Wyoming Pushes For Grizzly Bear Hunt After Trump Administration Removes Their Endangered Species Protection
Less than one year after Yellowstone’s famed grizzly bears were stripped of Endangered Species Act protection, on Friday, the state of Wyoming started advocating to hunt grizzly bears beginning this fall. Under the regulations, the state will sell tags for 24 grizzlies in areas outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
“Wyoming’s reckless hunt ignores the fact that grizzly bears remain endangered in Yellowstone and across the West,” Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement. “It’s tragic that these imperiled animals will be shot and killed so trophy hunters can stick heads on their walls.”
Although grizzly bear numbers in the greater Yellowstone area increased with endangered species protection granted in 1975, the bears continue to be threatened by isolation from other Grizzly populations, loss of key food sources and human-caused mortalities including hunting. Overall grizzly bears occupy less than 4% of their historic range in the United States.
“Yellowstone’s amazing grizzly bears are loved by people around the world and they deserve a real shot at survival,” continued Santarsiere. “It’s horrific that Wyoming doesn’t see the intrinsic value that these bears bring to the state’s landscape.”
Millions of tourists from all over the world come to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Taton National Park every year in anticipation of seeing a grizzly bear and other rare wildlife. The tourism industry is a major economic drive for many towns in Wyoming and Montana. But the new regulations would provide no protection for Yellowstone’s famed bears, which could be shot if they leave the park boundaries.
Just last month, Montana State game agency took the opposite approach, recommending no grizzly bear hunt this year. The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission adopted the recommendation on February 15th.
“Montana made the right decision to not allow grizzly bear hunting this year and hopefully in future years,” said Santarsiere. “Wyoming’s failure to follow suit is deeply disappointing.”
The appeal to allow hunting comes as key grizzly food sources in the heart of the Yellowstone ecosystem have been collapsing and grizzly mortality rates have been increasing. The dramatic decline of whitebark pine and Yellowstone cutthroat trout has prompted bears to eat more meat, such as big-game debt piles and livestock, resulting in increased grizzly bear mortality. Drought and climate change are likely to worsen these problems.
Yellowstone bears have long been isolated from other bear populations forcing the government to keep them on permanent life-support by trucking bears in to avoid inbreeding. This fact further argues the need for recovering grizzly populations in the U.S.