More and more grizzly bears have been moving out of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, which is creating more conflicts between bears and humans.
According to the Billings Gazette, Wyoming record 223 cases of conflicts between grizzlies and humans outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks as well as the Wind River Indian Reservation.
In comparison, Montana had 118 incidents while Idaho had just two.
Earlier this summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced they would delist Yellowstone grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List. Management was shifted to the states in late July.
Several environmental and conservation groups have sued the USFWS over grizzly protections, arguing the agency did not use the best available science to make their decision. A coalition of Native American tribes have also sued, arguing the delisting decision violates their religious beliefs.
According to the Gazette, wildlife officials and wildlife advocates are split on how to handle the situation:
“It’s a potential human safety risk and it’s not conducive to the long-term conservation of grizzly bears to have them in an area where they’re getting in trouble,” said Dan Thompson, large carnivore section supervisor with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
A wildlife advocate says grizzlies shouldn’t be penalized for roaming into areas where they are native.
“When there’s suitable habitat in forested areas and public lands, in our view there shouldn’t be a limit on where they can expand,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
The conflicts in Wyoming resulted in 39 grizzly bears being captured by state game managers in 2016. Twenty-two were killed for various reasons, such as a history of problems.
Thompson said the state is working to minimize conflict and encourage grizzlies to stay away from human-inhabited areas. Initiatives include handing out bear spray and building electric fences around beehives.