Critics say Wyoming grizzly hunt is off target
Yellowstone Nat’l Park – As America celebrates its national parks this week, conservation groups are urging Wyoming to hold off on plans to allow 24 grizzly bears to be hunted this fall.
Stephanie Adams, the Yellowstone program manager with the National Parks Conservation Association, says millions of people visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton hoping to see a grizzly in the wild, and one person’s trophy could deny that opportunity for thousands of people. She adds bears of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are supposed to be managed across the region, and Wyoming’s decision will make it harder for neighboring states going forward.
“And the bears that primarily call Yellowstone and Grand Teton home move across large swaths of the landscape,” she notes. “And so we’re extremely concerned that bears will be exposed to hunting the moment they step over the border into Wyoming.”
Grizzlies were removed from the endangered species list last year, but Adams believes it’s premature for Wyoming to allow hunting when the legality of the decision is still being challenged in court. Wyoming officials say the hunting plans are designed to prevent population declines. Licenses would cost $6,000 each for out-of-state hunters, and $600 for Wyoming residents.
Adams says grizzlies are slow to reproduce and removing 24 bears – including 14 females – this fall could have a long-lasting negative impact on the Yellowstone population. She adds that hunting could also put the bears’ future health at risk by perpetuating a shallow gene pool.
“Aggressive hunts that remove bears, especially those bears that are starting to move into new areas, can decrease their ability to connect with other populations over the long run and will leave this as an isolated population,” she explains.
Wyoming’s proposal also allows hunters to use food as bait for bears, a practice Adams says goes against long-standing safety precautions to prevent bears from associating food with humans. The deadline for the public to submit comments on the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s hunting proposal is April 30.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service