After decades of being off-limits to hunters, Wyoming’s grizzly bears may soon be back on the menu. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s governing board has approved plans to develop hunting regulations for the great bears, with an actual season seemingly just over the horizon.
The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that staff members of the department met Thursday to ask its governing board for permission to draft the regulations and kickstart the much-anticipated hunting season. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist Yellowstone National Park’s grizzlies in 2017 opened the door for Wyoming, as well as Montana and Idaho, to manage their own bear populations, with hunting being a top method. The board gave the go-ahead, so the next step is for biologists and game wardens to sit down and draw up the proposed hunt’s boundaries and quota.
Some parts of the hunt have already been established in the wake of last year’s delisting. A license would reportedly cost $600 for Wyoming residents and $6,000 for nonresidents. Only mature boars could be taken, and if the ecosystem’s grizzly population ever dropped below 600, hunting would be closed. In order to accurately monitor that number, hunters must report their kills within 24 hours.
As is to be expected, there are still several hurdles to be cleared before a hunting season can be instituted: public comment periods, final approval by Game and Fish, and, if history is any indication, lawsuits. The bears’ delisting spawned several lawsuits from anti-hunting organizations, with groups already vowing to combat sport hunting if it is utilized.
Yellowstone’s grizzly bear population has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1975, with only 176 bears living in or around the national park at that time. After more than four decades, the bears have rebounded to some 700 animals, leading to their delisting last June.
“As a kid who grew up in Montana, I can tell you that this is a long time coming and very good news for many communities and advocates in the Yellowstone region,” Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a statement at the time. “This achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of the state, tribal, federal, and private partners. As a Montanan, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together.”
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