Montana hasn’t been given the green light to hunt grizzly bears just yet, but if and when it does a framework could be in place for sustainably harvesting the carnivores. The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks department has drafted grizzly hunting regulations which, if passed, go into effect after the question of the species’ delisting is settled.
The proposed regulations would establish a spring and fall season for the bears, with seven districts spread between Interstate 15 and the western border of the Crow Indian Reservation — roughly the southwestern corner of the state. The districts are aptly named Grizzly Bear Management Units (GBMUs).
Tags would cost $150 for a resident hunter, with non-residents paying $1,000. If successful, all hunters would pay an additional $50 fee for a trophy license, enabling the holder to possess and transport their trophy.
The move wasn’t premature on the state’s part, though. The proposed regulations are required by the USFWS for it to even consider delisting the bears, assuring a bear season would be well managed and orderly, not thrown together hastily after the bears are delisted just to allow hunting to occur as quickly as possible.
While the management plan allows for hunting, some argue the unveiled draft is too restrictive. The Montana Standard reported that the spring season will run March 15 through April 20 and the fall season Nov. 10 through Dec. 15, allowing sows with cubs — they hibernate earlier and emerge from their dens later — to be sheltered from hunters to a degree. While the dates seem in keeping with sound management, the Standard said the seasons “will be so restrictive that the state will not allow the shooting of any bear traveling with another bear to avoid killing a female.”
Many scientists have rallied against the proposed delisting, sending a joint letter to the USFWS to object to the changes in the grizzly’s status. Public comment ends tomorrow, May 10, after a 60-day comment period on the delisting.
Comments on the hunting season will be taken by the MFWP through June 17; the department will reportedly take its final action on the proposed regulations at its July meeting.
Cover photo via iStock