Is Grizzly Bear Hunting About to Open in The Lower 48? Meanwhile, Where Are Your Best Chances?


Published: January - 2013

We've heard a lot of speculation regarding the potential return of grizzly bear hunting in the lower 48 states recently, and there are two specific reasons to believe there's fire behind all this smoke. First, this past summer Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar expressed support for delisting grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). This was in response to a letter from Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, requesting delisting for this population. Second, when Wyoming proposed increases in several license fees the list included increasing the nonresident grizzly fee. So how likely is a grizzly hunt in the intermountain west in the near future?

Grizzly bears were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on July 28, 1975. ESA protection moves a species from state to federal management authority, and the federal recovery plan calls for six separate recovery zones. The GYE is one of the six zones and the only one that has met the recovery goal to date. At present, managers believe there are more than 600 grizzlies in the GYE with all suitable habitat occupied. The other zones (and their estimated populations) include the northern Continental Divide in Montana (about 400 bears), the northern Cascades in Washington (about 20 bears), the Selkirk Mountains, split between Washington and Idaho, (40-50 bears), the Cabinet/Yaak split between Montana and Idaho (30-40 bears) and the Selway/Bitterroot ecosystem (Idaho and Montana), which currently has no grizzly bears.

Delisting grizzly bears completely from the ESA would require all six recovery zones to meet population goals for more than five years. This is simply not practical in the near future. However, provisions of the ESA do allow delisting distinct populations, and the GYE appears to meet the biological criteria for delisting. In fact, the US Fish and Wildlife Service did delist the grizzly in the GYE back in 2007, but a lawsuit challenging the delisting put the bears back under federal protection. Currently, the FWS is evaluating that lawsuit and a decision is expected in 2014. Certainly, no state management of the bear is expected before then and it is........(continued)

 
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