EDITORIAL: Grizzly hunt a long time coming — And well overdue

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For the first time in over 40 years, the State of Wyoming plans to offer a grizzly hunt in 2018, with a 24-bear limit on the animals roaming outside of the national parks in the northwest portion of the state.

It’s the natural progression of the delisting process — and it’s a good idea. The proposed hunting season would run from Sep. 15 to Nov. 15 in six of the eight hunting areas bordering Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and two additional weeks in the two areas away from the parks. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is focusing the hunting on “conflict areas,” parts of the state where bear/human interaction has become prevalent enough that it can no longer be ignored.

Grizzlies have recovered stronger than anyone could have predicted, from just 136 bears in 1975 to now over 700 in the greater Yellowstone area. Because of this, altercations between bears and humans have increased significantly, with the last two years ones for the record books in the number of bears killed because of conflicts with humans, according to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

“This draft was shaped by public input we received this fall and winter and the best available science,” said Brian Nesvik, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s chief game warden and chief of the wildlife division. “It contains proposed regulations that would ensure Wyoming will meet its commitment to manage for a healthy and viable population of grizzly bears.”

Wyoming is one of three states given the right to manage its bear population last year. Delisting the grizzly from the endangered species list puts the bears’ management at a state level rather than the federal one. However, this of course depends on the numbers in the long-term for the population and how well states are ruling the roost without the tight federal regulations. There was a time when federal protections for grizzlies were necessary, but Wyoming has proven itself more than capable of managing its grizzly population and the proposed hunting season wisely appears to be conservative.

Only two hunters will be licensed at the same time in six of the eight hunt areas. If those hunts are successful, two more licenses will be issued. When going down to the nitty-gritty and details of what this hunt would involve, it’s a focus on what benefits both the bears and the human population.

Decisions weren’t made in a vacuum, either. Public input has been sought and encouraged since the delisting process began, and has factored greatly into those decisions.

“We believe this proposal reflects the public support for using hunting as a component of grizzly bear management and has many provisions that will recognize this opportunity and keep the grizzly bear population recovered for generations to come,” Nesvik said. 

We do have to look at both sides of the coin, and how, if we want to observe the wildlife in the long-term, that it’s safe for the bears, for the people who want to observe them and those who must live alongside them. Here in northwest Wyoming, we are fortunate to have a multitude of national parks and other more remote public lands where bears can roam and be free. Not so many people in this country are lucky enough to have such wildlife thriving nearby the way we do.

With a limited quota of bears allowed to be hunted in targeted conflict areas, the Game and Fish is rightly focusing on the health of both bears and humans.

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