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Delisting Could Allow Hunting of Grizzlies on More Than 2 Million Acres

Wyoming officials are prepared to allow hunting and killing of Yellowstone grizzlies if the bears are removed from the Endangered Species List. (Skeeze/Pixabay)
Wyoming officials are prepared to allow hunting and killing of Yellowstone grizzlies if the bears are removed from the Endangered Species List. (Skeeze/Pixabay)
May 5, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - If the Yellowstone grizzly is removed from the Endangered Species List, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department says it's prepared to allow bears currently living on more than two million acres of habitat near the official Demographic Monitoring Area to be moved, hunted and killed, according to a report from WyoFile. Conservationists said killing bears will make it harder for grizzlies to connect with other populations, which they argue is critical for boosting genetic diversity.

The report's author, Angus Thuermere, the natural resources reporter for WyoFile said, "Having bears on the fringes of ecosystems is very important, conservationists believe, to keeping the species intact and viable for the foreseeable future and beyond."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service admitted connecting Yellowstone grizzlies to larger populations is key to their long-term survival, but the agency also claimed there currently are no genetic diversity problems. Wyoming wildlife authorities said "discouraging" bears is necessary because grizzlies living on the fringes are likely to cause conflicts with people and livestock.

Thuermere said federal and state agencies don't believe fringe grizzlies are necessary to the ecosystem population, and said there is enough "suitable habitat" inside the monitoring area. Opponents of delisting argued other factors, including the loss of cutthroat trout and whitebark pine, could be driving bears to lower elevations.

"Conservationists fear that bears are sort of spreading out from the center of the ecosystem not because there are so many of them but because their traditional food supplies have diminished," he said.

Thuermere noted that Wyoming officials would set a goal of keeping at least 674 bears in the monitoring area if the bear is delisted, a number federal wildlife managers are confident would allow the grizzlies to persist. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on the delisting through next Tuesday.

The full report can be read online here.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY