In the wake of Yellowstone grizzly bears being removed from the Endangered Species List and their management being handed over to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has unveiled its preliminary management plan that will put the bruins in the crosshairs in Wyoming for the first time since the early 1970s.
The plan attempts to address several issues, including bear-livestock conflicts and containing the population to the northwestern part of the state. Hunting will be prohibited in buffer zones east of Grand Teton National Park and a quarter-mile from highways named in the plan. If enacted, the plan calls for taking 23 out of about 700 bears this fall. Permits will sell for $600 to residents, $6,000 to out-of-staters.
For some, one grizzly killed for the sake of a trophy is one too many. For others, it’s part of Wyoming’s long hunting tradition and the way Game and Fish manages wildlife populations. Teton County and other communities around the ecosystem have built their tourism economies in part on observing wildlife, including bears. Managers should do more to keep the traveling public from seeing a bear being harvested and to preserve this grizzly sanctuary.
Let’s expand Grand Teton’s buffer zone and the highway buffer. Let’s consult with Montana, which decided against a hunt and has worked to remold long-fragmented griz habitat, and with British Columbia, which banned grizzly bear trophy hunting.
Above all, let’s learn from the past and from the most up-to-date science as to how we can co-exist with this wild native — and all others, for that matter.
The process is not yet over — a meeting is set for April 17 at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, and the comment period continues through April 30 — giving people more time to scrutinize the plan, ask hard questions and seek better solutions. Are the numbers right? Is the science supporting the plan rigorous? What is the middle ground between $600 and priceless?
We have spent 40 years getting the region’s native griz population up from a low of about 140 to its current number. It’s been a long process; native grizzlies have rightfully gained priority status, and we must exercise the utmost care ensuring their future.