The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has delivered a petition to Wyoming Governor Matt Mead’s office, calling for action against grizzly bear hunting.
The petition, which has nearly 33,000 signatures, calls on Governor Mead to halt or limit the hunting of grizzly bears statewide.
According to the Jackson Hole News & Guide, only 413 of these signatures come from signees in Wyoming. The NPCA, however, argues this doesn’t undercut the impact of the petition or invalidate its claims, especially since they pertain to bears living within national parks.
“It took decades of hard work and the investment of taxpayer dollars to restore these bears to the national parks,” said Stephanie Adams, Yellowstone Program Manager for the NPCA. “All Americans have a say in what happens to these bears in the future.”
Under current draft regulations, Wyoming has proposed a hunting season on 23 grizzly bears, including 11 in a “demographic monitoring area” that includes Yellowstone National Park. While hunting would not take place in the park, of course, environmental and conservation groups fear any hunting would negatively impact the grizzly’s longterm health and survival chances.
News of the petition comes after the Wyoming Game and Fish Department reduced its quota for female grizzly bears in the DMA from two to one. It also comes after a letter addressed to Mead from seventy-three scientists, calling on him to halt the hunt so an independent panel can review the state’s grizzly data.
According to the Jackson Hole News & Guide, the NPCA has also joined together with other advocacy groups to sue the state over its hunting plans:
When Game and Fish released its draft rules for the new grizzly hunt in March, The National Parks Conservation Association filed a lawsuit along with several other advocacy groups, including the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Humane Society of the U.S., challenging the rules’ ability to ensure the longterm health of the grizzly bear population, particularly within Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
If Gov. Mead is unwilling to forestall the grizzly hunt until the conclusion of the rules’ legal challenge, which will be heard in federal court this summer, the NPCA requested he direct Game and Fish further limit the number of bears proposed for harvest, remove any possibility of baiting grizzly bears and expand the hunt closure area to encompass all of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
Governor Mead, however, has routinely praised the process the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Wyoming Game and Fish have undergone while delisting and preparing to manage the species.
“No animal has been studied more than grizzlies,” Mead said in a CSPAN interview May 3. “The question is not whether you hunt grizzly bears or not? The question is whether grizzly bears have grown enough in terms of population and in habitat that they can be a sustainable species. And clearly, they have.”
In defense of hunting, Mead added that, in years past, grizzlies were already being killed by managers in cases where they became habituated to people or repeatedly destroyed property and so forth. Mead also emphasized the importance of the grizzly bear to Wyoming’s ecosystem and tourism industry, saying the state is best equipped to manage the population.
Conservation and environmental groups have cited grizzly mortality outside hunting (which includes incidents where bears are struck and killed in traffic) as another reason to limit or outlaw hunting.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is scheduled to finalize grizzly hunting regulations at a meeting in Lander May 23, 2018.