The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) will be trapping grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem starting this weekend.
An annual effort by the IGBST, researchers will be set up traps in remote parts of Yellowstone. Once penned, researchers will anesthetize the bears, fit them will radio collars, then release them back into the wild to monitor their comings and goings.
According to a National Park Service press release, the IGBST will be trapping bears between May 7 and July 30:
None of the trap sites in the park will be located near any established hiking trails or backcountry campsites, and all trap sites will have posted warnings for the closure perimeter. Potential access points will also be posted with warning signs for the closure area. Backcountry users who come upon any of these posted areas need to heed the warnings and stay out of the area.
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team was established in 1973 to collaboratively monitor and manage ecosystem bears on an interagency basis. The gathering of critical data on the protected bears is part of a long-term research effort required under the Endangered Species Act to help wildlife managers devise and implement programs to support the ongoing recovery of Yellowstone’s grizzly bear population.
The IGBST is composed of representatives of the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department, and the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
In recent years, the IGBST has attracted additional attention as federal agencies move to potentially delist Yellowstone grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List. Some ecologists and biologists say a delisting is long overdue, saying ESA protections were never mean to be permanent.
Others, including former IGBST researchers, say a delisting now would exacerbate problems for the bears. Indeed, opponents to delisting contend Yellowstone grizzlies will never have a stable population until they’re able to reconnect with other grizzly populations across the region.
Recent research posits Yellowstone grizzlies have a “stable” population, citing the population’s genetic diversity. Some researchers, meanwhile, have criticized the model U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials used to calculate the bear’s population, calling into question the rationale for delisting.
Several Native American tribes have come out against delisting, citing the bear’s importance to their respective nations and shared cultural heritage.
Last fall, most members of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee approved a conservation strategy for the Greater Yellowstone Area, should the bears be delisted. Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk was the sole “nay” vote; Leander Watson of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe declined to vote, citing negotiations between his nation and the USFWS.
Nonetheless, delisting is still likely months away, as USFWS continue to read approximately 650,000 public comments regarding the rule.