Bear managers say grizzlies eventually should be hunted

2012-12-14T05:00:00Z 2014-10-03T14:29:27Z Bear managers say grizzlies eventually should be huntedBy ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian
December 14, 2012 5:00 am  • 

Hunting grizzly bears should be part of the strategy for their management after the species no longer needs federal protection, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee decided on Thursday.

“We have grizzly populations expanding into places that are not suitable habitat,” committee chairman Harv Fosgren of the U.S. Forest Service said. “We need to show we’re willing to step up and manage those bears.”

But he also stressed hunting was only one of many tools available to help grizzlies after their populations have recovered to healthy levels. And no hunting will occur until the bears are delisted and states have set up their own management plans.

Grizzlies remain a threatened species in the continental United States, although they may be hunted in Alaska and Canada. About 1,000 grizzlies live in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem north of Interstate 90 in Montana. Another 600 live in the Yellowstone Ecosystem surrounding Yellowstone National Park. A few more tiny populations live in northwest Montana, Idaho and Washington.

The IGBC approved a delisting plan for the Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly population in 2010, but it has been blocked in court. The committee hopes to have a new plan ready by the end of 2013.

Thursday’s statement says grizzlies could be hunted according to state laws after they are delisted from the ESA. Hunting would help “manage distribution, promote coexistence and help minimize conflict” with the bears.

The full statement reads: “In recovered and delisted grizzly bear populations, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) supports the use of regulated hunting following the principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation as one approach to help manage numbers and distribution of bears to promote coexistence and help minimize conflict. Although specifics regarding the hunting of a recovered grizzly bear population will be unique to the ecosystem and legal jurisdictions involved, IGBC supports hunting regulations that reflect the best available science, are adaptable to changing factors, are established in a public process, and are consistent with standards in the ecosystem specific Conservation Strategies. Ecosystem specific Conservation Strategies are the post-delisting management plans that guide population and habitat management as required by the Endangered Species Act.”


Committee members struggled with the wording of the statement for almost two hours. Concerns included how to explain why hunting was important and whether saying anything now would derail other important grizzly bear recovery work.

The word-smithing highlighted several sensitive parts of grizzly bear management. For instance:

• The second word of the first sentence got the most debate. The draft read “In recovered grizzly bear populations…” Several members wanted to add “delisted.” The difference is that recovered is a biological term, meaning the population has exceeded a scientifically measurable level. Delisted is a political term.

In 2010, Congress ordered gray wolves delisted while a court case was still debating whether the population was recovered. Committee members decided they needed both words to say grizzlies shouldn’t be hunted until they were recovered and delisted.

• Timing. Some members wanted the hunting statement done months ago. Some thought it shouldn’t be released until the bears are recovered, which could be 2014 or later. For a few minutes on Thursday, it looked like the draft might be sent back and finalized over a conference call in a few weeks.

Idaho Fish and Game Deputy Director Jim Unsworth pushed for sooner over later, and suggested using the meeting’s computer projector to type and display changes as the debate went on.

Fosgren noted there was something of a which-came-first question: Was the committee developing a hunting policy because it was needed, or because the media and outside observers kept asking if it had one? He added that although the winter meeting had worked on new ways of reviewing bear-resistant trash cans, authorized lots of research and other work in four major grizzly recovery zones, committed new attention to the now bear-free Bitterroot Mountains and other matters, the hunting policy was probably going to be the top of the news.

“We’re already there,” observed Ken McDonald of Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “Whether we adopt a policy or not, the people are going there. They’re asking, as soon as you delist them, can you hunt them?”

And getting a hunting policy done now could head off other problems. Montana’s Legislature is already drafting wildlife bills for its January session, and Idaho and Wyoming may be close behind.

But the states’ wildlife managers don’t yet have any authority over the bears. As Mary Gibson Scott of the National Park Service pointed out, “I totally get the state (wildlife agencies’) concern about freelancing legislative fixes.” The IGBC policy should clearly state delisting and recovery must come first, followed by fully reviewed state management plans, before any grizzly winds up in a hunter’s crosshairs.

• Why hunting? Fosgren said the committee not only had to say what kind of hunting policy it supported, but why hunting was necessary at all.

The draft version read hunting was essential “to managing distribution and density” of bears. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly recovery coordinator Chris Servheen pointed out its almost impossible to control the density of bear populations. If you don’t like having grizzlies hanging around a ranch on the edge of Yellowstone National Park, you can try to push them all away from there, but you can’t adjust them from five bears to two.

So the committee erased “density.” But it added “to promote coexistence and help minimize conflict.” That’s because wildlife managers have found that allowing hunting can actually build social and political support for animals.

For a while, members considered calling hunting “a tool” for managing bears. Sterling Miller of the National Wildlife Federation pointed out hunters often don’t like being referred to as “tools.” The word was changed to “approach.”

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. Josh
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    Josh - December 16, 2012 10:49 am
    Good to know. These links support exactly what I said. Montanans have a low tolerance for wolves and high support for wolf hunting. I've still seen no evidence that hunting predators will increase tolerance or acceptance of those predators.
  2. Candiru
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    Candiru - December 16, 2012 7:05 am
    The Grizzly Committee is not telling the public the whole story about plans to "manage" the distribution of grizzlies in the Yellowstone region. Right now, Yellowstone grizzlies occupy about 22,000 sq. mi. of land, most of it public land. After delisting grizzlies in 2014, the plan is to "manage" bears until they only occupy the 9,600 sq. mi. "Primary Conservation Area."

    The Idaho Fish and Game Commission's 11/18/2010 "Position Statement on Yellowstone Grizzly Bears" states that bears killed outside of the Primary Conservation Area" should not count against mortality limits. This means the state can wipe out grizzlies outside the Primary Conservation Area.

    The management plan for Yellowstone grizzlies after delisting is to wipe out grizzlies on 12,000 sq.mi. of land, and then treat grizzlies within the Primary Conservation Area as brood stock. Bears inside the PCA will be reasonably safe. As soon as they step outside the PCA, Bam!!!, they'll be managed. Killed.

    The Grizzly Committee is planning on using computer generated data to increase the Yellowstone grizzly population to 1,000 bears--on paper--and then increase the mortality limits, too. The Grizzly Committee just ain't telling the public these radical changes will occur after delisting.

    By increasing the grizzly population on paper and raising mortality limits so hunters and ranchers can kill very real bloody bears, the Grizzly Committee can wipe out bears beyond the Primary Conservation, and still claim there are 500 grizzlies alive and doing well inside the Primary Conservation area.
  3. Bittersweet
    Report Abuse
    Bittersweet - December 15, 2012 6:39 pm



  4. Josh
    Report Abuse
    Josh - December 15, 2012 4:18 pm
    What are you quoting from?
  5. Sukey
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    Sukey - December 15, 2012 7:46 am
    Leave the bears alone, it gives us bragging rights over California who only have grizzlies on their State Flag....
  6. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - December 14, 2012 11:12 pm
    "Moody pointed out that the survey was probably swayed by the fact that the state had not had a hunt before last year because lawsuits stalled the state’s proposed hunt.

    “It is fascinating to see how attitudes shifted so much after we had our wolf season,” said Shane Colton, FWP commissioner from Billings."

    Go figure
  7. Gadfly
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    Gadfly - December 14, 2012 8:51 pm
    A major problem is that large parts of our society, including the religious segments that elevate themselves to stewards of the land and all other species to something lower and them as above and superior to other sentient beings like the wolf, as they thereby reduce others to objects for protection, use, or killing.

    Another problem is unawareness or lack of concern. So many people are concerned only with their narrow spheres of living that they are oblivious to larger concerns that ultimately affect them and their offspring, such as the environment and biodiversity and a wilderness that is good for us all. We are all in this together, including our wild brethren.

    Many humans see themselves as the only sentient beings, as God created in his image, and the rest as the Garden of Eden, to take from and use as stewards of the land. But they are failing as stewards of the land, with only vestiges of what once was. But in collecting their coupons to Heaven, they are unconcerned, because this is all ends anyway, and they await Nirvana, not realizing that it was here, and they were in it, and that is really all they ever had to take care of and they failed.

    We play stewards of the land through our wildlife agencies who reflect us. So, we play God over the landscape using it all as our needs and rationalizations dictate to suit our needs. It is about all gone. What will we do?
  8. onemontana
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    onemontana - December 14, 2012 2:34 pm
    You may be right about the wolves, but I disagree about bears.
  9. Josh
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    Josh - December 14, 2012 11:45 am
    We continue to hear that hunting will lead to increased tolerance and social and political acceptance of predators, but I've yet to see any actual evidence of this. Is there greater tolerance and acceptance of wolves on the landscape now that they're being hunted? It seems like the situation with bears is the same. Those pushing hardest for a hunt seem more interested in reducing the grizzly population than tolerating and accepting the recovered population.
  10. elkguy
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    elkguy - December 14, 2012 8:59 am
    It's strange that so many votes in the little poll are against hunting. There can only be so many bears before it becomes dangerous for people. I'm quite certain that all of the "no" voters don't live in any of the areas that the bears are showing up in. Their children don't play in the woods, just on computers. We all know that there will be more and more bears killed as the population grows, why not charge hunters a fee to do it rather than use tax dollars to pay some government hunter? Dead is dead, i say we make money from it rather than have it cost us money. But this is the obama era, and money is free for the taking. Unless you have a job.
  11. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - December 14, 2012 8:42 am
    Colbert? Give me a break.
  12. Rose
    Report Abuse
    Rose - December 14, 2012 7:57 am
    RMW as want to say that the people are more of a danger to all wild animals ,and not happy as for trapping to me is abuse to the animal with the suffering they have to go through , but your not there to see it . i am not against hunting to get for food but cannot wolves or others . people only have to be on the lookout when you go into an area where you know they are . . sad it's all some think of is kill why.
  13. caverpilot
    Report Abuse
    caverpilot - December 13, 2012 8:09 pm
    "Bears are the number one threat to America" (The Threat Down, Colbert Show) :)
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