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Grizzly bear / Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith ; Black bear / Jitze Couperus ; Polar bear / Pexels

For the first time, scientists have observed three American bear species—the black bear, polar bear and grizzly bear—using the same habitat in Canada's Wapusk National Park.

"Scientifically, it has never been documented anywhere," Doug Clark of the University of Saskatchewan told the Canadian Press.

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A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. Jim Peaco / National Park Service

A federal judge restored endangered species protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park on Monday, The Huffington Post reported, putting a permanent halt to plans by Wyoming and Idaho to launch the first Yellowstone-area grizzly hunt in four decades.

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A federal judge on Thursday halted the first Yellowstone-area grizzly bear trophy hunts in four decades.

Wyoming and Idaho's grizzly hunt was set to begin this Saturday, Sept. 1 and would have allowed a potential kill of 23 bears outside of Yellowstone National Park.

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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.

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Four grizzly bear cubs near Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Pat Gaines / Flickr

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reaffirmed its June 2017 decision to designate grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) as a separate population and remove that population from protections under the Endangered Species Act, the FWS announced in the Federal Register Friday.

When the FWS announced the June 22 decision, they pointed to the fact that the population of grizzly bears in the area in and around Yellowstone National Park had grown from 136 in 1975, when the species was first listed, to 700 today.

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Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats. Yellowstone National Park / Flickr

Yellowstone grizzly bears could be legally hunted for the first time in four decades under a proposal issued by Wyoming officials last week.

The move comes less than a year after the iconic bears were stripped of Endangered Species Act protections.

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British Columbia's provincial government Monday announced a decision to prohibit grizzly bear hunting province-wide.

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By WildEarth Guardian

Wednesday, WildEarth Guardians sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, challenging the agency's flawed rule stripping grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of Endangered Species Act protections. The service's premature removal of crucial federal safeguards undermines the recovery of the species as a whole, while subjecting grizzlies stepping outside the safety of our national parks to state-sanctioned trophy hunting.

"The Service failed to carry out its paramount—and mandatory—duty to ensure grizzly bears in the contiguous United States are recovered to the point at which the protections of the Endangered Species Act are no longer necessary," said Kelly Nokes, carnivore advocate for WildEarth Guardians. "The Service's decision is riddled with flaws, not based in science nor the law, and places this icon of all that is wild squarely in the crosshairs of extinction once again."

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Thanks to Newsy for their coverage on Thursday's news that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone region from the Endangered Species List.

Watch above as Newsy explains that the decision comes despite serious concerns from the environmental and scientific community, and Tribal Nations about a declining, isolated grizzly bear population with diminishing food resources and record-high mortalities.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone region on Thursday from the Endangered Species List. The decision comes despite serious concerns in the scientific community about a declining, isolated population with diminishing food resources and record-high mortalities, as well as strong opposition from an unprecedented number of Tribal Nations.

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Grizzly bears venturing from dens in search of food this spring will face landscapes dominated by mines, roads, pipelines, clearcuts and ever-expanding towns and cities. As in years past, they'll also face the possibility of painful death at the hands of trophy hunters.

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Tribal leaders from the U.S. and Canada signed a joint treaty today opposing the proposed delisting of Yellowstone grizzly bears by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). More than 50 federally recognized tribes, backed by the 900,000-member Assembly of First Nations, support the treaty.

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The controversial trophy hunt for at-risk grizzly bears in the province of British Columbia, Canada, re-opened this month and is now in full swing.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Scrutiny of this hunt was ramped up last year with new evidence that its economic benefits are small when compared with ecotourism. Add to this further research that suggests hunting management strategies impose considerable risks to bear populations and it’s not surprising that concerns are being raised.

There is strong opposition from many indigenous groups, which have renewed calls for the government to respect tribal laws that ban the hunt on their traditional territories.

They are not alone—recent poll data suggests that 80-90 percent of citizens in the province, including hunters who target other species, oppose the trophy hunt.

Nevertheless, despite this opposition the hunt was not only re-opened but expanded on April 1—what might have passed for an April Fools’ joke was instead presented as “science-based” management.

Protecting Against Over-Kill

But our recent study casts doubt on this “science-based” management. We found that between 2001-2011, human kills of grizzly bears (of which four out of every five were from trophy hunting) exceeded government limits in half of all hunted populations.

We also found that hunt targets were not conservative because they did not properly take into account uncertainty in bear numbers, population growth rates, or poaching rates.

This uncertainty is not surprising: counting bears accurately in their remote wilderness habitats is difficult, let alone studying how quickly they reproduce and replace lost individuals.

To address this we described a management approach that explicitly takes uncertainty into account. To keep the probability of over-kill below 5 percent, targets would need to be reduced by 80 percent, and one-third of hunted bear populations would need to be closed to hunting.

Contradictions

Surprisingly, shortly after this study was released, the government instead announced plans to increase the number of bears to be hunted and to re-open the hunt in two populations that had previously been closed because of over-kills.

Managers stated that “because we recognize inherent uncertainty in our population and harvest rate estimates, conservative mortality targets are used.” While the government used language reminiscent of the recent study, they decided to expand the hunt, contrary to its conclusions.

The minister in British Columbia responsible for managing the hunt came under fire repeatedly in the provincial legislature for this. He was also criticised for claiming in a press release that sustainability of the hunt was confirmed by another study—which was not the case.

This raises the question—are “science-based” management decisions actually guided by science?

Man poses with dead grizzly bear. Photo credit: Earth First! Newswire

Science-Based Management?

Scientific research and enquiry is held up for external scrutiny through the peer review process. This ensures key scientific values: transparency, rationality and reliance on rigorous evidence.

Scientists have no choice about this. If they want to publish their work in a credible journal, it needs to be peer-reviewed. Work that does not stand up to scrutiny gets rejected. But there is no such requirement for most wildlife management decisions, even those claiming to be “science-based.”

Although scientists might spend years gathering and analysing data, packaging it into a manuscript, and revising their work in light of reviews by independent experts, politicians can make “science-based”claims without any such checks.

For ‘Science-Based’ Read ‘Politics-Driven’

Not surprisingly this can and does lead to decisions guided more by politics than by science. The infamous collapse of the cod fishery in eastern Canada in the 1980s comes to mind.

And more recently, the science behind efforts to remove gray wolves from the US Endangered Species Act, and in the decision to cull badgers in the UK, has also been questioned.

recent letter in the journal Science has pointed out this shortcoming in“science-based” wildlife management, and following the letter’s release, more stories of questionable science emerged. It seems examples of scientific shortcomings might be the rule, not the exception.

Independent Peer-Review for Wildlife Managers?

Fortunately, the well-established scientific publishing process can provide ways to improve management decisions: subjecting management decisions to the same outside scrutiny expected of scientists would be an important first step.

As well as making science management more rigorous and transparent, external peer review would have the added bonus of helping to bridge the long bemoaned science-policy gap.

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