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Yellowstone Grizzlies' Fate Debated

Mother and cub grizzly bears. Credit: Sierra Club
Mother and cub grizzly bears. Credit: Sierra Club
November 5, 2015

JACKSON, Wy. - Dozens of citizens took to the podium at a meeting of federal, state and tribal agencies in Jackson this week to denounce a plan to take Yellowstone-area grizzlies off the federal endangered species list.

The Yellowstone subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee has recommended the delisting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service says the bear population has rebounded and the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana are clamoring for a return of state control.

But Bonnie Rice, senior representative with the Greater Yellowstone Northern Rockies for the Sierra Club, says delisting the bears and letting the states decide their fate would threaten full recovery.

"All three states do plan to immediately initiate a trophy hunt for grizzly bears if they are delisted," she says. "And we feel that these bears should not be hunted. The population can't sustain a trophy hunt."

Rice says the grizzly bears in Yellowstone are under stress because their primary food sources, whitebark pine and cutthroat trout, have declined in recent years.

She says the bears are replacing their normal diet with elk carcasses and livestock leading to more conflict with hunters and ranchers.

"We're seeing a lot of troubling signs here that the population isn't growing and it's still isolated. The number of conflicts is up," says Rice. "This year, we're probably going to top the record in terms of the mortalities of grizzly bears primarily from human-related causes."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to release a proposal to delist the grizzlies in the next few months. There will be a public comment period and then a final decision in 2016.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - WY