The comments came at a meeting of the Yellowstone Grizzly Coordinating Committee in Jackson, where members reviewed the latest grizzly hunt and its effect on the grizzly population. Despite the group recommending that only 22 female grizzlies be killed, 30 were taken down by hunters — 12 percent of all the female grizzlies in the region, triggering an automatic review of mortality levels and management.
For Chuck Schwartz, leader of the U.S. Geological Survey Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, that means the grizzly population in the region is probably undercounted and that more females can be killed. As grizzlies fill available areas in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding forest areas, they are spilling into areas inhabited primarily by humans. To prevent this, he says female kill counts can be raised.
That’s nonsense, say other members of the committee: the total number of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem declined from 595 in 2008 to 579 in 2009, a drop in mortality that outpaces the birth rate. Clearly, they say, fewer female grizzlies must be killed, not more; and with global warming impacting some prime food sources for the grizzlies — namely whitebark pine nuts — the goal should be continued growth of grizzly numbers, not a decrease.
Photo by John Good, courtesy National Park Service.