The HSUS today fired the first shot in its legal campaign to prevent trophy hunting of grizzly bears.
With the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service having announced plans to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, the states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana are salivating at the prospect of opening a trophy hunting season for the first time in 40 years on North America’s second largest carnivore (only polar bears are larger). In Wyoming, the state’s Game and Fish Commission has hastily – without giving the public enough time to weigh in – rammed through a management plan to put the hunting framework in place. Today The HSUS, along with the Center for Biological Diversity and local wildlife filmmaker Jim Laybourn, filed a lawsuit in Wyoming state court challenging the Commission’s failure to provide adequate time for public notice and comment on its deadly plan.
Trophy hunting of grizzlies is disgraceful. It snuffs out the rarest and often the fittest of animals and undermines conservation goals. What’s more, it hurts local economies built around eco-tourism, since sighting a bear is the most coveted wildlife experience for millions of people throughout the world who trek to Yellowstone and Grand Teton every year. The small fraternity of American trophy hunters who travel around the world to kill rare animals for decorations and prizes will now have a big prize here in the United States to chase and kill.
It is a fundamental principle of democracy that citizens have a voice in government decisions. This is especially important when it comes to management of wildlife, which states and the federal government are entrusted with preserving for future generations. Wyoming’s short-sighted plan to sell thrill kills to the highest bidders is not only scientifically and ethically unjustifiable, it is undemocratic. Seven unelected commissioners ignored the will of the public and rushed through a plan –without following procedure required by state law – that risks destroying our collective wildlife heritage and draining tens of millions of dollars from the local economy. Decisions of this magnitude should not – and legally cannot – be made without giving all stakeholders an opportunity to make their voices heard.
American trophy hunters are waging a war on America’s native carnivores already. In the past decade alone, they’ve shot more than 29,000 cougars in the United States, and tens of thousands of black bears. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes that there are 750 grizzly bears now living in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. That number is contested by other grizzly bear researchers who say the animals face grave existential threats from a loss of food resources due to climate change. Leading biologists agree that this fragile population cannot sustain the additional pressure from trophy hunting. Further, a recent scientific study shows that when states allow trophy hunting of carnivores in a misguided attempt to “manage” the species, the rate of poaching actually increases, multiplying threats to the species.
At The HSUS, we are dedicated to working with wildlife managers to reduce human-wildlife conflict and to ensure that wild animals are allowed to thrive without persecution. We hope that this lawsuit will be a wake-up call reminding Wyoming wildlife officials that they cannot continue to favor the narrow interests of elite trophy hunters over sound science, economic health for the region, and the opinions of the majority of the American public who want to see protections maintained.