Wyoming and Idaho’s aggressive plans for the trophy hunting of the remaining 700 or so Yellowstone-area grizzly bears this year are unscientific and – unless stopped — will set bear conservation back by decades.
No one knows how many grizzlies are now living in the Yellowstone area, but we know how many have perished in the last three years. We’ve seen record-level mortalities, and 175 bears have died directly from human causes, because of actions by poachers, cattle ranchers and elk hunters. Adding a trophy hunt will increase poaching and produce a conservation and cruelty disaster — especially for the smallest bears, the dependent cubs.
When trophy hunters take out the big male territorial bears, younger males vie for the dead bear’s home range and mates. They kill the previous sire’s cubs, and sometimes his females too. Also, if a trophy hunter kills a mother bear, her cubs, dependent upon her for up to four years, could be doomed to starvation, predation or exposure.
In June 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prematurely yanked federal Endangered Species Act protections from Yellowstone-area grizzly bears and handed management authority to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Immediately, Wyoming and Idaho wildlife officials launched plans to allow heavily-armed trophy hunters to legally kill up to two dozen grizzly bears.
Highly sentient and familial, and, in many cases, human-habituated, grizzly bears have only their wits and fleet feet to save them, while camouflaged hunters wait with high-powered scopes and weapons over fetid bait piles to kill them.
Federal and state governments have allowed monied special interests (the Farm Bureau, National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation) to trample upon the values and wishes of the majority of Americans who want to see Yellowstone-area Great Bears and their habitats protected for future generations,
Thousands of wildlife watchers can photograph the same grizzly bears for years in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, but not if they’re hunted. According to at least three studies, Wyoming’s local economies benefit greatly because of eco-tourism, and wildlife watchers spend nearly twice as much as hunters do. Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks bring in millions of dollars each year. One study found that tourism in Wyoming brings the state nearly $9 million per day. But if one person kills a bear — just to pose with it for a portrait in order to post on social media and then display a bear-skin rug — that act robs us all of the enjoyment of seeing these magnificent animals, while diminishing the grizzly bear population, and the ecosystem.
In a new study, an international team of biologists found that charismatic species such as grizzly bears and African lions face extinction because, in part, the public believes that these majestic animals are automatically protected from human exploitation. But that is simply not the case because most large-bodied native carnivores do face extinction. Another new study, this one from Canadian biologists who worked to shut down the British Columbia grizzly bear hunt, demonstrated that 60 percent of scientific decisions made by governmental entities are not based upon the hallmarks of sound science, including rigorous population analyses, measurable objectives, basic evidence, transparency or independent reviews from outside scientists. Instead, governments often make poor decisions purely because of political pressures.
You can help protect grizzly bears. Submit written comments to the wildlife agencies in Wyoming and Idaho. Contact Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming and Gov. Butch Otter of Idaho and tell them bear conservation should trump privatization of a public resource—one that literally brings millions of dollars to their states annually. Wyoming will accept comments until April 30 and Idaho until May 3, so please act now.