Wyoming has reduced its proposed hunting quota for female Yellowstone area grizzly bears from two bears to one.
The move comes after environmental and conservation groups criticized the Game and Fish Department for the two bear. It also comes after allegations that the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks agency shared some of its grizzly fraction to boost Wyoming’s numbers.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, state wildlife officials say the reduction reflects the state’s commitment to a “conservative” hunt. Environmental and conservation advocates fired back, saying that any hunt is still out of line, in their views. From the Chronicle:
Brian Nesvik, chief game warden for Wyoming Game and Fish, said in a news release that addressing those concerns was part of the rationale for reducing its proposed female quota.
“This is a further effort to ensure our first grizzly bear hunt in over 40 years is conservative,” Nesvik said. “Additionally, the changed proposal reflects our work to address any concerns about the hunting allocation process between the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.”
Andrea Santarsiere, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that criticized the allocation process, said in an emailed statement that the change was welcome but that Wyoming’s hunt is still too aggressive.
“Even with this reduction, however, Wyoming’s hunt is harmful to the recovery of grizzly bears in Wyoming and beyond,” she said.
In a statement, The Humane Society called on Wyoming to reduce its proposed male grizzly hunting quota from ten to nine, alleging the agency is over its allocation.
Under a tri-state agreement between Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho (which assumed management of Yellowstone area grizzly bears in August 2017), states are allotted a certain measure of “grizzly mortalities” within what’s known as a demographic monitoring area, which spans most of the Greater Yellowstone Area. As such, only a certain number of grizzlies can be hunted before restrictions lock into place.
Of the three states, Wyoming has the largest share, with 1.45 female grizzlies and 9.86 grizzlies. Indeed, prior to the reduction, Wyoming had proposed a hunting season on twelve grizzlies within the DMA—two females and ten males. The state has also proposed hunting twelve grizzlies outside the DMA.
Under the agreement, female grizzlies carry more weight in the population. If a female grizzly is killed, for instance, all hunting ceases, no matter how many male grizzlies have been killed prior to that.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department plans to finalize grizzly hunting regulations at a meeting May 23, 2018.
Earlier this week, Idaho signed off on a hunting season on one male grizzly bear. Montana, meanwhile, has declined to host a hunting season this year. Last month, Santarsiere accused the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks agency of sharing some of its grizzly quota with Wyoming, citing testimony from Wyoming Game and Fish carnivore supervisor Dan Thompson during a grizzly hunting meeting directed at the public. Montana FWP spokesman Greg Lemon denied such an exchange occurred, while Thompson said he misspoke.
Montana has declined to host a hunting season, in part, due to ongoing litigation against the decision. Shortly after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its decision to strip endangered species protections from Yellowstone area grizzly bears, six groups announced intent to sue. The suits have since been consolidated, with a court hearing schedule for August 2018, just ahead of the start of Wyoming and Idaho’s proposed hunting seasons.