A debate about whether the Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly bear population may thrive while hunting will be tested this fall after Wyoming officials on Wednesday approved the state's first grizzly hunt for 44 years.
The hunt was approved 7-0 by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, allowing as many as 22 grizzlies to be killed in a vast area to the east and south of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
Hunt defenders and opponents did last minute grounds before the Commission, which held several public meetings about the hunt around the state and adapted the hunting rules as a result of some previous comments.
"Even during the hunting season, I think there will be plenty of grizzly bears on the scenery for people to photograph and come and see," Todd Stevie with the Sublette County Outfitters and Guides Association told the Commission.
Environmentalists and nature photographer Tom Mangelsen, a Jackson Hole resident whose famou's pictures include a salmon that jumps into an Alaskan brown bear's gaping jaws, doubted it.
"To kill grizzles for fun, when there is plenty of scientific evidence that the population does not grow, food sources have already fallen and further effects of climate change are unknown, preventive," said the Commission Commissioner.
Hunting opponents represented a majority of the two dozen people who spoke at the Live Streamed Commission Meeting in Lander, a city of 7,600 on the outer parts of the ever-expanding area of the Yellowstone region grizzlies.
The region also contains parts of Montana and Idaho, home to about 700 grizzlies, rising from 1
Montana has not yet allowed grizzly hunting. Idaho will allow a grizzly to be hunted in the fall. Hunting has taken place in Alaska where grizzlies and their minimally differentiated brown bears and Kodiak bear families are common.
"We heard from Wyoming's people, they supported this. It's quite clear science supports this," said Wyoming Spel and Fisheries Spokesman Renny MacKay.
If legal challenges do not connect, hunting will begin sept. 1 in the mountains and the pools populated by relatively few grizzlies furthest away from Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Hunting in a zone closer to the parks would start sept. 15 and end in all areas by 15 November.
As many as 12 grizzlies could be killed in the zone further from the parks. Closer in, the limit is 10, and hunting would be stopped when 10 men or a woman is killed, whichever happens first.
Most grizzly hunters at a time will be allowed in the nearest zone to ensure that no one inadvertently exceeds the quota.
If the demand for licenses is high, hunters can wait years for their chance. A computer program will randomly rename license applicants who would then pay $ 600 for a resident grizzly license and $ 6000 if they live elsewhere.
The names will be deducted until 10 hunters have paid for their licenses and certified that they have taken firearm security. Each license is valid for a 10-day window.
If approved, hunting can account for a large amount of grizzly death in the region this year, but not probably the largest. Of the 56 known and suspected deaths of the Yellowstone grizzles in 2017, 40 people were killed by eleven owners and others in self-defense.
Environmentalists told the Commission Wyoming has little room for allowing hunting without exceeding the mortality thresholds agreed as part of taking over the bear from the federal government.
"This proposal will restore the grizzly bear's recovery back after decades. With all the threats the Yellowstone grizzly bear continues to face it's irresponsible," Bonnie Rice with the Sierra Club told the Commission.
Not only hunters without ranchers, whose sheep and cattle often become victims of roaming bears in western Wyoming, welcomed the chase to keep the grizzly number in control.
"I know the" management "seems to have gotten a dirty name, but that's what we have to do if these animals continue in the state," said Charles Price, a rancher and former Game and Fish Commissioner. "Hunting must be part of the management system."
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