defenders of Wildlife Jonathan Proctor said in a statement.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Individual standing in Hurricane Harvey flooding and damage. Jill Carlson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis

Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.

Read More Show Less
A pregnant woman works out in front of the skyline of London. SHansche / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Air pollution particles that a pregnant woman inhales have the potential to travel through the lungs and breach the fetal side of the placenta, indicating that unborn babies are exposed to black carbon from motor vehicles and fuel burning, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a talking-to to members of Congress Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Climate Change Task Force after politicians praised her and other youth activists for their efforts and asked their advice on how to fight climate change.

Read More Show Less
Ten feet of water flooded 20 percent of this Minot, North Dakota neighborhood in June 2011. DVIDSHUB / CC BY 2.0

By Jared Brey

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle last October, it killed at least 43 people, caused an estimated $25 billion in damage and destroyed thousands of homes.

Read More Show Less
A protestor holds up her hand covered with fake oil during a demonstration on the U.C. Berkeley campus in May 2010. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Forest fire continues to blaze in Indonesesia on Sept. 18. WAHYUDI / AFP / Getty Images

Nearly 200 people have been arrested in Indonesia over their possible connections to the massive wildfires raging in the nation's forest, officials said this week.

Read More Show Less

By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.

Read More Show Less
Covering Climate Now / YouTube screenshot

By Mark Hertsgaard

The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."

Read More Show Less