Wyo Game and Fish Commission approves grizzly bear regulations at meetingWritten by Joy Ufford
Pinedale – The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission heard from speakers for and against the Chapter 67 Grizzly Bear Management regulations before voting to approve it June 7.
This version includes newly expanded protections for other grizzlies accompanying a female.
The regulation – which does not authorize hunting -– is next step required of the Game and Fish Department (WGFD) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to delist the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) “threatened” grizzly bear.
FWS proposed delisting in March, saying the GYA population is now above 700 bears and recovered. The Commission approved the WGFD management plan and its Tri-State Memorandum of Agreement to commit to a minimum of 600 GYE bears at the last meeting.
WGFD Chief Wildlife Officer Brian Nesvik addressed commissioners about the drafted Chapter 67 regulation.
“The essence of this regulation is to ensure grizzly bear propagation,” Nesvik said, explaining, the FWS is “adamant” that an enforceable state regulation such as this is in place before it posts its final delisting rule.
Those against the regulation cited their opposition to the regulation and delisting, as well as hunting, which will not be addressed until the distinct population segment is actually under WGFD management, he explained.
Commission President Carrie Little informed those waiting to speak that the regulation does not approve or deny hunting, but each said they would make a short comment anyway.
Inside the rules
Nesvik then told the commission, “First of all, most of this information is covered in some way, shape or form in the state management plan, which has already been approved.”
The regulation goes into greater details about “discretionary mortality” and definitions of GYA grizzlies’ monitoring areas and other “germane details,” he said.
If in the future, the overall tri-state GYA delisted population falls below 600 bears “we will stop hunting,” he said.
Also, the regulation covers quota exceedances by subtracting them from the following year’s tri-state limit.
“The essence of this regulation is to ensure a recovered grizzly bear population,” Nesvik said. “It’s important for the Commission to establish that for this regulation, hunting may occur. This regulation does not say hunting will occur. It leaves those discussions and those decisions for a later time.”
That way, these details are in place “if the Commission decides to go down that road.”
The regulation does state there will be no hunting outside the Demographic Monitoring Area boundary, and those bears, if any, are still protected by the FWS.
“Like other species, if hunting is to occur, there will be designated hunting areas and designated quotas, so like other species, no person will be allowed to take a bear outside the seasons,” Nesvik added.
A new element added just before the June 8 meeting would protect any grizzly accompanying a female, even it might appear to be older than a cub or yearling, according to Nesvik.
Nesvik said using an “age class” makes it difficult for hunters to determine a second grizzly’s age. He and Thompson agreed that a bear traveling with a female “is highly likely to be an offspring.”
“A two-year-old will travel with its mother, especially coming out of a den,” Thompson added.
Nesvik closed his presentation of the Chapter 67 regulation, and Little then gave the public a chance to speak.
Pinedale rancher and Rep. Albert Sommers said he was putting on each hat and voiced concerns about human and livestock safety and the Upper Green River Grazing Association supports delisting.
“We support the regulation,” said Taylor Engum of Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association.
Publisher and sportsman Darryl Hunter voiced his opinion that it would be “pragmatic to have 5.9 million acres closed off to hunting.”
Wyoming Sierra Club spokesman Lloyd Dorsey said fellow members do not believe grizzlies “should not be killed back to a boundary,” adding the animals benefit the ecosystem and economy and “are more valuable to Wyoming alive than dead.”
“This isn’t about hunting grizzlies,” replied Commissioner David Rael.
Next was Roger Hayden from Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, who noted bear conflicts are rising and these should be better managed.
Pinedale outfitter Terry Pollard spoke in support of the regulation
He was followed by Jim Laybourn and a speaker from The Humane Society of the United States, both of who decried grizzly delisting and hunting.
“Grizzly bear trophy hunting is socially unacceptable and economically incompatible with our economy,” Laybourn said of Teton County. “That’s a mandate at least for Teton County and the surrounding parks.”
After public comments, the WGFD Commission voted unanimously to approve the revised Chapter 67 grizzly bear management regulation.