JACKSON, Wyo. — A Wyoming Game and Fish Department public meeting on how to manage grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem drew comments and ideas from hunting guides who perceive there are too many grizzly bears and environmentalists insistent that Jackson Hole should remain a hunting-free sanctuary.
About 100 people attended the meeting Wednesday night when they were asked their thoughts on population monitoring, research, conflict management, information and education and grizzly bear hunting.
The comments and ideas voiced included prohibiting grizzly bear hunting until the Yellowstone region’s bears are connected with the grizzly bear population in northwest Montana; requiring wildlife managers to tell the public where tracked grizzlies are in real time when the bears venture into well-used areas; and requiring that meat from a hunted grizzly bear can’t be wasted, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported.
“I would recommend that the regulations say you can’t shoot a bear within a mile of a road,” said Maury Jones, a local ranch manager.
Such a buffer, Jones said, could ensure that wildlife watchers enjoy their viewing experiences without worrying about seeing a grizzly bear die.
Dan Thompson, the state’s large carnivore supervisor, said hunting grizzly bears would be “biologically sustainable” because there are an estimated 695 bears in the Yellowstone region of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently determined that the Yellowstone grizzly population no longer needed federal protection and turned management of the species over to the three states.
Conflicts between humans and grizzly bears are increasing as the bear population expands. State game managers consider hunting as one of the tools needed to help control the situation. Other tools include capturing and relocating bears.
Conservation groups generally oppose hunting of grizzly bears and several are suing to restore the federal protections, contending the bears are still threatened by a warming climate that limits their traditional food sources such as whitebark pine nuts and by increasing conflicts with humans.