Hunting grizzly bears? Agencies to lay groundwork for state hunts

2012-12-12T06:00:00Z 2014-10-03T14:29:27Z Hunting grizzly bears? Agencies to lay groundwork for state huntsBy ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian
December 12, 2012 6:00 am  • 

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee wants to tiptoe quickly toward the idea of hunting its namesake bruin.

Roughly 1,600 grizzlies live in the mountains between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. All of them currently enjoy protection as threatened animals under the federal Endangered Species Act. IGBC’s mission is to get grizzly populations robust enough to shed that protection.

And with that delisting comes the potential for bear hunts.

“This topic came about because two ecosystem populations are at or approaching recovery status,” IGBC committee chairman Harv Fosgren of the U.S. Forest Service said. “We need to explore what that means and how we’re going to talk about that.”

On Tuesday, the committee gave itself two days to craft a hunting policy statement that can start the conversation. Members spent as much of the morning talking about what the policy wouldn’t say as what it would.

“We need to have a very clear message,” warned Chris Servheen of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While the policy statement might be very short, he suggested several issues that needed more detail. For example, hunting won’t be used to reduce grizzly populations the way Montana and Idaho are trying to reduce their wolf populations. And hunting shouldn’t be considered a strategy to eliminate human-bear conflicts – those must still be addressed by education, law enforcement and other means.

Finally, even if a proposal gets finished by Thursday, the IGBC has no power to create a grizzly hunting season and no state has done so yet either. The committee only wants to explain how it sees hunting fitting into the grizzly’s future, Servheen said.

“We don’t want grizzlies to descend back into vermin status,” said Tony Hamilton of the British Columbia Ministry of Environment. “If you can’t use them, they won’t have the same value to people as deer and elk. The shoot-and-shovel ethos is alive and well.”

“This is a very difficult concept to communicate to folks who aren’t sportsmen or rural residents,” Hamilton continued. “It’s hard to explain you have to shoot some to save many. Hunting can be a conservation tool.”


That argument didn’t fly with several people in the audience, although it also won a fair amount of public support. Livestock owners in the audience were pleased to hear the discussion, because it meant their concerns about bears killing cattle or threatening rural communities were getting attention.

But Hailee Newman of the Buffalo Field Campaign argued the effort was premature because the bears’ recovery was still hypothetical.

“Before they’re even delisted, we’re talking about keeping their numbers down,” Newman said. “Why are we brainstorming about ways to keep grizzlies from walking where they once walked?”

Brian Peck of the Natural Resources Defense Council said the public wasn’t ready for treating grizzlies like other hunting species.

“Most Americans don’t consider grizzlies like they do deer or elk or possum,” Peck said. “They’re rock stars – the charismatic megafauna. They’re not like other wildlife. We need to take that into account.”

But Idaho Fish and Game deputy director Jim Unsworth said managing bears like other big game had big advantages, especially for the bears. He suggested grounding the committee’s statement in the North American Model for Wildlife Management – a set of principles that have guided U.S. and Canadian big-game populations since the early 20th century.

Those principles include the ideas that wildlife belong to the public, are an international resource and should be managed by best available science and law. Wildlife should not be commercially harvested (market hunting), shouldn’t be killed frivolously and should be available to all. The model has proven so popular, most U.S. state wildlife management programs get the majority of their funds from the people who hunt those animals.

“It’s an honest thing to do – to start talking about what a delisted population management will look like,” Unsworth said. “In the wolf delisting, there were a lot of false pictures – the end of the world or the beginning of the world. It’s not going to be bears four abreast walking down Broadway in Missoula. There are going to be bears on the landscape and they’re going to be managed.”

About 1,000 grizzlies live in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem north of Interstate 90 in Montana. Another 600 live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem surrounding Yellowstone National Park. A few more tiny populations live in northwestern Montana, Idaho and Washington.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering objections to a plan to delist the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem bear population. The Northern Continental Divide population is expected to have a delisting plan ready for public review in early 2013.

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at

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

(33) Comments

  1. Moose muffin
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    Moose muffin - February 05, 2013 12:34 am
    Wouldn't need to shoot anything if ranchers would get Anatolian Shepherds to guard their livestock.
  2. Moose muffin
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    Moose muffin - February 05, 2013 12:32 am
    OK, arrogant human. Animals have no rights. You sound really intelligent and selfish. Shame.
  3. Moose muffin
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    Moose muffin - February 05, 2013 12:30 am
    hunters like to kill. They could just go to the store, but instead they murder legally and illegally. they drink and get drunk sometimes killing each other. They like to feel macho. Bears are minding their own business as do all animals. As the population grows, places for animals to get food diminishes so the animals grow hungry. I suggest that people stop having children and that we live with all of gods creatures. If not, man will destroy all wildlife eventually. logical and factual. Simple.
  4. richardr11
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    richardr11 - December 13, 2012 8:33 am
    As we speak, there is an elk or deer being killed and eaten by wolves. :)
  5. LCHelenajr
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    LCHelenajr - December 12, 2012 7:25 pm
    never will happen. Humans have been the apex predator for thousands of years. No matter what your delusional mind thinks. As we speak there is a Wolf hide being tanned somewhere in Montana. lol
  6. LCHelenajr
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    LCHelenajr - December 12, 2012 7:23 pm
    Humans have the right to camp in their tent without being mauled to death. Humans are a part of the ecosystem and we will manage Wolves and Grizzlies. Wolf management is correct and they will be managed.
  7. LCHelenajr
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    LCHelenajr - December 12, 2012 7:20 pm
    hopefully salamander is right. Hopefully these large fleabags get thinned out at all costs. If a few get wounded not a big deal. Congress will need to step in and make the hunts happen as the greedy enviro wackos will file a lawsuit as soon as the feds try to delist. These things have outgrown their small ecosystem and are now causing problems. They need to be hunted and thinned out. Transplant some and send them to central park and Yosemite.
  8. richardr11
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    richardr11 - December 12, 2012 4:11 pm
    Wrong Roger. wolves and grizzlies are the top predator. There needs to be 1000-2000 more grizzlies.
  9. Roger
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    Roger - December 12, 2012 2:09 pm
  10. Roger
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    Roger - December 12, 2012 2:08 pm
    Grizzlies and wolves aren't endangered, and will never be hunted to extinction - because hunting is managed.
  11. Roger
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    Roger - December 12, 2012 2:05 pm
    Ha ha - we don't have to, Richtard - because we're the apex predator.
  12. Roger
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    Roger - December 12, 2012 2:03 pm
    Wrong Richtard - humans are the apex predator.
  13. Roger
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    Roger - December 12, 2012 2:00 pm
    Ha Ha. It is what it is - get used to it.
  14. louisekane
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    louisekane - December 12, 2012 12:39 pm
    Chris Servheen of USFWS says “We need to have a very clear message,” .... For example, hunting won’t be used to reduce grizzly populations the way Montana and Idaho are trying to reduce their wolf populations. And hunting shouldn’t be considered a strategy to eliminate human-bear conflicts – those must still be addressed by education, law enforcement and other means." an admission that the management of wolves is excessive, irresponsible, short-sighted and wrong. Wolves and large carnivores should never be trusted to be managed by the states. They don't play fair, ignore science and are shills for special interests.
  15. CSKT Native
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    CSKT Native - December 12, 2012 9:44 am
    interesting article with a variety of viewpoints expressed...I can only wonder as far as proponents of both grizzly and wolf hunting are many is enough? For some the only answer seems to be none at all...I just can't get my mind around the idea that we can't leave room for the species we share this planet with if those species have the audacity to have some of the same needs as we do...
  16. MTNimrod
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    MTNimrod - December 12, 2012 9:21 am
    Yabbut....they were under-gunned. :D
  17. MTNimrod
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    MTNimrod - December 12, 2012 9:19 am
    Ahem. A "nimrod" is a "skillful hunter", so "nimrod tree-hugger" would likely be an oxymoron.

    But I TOTALLY get what you're saying and agree wholeheartedly!
  18. Roger
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    Roger - December 12, 2012 8:17 am
    Dr. Charles E. Kay, Ph.D. wildlife ecology, studied western wildlife for 30 years, and maintains that research in Alaska, British Columbia, the Yukon, Alberta and other Canadian provinces indicates that wolves and other predators more often than not limit ungulate populations.

    Throughout much of Alaska and Canada, ungulate populations have been kept at low levels by predators, and at the Second North American Symposium on Wolves (Edmonton, Alberta, 1992) numerous scientists reported that wolves and other predators limit ungulate numbers. Alaska biologists report the same thing.

    Wolves and other predators, in many cases, limit ungulate populations below the level set by food resources. If ungulate populations have been reduced by severe weather or other causes, wolves and other predators can drive the numbers even lower and maintain them at that level. This condition is called a predator pit, and there is no field evidence that ungulates can escape from a predator pit even if hunting is banned, unless wolves and other predators are reduced by predator control.

    The Northern Yellowstone elk herd was thriving in 1994, with more than 19,000 elk. Wolves were introduced in 1995; now the herd numbers only about 4000. Kurt Alt of the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department asserts that wolves are primarily responsible for the elk decline, and Ken Hamlin of the FWP says that from his observations, elk seem to do better in areas with few, or no, wolves. Wolves, protected on Vancouver Island, have killed off most of the deer.

    The Chamberlin Basin in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness was once densely populated with elk, but now outfitters report very few bulls.

    Unchecked predation by a variety of carnivores can reduce hunting opportunities by at least a factor of 10.

    Research shows that wolves prey most heavily on the young of the year (fawns and elk calves in Montana).

    The religious zeal with which ill-adjusted people regard wolves and grizzlies is linked with contempt for human life, according to George Monbiot. Like all religious zealots, they also exhibit contempt for facts, logic, and the truth.
  19. richardr11
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    richardr11 - December 12, 2012 8:14 am
    the pro wildlife organizations will do the right thing and file lawsuits to keep this endangered animal listed which it should be. The grizzly bear and the wolf are the top apex predators.
  20. Roger
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    Roger - December 12, 2012 8:13 am
    Just the same bunch of Gadlea lies that he repeats over and over in his various dishonest posts.
  21. Roger
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    Roger - December 12, 2012 8:09 am
    Modern rifles are a lot more powerful and effective than the old guns used by Lewis and Clark.more than 200 years ago. It's called progress.
  22. Got concrete
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    Got concrete - December 12, 2012 6:30 am
    Turnabout's fair play. They've been hunting us long enough. LOL!
  23. Gadfly
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    Gadfly - December 12, 2012 5:48 am
    It would be best for wildlife ecological systems if "wildlife managers" would not rush to manage a predator, such as the grizzly, as soon as it is de-listed as they have mistakenly done with the wolf, and mistakenly “managed” lion, coyote, and wolverine. Wildlife managers have had this absurd idea for over 100 years that predators need to be managed so that man can kill more elk, deer, pronghorn, etc. and keep their numbers down for hunters and “managed” for ranchers. Predators will manage their own populations and research demonstrates that they are a positive impact on total ecological systems, flora and fauna, unlike man. There is not any proof that predators harm ungulate populations in a significant way that interferes with mans’ “sport” killing of those animals. It is a long held non-scientific assumption by hunters, ranchers, and the wildlife agencies that serve those groups. There is no proof that the predators need to be managed, other than particular problem animals. Man is usually the problem of any decline in hunted game along with weather and disease. Humans create more problems than they, the wildlife agencies and hunters, solve. It is actually man that most needs to be managed. Over hunting and over fishing have most harmed animal populations driving some to extinction and many others to the edge. What a perverse idea that man puts man at the top of ecological systems now that we are no longer a real part of it for subsistence purposes. If some of us primitives still have to hunt, do so with a minimal impact, footprint, on total ecological systems. As for the barbarism of trapping by the public, let’s end it. Wildlife agencies should be trying to preserve total ecological systems not create artificial imbalance. This is a last best place in large part because Montana and some neighboring states harbor the last vestiges in the continental USA of a total ecological wilderness of flora and fauna. Along with that balance comes some encounters with apex animals. A major problem is that the wildlife agencies have from the beginning thought of themselves as working for sportsmen and ranchers and therefore to marginalize the predators. The wildlife agencies see their primary tool as killing. Well, if you only have a hammer then every problem is a nail. If you primarily exist to serve ranchers and sportsmen then animals, particularly predators, are secondary. If your state wildlife fees are driving your agency and your primary customers are sportsmen and ranchers, you will listen to their hysterics, their anecdotal opinions. People come to Montana and surrounding mountain states for the scenery and the wildlife, not to see fences and cattle. Much of the land we are talking about is public land, and that means USA land and USA wildlife, not just Montanans’ private domain. The tourism business is huge. Maybe we should look at finding ways to tap into it instead of reliance on hunting fees. Maybe we should start retiring some of the 772 national forests allotments in Montana and the 3776 BLM land allotments in Montana from ranching, and the 26,000 allotments in 16 western states.
  24. troutcreek
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    troutcreek - December 12, 2012 5:33 am
    First we make it legal to trap wolverines and now the state wants to hunt grizzlies. I do hope someone steps in with a legal challenge if the agencies move forward. Here in Sanders and Lincoln Counties grizzlies are already dying because of incompetence and poaching. It is not out of state hunters, it is locals who supposedly know the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear. There is virtually no penalty for killing a grizzly in the Cabinets and the Yaak.
  25. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - December 11, 2012 8:55 pm
    Correction DMarie.....That would be "our" public lands. If you own land, that is private. You are allowed to say "My private land." Not "MY public land."


    Public land use has always been a fight and will continue to be. I agree, the grazing in some areas is a bit extreme and not beneficial to wildlife but weaning the ranchers off it is proving to be a dilema.


    It is my opinion the grizzly population in Mt is nearing or has surpassed reasonable capacity. Sure, thousands roamed many years ago, things were a little different back then. There is no longer the room. That is my fault and your fault, not just the ranchers.


    What happens to Montanas grizzly population in the decades to come is up in the air. Some changes are likely to come before this species is delisted that will prevent just that. Wait and see.
  26. Kahlotus
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    Kahlotus - December 11, 2012 8:10 pm
    He's right, you don't belong here. You can live grizzly and wolf free in much of your native Europe.
  27. DMarie
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    DMarie - December 11, 2012 7:16 pm
    With the count posted in this article, there doesn't seem to be much of a recovery,
    especially when you look back to many years ago when there were thousands roaming the west. We never give any wild animal the chance for Full recovery.....
    just have to keep those cows grazing.....don't we !! on My public lands.
  28. jazz
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    jazz - December 11, 2012 6:59 pm
    I was thinking it would read nimrod tree-hugger killed while trying to snuggle grizzly, but hey maybe its just wishful thinking.
  29. Glacier X
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    Glacier X - December 11, 2012 5:50 pm
    Why don't they relocate them to other "tradional" habitats around the US, along with a few wolves? See if out-of-state intrests like them in their back yards? Make all hunting funds go directly torward Griz research! I see this as a economic opportunity for Montana to export more goods!
  30. hellgatenights
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    hellgatenights - December 11, 2012 4:36 pm
    Move a dozen over to Michael Garrity's farm.......the "Alliance for the Rockies" parasite hates white people and insists we do not belong here, but the bears do. Stickboy couldn't cut it as a school teacher, so he makes a living sueing people as a schill for rich liberals from the east.

  31. Gadfly
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    Gadfly - December 11, 2012 3:35 pm
    That will happen even more once hunters start shooting them and wounding them. Lewis & Clark stopped shooting them because they were just peeving them off
  32. Dub
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    Dub - December 11, 2012 3:14 pm
    About time--they are in many small town's east of the mountains. In the town of Valier, on Halloween night, there were 2 in town so the police escorted the trick or treat kids around. Read this in the Shelby paper. Friend of mine in the Swan said there is probably not one person that has not had one in their yard at some time. Time to hunt--
  33. sallymander
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    sallymander - December 11, 2012 2:51 pm
    I can see the headlines now:

    Wounded Grizzly Attacks Skyrocket in Montana
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