Climate change. Isolation. Habitat loss. Hit by cars. Drowned in canals. Mistakenly killed by black bear hunters. Killed in self-defense by big game hunters. Grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem face a panoply of threats, and conflicts with humans continue to rise. Yet, last summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed Endangered Species Act protections from the bears. And now, less than a year later, Wyoming is proposing to allow 24 of them to be hunted—and in some cases baited and killed—in areas near Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Please help us oppose Wyoming’s proposal here.
Not only is Wyoming’s plan heartbreaking, it makes no sense. There is no good reason to allow the trophy hunting of grizzly bears. On the contrary, there is a long list of good reasons NOT to. Yellowstone-area bears have been isolated from other bear populations for decades, and there are still far too few to ensure long-term viability. Wyoming’s plan would jeopardize continued expansion and recovery.
Hunters could end up killing bears that spend most of their lives in one of the nearby national parks—bears that aren’t bothering livestock and that people travel from around the world to admire. Hunters could unintentionally kill a female with cubs, or a cub that looked fully grown but was still relying on its mom. Hunters who startle a grizzly—especially a sow with cubs—could be attacked or killed themselves.
Hunting grizzlies would be unlikely to reduce property damage or attacks on livestock because hunters would not be targeting the few bears involved in conflicts. It would also be unlikely to teach grizzlies to be more afraid of humans, as the National Rifle Association and Safari Club claim, because dead bears can’t learn (among other reasons).
Live bears, however, do learn; that’s one reason why the proposal to allow not just hunting, but also baiting, is so problematic. Even though females with cubs could not be legally shot, they could still be attracted to sites baited with livestock parts (as the proposal would allow). If bears learn to associate the smells of humans and livestock with food, they could come into more conflict with humans, and be killed as a result.
Further, society is increasingly skeptical of hunting grizzly bears. British Columbia recently ended its grizzly bear trophy hunt. A 2016 national survey found that 68% of Americans oppose grizzly hunting. Some 170 Tribal Nations have signed a treaty prohibiting the hunting of grizzly bears on lands over which they have jurisdiction. Montana recently decided not to hold a hunt this year (though neighboring Idaho plans to allow one bear to be hunted). The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter asking Wyoming Game & Fish to delay implementing a hunting season and to at least avoid hunting adjacent to national parks (a request that, other than proposing a buffer area along one side of Grand Teton National Park, the agency has so far declined).
Grizzly bears are not rugs. They are not wall mounts. They are not trophies. Here in the Northern Rockies, these animals are our neighbors. They inspire awe and stir in us something that is still wild and primal and free. After four decades of federal protection, grizzlies still occupy only a tiny fraction of their historical range in the lower-48 states. They deserve our help as they continue to recover, not a hunting season that could put an end to decades of progress.
Please help Yellowstone’s grizzlies. Click here to tell Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and Wyoming Game & Fish not to hold a hunt.