Americans love grizzly bears, but Montana and Wyoming lawmakers are not getting the message

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on March 4, 2021 with 25 Comments

Grizzly 399, often called the world’s most famous grizzly bear, has a fan base of wildlife watchers that numbers in the hundreds of thousands. Each year, dozens of paparazzi attempt to record her every waking moment, from the time she emerges from her den in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in the spring until the time she goes back into hibernation in the late fall. She even has two entire books devoted to her.

This week, 399, as she was named by scientists who study grizzly bears, made news again when a photographer spoke to the media about how he documented her in a rare photograph taken last June that shows her protecting her cubs after another bear got too close for comfort. The photo shows 399 standing on her hind legs while her four cubs hide behind her. “My adrenaline was going when I saw her stood up, because it was a once-in-a-lifetime shot,” photographer Kunal K. Singh told South West News Service.

Grizzly 399’s popularity shows just how much Americans love grizzly bears. While sighting a bear like her, one of the world’s oldest grizzlies, is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, many Americans flock to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks each year for a rare glimpse of any grizzly bear. Those who do return home with photographs and memories they will cherish for a lifetime.

Unfortunately, it appears that some lawmakers and appointed officials in the states these parks are home to would rather offer these charismatic animals to trophy hunters shopping for grizzly bear heads and hides for their living rooms.

According to news reports, wildlife managers in Wyoming are now pushing for delisting grizzly bears, who are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act, with the false claim that the species has “more than recovered”. Also, lawmakers in Montana are now considering a bunch of terrible bills, including one that would allow the state to open season on grizzly bears were these animals to lose their ESA protections and another that would allow a longer wolf-trapping season and a snaring season, which could also be detrimental to grizzly bears who could be caught in these snares. Yet another bill in Montana would allow a black bear hound-hunting season which could likely result in grizzly bear cubs also being chased and killed.

It is estimated that there are fewer than 1,800 grizzly bears now surviving in the lower 48 states, including the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem which spans Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Although their numbers have slowly increased since they were listed under the ESA, they have far from recovered. Grizzly bears are notoriously slow to reproduce, and the threats they face, mostly from human causes, have only increased in recent years. These animals are also grappling with dwindling food resources and state wildlife managers who unfairly malign bears based on perceived threats to cattle, even where there is little evidence that individual bears actually pose a significant threat to cattle or other animals grazing on federal and private land.

In 2017, the Trump administration attempted to prematurely delist grizzly bears in Yellowstone, as a handout to trophy hunters, but we stopped this terrible effort in its tracks with a federal court victory in 2018. In 2020, an appeals court upheld the ruling, ensuring Yellowstone grizzly bears continue to be protected from trophy hunters. The courts agreed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cut corners and ignored science when it rushed to remove federal protections for these animals. The courts also recognized that the government failed to consider the impacts that removing protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem would have on other, even more imperiled, grizzly populations in the United States. We hope the Biden administration follows the science and keeps these iconic species protected.

Grizzly bears still desperately need our protection. These are immensely intelligent animals who form strong family bonds. 399 is known to have raised as many as 20 cubs, although many did not survive and some were killed by people, further illustrating how fragile grizzly bear populations are. She is, by all accounts, an extremely devoted mother who has learned to skillfully navigate busy highways around the park as she moves around with her cubs. According to one anecdote, those skills were further sharpened after one of her cubs, Snowy, had a fatal car collision a few years ago. She will now come to a road, stop, wait for her fan club to stop moving vehicles, and when the vehicles come to a halt, “she beelines it across the road with her cubs,” says Kristin Combs, executive director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, who calls herself one of 399’s biggest fans.

Wyoming and Montana lawmakers need to remind themselves that Yellowstone’s grizzly bears are far more valuable alive than dead to their constituents, and to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who flock to the national park each year. Irresponsible wildlife management will only result in these iconic animals being lost forever. We are now asking wildlife photographers to join us in a letter to Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana, asking him to protect grizzlies and other precious wildlife in Yellowstone. If you live in Montana, please urge Gov. Gianforte to veto the bevy of bills that may be headed for his desk and that would harm grizzly bears as well as other wild animals, including black bears and wolves.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.


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  1. Julie Argyle says:

    Tired of all the trophy hunting of the beautiful wildlife that so many people spend so much time watching. They are loved by America and should be preserved.

    • Lisa Justice says:

      Amen to that! Glad to see other than myself love to watch and see wildlife as it is. The only reason I see to killing such beautiful wildlife is if they are charging you to kill you and other than that they should be protected not killed in trophy hunting period! You kill off wildlife and you kill the world like it’s going their now! Sad very sad!

  2. David Treick says:

    Grizzly bears are worth more alive than dead. Provide resources and training to ranchers so that both can exist. Win Win solution!!

  3. David Boldt says:

    These magnificent creatures deserve protection. They are a valuable part of the wilderness ecosystem and the balance of nature. When left alone they pose NO THREAT to humans. We need to share our planet with them.

  4. MICHELLE Sarnoski says:

    This is so wrong. Why do a few get to make the choice for many? LEAVE OUR WILDLIFE ALONE!!!

  5. John Isbell says:

    The states have a monied enterest in selling hunting licenses from Bear and Wolf hunts even though the science is not with them. Hunting is only necessary when a population of animals has not enough predators to control their population. Grizzlies have not reached that point yet in the lower 48. They do excede their numbers in some areas because they have been relocated to areas where it is acceptable to put them. Grizzlies do not co-habitat very well so they move on. The state of Washington has plenty of room for them and Oregon as well.

  6. Jeane Camargo da Silva says:

    Nenhum animal deveria fazer parte de lista alguma. Todos deveriam ter o direito à vida, em paz.

  7. Deborah Lane says:

    It’s very disgusting, selfish that we let sub humans kill animals for fun! We are supposed to be the caretakers for the creatures and earth. Instead we spread across the world like a virus,killing, polluting, poisoning. The animals don’t get a choice,we take that away because of our greed, apathy, ignorance. We need the balance to shift to more humans that care about limiting our population so animals can have their families in peace and freedom.

    • Suez says:

      Amen, sister!! Well spoken.

    • J Lawrence says:

      Agreed!! Once again Human entitlement is the issue! Our wildlife are living creatures just doing what’s in their nature, and as such, are the rightful owners of the little habitat that remains intact for them.

      If you don’t want to risk a grizzly or wolf encounter, then don’t enter their territory or homestead in such areas. Otherwise assume the risk and attempt to co-exist with them.

      I am not saying that rogue bears and wolves shouldn’t be taken out. But those situations are always the exception, not the norm. Most bear attacks are the result of human error or inappropriate responses to proximity by people.

      And guess what? There is NO “sport” or skill in hunting with a high powered rifle and scope from afar to snuff out an unsuspecting animal as a trophy!! All that proves is a person’s lack of character and selfishness. Not that they are a skilled hunter in anyway shape or form.

  8. Joe says:

    Move them all to yosemite and boulder CO see how you like it when your pets are getting killed.

    • Tim Garrison says: bears in my neighborhood…Branson Mo.

    • Fdub says:

      Such is the life when we live in their world. I’ve had plenty of pets taken by cougars and coyotes but I’m not gonna go hun them down. It’s not their fault I left them outside or didn’t have the proper fencing/defense to keep em out.

  9. Barry Comer says:

    Why is it that humans can populate and move in on others land no matter human or animal and just take it . It’s not yours to take . So a grizzly or others meat eater takes a meal , the meal is in their kitchen. They say we need to keep animal population in check, look in the mirror and see what needs to be kept in check.

  10. Albert Ritucci says:

    stop the slaughter !

  11. Connie Doherty says:

    People come to Montana and Wyoming to watch and photograph Grizzly Bears, Black Bears and Wolves in their natural environment, they need to be protected. Stop killing the magnificent wildlife, they are not trophies.

  12. Larry Baxter says:

    Montana’s Gov., Gianforte, recently cited for trapping and killing a tagged wolf from Yellowstone’s Wapiti Pack. The Wolf was ten miles north of the park. Gianforte has also pled guilty in recent years to illegally taking an elk and punching a reporter in the face. Not likely to be a champion of bears, wolves of journalists!😳🐾

  13. Lana says:

    Stop this action ASAP. Why has our nation become a killing ground? Just because you have money, show off a mounted head/body to your buddies, you are willing to decimate the animals. OUR ANIMALS AND THEIR YOUNG ARE WORTH MUCH MORE THEN YOUR IGNORANT PRIDE AND TOO MUCH MONEY. How about putting your name/money on a program to save the animals; which makes much more sense.

  14. Peter Hamper says:

    I think Grizzly bears should not be hunted. Hounds should not be used to hunt bears. A number of mountain lion hunters gave up chasing because wolves killing there hounds. So why chase bears? Also trouble bears shouldn’t be moved a few miles. They should be moved to any remote area in the United States that Grizzlies once in habitated. Example California has a Grizzly on its flag but no Grizzlies. People bear attack in known bear habit the bear shouldn’t be euthanized.
    Habitat for Grizzkies has been harmed by wolves. Spring source of food for Grizzlies was winter kill. Now the wolves dine on winter kill. Also wolves dine on elk especially calves. Bears also depend on elk for food source. Have wolf hunting season but not trapping or snaring.

  15. Rod says:

    It’s all fun and games until you or one of your family members gets eaten by a bear.

    • Todd Anderson says:

      I suppose none of these people eat beef. Ranchers are only feeding America. I guarantee not one of them has seen a calf being eaten while being born.

  16. Kathleen L Goodrick says:

    Stop Killing God’s Amazing Creation For Greed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Roger Jude says:

    Love watching bears. I also understand some animals can be a nuisance. I am not for killing any type of wild animals unless they become a danger. I also wish people would stand up for these babies that are being slaughtered daily. They are human beings that are not doing harm to anything.

  18. Dale says:

    Don’t kill or try to increase their population. Leave well enough alone.If one person is killed and happens to be a family member who is enjoying the outdoors, its ONE that didn’t need to die.

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