After a few weeks of inactivity, the Yellowstone grizzly delisting saga is back in full swing.
As previously reported, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been mulling a delisting of Yellowstone grizzly bears since late August, a sentiment echoed by state wildlife agencies and grizzly biologists.
In a draft plan obtained by The Associated Press, state wildlife officials in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho have reportedly started calculating how many bears could be hunted in each state if the bears are delisted. Under a tentative hunting plan, Wyoming would get the largest share of grizzly head (58 percent) followed by Montana (34 percent) and Idaho (eight percent). At last count, the Yellowstone grizzly population measured 717 bears, with some opining the number could be even higher.
Critics of the proposed delisting move say grizzlies are nowhere near recovered in and around Yellowstone National Park. They’ve also pointed to higher than expected grizzly mortalities this year, with the final count coming out alarmingly high. From the Associated Press, via the Casper Star Tribune:
In 2015, at least 59 Yellowstone-area grizzlies were believed to have been killed or trapped and removed by government agencies. That’s the most since the animal received protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975.
Despite the deaths, state officials say the grizzly population has recovered from excessive hunting and trapping that exterminated grizzlies across most of the U.S. in the early 1900s. The officials have increased pressure on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe in recent months to revoke the animal’s threatened status.
Any hunting plan implemented would have to follow strict guidelines, most notably a rough population count of 600-675. And should the population ever dip below 600, all hunting would be stopped; management procedures (including “removals” by wildlife officials) would be curtailed except where deemed necessary.
According to the Tribune, the decision to delist Yellowstone grizzly bears would take a year, give or take, to go into effect. Barring any legal action, of course. And it’s worth noting: despite the current consensus between state wildlife agencies and the federal wildlife service, delisting Yellowstone grizzly bears is not a set policy as of yet.