Between now and May 3, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is requesting public comments on its proposed Yellowstone grizzly bear hunt. Now it’s time to weigh in again.
What’s the Story
In June 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Yellowstone population of grizzly bear from the endangered species list. This delisting decision meant that Idaho, Montana and Wyoming took over management responsibility in each respective state for this population of bears. Each state has a separate management plan that outlines how it will handle nuisance bears, hunting seasons and regulations. Bears that remain inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park continue to be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and cannot be hunted unless they leave the park boundary.
And while litigation is pending around the delisting decision, Idaho and Wyoming have opted to move forward with a controlled hunt. Montana is holding off for now.
It’s important to note that Idaho has another population of grizzlies in the Idaho Panhandle that is still at risk of extinction and remains under protection of the Endangered Species Act.
Are Yellowstone Bears Actually Recovered?
By 1975, only an estimated 136 grizzly remained in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Today, that number is estimated to be about 700. This recovery is a tremendous success story that highlights the importance of the Endangered Species Act, dedicated conservation funding and public collaboration. Given this recovery, the Idaho Conservation League believes that the state of Idaho needs to take steps to make sure that grizzly management is effective before we jump into a hunting season.
Here’s What Idaho Still Needs to Do
Update Idaho’s Grizzly Bear Management Plan
Idaho’s grizzly bear management plan was developed in 2002 and has not been updated since. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game should revisit its plan to ensure that measures are consistent with the Yellowstone grizzly bear conservation strategy, that the plan includes updated information about population dynamics and habitat needs, and that the plan acknowledges the Idaho Panhandle population of grizzly that remains under federal protections in Idaho.
The plan should also demonstrate a commitment to minimizing human/grizzly conflict. Reductions in these conflicts could be accomplished by implementing nonlethal management options, such as preventative programs aimed at avoiding livestock conflicts, deterrence programs, and educational efforts for those living, working and recreating in bear country.
Require a Bear Identification Course
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game should make it mandatory that those wishing to obtain a black or grizzly bear tag complete a comprehensive online course and quiz to demonstrate they can identify the differences between black and grizzly bears and between males and females. The course should also include information about safe travel for both people and bears in bear country.
Stop Allowing Baiting for Black Bears
Baiting encourages bears to seek out unnatural sources of food and can lead to bears habituating to areas and human food and becoming nuisances. Luring bears to an unnatural food source and then hunting them once they become accustomed to feeding also raises questions as to fair chase. The state of Montana has outright banned bear baiting. Idaho should follow this lead.
While the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is not proposing to allow grizzly bear baiting nor does it allow baiting for black bears in grizzly hunting units (units 61, 62 and 62a), the state does allow baiting in other grizzly-occupied habitat and across the rest of the state.
It’s Time to Take Action
Before May 3, take a couple minutes and submit your comments to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game regarding its proposed 2018 grizzly hunt. Fish and Game staff will present the Idaho Fish and Game Commission with proposed hunting season options at their next meeting in McCall on May 10. Commissioners will vote at that time.