Jane Goodall Among 58 Scientists Urging Government to Halt Grizzly De-Listing

http://ecowatch.com/2016/05/06/jane-goodall-grizzly-de-listing/

| May 6, 2016

Dr. Jane Goodall is one of 58 prominent scientists and experts who have signed a letter asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to retain Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears.

Incidentally, their letter was released around the same time that Montana wildlife officials announced draft grizzly hunting regulations that, once approved, would offer $50 permits to local residents and $1,000 permits for out-of-state hunters to shoot the bears, The Guardian reported. The state’s grizzly hunting plan would be implemented if the bears are taken off the federal endangered species list.

USFWS has proposed de-listing the Yellowstone grizzlies, saying that their numbers have recovered to a point where federal protection is no longer needed.

However, opponents argue that the iconic animals are not ready for de-listing because climate change and other human-caused factors have threatened their food sources. The letter states:

Grizzly bears face multiple threats to persistence including the loss of their primary food resources. Currently, whitebark pine seeds, native cutthroat trout, huckleberries, army cutworm moths, elk and bison are either declining and/or are expected to decline in the foreseeable future as a result of habitat loss, climate change, drought, invasive species and other anthropogenic causes.

Goodall recently delivered a recorded video message to the House Natural Resources Committee in Washington DC to urge protection for the grizzlies, which were put on the endangered species list in 1975.

“Forty years ago when the grizzlies at the Yellowstone ecosystem numbered less than 150 individuals and their survival seemed precarious, it was thanks to protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975 that their number today has risen slowly to around 700,” the renowned primatologist and conservationist said.

“But their future isn’t secure yet because they face so many threats to survival. Two of their four major foods have all but been wiped out due to climate change, disease and invasive species. And they may be killed if they prey on livestock in their increasingly difficult search for food.”

Wildlife biologist David J. Mattson, who also signed the letter, explained to NPR that the plight of the whitebark pine trees is at the center of the Yellowstone grizzly fight. The seeds from the tree are a major source of food for the grizzlies but climate change is wiping out the trees.

Mattson told NPR that climate change has also forced the bears to roam further away from protected areas in search of food thus increases the risk of bear encounters with ranchers and big-game hunters.

In March, USFWS director Dan Ashe announced the “historic success” of the recovering Yellowstone grizzly bear population. However, because of this “success,” this means that if grizzly bears that wander outside of their protected areas, they could be legally hunted if they are de-listed.

“If the grizzlies are de-listed and the state opens a hunting season, ‘399’ [a beloved mother grizzly living in Grand Teton National Park] might be shot by a trophy hunter so that her head can be mounted on a wall, her skin laid on the floor for human feet to trample,” as Goodall lamented in her video message. “I think many hearts would break. I know mine would.”

According to The Guardian, “officials in the three states that surround Yellowstone—Wyoming, Idaho and Montana—have insisted the re-opening of hunting after 40 years won’t harm the grizzly population.”

Care2 noted that UFWS tried to de-list grizzly bears in 2007 but environmental groups sued. In 2009, a federal judge in Montana ruled that Yellowstone grizzly bears should continue to be protected because not only were the safeguards promised by the USFWS unenforceable, but due to climate change, bears were losing a major part of their diet due to whitebark pine trees dying off.

The USFWS is taking public comment until May 10 on whether to de-list Yellowstone-area grizzlies.

Death at Yellowstone: Feds probe shooting of ‘Scarface,’ the park’s most famed grizzly

The Washington Post
Karin Brulliard

 

There are more than 750 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park, but none as famed as a brawny, cocoa-colored male dubbed No. 211.

He was best known by his nickname, which was inspired by his fight-maimed face and damaged right ear: Scarface. He roamed far, wide and often within sight of delighted tourists and their cameras. He was captured, collared and released by biologists 17 times, making him “one of the most studied bears,” in the region, according to the Associated Press.

By last fall, those scientists were warning that Scarface might not make it through the winter: He’d dropped from a peak of 600 pounds to 338 pounds. At 25 years old, he was elderly.

[Cubs of a euthanized grizzly that killed a Yellowstone hiker will get a new home]

They were right that his time was short. But Scarface didn’t die of natural causes. Last week, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks department released a statement that said No. 211 had been fatally shot in November near Gardiner, Mont., just outside Yellowstone’s northern edge.

FILE - In this Oct. 2005, file photo provided by Ray Paunovich shows a well-known Yellowstone National Park grizzly bear known as "Scarface." Montana wildlife officials have confirmed that the grizzly bear was shot and killed during a confrontation with a hunter north of Gardiner last fall.© Ray Paunovich via AP, File FILE – In this Oct. 2005, file photo provided by Ray Paunovich shows a well-known Yellowstone National Park grizzly bear known as “Scarface.” Montana wildlife officials have…

The bear’s death is now under investigation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, because grizzly bears are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and most killings not carried out in self-defense are illegal. The Montana state agency offered no details about the the killing or why it was not announced sooner, and a Fish and Wildlife representative contacted by the Washington Post declined to comment.

The killing of the famous bear is sure to fuel opposition to recent Fish and Wildlife proposal to remove federal protections for grizzly bears in the so-called Greater Yellowstone Area, which could lead Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to approve their hunting. Grizzlies were declared threatened in the 1970s, when hunting, trapping and other issues caused their population to decline to less than 150.

Federal officials say the bears’ population has recovered, but many conservation and wildlife organizations are fighting the proposal. The Sierra Club, for example, has said “bears’ naturally slow reproductive rate, loss of key food sources to climate change, and state plans to reduce numbers through methods like trophy hunts, all spell disaster.”

[These undercover robot animals are helping in the hunt for poachers]

Scarface’s killing is being widely mourned among those familiar with the bear, who’d earned a reputation as an unflappable “king of the woods,” in the words of Kerry Gunther, Yellowstone’s bear management program leader, who spoke to the AP shortly before the bear’s death.

 

Scarface was first captured in 1993, when he was a “sub-adult” bear weighing 150 pounds. At his peak, the bruin tipped the scales at about 600 pounds, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. But he’d grown emaciated in recent years, the agency said, noting that less than 5 percent of male grizzlies live to the age of 25.

Scarface owed much of his fame to the scuffles with other bears over females, carcasses and dominance that had made his face so recognizable, and that had so destroyed his right ear that it flopped over. Photographers, in particular, have sung his praises — and, in recent days, angrily mourned his loss.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FGhostBearPhotography%2Fposts%2F935515193234391%3A0&width=500

“I’ve seen him almost kill a black bear for getting too close to his carcass in Antelope Valley and I’ve seen him barely bat an eyelash at people who find themselves far too close,” nature photographer Simon Jackson of Ghost Bear Photography wrote on his blog two years ago, adding that he’d seen the bear 20 times over the years. “There is no one animal that has inspired me like Scarface nor any animal that has played such a profound role in defining the person I’ve become.”

Last week, as news of the bear’s death spread, Jackson’s blog published another post. “Our emotions alternate between shock, sadness, anger and a profound sense of loss,” Jackson and fellow photographer Jill Cooper wrote, urging people to campaign against the proposal to de-list the grizzly bear. “Nothing will bring back our beloved Scarface, but we can still do right by the many bears he fathered and all of the bears that shared the landscape he once roamed.”

Sandy Sisti, a wildlife photographer who blogs at Wild at Heart Images, once wrote a paean about seeing “Yellowstone’s Grand Old Man” in all corners of the park and watching as he grew more scarred over the years.

More: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/death-at-yellowstone-feds-probe-shooting-of-%e2%80%98scarface%e2%80%99-the-park%e2%80%99s-most-famed-grizzly/ar-BBsxLOg?ocid=spartandhp

 

 

Groups sue to halt hunting at Grand Teton

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Environmental groups filed a pair of federal lawsuits on Wednesday to stop hunting that is now allowed on hundreds of acres within Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and has claimed three bison.

The National Parks Conservation Association and Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates claimed in the lawsuits other species could be hunted.

Hunting generally isn’t allowed in national parks, though Grand Teton for decades has hosted an annual elk hunt in coordination with state wildlife officials.

The hunt — formally known as an elk reduction program — was part of a state-federal compromise that enabled the park to be established in its current boundaries in 1950.

A 2014 agreement between Grand Teton and Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials improperly allows hunting dozens of species on private and state land within Grand Teton, the groups claim.

The groups worry that grizzly bears and wolves could soon be targeted by hunters if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife succeeds in removing the animals from federal protection as threatened and endangered species.

“For more than 65 years, the National Park Service rightfully and lawfully exercised authority to protect all park wildlife,” said Sharon Mader, Grand Teton program manager for the NPCA. “It should continue to do so moving forward.”

Interior Department spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw declined to comment, citing agency policy on pending litigation.

The lawsuits involve dozens of parcels of state and private land called inholdings located within the park. National park land completely surrounds most inholdings, which total well under 1 percent of Grand Teton’s 485 square miles.

Significant inholdings include two state parcels, each measuring a square mile, and a pair of relatively small ranches of 450 and 120 acres.

National Park Service and state officials began discussing whether federal or state laws would be enforced on Grand Teton inholdings after a wolf was shot on a private inholding in the park in 2014.

Federal prosecutors declined to charge the shooter, finding that park officials had erred in determining that federal wildlife law for national parks took precedence on the private land.

Park officials agreed later that year that state law would take precedence on all inholdings. The four environmental groups are contesting that agreement with the lawsuits.

“Wildlife obviously don’t pay attention to title records and move around on all of those parcels,” said Tim Preso, an Earthjustice attorney representing Defenders of Wildlife and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “You cannot maintain the park, the integrity of the park as a preserve for wildlife protection, when you have these islands where wildlife can be killed.”

The number of Grand Teton inholdings dwindled after decades of buyouts by the National Park Service. Wyoming officials have been trying for years, with limited success, to get the Interior Department to acquire all remaining state inholdings.

The last two inholdings, together worth perhaps $100 million, command prime views of the Teton Range. In 2010, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal threatened to sell to the highest bidder if the federal government didn’t get serious about taking them off the state’s hands.

Recent negotiations between state and federal officials have focused on possibly trading the sections for federal land and mineral rights elsewhere in Wyoming

Yellowstone Grizzlies by the Numbers

Yellowstone Grizzly Bears By the Numbers

The grizzly bears that inhabit the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have played an important role in one of the nation’s greatest endangered species success stories. Since 1975, the bears have been beneficiaries of the Endangered Species Act that enabled the grizzly population to beat all odds after teetering on the brink of extinction. It grew from 136 bears in 1975 to around 700 in 2016, although estimates range from 674 to 839.

On March 3, 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced its proposal to delist the Yellowstone area grizzlies, which includes Grizzly 399, from the federal threatened species list. It is expected to make a final decision by the end of 2016.

The Numbers

50,000
The number of grizzly bears that roamed between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains during Lewis and Clark Expedition, 200 years ago.

674-839
The approximate number of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem according to the National Park Service in 2016. No one knows the exact number.

150
The number of grizzlies that live within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park in 2016.

More than 524
Of Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzlies live outside Yellowstone National Park.

22,500 square miles
Is the range of the Yellowstone area grizzly bears, which has doubled since 1975 – that’s an area larger than Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire combined.

37
Grizzly bear populations were present in the lower 48 states in 1922.

31
Grizzly bear populations were extirpated by 1975.

136
Grizzlies lived in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 1975.

10
is number of years it takes a female grizzly to replace herself in the population.

1,000
Grizzly bears live in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which stretches from Kalispell, Mont., all the way up into Canada and includes Glacier National Park.

DSC_0033

The Future of Grizzly Bears

Taking Note

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park.
JIM URQUHART / REUTERS
By ROBERT B. SEMPLE Jr.
MARCH 4, 2016

The 1973 Endangered Species Act, a landmark environmental measure much detested by developers and other commercial interests, is credited with saving the bald eagle, the peregrine falcon, the American alligator and the gray wolf, among other species. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has its way, the grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will soon join that company of once-close-to-extinction creatures that no longer needed the act’s protection. On Thursday, the service proposed to remove grizzlies in the Yellowstone region — meaning the national park, and the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming — from the endangered species list, whose protections the bears have enjoyed since 1975.

If the bears are ultimately “de-listed” — a comment period on the proposal is now underway — it will represent another triumph for the act. By 1975, the grizzly population had dwindled from an estimated 50,000 animals in the Lower 48 to fewer than 200 in the Yellowstone region, and bears were dying faster than they could reproduce. Protected from hunting and trapping by the act, the Yellowstone population has since grown to between 700 and 1,000 animals, a number the agency’s scientists and many independent observers see as proof of biological recovery and sufficient to guarantee an expanding, sustainable population going forward.

But whether de-listing will ultimately prove to be a triumph for the grizzlies remains to be seen.  The draft conservation strategy published along with the proposal contains strict mortality limits as well as protections against development of grizzly habitat….

Most crucially, the future of the grizzlies depends on the states to which their protection is now entrusted. And here there is reason to pause and cross one’s fingers. Consider the case of the Rocky Mountain gray wolf.  The service de-listed the wolf in Idaho and Montana after scientists concluded that it had reached sustainable populations in its range, and turned wolf management over to the states. Both states soon embarked on wolf hunts; the wolf was not de-listed in Wyoming, where the anti-wolf animus characteristic of the region was particularly virulent, and where the wolf is still under federal protection. The service says that wolf populations have remained stable throughout the region, but this is testament to their ability to breed rapidly, not to any particular affection or sense of responsibility among the politicians of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The environmental groups that have decried the service’s new proposal, including the Sierra Club, argue not only that the proposed de-listing is scientifically premature but also that the states simply cannot be trusted to make it work. They have sound historical reasons for feeling that way. It will ultimately be up to this administration and its successors to insure that its promise to the grizzlies — and it is indeed a promise — is honored.

An Oasis for Bears in Romania

By , February 3, 2016

LiBearty-1-cristi-si-lidia-020216
Guest Post: Claudia Flisi visits the LiBearty sanctuary for orphaned and abused bears in Transylvania.

Did my guide know something I didn’t? Adrian refused to accompany me inside the LiBearty Sanctuary outside of Zărnești in Braşov County, Transylvania. He knew about the work of the sanctuary of course; he is Romanian-born and a professional guide. But he demurred: “My heart is too soft so I cannot go with you. Please understand.”

I did understand. Zărnești is in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains, the crossroads of monstrous myths. Yet the back stories of the sanctuary’s shaggy residents are more unbelievable than Bram Stoker’s tales of Transylvanian vampires. Deliberate blinding, forced alcoholism, involuntary drug addiction, and calculated maiming – not to mention orphans sold into slavery – are oft-told tales at LiBearty Sanctuary.

The back stories of the bears at the sanctuary are more unbelievable than Bram Stoker’s tales of Transylvanian vampires.

The 69-hectare reserve is the largest refuge for brown bears in the world in area and numbers. Since Romania hosts 60 percent of all wild brown bears in Europe (not counting Russia) and also is home to the largest remaining virgin forest on the continent, the location makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is how the bears have fared in their proximity to man. LiBearty’s 80-some bears have suffered more cruelty and bestiality than the human mind can comprehend – never mind that humans alone have been responsible for such cruelty.

LiBearty-Graeme-020216Take Graeme for example. Graeme and his brother were orphaned by hunters in 1994. They killed the cubs’ mother for sport, then locked up the two brothers in a small cage to serve as attractions for visitors to a mountain mining company.

As mining declined, the growing cubs fought for what little food came their way, and Graeme was blinded in one eye. A zoo took him away to pace for years in a wire enclosure, while his brother was abandoned to starve to death in his tiny cage.

Graeme came to LiBearty in 2013 and now, after 21 years of suffering, enjoys open spaces with trees, ponds, and grass, and an ursine companion from his zoo days.

Or Max. Born in 1997 and orphaned soon after, Max became a tourist attraction as a cub. He was chained near a castle in Sinaia so visitors could pay to have their pictures taken with him. To make sure he wouldn’t cause problems as he grew, Max was deliberately blinded and his sharp canine teeth and claws were cut off. Pepper spray was sprayed into his nose to keep him from reacting to smells, and he was drugged every day with tranquilizers dissolved in beer.

LiBearty rescued him in 2006. They couldn’t restore his sight, so they created a private acre-large enclosure for him, where he bathes in his own pool, hibernates in his own den, and spends his days enjoying the sun and the sounds of nature.

“Soon she began to recognize the sound of our car and would stand up to greet us when we arrived.”

Max’s story, his expressive face, and his gentle demeanor move visitors more than those of any other resident of the sanctuary. When I mentioned seeing him to Adrian after my visit, he blanched. “I knew that bear. I would see him in Sinaia when he was still a cub. I knew something was wrong, but there was no one to complain to, back then …”

The fact that “there was no one to complain to” is what moved Cristina Lapis to create the sanctuary in the first place. A long-time animal activist, Lapis is a former journalist from the city of Brașov, about 30 km. northeast of Zărnești. She and her husband Roger, France’s honorary consul to Romania, established the Millions of Friends Association (AMP) in 1997, focusing on the rescue of stray dogs. It is the oldest animal welfare NGO in the country, and today looks after 700 dogs in two shelters.

LiBearty-Cristina-Lapis-020216Less than a year after starting AMP, Lapis encountered Maya. The young brown bear was in a small dirty cage near the tourist attraction of Bran Castle in Transylvania. She had no regular food, no care, no stimulation, only the jeering of tourists and the occasional beer bottle.

Lapis recalls her “boundless rage against the people who could condemn such an animal to a slow and painful death like this.”

For the following four years, Lapis, her husband, and friends traveled 100 miles every day to bring food, water and companionship to the neglected bear. Results were initially promising: “We were able to improve her health and lift her spirits … Soon she began to recognize the sound of our car and would stand up to greet us when we arrived.”

The problem was that Maya had nowhere to go. Zoos at that time were not an improvement in space or cleanliness. There were no shelters for large wild animals, and no money to maintain them, had they existed.

Maya became depressed again, as animals do in captivity. She self-mutilated her right paw, ripping her flesh to the bone. She lost her appetite and the will to live. She died literally in the arms of Cristina Lapis, as the latter rocked her and stroked her fur, on March 11, 2002. Over the bear’s stiffening body, Lapis vowed that she would create a sanctuary for other bears so that they would not suffer a similar fate.

Lapis vowed that she would create a sanctuary for other bears so that they would not suffer a similar fate

LiBearty Sanctury…

More: http://www.earthintransition.org/2016/02/oasis-bears-Romania/

Hunting to Scare Grizzlies?

http://www.grizzlytimes.org/#!Hunting-to-Scare-Grizzlies/c1ou2/5696cb910cf263fc5a89bf50

Hunting to Scare Grizzlies?

January 13, 2016

|

David Mattson

Kill grizzly bears to make them afraid of humans. This idea has gotten a lot of air time in recent years as one of several justifications for removing endangered species act (ESA) protections for Yellowstone’s grizzlies, most recently in a January 10th editorial by the Editorial Board of the Bozeman Chronicle. Delisting (another term for removing ESA protections) would clear the way for a sport hunt managed by the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, which are currently squabbling over a share of the sport kill in anticipation of devolution of authority from the federal government to them.

The idea of instilling fear in grizzlies through a hunt is emotionally charged because there have been several bear-caused human fatalities in the Yellowstone region during the last few years. The media, of course, has duly sensationalized each death. So the idea is to have sport hunters kill grizzlies to teach them to fear people. As a result, there will be fewer bear attacks. People will be safer. To borrow a phrase from Valerius Geist, a proponent of hunting bears, people will have “freedom of the woods.” Hmm. Well…

Although some people obviously consider hunting to be a self-evident guarantor of human safety, there is, in fact, little or no empirical support for this proposition. There is essentially no evidence that a sport hunt instils fear in grizzlies. The proposition also defies logic and everything that we otherwise know about grizzly bears. If nothing else, how can a dead bear learn anything? A point that has been made by many others besides me.

Having made my assertion, I should probably elaborate, noting, though, that a thorough review of the evidence (or lack thereof) would probably bore you, the reader, to tears. Which means that I will confine myself to a (relatively) brief and necessarily cursory overview. So put on your seat belt and send me your questions if you want more detail.

Grizzly Bear Fundamentals

The first point to be made is that grizzly bears exist at a baseline characterized by a greater tendency to respond aggressively to perceived threats compared to other bear species. Steve Herrero, a Canadian behavioral ecologist, was the first to speculate that this aggressiveness was rooted in the evolutionary history of grizzlies. Grizzlies (AKA brown bears) evolved in open environments where safety depended on standing your ground and intimidating or beating back any threat. (You can find more on the formative evolutionary environments of grizzlies by following this link and this link).

Even so, grizzlies can exhibit a high degree of tolerance for humans and other bears that might otherwise be viewed as threats. You can see this in coastal environments where bears have become highly socialized and tolerant of each other because of frequent interactions with conspecifics concentrated around salmon spawning streams. Or among bears that have interacted enough with benign humans to internalize a less fear-based response—a process known as “habituation.”

So, a couple of key points are worth making at this juncture: First, grizzlies seem to be hard-wired genetically to deal with perceived threats aggressively. Second, and perhaps more importantly, grizzlies can become less reactive to people, not as a result of heightened fear, but rather as a result of the opposite. These fundamentals alone call into question the logic of using hunting to increase human safety. Killing grizzlies (and, as I address later, we’ve done a lot of that even with ESA protections) is unlikely to rewire the genetic underpinnings of their behavior; and less fear rather than more is probably going to make people safer, especially if we continue to reduce the number of circumstances (e.g., garbage around human residences or hunters near freshly-killed elk) that allow people to do things that trigger aggressive responses from even the most tolerant bears. More on that a little later.

Welcome to the Vacuum

Another important point to make up front is that we know virtually nothing about the behavioral and motivational responses of bears to hunting, certainly little that is grounded in research. The closest we come is a study out of Scandinavia showing that hunted brown bears increased their night-time activity, with little obvious relevance to whether humans were thereby safer. A  coarse-grained review by Jon Swenson, a Scandinavian bear researcher (and, for a while, a Montana biologist), suggested that hunted European brown bears might be more wary, but that this possible behavioral response was trumped by whether food was available near people. Bears were likely to seek out food regardless of whether they were hunted or not, which goes back to my point immediately above about garbage and hunter-generated carrion.

By contrast, we know quite a bit about the negative and often unintended consequences of selectively hunting adult males of various carnivore species. Insofar as livestock depredation and other conflicts are concerned—including the type that could lead to human injury—we tend to get more rather than fewer. This is because adolescent males tend to gravitate to areas where the dominant resident males have been removed by hunters. And adolescent male bears are notoriously prone to push human boundaries. Moreover, sport hunting tends to disrupt the social order of bear populations, which often results in more cub-killing by males and, with that, unexpected and sometimes problematic population declines.

So, a couple more points: There is little or no direct evidence that bears become warier with hunting, and certainly no evidence that people become safer. On the other hand, conflicts with people can paradoxically increase, along with unanticipated declines in bear populations. So, again, not a compelling case for the benefits of sport hunting.

The Immediate Circumstances of Attacks

At this point I return to Steve Herrero, who has spent essentially his entire professional career looking at the immediate circumstances of bear attacks, with emphasis on behaviors of the involved people and bears. His research shows that most attacks by grizzlies happened because people were moving quietly (or sometimes rapidly) through the woods, or because the bears were lured to the vicinity of people by food. The former set of circumstances led to surprise encounters. Adult females with cubs almost invariably responded aggressively to protect their young. On the food front, when grizzlies spent more time around people the odds mounted of us doing something stupid (or unintentionally risky), or of bears simply getting curious. So, surprise encounters and foods that attract grizzlies are prominent drivers of risk. And, again, foods were typically in the form of garbage or the remains of elk and moose that hunters had recently killed. Only rarely did Steve find that outright predation was a factor, typically as night attacks on people camping in tents.

This comports with what we know of circumstances surrounding the bear attacks that have occurred around Yellowstone. Several people have been injured or even killed because they were moving quietly through the woods (sometimes jogging), surprising a female that then defended her cubs, or a bear that defended a carcass, or, in the case of some hunters, just simply a bear that defended its personal space. But surprise encounters are a central theme. Then there were the few night attacks on people in tents, probably (or, in one instance, almost certainly) by bears that were in the habit of checking out campgrounds for food. So, the food factor. And then there were the odd-balls, such as the botanist killed by an enraged boar grizzly recovering from being trapped and drugged (again, a surprise encounter), or the photographer killed by a frantic female that he had pushed beyond endurance. In this latter case, the stupidity factor.

So, given these concrete circumstances, what can be deduced about prospects for increasing human safety by hunting grizzlies? Well…unless you kill most bears, you are not going to substantially reduce the chance of surprise encounters. Nor, as I noted earlier, are you going to eliminate the hard-wired tendency for grizzlies to defend themselves from a perceived threat when surprised, especially when guarding cubs or food. Hunting also does not deal with the availability of foods near people. And we would be foolish to expect that grizzlies will be less motivated to procure food because we are hunting them. Obtaining food is another hard-wired drive for bears, especially during the late summer and fall when they are putting on fat to get through hibernation. And hunting does not address the stupidity factor.

As a bottom line, when looking at the reasons why people get injured by grizzlies, I am hard-pressed to divine how hunting will increase human safety. Unless, perhaps, we kill most of the grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone, as our European ancestors did.

And We’ve Already Run the Experiment

On top of this, we’ve already run the experiment and found no evidence that it has worked. Which is to say, we’ve functionally been hunting Yellowstone’s grizzlies for years, complete with gunshots, blood, gory remains, and lots of associated human scent and sign. Think, for example, of all the grizzlies that have been killed by big game hunters during surprise encounters or in conflicts over hunter-killed elk—increasingly. Or by ranchers and other people in defense of life-and-property. Functionally this is probably little different from a sport hunt, except in the heads and on the balance-sheets of wildlife managers. We’ve essentially been hunting grizzlies in Yellowstone, without any evidence that it has affected human safety one way or another.

And What About Yellowstone Park?

And then there is Yellowstone National Park, where a substantial proportion of the bear attacks and resulting human fatalities have occurred. There will not be a sport hunt in the Park, even with a delisted grizzly bear population. So, even assuming the unlikely–that hunting would cause bears to avoid us because they are more fearful, how will this effect be propagated through over 2 million acres in the core of the ecosystem? From hunted bears on the periphery, which will presumable be killed by humans at a higher rate compared to protected bears living in the core–in Yellowstone Park? In the face of a resulting net movement of bears outward rather than inward? Unlikely.

But We Probably Can Make Bears Fear Us Even More

At this point I’ve run much of the gauntlet of evidence and found little or no support for the idea that human safety can be enhanced by sport hunting. At least the traditional kind of sport hunting that focuses on killing trophy-worthy adult males, with little overt selection for bears known to be involved in conflicts with humans.

But there is a kind of hunting that probably could have an effect, and to understand this potential we need to look at what we know about relations among bears. More specifically, bears fear other bears, more than they probably fear humans. And there are reasons for this.

For example, there is ample evidence that fear motivates adolescent bears and females with young cubs to exert themselves to avoid other adults, even to the extent of spending more time near people. In fact, we can unintentionally serve as shields of sorts for bears that are seeking protection from aggressors of their own species. There are several reasons for all of this. Adolescents are often chased by solitary adults, and on occasion, probably thrashed to within inches of their lives…sometimes even killed. Likewise, cubs can be killed during encounters with adult grizzlies other than their mother, a phenomenon known as infanticide. All of this entails unpleasant experiences and interactions that happen on a relatively frequent basis, which fosters learning and even generalization of experiences.

So, what does this have to do with how we might hunt Yellowstone’s grizzlies, with the objective of engendering fear of humans? It seems pretty obvious. You selectively hunt and kill cubs–but leave the mothers alive. And you trap bears, with an emphasis on adolescents, club them to within inches of their lives, and then let them go. And do this repeatedly and for as many bears as possible.

Having suggested such an approach, I find the prospect disgusting. But, then, I am sure there are some hunters out there that would relish the prospect of killing cubs and torturing trapped bears. The same hunters that have done something similar with wolves and coyotes. But the backlash from the broader public would be predictable, dooming such a hunting strategy to an early demise. Moreover, not unlike abused dogs, abused bears might, in fact, be even readier to attack a human should a surprise encounter happen.

Still, if the issue really is just simply about making grizzlies fear us… Or is the ardent promotion of sport hunting really about something else?

Concluding Thoughts

Take the case of Terry Schramm, a self-styled cowboy from Pennsylvania working for self-styled out-of-state ranchers who own the Walton Ranch in Jackson Hole. Or the legislator-rancher Albert Sommers who raises cows in the Upper Green River of Wyoming thanks to heavy subsidies by environmentalists (in the form of a $1 million plus conservation easement), by the federal government (in the form of well-below-market-price grazing fees), and by the state of Wyoming (in the form of generous compensation for any cows that he claims are lost to predators). In a recent Wyofile article, both of these icons of the modern west explicitly or implicitly suggested that their fraught lives would be a lot less problematic if there were many fewer grizzlies in a lot fewer places.

A record 59 grizzlies died in the Yellowstone ecosystem in 2015

By | December 22, 2015 <!–






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Conflicts with hunters and livestock were among the reasons a record 59 grizzly bears died in the Yellowstone ecosystem in 2015, the federal government’s grizzly coordinator said last week.

In addition to running into hunters and being removed for killing stock, grizzlies also faced a dry year and were seen more often in developed areas, said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He leads the effort to establish an enduring population in the Yellowstone region.

The number of deaths “was the highest number of grizzly mortalities in the Yellowstone Ecosystem since 1970,” Servheen said in an email. He put the number in perspective, writing that the losses are “not a big deal in terms of population-level impacts.

“Remember,” he wrote, “that there are three times as many bears in the ecosystem today as in 1970.” An estimated 717 grizzlies live in the ecosystem today, according to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, but some question the accuracy of that figure.

Grizzly deaths are recorded according to sex and age. The number of females older than two years is an important component of the population. Consequently, managers have set an annual limit for adult female mortalities at 7.6 percent of the population.

In 2015 adult female grizzly deaths exceeded that figure by 0.1 percent, Servheen wrote. Adult males died at 11.7 percent, well below their 15 percent limit.

“Bottom line is that annual mortalities fluctuate in natural systems and individual years will vary,” Servheen wrote.

Numbers are key part of Endangered Species Act delisting

The health and size of the population are critical factors as the federal government begins to remove Endangered Species Act protection from the Yellowstone-area population. Wyoming, Idaho and Montana could subsequently institute a grizzly hunting season.

Fifty-five of the deaths in 2015 were human-caused. Investigators are probing the death of 19 Yellowstone-area grizzly bears, according to the mortality table. “Investigation” is a label applied to probes of grizzlies believed killed by hunters, poachers or nefarious actors.

Fourteen bears were killed or otherwise removed from the population for conflicts with livestock and 12 for getting human food or for property damage, the 2015 mortality table shows. Five bears were euthanized through management actions, four died as a result of collisions with vehicles, two were natural deaths and three bears died of unknown causes.

The 2015 mortality figure of “known and probable” deaths exceeds the previous annual high of 55 that was set in 2012, grizzly bear advocate and watchdog Louisa Willcox wrote WyoFile in an email. There also are unrecorded bear deaths, she said, and they could bring the 2015 tally up to 90 bears.

Although the federal population estimate was set at 717, it covers a range that could be as low as 642, Willcox said. That led to her worst-case estimate.

“Bottom line: there could be as few as 552 bears in the ecosystem,” she wrote. If 90 bears out of 642 were killed, that amounts to 12 percent of the official population number and would bring the ecosystem count to “below the basement level of 600.”

Six hundred is the fewest bears that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would allow — after delisting — before it would prohibit “discretionary mortality.” U.S. Fish and Wildlife director Dan Ashe referenced that limit in a letter he sent to state game directors in September.

An agency spokeswoman said the 600-bear minimum likely would never be reached after Endangered Species Act protections are removed. “The goal would be to manage for approximately 674 grizzly bears to ensure a sustainable and resilient population that utilizes the entire available habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” Serena Baker wrote in an email. “We do not anticipate population numbers to dip down to 600 bears.”

Members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team also say the population survey could under-estimate bears by 40 percent. That wide range perplexes some, including Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. That nonprofit advocacy group asked Ashe in November for a “definitive GYE grizzly bear survey.”

Federal estimates spread over a range of plus or minus 472 bears, wrote Kent Nelson, director of the group. “At this point IGBST’s ‘best available science’ starts looking more like a wild-ass guess,” Nelson wrote Ashe.

“There is a far better alternative to the chaotic situation,” he wrote. That would constitute “a survey of the GYE grizzly population using DNA hair analysis.”

The current estimates are based on mathematical modeling, following observations, including those made from aerial surveys.

Clarification: The official 717 count is for the “Demographic Monitoring Area,” that covers about 20,000 square miles across most, but not all, of the Yellowstone ecosystem. The IGBC mortality chart includes bears killed throughout the ecosystem. Officials have said 10 Yellowstone ecosystem grizzlies died in 2015 outside the DMA — Ed.

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WY “Anticipates” Grizzly Bear Hunting

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http://www.wyofile.com/states-feds-agree-least-600-yellowstone-area-grizzlies/

By | December 7, 2015

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department would recommend no hunting of mother grizzly bears with cubs-of-the-year at their side if and when it proposes a hunting season, an agency spokesman said Monday.

The state anticipates adopting regulations that follow “standard wildlife practices,” such as the prohibition against hunting mothers with cubs, Game and Fish spokesman Renny MacKay said. Wyoming could manage Yellowstone-area grizzly bears if and when federal protections are lifted as federal wildlife officials anticipate.

“It is something we would be willing to bring forward to the commission,” MacKay said of the prohibition. “We do that with mountain lions, we do that with black bears.”

Wyoming also is committed to a grizzly population that includes well-distributed females of reproductive age. That’s one of the federal benchmarks for determining whether the Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly still needs protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“That’s something Wyoming is absolutely committed to maintain,” MacKay said.

Several aspects of the delisting process still have to play out, including release by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of a conservation plan, a proposed rule and population-monitoring documents. Wyoming, Idaho and Montana also would have to adopt state regulations if they want to have hunting seasons.

Wyoming’s Game and Fish Commission, a body appointed by the governor, is charged with setting such regulations and seasons in Wyoming.

“Ultimately, if Wyoming takes over management of grizzly bears again, we have to ensure a recovered population,” MacKay said. “That’s at the heart of all of this. We want the flexibility to be able to adjust to changing conditions, changing populations and changing science.”

Sierra Club doesn’t like the idea of a 600-bear trigger before “discretionary mortality” ceases, said Bonnie Rice, senior representative for the organization’s Greater Yellowstone/Northern Rockies campaign.

“We disagree with driving down the population,” she said Monday. “Six hundred bears is well below the current estimate, so that is of great concern to us in terms of [potentially] reducing the population by over 100 bears.”

She and other conservationists still see threats to grizzlies, including that Yellowstone-area bears are an isolated population. Having fewer bears would decrease the chance of naturally connecting Yellowstone grizzlies with other populations, she said.

“One of the biggest things for us is linkage zones,” Rice said.

She’s also worried how states will balance and coordinate on the number of bears killed and how any multi-state limits might be enforced. “We don’t have that framework yet,” she said.

Other groups also reacted. “Once again we see Director Ashe cutting deals for political expediency instead of following the science,” Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement. “The Endangered Species Act is incredibly effective at recovering imperiled species, and will do so for grizzlies across their range, but only if they retain protections until the science clearly demonstrates recovery.”

Genetic isolation from other populations worries Western Watersheds Project, a spokesman for that group said in a statement. “Recovery isn’t a math equation, it’s a geography question,” said Josh Osher, Montana director for the group. “The states’ tentative agreement with the Service fails to ensure connectivity throughout the species’ range and fails to address the livestock operations that are the root cause of lethal conflict for the grizzly bear.”

Letter from Washington provoked discussion

The country’s top wildlife official wrote state game chiefs in September agreeing the Yellowstone-area grizzly bear population could decline to 600 — 114 fewer than today’s count of 714 — once federal protections are lifted.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe’s Sept. 24 letter to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana officials was confirming the minimum number of bears and other measures the four agencies had agreed to at that point. Until the 600-bear trigger is reached, “discretionary mortality” of grizzly bears — which could include hunting — could continue.

Ashe and state officials are negotiating a complex agreement that would see the bear removed from protections of the Endangered Species Act and put under state management. Such a move would open the door to grizzly bear hunting in the three states but not in Yellowstone and most of Grand Teton national parks.

Details of the talks have been closely guarded, and state and federal officials have not confirmed details of the September letter obtained by WyoFile over the weekend.

Ashe and the three state wildlife directors met twice in September, Ashe wrote, at which time they hammered out the details. “Based on these two meetings, I believe we have a mutually understood process that will allow the Service to proceed with a proposed delisting proposal…” to remove the Yellowstone grizzly from ESA protection, Ash’s letter said.

The bottom-line number is one of several trigger points set in the letter. When bears number between 600 and 673, annual female bear losses — including through expected hunting seasons — would be limited to 7.6 percent, and to 15 percent of the male population. More liberal losses — 10 percent female and 22 percent male — would be allowed when there are more than 747 bears, the letter states.

But federal and state agencies did not wrap up all aspects of post-delisting grizzly bear management in September, and Ashe’s letter acknowledges that. One point of discussion appears to be whether matters usually left to states — like prohibiting the shooting of a mother bear with cubs by its side — could be required by the federal government before turning over authority.

“States have agreed to consider additional regulatory mechanisms that will be part of individual state management plans/regulations…” Ashe said in the letter. Those state regulations would be referenced in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisting rule, bringing them under federal jurisdiction, the letter says.

Agencies still working on final plans

“We’re looking at regulatory mechanisms that would be included in a new conservation strategy,” Wyoming Game and Fish Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik said in a Nov. 12 interview with WyoFile. “That’s where the discussions have occurred. What needs to be identified in a delisting rule? What is under the purview of the three states?”

Wyoming wouldn’t manage grizzlies down to a minimum number, whatever that turns out to be, Nesvik said in November. In that interview, he said no final number had been agreed to.  “We have not discussed that to this point,” he said.

Wyoming’s wolf plan hews closely to the minimum population requirements set by the federal government. But wolves, as a species, reproduce faster than grizzly bears.

“I do not believe the Fish and Wildlife Service is interested in that same type of set of circumstances,” Nesvik said. “That has been part of the discussion. They’re interested in a different approach with bears.” Wyoming would “manage for a viable grizzly bear population well above the recovery criteria.”

Wyoming knows how to set big game and trophy hunting seasons, he said. “I think we would rely pretty heavily on our track record,” Nesvik said. For example, with black bears and mountain lions, “there’s certainly more [hunting] opportunity than there’s ever been,” he said.

“We would look to be able to manage grizzly bears in a manner consistent with the values we’ve held with those other species,” he said. “The public still needs to weigh in. The Game and Fish Commission has been very considerate of the fact the way we do business in this state is we include the public.”

Three critical pieces are necessary for delisting: a conservation strategy outlining long-term sideboards to ensure grizzly survival, an official proposed rule that sets administrative and legal parameters, and a document on population monitoring. After those are ushered through federal rulemaking and possible litigation, states would take over.

Federal and state officials are meeting in Missoula, Montana, for three days starting Tuesday when Wyoming Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott is scheduled to give a delisting presentation and update.

— This story has been updated to reflect that Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Scott Talbott is on the agenda for an update on grizzly delisting, not Brian Nesvik. Talbott is on the IGBC agenda with  Matt Hogan, deputy regional director of the USFWS — Ed.

 

Why Hunting of Yellowstone Grizzly Bears Could Resume

 

The successful recovery of the grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park under the Endangered Species Act has caused some grizzly advocates[???] to call for delisting the species, and to allow hunting to resume.

Grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park area saw unprecedented growth this year after being granted protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1975, causing many hunting enthusiasts to call for the population’s delisting.

A study published in the journal Molecular Ecology last week found “independent demographic evidence for Yellowstone grizzly bear population growth since the 1980s.” The scientists studied 729 bears and found that genetic diversity in the population was stable and the effective population, also known as “the number of bears passing genes to the next generation,” had quadrupled.

Some say the grizzly population has grown too much, reaching the resource capacity for the Yellowstone National Park area in Wyoming and Montana.

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“Grizzly bears are moving into areas outside the recovery zone,” Frank von Manen, a wildlife biologist and leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, told The Associated Press. “They are getting into more and more of those areas where the potential for conflicts are greater.”

Wildlife managers in the Yellowstone region have euthanized 24 grizzlies so far this year. Low availability of natural food sources, such as whitebark pine cone production, has caused Yellowstone grizzlies to hunt local livestock and other human food sources.

“They’re bumping up against the social human tolerance of where they can be,” Kerry Gunther, Yellowstone National Park’s bear management program leader, told The Associated Press.

In light of the corresponding population and euthanasia increases, the Obama administration is expected to announce its support for Yellowstone grizzlies’ removal from the ESA, after the Yellowstone Ecosystem and Interagency Grizzly Bear Study team first recommended species removal in 2013.

But Harmony Kristin Szarek, a graduate student at Ohio State University, interviewed a majority of prominent grizzly bear scientists and found that 60 percent of experts “believe delisting would be an incorrect decision, or at the very least a violation of the precautionary principle.”

Some delisting advocates, such as Daniel Thompson, a large carnivore specialist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, says grizzly bear delisting does not have to be an open endorsement for unregulated hunting.

“The discussion has switched more to hunting in the future and that clouds the issue of the notable recovery of an animal,” Thompson told The Missoulian. “That was the goal of (the ESA). This should be a very positive story, but there’s a lot of arguing in the background. And it ignores the sacrifices of the people on the ground who live in grizzly bear country.”

Some environmental protection organizations agree with Thompson. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) says species are intended to recover under the ESA, “so long as adequate plans exist to assure recovery continues.” The NWF suggests a comprehensive conservation package for the Yellowstone grizzlies, including a six million acre Primary Conservation Area where the needs of grizzlies come first and extensive monitoring, which could give the species improved protection and free up funding and resources for other endangered animals.

But opponents of grizzly hunting say there is no reason to rush delisting, because local bears are worth more to the state alive than dead. In the 20 million acres of the greater Yellowstone area, nature-related tourism is a $1 billion industry. And without the potential of seeing a roadside bear, a 2014 study reported that Yellowstone National Park would lose about $10 million annually.

This article was written by Story Hinckley Staff from Christian Science Monitor and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/why-hunting-of-yellowstone-grizzly-bears-could-resume/ar-BBmKuYT?li=AAa0dzB&ocid=mailsignout

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