After 41 years of being listed as an at risk species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), on June 22 grizzly bears were delisted in the Greater Yellowstone Area by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services because their population had achieved full recovery.
National Park Services said, “The population [of grizzly bears] has grown from 136 in 1975 to about 690 today. Scientists think the Yellowstone area population has recovered and may have reached its capacity for resident grizzlies,”
The grizzly bear was originally listed as endangered in 1975, but now that the animal is delisted, the Greater Yellowstone Area, consisting of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, is able to decide what the management plans are for this species.
So far all three states are prepared to keep protections on grizzly bears as before. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said, “Management of grizzly bears in Montana will be conservative and will be similar to how they have been managed for the past decade; with an emphasis on minimizing conflicts between bears and people, while allowing bears to occur where they are tolerated,”
So what does this mean for hunters? Hunting season is already in full swing and this could mean changes for hunters and the larger Yellowstone community.
Before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to delist the grizzly bear, there were regulations in place beforehand to make certain that the species wasn’t put back on the ESA. Some of these regulations stated on the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website include: “Suspending grizzly bear hunting inside the DMA [Demographic Monitoring Area] if total mortality limits for any sex/age class are met at any time during the year…[and] female grizzly bear with young will not be available for recreational harvest.”
Although the population of grizzly bears has risen in the past few decades and grizzlies are thriving within stable environments with abundant food sources, wildlife advocates don’t want to rush into anything regarding hunting the bears. Grizzly bear hunting is still prohibited in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
National Parks Services also said, “We’ve asked to be included in future meetings with the states regarding where and how hunting will occur. We’ve also asked the states to focus hunting away from park boundaries and into areas with high levels of human-bear conflicts,”
The community is also willing to help grizzly bears maintain their population.
Kate Schimel, the deputy editor-digital at High Country News said, “Tribal nations in the Northern Rockies have promised to fight for continued protections for the bear. In October 2016, members of the Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes signed the Grizzly Treaty, committing to restore and revitalize the threatened grizzly bear across North America,”
Yet the main concern that will continue to be a high priority for wildlife advocates, scientists, and park rangers is the safety of humans from potential bear attacks. There have been seven fatal bear attacks since 2010.
“Employing best practices for safety in bear country doesn’t just protect people, but the welfare of animals as well,” said National Park Services.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services is also looking toward the future for grizzly bear populations. One of the important roles they play are, “monitoring population and implementation of management plans for five years post delisting to ensure the population remains recovered and management commitments are being met.”
The future of the grizzly bear is looking bright and with these protections still in place for the species, they should thrive as they have been doing for the last few years.