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Wyoming Prepares to Manage Yellowstone Grizzlies

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team estimates there are about 700 bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. (Pixabay)
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team estimates there are about 700 bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. (Pixabay)
August 30, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Wyoming officials have commented on a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take grizzly bears off the federal Endangered Species list. Conservation groups are concerned if that happens, the emphasis on keeping the bears' habitat connected could be lost and the species could be open to big-game hunting.

Franz Camenzind, a wildlife biologist and former executive director with the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, reviewed the state's comments and said the bear needs stronger protections if delisting goes forward.

"The grizzly bear is one of those iconic species that just about everyone in the country recognizes," he said. "The value of having bears alive is much greater than the value that any state or agency could obtain through killing them."

Federal and state representatives on the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team estimate there are about 700 grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that's the maximum bear population the area can support. The bear could be delisted by the end of this year.

In addition to Wyoming, comments in management plans from Idaho and Montana also show the grizzly would be open to game hunting, and that states only would review the bear's status if there was a "significant, documented decline" in the population. Camenzind said that contradicts earlier commitments to protect stable population numbers. He added the bear already faces a serious threat from climate change, which is forcing grizzlies to find new food sources.

"We really don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I'm one that really favors the precautionary principle," he added. "Whereas if you don't know something for certain, you take the conservative approach and do more conservation and protection."

Scientists such as Jane Goodall and Edward O. Wilson have opposed delisting grizzlies because of the bears' potential for being hunted. The grizzly still is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY