Wyoming Game and Fish Commission Approves Yellowstone Grizzly Plan

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has approved a grizzly management plan that includes a potential trophy hunting program.

According to the Cody Enterprise, the Commission unanimously approved the plan at a Friday meeting in Pinedale, which would complement plans from both Idaho and Montana’s state wildlife agencies to manage grizzly bears across the Greater Yellowstone Area. Montana previously drafted their management plan in May. All three are expected to involve trophy hunting and/or other “discretionary mortality measures.”

We previously reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expects to delist Yellowstone-area grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act, after attempting to delist them in 2007. Yellowstone grizzlies were reinstated on the list in 2009, with proponents citing a decline in whitebark pine. From the Enterprise:

Every step in the process by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to possibly delist the grizzly has been controversial. Opponents have been loudest in protesting the idea of using hunting as a population control measure.

To foes of these measures the feeling is that the Yellowstone grizzly, on the rebound slowly over a 40-year period, is not on stable enough ground yet.

Even with the vote, a grizzly bear hunting season is a way off.

“We are not going out to hunt bears,” said Commissioner Richard Klouda before the vote was taken. “We’re not establishing a season.”

Brian Nesvik, head of the State’s Wildlife Division, made the presentation to the commission after a series of statewide hearings.

Nesvik said that putting in place the mechanism for management is required by Fish and Wildlife so the delisting process can continue.

As part of the rules plan there would never be hunting of cubs or yearlings traveling with mother bears, a certain percentage of reproducing females would be maintained in the Yellowstone area and there would be no hunting allowed if the population dipped below a threshold of 600 bears.

Opponents of Yellowstone grizzly delisting comprise a diverse host of stakeholders, from wildlife watchers to scientists to residents to commercial operators. Former Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team researcher David Mattson has been one of the USFWS’ most vocal critics regarding grizzly delisting. Others say the grizzly is too important to the tourism industry to consider hunting. From the Enterprise:

Lloyd Dorsey, the conservation director of the Sierra Club’s Wyoming chapter, who described himself as an elk and deer hunter, voiced the organization’s opposition on a state and national level.

“Our members believe grizzly bears should not be killed,” he said.

Dorsey and others spoke of the economic value of grizzly bears because they attract millions of tourists to Wyoming.

The bears, he said, are “the most valuable animal in our state.”

Similarly, Jim Laybourn of Jackson, who runs a tourism business and makes films, called bears “the economic cornerstone” of the state tourism economy.

“They always have been and they always will be,” Laybourn said. “That’s why people come here.”

Although the USFWS has received flak for wanting to delist Yellowstone-area grizzly bears, state wildlife agencies across the region have received even more flak for their interest in a hunting season. Indeed, the Humane Society of the United States, along with the Center for Biological Diversity and Laybourn, filed a lawsuit against the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, alleging the agency is trying to “fast-track” approval of a state management plan without proper input from the public.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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