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Grizzly Bears in the Crosshairs

I’ve written a lot about the upcoming delisting proposal and now it has been officially filed and released by USF&W (put docket #fws–r6–es–2016–0042 in the search box to read and comment).

Grizzly Bear

You can re-read many of my posts and the reasons why I oppose delisting, but here is a bullet summary.

  • Diminished important food sources – cutthroat trout and especially Whitebark Pine nuts
  • No genetic connectivity linkage at this time between Yellowstone bears (GYE) and those north (Northern Continental Divide).
  • Questionable science whether the “ecosystem is full” or if bears are moving out to find new food sources as their primary sources diminish.
  • Climate change makes all unknowable
  • Grizzly bears are the slowest reproducing mammals in North America. A female bears will, at best, duplicate herself in a 10 year period.
  • We just spent 40 years and millions of dollars to increase the bear population from 125 to 725 (see how slow reproduction is!). With the climate changing so fast(this is the warmest winter on record) ,and food sources changing for bears, why are we rushing into delisting. Why not wait another 5-10 years for the science to reveal more data?

OK, now for the delisting proposal by USF&W. To understand it, first you have to understand some terms. Primary Conservation Area (PCA) was the initial conservation recovery zone proposed when the bear was listed in 1975. Habitat rules apply in this area, such as no additional roads, or food storage.

Fairly recently, the Management Team mapped out a larger area they called the Demographic Recovery Area (DMA). Habitat rules do not apply in these areas, but the area is considered suitable habitat for bears. There is much more suitable habitat as far as a grizzly would be concerned, but in the eyes of the USF&W those other areas have either too many people, or too much livestock. The lower western side of the Wind Rivers would be an example which has plenty of living Whitebark Pines but a lot of hikers and climbers.

To easily illustrate this, here is a map:

Slide1

Map from the USF&W 

Grizzly bears that move outside the DMA (heavy black line on map) will not be counted towards the total population to be managed. Some more glaring problems with the delisting proposal:

  • Population could be reduced to 600 bears (500 bears in Wyoming) before “discretionary” (hunting, management “removals” etc.) mortality would be curtailed
  • Population will no longer be allowed to grow – population is now being managed for stability, not growth
  • Leaves hunting of grizzly bears in the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway between GTNP and YNP up to state of Wyoming’s discretion
  • Mortality threshold for independent females and dependent young would be higher than what it is currently set at (2015 Chao2 estimate = 717; current threshold is 7.6%; under proposed rule would be 9%) i.e. population would be immediately reduced upon delisting
  • Population will not be allowed to expand southward in Wyoming (at least under the state’s current management plan) i.e. Wyoming Range, southern Winds, Salt River Range
  • Bears ranging north outside the DMA will not be counted and those are the bears that would enlarge the GYE gene pool.

Grizzly mom and cubs

 

For the record, I strongly oppose delisting, but it appears delisting and hunting is right around the corner. So what can we realistically demand from USF&W:

  • Look at the map again. The Primary Conservation Area could be regarded as a population sink for preserving the bear population and be a NO hunt zone. In that case, the PCA area would need to be expanded to include Grand Teton NP and surrounding area.
  • The DMA must be enlarged to include what they are calling the GYA distinct population segment. This would then include areas such as the southern Wind Rivers, Wyoming Range, and the Bighorns–all suitable habitat. Problem bears could then be relocated to some of these habitat rich areas rather than just moved around the existing PCA.
  • Livestock owners in the present plan are not required to do anything to protect their animals. One of the biggest problem areas in the DMA is the Upper Green–a linkage between the southern Absarokas and the Wind Rivers. Thousands of cattle and sheep graze in the summer on Forest Service lands and bears encounter them when they move south. These are our public lands bears are on and there should be additional rules in these areas that livestock owners must follow before lethal removal of grizzly bears takes place.

Ideally, the USF&W would have established grizzly bears in the linkage zones between Yellowstone and Glacier National Park, as well as bears north (Yellowstone to Yukon vision). Since this has not happened, the proposal is to fly bears in if genetic diversity falters. Bad and stupid idea!

The Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide are unique. They harbor some of the last large wildlife in the U.S. With top predators and large herds of prey, we have a complete ecosystem, one of the only in the entire temperate world. Surely we can manage these areas differently, allowing room for wildlife instead of managing for people and livestock. We can decide to set aside lands where these top predators, such as wolves and grizzly bears, can live and not be hunted. Let us create a new paradigm of wildlife management that doesn’t have to include a trophy hunt and ensures the Great Bear’s future.

Note: Please comment on the USF&W comment site listed above. USF&W will give more weight to science cited comments.

Also View the Wyoming Game & Fish Proposed mgmt. draft link

Grizzly cub

 

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One Response

  1. How stupid is USF&W.This is a decision that was made to quickly again they need someone with a backbone to run this org.

    Like

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