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Feds Boost Grizzly Bear ‘Kill Numbers’ for the Upper Green

PHOTO: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has increased the number of anticipated grizzly bear killings to 11, due to conflicts with livestock on public lands. Photo credit: Chris Servheen/USFWS
PHOTO: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has increased the number of anticipated grizzly bear killings to 11, due to conflicts with livestock on public lands. Photo credit: Chris Servheen/USFWS
September 24, 2014

PINEDALE, Wyo. - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a new "incidental take" number for grizzly bears in the Upper Green region.

The agency anticipates that 11 bears will be killed because of livestock conflicts on public lands over the next three years. It set that same number last year. However, Bonnie Rice, senior representative for the Sierra Club's Greater Yellowstone Region, said after killing six bears, the agency recently hit the "reset" button in order to start counting again toward the 11 mark. Rice added that the change was made without public input or meaningful requirements for conflict reduction - which can save bears and livestock.

"The number of conflicts, we think, is going to continue to grow," she said, "and this is already the area with the highest number of conflicts in the entire ecosystem."

Rice said grizzlies are a threatened species, and there are proven conflict reduction methods used in Montana - including more nighttime human presence with livestock, guard dogs and changing the timing of livestock grazing on public lands. Most of the conflicts happen in August and September.

Rice estimated that 15 grizzlies have been killed since 2010 because of livestock conflicts on public lands - mostly involving cattle. She said grizzlies have expanded their range within the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, and have become more interested in cattle because climate change has made their traditional nutrition more scarce.

"With the decline of whitebark pine and cutthroat trout - two of the major food sources for grizzlies - federal studies are showing that bears are turning more to meat," she said. "So, that is a concern where that food source is located."

Grizzly bears also feed on carcasses, which Rice said can have implications for hunters - so education is needed to keep people and bears safe.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY