Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 2


Wyoming can manage grizzlies; the time is now
By Brian Nesvik


s you read this, nearly all of Wyoming's grizzly bears are
tucked away in high-elevation dens hibernating for the
winter. Grizzlies have an amazing natural ability to slow
their metabolic functions including breathing, heart rate
and body temperature as a strategy to survive the coldest months of
the year when food resources are tougher to come by.
For bear managers, the break is welcome. It's a good time to regroup
and analyze biological data that contributes to the overwhelming
information available on one of the most-studied wildlife species on
the planet. It's also a reprieve from months of bear-human conflicts.
Throughout the summer and fall in northwest Wyoming, bear
encounters with livestock operators, hunters, hikers, anglers and all
outdoor recreators have become common. Cattle and sheep depredations are predictable and routine. As a result, Wyoming Game
and Fish Department managers invest significant time handling bear
conflicts. But, many people don't realize the state doesn't call the shots
on decisions regarding grizzly management. The grizzly bear remains
listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and it's
the federal government, not the state nor tribes, that have the legal
authority to manage them.
As you'll read in this issue of Wyoming Wildlife, grizzly bears are
an iconic species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). Their
population success story is a phenomenal example of Wyoming's
proven ability to recover endangered and threatened species. But, it's
high time for authority over grizzlies to be returned to the states and
tribes. For ranchers, hunters and anyone living, working or recreating
in ever-expanding bear country, bears must be effectively managed.
The current ESA has Wyoming hamstrung. Despite the fact the
population is recovered by all scientific measures, and has been for
nearly 20 years, the state is not allowed to implement its grizzly bear
management plan. All management actions are executed at the direction
of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wyoming has delivered on grizzly bears and other ESA species time
and time again. While the state engages in " Mother, may I? " -style
management, Game and Fish biologists have spent thousands of hours
managing, trapping, handling and flying to monitor bears. The large
carnivore team and wardens have investigated wildlife violations and
hundreds of livestock depredations involving bears. And, unfortunately,
Game and Fish has responded to dozens of human injuries and deaths.
The state voluntarily takes these responsibilities for three primary
reasons: to ensure public safety, help our state's livestock producers
deal with depredation of their herds and ensure the species remains
recovered and viable in perpetuity. The Wyoming Game and Fish
Commission has invested more than $50 million dollars in recovery
efforts. This is money primarily provided by Wyoming sportspeople
through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. It isn't in the bears'
2 | December 2020	

nor the state's interest to end up in a place where the iconic grizzly
bear is in jeopardy of extinction.
Grizzly bears in the GYE remain listed because of endless federal
lawsuits litigated outside Wyoming. These legal challenges don't deny
grizzly bears are recovered. They are based on complex technicalities
related to how the federal government promulgates regulations detailing
how bears are removed from federal oversight and transferred to state
The gray wolf illustrates what Wyoming can do when holding the
reins of wildlife management for large carnivores. After five lawsuits
and 15 years, the Wyoming wolf was finally delisted. The species was
fully recovered by all federally developed criteria for more than 10
years before management was completely turned over to the states and
tribes. Most litigation focused on technicalities and post-delisting state
and tribal management plans and not on population viability. Today,
after four years of state management, which includes a hunting season,
the wolf population is thriving and is consistently managed far above
federally required recovery objectives.
Further, Wyoming has managed black bears and mountain lions
for decades. The opportunities to see or hunt for these species in our
state is as good as it's ever been.
So what about hunting? It is the most controversial part of Wyoming's management plan. But, it's simple: our time-tested model for
managing many wildlife species in North America, including large
carnivores, has always included hunting. Like other wildlife, large
carnivores must be managed, and that includes objectives set by science and public input. Hunting is one method to move populations
toward those objectives. It also offers those who provide the financial
resources to manage grizzly bears an opportunity to take an active role
in their management.
State management would allow for ethical take without negative
impacts to the population. Currently, dozens of grizzly bears are removed
annually by the agency. In 2018, Game and Fish managers killed 35
grizzly bears consequential to human-bear conflicts, most in unsuitable
habitats outside their range. The removals were directed by the USFWS
and necessary for safety and to manage chronically troublesome bears.
Without a hunting season, agency removal is the only option. Bear
carcasses are typically disposed of in landfills.
Hunting would not eliminate all conflict. However, we know it
works to manage bears toward reasonable management objectives.
With state management, we would have the opportunity to determine
where bear abundance should be reduced and where it could steadily
align with available habitat. In turn, Game and Fish could reduce the
number of bears lethally removed by agency personnel while advancing an adaptive management model that has proven effective for a
diversity of species.
It's time for management to return to Wyoming. It's essential for
the future of grizzly bears and the citizens of our state.


Wyoming Wildlife magazine

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wyoming Wildlife magazine

From the director
In this issue
A couple pennies
Opening shot
Griz on the Go poster
Ask Game and Fish
Grizzly Glossary
Bruin Challenges
Allure of the grizzly
Grizzly Q&A
Wild Country Dispatch
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Cover
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - From the director
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - In this issue
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - A couple pennies
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Mailbag
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Opening shot
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 7
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - News
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Griz on the Go poster
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 10
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 11
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Ask Game and Fish
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Grizzly Glossary
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Bruin Challenges
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 15
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 16
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 17
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 18
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 19
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 20
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 21
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 22
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 23
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 24
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 25
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 26
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 27
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Allure of the grizzly
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 29
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 30
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 31
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 32
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 33
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 34
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 35
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Grizzly Q&A
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 37
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 38
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 39
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 40
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 41
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 42
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 43
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 44
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 45
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Wild Country Dispatch
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 47
Wyoming Wildlife magazine - Backpage