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Last Day for Public Comments on Yellowstone Grizzly De-listing

Trophy hunting for grizzly bears in Wyoming could begin next year if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes the Yellowstone grizzly from the endangered species list. (ba11istic/iStockphoto)
Trophy hunting for grizzly bears in Wyoming could begin next year if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes the Yellowstone grizzly from the endangered species list. (ba11istic/iStockphoto)
May 10, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Today is the last day for the public to weigh in on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) plans to remove the Yellowstone grizzly from the endangered species list.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has said it's prepared to allow bears outside park boundaries to be hunted and killed.

Glenn Hockett, volunteer president of the Bozeman-based Gallatin Wildlife Association, opposes de-listing. He says Yellowstone bears need to be able to breed with other grizzly populations to ensure strong genetic diversity.

"What we haven't done is, we haven't provided them essential connectivity to these other areas," says Hockett. "And if we de-list the bear, some major impediments or barriers to the movements along those corridors will take precedence over the bear."

Wyoming wildlife authorities argue killing or otherwise "discouraging" bears is necessary, because grizzlies traveling outside the park are likely to cause conflicts with people and livestock.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agrees connecting Yellowstone grizzlies to other bear populations is critical to their long-term survival, but the agency has also maintained there are currently no genetic diversity problems.

Hockett says he disagrees with agency claims the Yellowstone ecosystem just can't hold any more bears.

"And so, I think we're misleading the hunting community and saying, 'Oh well, we need your guys' help.' There's been lots of progress made - sure, we have more bears," he says. "I think it's premature to just come out and say everything's fine and we need to start killing bears."

After USFWS closes its public comment period, it could de-list the Yellowstone grizzly as early as the end of this year.

Wyoming authorities are then expected to work with Idaho and Montana to determine a population goal for the bears, and hunting could begin as early as the fall of 2017.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY