American trophy hunters, so apt to go abroad in search of the next trophy head, need look no further than Wyoming for one this coming fall. Last week, the state’s Game and Fish Commission approved a trophy hunting season that could result in the killing of as many as 23 grizzly bears, starting in September. So many of us are outraged as Americans when our wealthy trophy hunters go abroad to slay lions and elephants; we need to express and act upon the same outrage about this unwarranted killing of magnificent bears in our homeland.
The Humane Society of the United States has opposed the opening of a grizzly bear hunt from the beginning, and we will continue to do so until federal protections for these vulnerable creatures are restored. Last year, we and other groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the bears. That elimination of federal protections led Wyoming and Idaho to announce their bear hunts this fall.
Despite the decision to delist grizzly bears, their populations have not recovered — far from it, in fact. There are only an estimated 700 bears living in the Yellowstone area, and in the past three years we have seen record-level mortality in that population.
Grizzlies face an array of human-caused threats to their habitats and traditional food sources. Driven to roam beyond the safe confines of national parks by food scarcity, they have been crossing paths with humans more than ever before. In the past three years, 175 bears have died directly from human causes, because of actions by poachers, cattle ranchers and elk hunters.
The commissioners in Wyoming, unelected and unaccountable to the residents of that state, reached the decision to open the trophy hunt on bears with almost no deliberation, and in spite of overwhelming opposition from the public. Scientists, photographers and citizens alike have objected to this proposal, but a few trophy hunters and ranchers with deep influence successfully drowned out these voices.
In April, 73 biologists joined in a letter sent to Wyoming’s Gov. Matt Mead, requesting that he stop the Yellowstone-area grizzly bear hunt and convene an impartial, expert panel to review Wyoming’s unscientific trophy hunting plans. This month, 107 photographers and several tribal nations called upon Mead to stop the hunt based upon economic, cultural and other reasons. And in a brand new study, Prof. Jeremy Bruskotter of Ohio State University and his colleagues found that 74 percent of biologists (especially those employed by universities), favor retaining federal Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears
A new poll from The Economist magazine and YouGov.com found that most Americans — 71 percent, in fact — believe that sport hunting is both morally wrong and morally unacceptable.
One small positive in the news from Wyoming is that we and our allies did succeed in reducing its size. Wyoming had originally intended to let trophy hunters kill even more bears than the current quota, benefiting from a backroom deal in which Wyoming “borrowed” a portion of Montana’s annual allocation of grizzly bear mortalities in order to go above its own limit. This was in spite of Montana having taken the strong and admirable stand not to hold a hunt in 2018. After we, along with a coalition of conservation groups, wrote to Montana officials demanding an accounting for this shady deal, Wyoming relented and cut its female hunt quota within the core grizzly recovery area in half.
Our work won’t end until we succeed in restoring Endangered Species Act protections for the grizzlies. You can write to Gov. Matt Mead and ask him to help save Yellowstone-area grizzly bears by canceling the trophy hunt. It’s a worthy fight, and we invite you to join your energy and passion to ours to save these iconic animals.