Feds Set To Drop Protections For Yellowstone Grizzlies

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife officials have divvied up how many grizzly bears can be killed by hunters in the Yellowstone region of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho as the states seek control of a species shielded from hunting for the past 40 years, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The region’s grizzlies have federal protections, but that could change in coming months, turning control over to the states. The AP obtained a draft agreement detailing the states’ plans for the animals.

The deal puts no limits on grizzly bear hunting outside a 19,300-square-mile management zone centered on Yellowstone National Park. Inside the zone, which includes wilderness and forest lands near the park, hunters in Wyoming would get a 58 percent share of the harvest, a reflection that it’s home to the bulk of the region’s bears. Montana would get 34 percent, and Idaho, 8 percent.

The management zone has an estimated minimum 717 grizzly bears. There is no estimate of how many live outside the area, although the number is increasing as they expand into new habitat, biologists say.

Wildlife advocates say the bear population remains too small to withstand much hunting. That’s a particular concern given the large numbers of bears already dying, including during surprise run-ins with hunters and after livestock attacks that prompt officials to trap and kill problem bears.

In 2015, at least 59 Yellowstone-area grizzlies were believed to have been killed or trapped and removed by government agencies. That’s the most since the animal received protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975.

Despite the deaths, state officials say the grizzly population has recovered from excessive hunting and trapping that exterminated grizzlies across most of the U.S. in the early 1900s. The officials have increased pressure on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe in recent —> Read More