Montana won’t recommend Yellowstone grizzly hunting this year

Grizzly bear (copy)

Grizzly bears were protected from hunting for mover 40 years while listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Public Domain/Neal Herbert via NPS

Not this year.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced Thursday that it won’t ask the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission to approve a hunting season for the recently delisted Yellowstone grizzly bears this year.

The bears were protected from hunting for more than 40 years while they were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Those protections were lifted in 2017, which opened the door for a potential hunting season. 

In a news release, FWP director Martha Williams said the decision is meant to reinforce the state’s commitment to the grizzly bear’s long-term survival.

“Holding off on hunting for now, I believe, will help demonstrate our commitment to long-term recovery and at the same time allow us the science-based management flexibility we need,” Williams said.

FWP will make the recommendation to its governing board at its next meeting Feb. 15.

The announcement comes weeks after Wyoming Game and Fish gained permission from its governing board to draw up grizzly bear hunting regulations, the first time since the 1970s that either state has had the legal authority to do so.

Removing Endangered Species Act protections for the bears gave more management responsibility to the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Prior to the delisting, each state had to create a framework for a potential hunting season, which was included in the final conservation strategy.

Part of the strategy is meant to limit the number of bears that are killed by humans. It created a level of “discretionary mortality” based on a population estimate. An agreement lined out before delisting split the allowable bear deaths between the three states.

The official government estimate puts the Yellowstone grizzly population at about 700 bears. Greg Lemon, a spokesman for FWP, said the allowable deaths for the three states was calculated to be 17.

Wyoming gets most of the allowable deaths, with the numbers this year being 10 males and 1 female. Idaho’s allowance is one female. Montana’s allowable mortality is 0.9 females and 5.8 males.

Montana will still retain its portion of allowable deaths, meaning the numbers for the other two states would remain the same whether the state decides to hunt bears or not.

FWP cited the ongoing legal challenge to the delisting as another reason it didn’t want to propose a hunting season.

At least five separate lawsuits over the delisting were filed by environmental groups and Native American tribes. They argue the bears shouldn’t have been removed from the list because the animals still face threats from climate change and shifts in their diets that result in more human-bear conflict.

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Trump halts effort to bring back Washington grizzlies

The Trump administration is suspending efforts to bolster the grizzly bear population in Washington’s North Cascades. That would leave this part of the mountain range with fewer than ten of the imperiled bears.

Recovery efforts have been underway for years, with a goal of reintroducing up to 200 grizzly bears. The North Cascades National Park Superintendent told a meeting in Montana last week that the Interior Department is halting the program, according to the Missoulian newspaper.

Conservation Northwest spokesman Chase Gunnell said the order to stop work is disappointing.

“We’re concerned if that is put on indefinite hold because these bears cannot wait indefinitely,” Gunnell said.

The Interior Department’s press office did not return requests for comment about the order to stop work on the plan.

The federal government has been reviewing the nearly 127,000 comments submitted on its proposal to bring back the bears to the region. One option suggested to do nothing — which biologists have said could lead to the bear’s extinction in the North Cascades. Three other options looked at different ways to bring grizzly bears in from British Columbia and Montana. Those options could take up to a century to reach 200 grizzlies in the region.

Conservationists have been pushing to bring the bears back to the rugged terrain. But some people who live on the forest edges adamantly opposed reintroduction efforts, including ranchers who worried about adding another large predator to the landscape.

At one time, grizzly bears roamed throughout the West. Just in Washington’s North Cascades there were thousands of them. But since the 1800s, their population has plummeted, due to excessive hunting and the fragmentation of habitat.

Biologists say the isolated parts of the North Cascades remain great bear habitat.

“These bears have been waiting for more than 20 years, and the population can’t wait that much longer,” Gunnell said.

Animal rights group hopes to appeal decision against judicial review of Wildlife Act

The fight is not over.

A year after the shooting of a baby bear, that’s what a group of animal advocates says after losing an attempt in court for a judicial review of the Wildlife Act.

The Fur-Bearers spokesperson, Lesley Fox, says the group is raising questions about Section 79, which states, “An officer may kill an animal, other than a domestic animal, that is at large and is likely to harm persons, property, wildlife or wildlife habitat.”

 Fox says while the group understands that a conservation officer has the authority to euthanize an animal if it poses a threat to public safety, they’re raising the question – what about when the animal is not posing a threat?

She explains, for example, an orphaned cub that was killed in Dawson Creek by a conservation officer last year because it was found to be malnourished, even while a rehabilitation centre was waiting to take it in.

“If lethal action isn’t necessary, and we argue specifically in this case with the little cub, there shouldn’t be lethal action and in fact, it should be the opposite. That every effort should be made to get these animals into care, to be evaluated by experts.”

READ MORE: Neighbourhood series: Being bear aware in the Tri Cities

“Certainly having an animal examined by an expert, or a veterinarian, who specializes in wildlife is a huge asset and let them determine whether or not it’s appropriate to rehab this animal. I think that decision needs to be taken out of the conservation officer service, and I think there needs to be sort of an independent third party expert or specialist.”

She says those wild animals should have every opportunity to be rehabbed and released back into the wild.

Fox says they’re investigating how to appeal the decision.

In a statement, the Ministry of Environment says that a conservation officer does not relish the thought of putting an animal down –  and that euthanization is a last resort.

It says conservation officers are guided by provincial wildlife policy, as well as their experience and expertise, to make decisions in the field every day; it adds the court decision affirms its understanding of the authorities granted to them under the Wildlife Act.

https://globalnews.ca/news/3920630/animal-rights-group-hopes-to-appeal-attempt-in-court-for-judicial-review-of-wildlife-act/

British Columbia’s hunting ban on grizzlies the latest in rapid-fire series of gains for animals

https://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2017/08/british-columbia-hunting-ban-grizzlies-latest-rapid-fire-series-gains-animals.html

by HSUS president Wayne Pacelle,

August 15, 2017

This week, British Columbia’s newly formed government, responding to the will of an overwhelming majority of the province’s citizens and following through on its own campaign promise, announced a ban on all trophy hunting of grizzly bears there, starting in November.

Under the prior Liberal government, B.C. had become the world’s grizzly-bear-hunting hub, with trophy hunters killing 250 of the great bears a year, even within renowned provincial parks and protected areas and, most brazenly, in the Great Bear Rainforest, where Coastal First Nations have vehemently opposed trophy hunting of bears.

This is a signature win for animal protection groups (including Humane Society International/Canada, which worked for this outcome), and for the more than 90 percent of B.C. residents who opposed trophy hunting. Polling revealed that opponents of the practice include an overwhelming majority of residents of rural communities with strong hunting traditions. All of this is an emphatic reminder to the U.S. government and to our northern Rockies states not to proceed with a trophy hunt for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, which may be enabled with the recent delisting of bears there from the ranks of threatened and endangered species.

There is no justification for the cruelty of trophy hunting, and the utterly gratuitous nature of the killing. In 2015, the world watched in horror as a video showed a wounded grizzly bear thrashing in agony as she tumbles down a hill, her blood smearing the snow, while the men who shot her cheer the outcome. Other, similarly jarring videos, showing wounded bears suffering in agony while trophy hunters rejoice, live on YouTube for anyone to see.

It’s not just a moral issue, it’s also an economic one. Each year, thousands flock to B.C.’s lush forests to participate in grizzly-bear-viewing expeditions. The bear-viewing industry brings in 12 times more direct revenue to the province than trophy hunting. There are millions of people throughout North America and the world who’d pay handsomely for an opportunity to see a grizzly in the wild, while only a few thousand people wish to slay these bears as a head-hunting exercise. The economic potential of an industry built around bear watching is vast, while the killing industry is small and receding and also a threat to the larger wildlife-watching enterprise.

HSI/Canada has worked for more than a decade to bring down the trophy hunting industry in British Columbia and other provinces. More than 10,000 supporters of HSI/Canadasigned a letter to B.C. premier Christy Clark, asking her to ban the hunt, and HSI, with other partners, participated in the delivery of over 70,000 signatures to the B.C. legislature in April, calling for a ban on grizzly bear trophy hunting. While much remains to be clarified about the recent announcement, HSI is determined to work with the B.C. government to ensure that grizzlies are truly protected from all forms of trophy hunting.

This victory for grizzlies comes close on the heels of other notable wins wildlife in the past couple of weeks. Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that federal protections for wolves under the Endangered Species Act should be maintained for 4,000 or so wolves inhabiting the northern reaches of the boreal forests of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Also on Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Endangered Species Act protections clearly extend to grizzly bears kept in captivity, even though those facilities also must meet the minimum standards of humane treatment set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act, as advocated by HSUS attorneys in an amicus curiae brief. On Friday, Illinois became the first state in the United States to ban the use of elephants in circuses and other traveling acts, when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a landmark bill prohibiting this practice. And on August 1, the Czech Republic became the latest country to ban fur farming, a policy that, when it takes effect, will spare 20,000 foxes and mink from being raised and killed for the fur trade.

These are all indicators that the world is waking up to the plight of animals. Our task is far from complete, but these wins should stir the hopes of all of us who imagine a day when we recognize the rightful place of other creatures on our planet and treat them with respect and dignity.

Wolf decision could undermine plan to remove grizzly bears from endangered list

  • ROB CHANEY rchaney@missoulian.com
  • 2 hrs ago

Wolves often harass grizzly bears in the wild, and now they’re challenging bear recovery in the courtroom.

An appeals court ruling in a federal lawsuit challenging how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed Great Lakes gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act list could unravel plans to delist grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The possibility raised enough alarm within the agency that it sent out a request for public comment on the topic last week.

“We had put our final delisting rule out in July and within a week we got the court opinion,” FWS grizzly recovery coordinator Hillary Cooley said during a meeting of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee in Missoula on Tuesday. “The Great Lakes wolves were listed for the entire Lower 48 states, and then they carved out a DPS (Distinct Population Segment) and tried to delist them. That’s what we’ve done with the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, as well, so we thought we should take a look.”

Grizzly bears were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee has combined bear experts from the National Park Service, Forest Service, state wildlife agencies and other land managers for more than three decades on the task of removing threats to grizzly bear survival so the bears can be removed from the Endangered Species List.

In August, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed a lower-court ruling blocking the wildlife service’s plan to delist the gray wolf in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin while keeping the species protected in the rest of the continental U.S. The case was Humane Society of the U.S. v. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

In its species recovery plans, the wildlife service often uses distinct population segments to draw boundaries around places a plant or animal depends on. That three-state area was considered the Western Great Lakes DPS for gray wolves.

“The fundamental error in the Service’s decision is that, in evaluating whether gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes region are a ‘distinct’ population segment, the Service failed to address the impact that extraction of the segment would have on the legal status of the remaining wolves in the already-listed species,” the appeals court judges wrote. They added that creating a DPS was a “one-way ratchet” that could increase protections, but not decrease them without additional justification.

“The Service’s power is to designate genuinely discrete population segments; it is not to delist an already-protected species by balkanization,” they added. “The Service cannot circumvent the Endangered Species Act’s explicit delisting standards by driving an existing listing into a recovered sub-group and a leftover group that becomes an orphan to the law. Such a statutory dodge is the essence of arbitrary-and-capricious and ill-reasoned agency action.”Grizzly bear recovery follows a similar pattern. In July, FWS published its final rule delisting the roughly 700 grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which is one of six DPS ecosystems the bears inhabit or could inhabit in the Lower 48 states. That action has triggered six lawsuits challenging it to date, several of which use the Western Great Lakes wolf decision in their arguments.

FWS is also working on a delisting rule for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which holds about 1,000 grizzlies in the Rocky Mountains between Missoula and Glacier National Park. But the remaining four ecosystems — the Cabinet-Yaak, Selkirk, Bitterroot and North Cascades — hold only handfuls of bears or none at all.

“The Lower 48 grizzlies were originally listed as all one population,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for Wildearth Guardians. “If you pull one DPS out, such as the Yellowstone, you have to consider how that affects all the other populations.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” she said of the agency request. “You can’t fix it by papering it over after the fact. You have to go back and withdraw the rule. It’s a glaring problem and they knew it back then.”

The request is separate from another notice FWS published on Monday, requesting public comment on its “Supplement to the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan: Habitat-Based Recovery Criteria for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.”

The document explains proposed standards for delisting grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. That final action could take place next summer.

The FWS public comment request runs through January 8, 2018. Comments can be made online through the FWS website.

Delisted grizzlies being reviewed

  • By Mike Koshmrl Jackson Hole Daily

Federal wildlife managers are looking into whether a court ruling jeopardizes the legality of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho’s oversight of Yellowstone-area grizzly bears.

The review of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzlies traces to a July court ruling that found the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service erred in not assessing how “delisting” Great Lakes states’ wolves affects the canines in the rest of their historic range.

The agency took the same approach when it revoked Endangered Species Act protections for grizzlies this summer, delisting an isolated cluster of about 700 bears called a “distinct population segment.” But the bureaucrats did not have the luxury of reviewing the appeals court’s opinion, which kept wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan under federal control.

“What happened is we put the [grizzly] rule out on June 30th, and then the opinion came out about a week later,” said Hilary Cooley, Fish and Wildlife’s grizzly bear recovery coordinator.

“We had not received that opinion,” she said, “so this is new information for us that we need to consider. We’re taking a close look at it.”

The public is being asked to weigh in, with comments due by Jan. 5.

The process does not mean the final grizzly delisting rule is being opened again, Cooley said.

“I want to be clear: The rule is final, and it stands, and bears are delisted,” she said. “To say any more right now is pretty premature.”

Fish and Wildlife plans to make a decision on the matter by March 31. It’s unlikely the outcome would flip management of the region’s bears back to the federal agency.

“I don’t anticipate remanding the rule,” Cooley said.

Wildlife activists view the review as a dodge from complying with legal precedent.

“It seems like a pretty lame attempt to fix some fatal flaws that the Fish and Wildlife Service is now acknowledging exist in that rule,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney in Victor, Idaho. “The fact is that they’re taking this unprecedented step of collecting public comment on a rule that’s already issued.”

Independent of the Fish and Wildlife review, the courts will also determine whether the Yellowstone grizzly rule jibes with the law. Environmental activists, Native American tribes and other parties filed at least six lawsuits after grizzlies became a state-managed species, and the complaints weren’t filed until after the wolf ruling was issued.

Fish and Wildlife initiated the public review “in part” to cover its legal bases, Cooley said.

“The lawsuit’s key on this issue, and it’s information we did not have when we put the rule out,” she said. “But it’s also due diligence.”

The court that decided the Great Lakes wolves case found that Fish and Wildlife improperly “brushed off” the substantial loss of wolves’ historical range as “irrelevant to the species’ endangered or threatened status.” But the panel of judges did find that the general approach of delisting an isolated population complied with federal law. The analysis and execution, they found, is what was illegal.

The 515-page delisting rule for Yellowstone grizzlies mentions the Northern Continental Divide population — in the nearest grizzly recovery area, approximately 70 miles away — 48 times. The smaller and more distant Cabinet/Yaak, Selkirk and North Cascades populations are mentioned between six and eight times each. Federal managers and the courts will soon decide whether the analysis behind those numbers does the job. 

‘Dead bears don’t learn anything’ — Biologists balk at notion hunting makes bears wary

Grizzly bear

It’s hard for a grizzly bear to learn anything when it’s dead.

That’s the take of two grizzly bear biologists in northwest Montana on the notion that grizzly bears will learn to fear man if the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming allow a limited trophy hunt now that the species’ threatened status in the region around Yellowstone National Park has been revoked by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last week, the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International asked to intervene in a lawsuit that seeks to restore protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

In affidavits, several members of the two organizations said allowing a grizzly bear hunt would improve public safety as well as help the region’s economy and allow states to better manage the animals.

Safari Club International Idaho Chapter President Anthony Hafla of Idaho Falls said that hunting grizzly bears would limit the human-bear conflicts that now occur, especially during bow season.

“Grizzlies are smart animals and as soon as they figure out that man is dangerous, they will avoid such conflict,” Hafla said. “The overall outcome for the bears will be positive as fewer bears will be killed out of self-defense or from culling bears that have been involved in altercations with humans.”

Edwin Johnson, a 70-year-old outfitter from Gardiner, said he would welcome the opportunity both to offer guided grizzly bear hunts to his clients as well as hunt one personally.

“To me, this is a public safety issue,” Johnson said. “In 1996 and 2007, clients of mine were mauled by grizzly bears. More bears are becoming more aggressive. They need to be hunted so that they fear the scent of humans, rather than following as they do now.”

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Libby area grizzly bear management specialist Kim Annis has heard that argument before.

“If the argument is that hunting bears will teach them to be afraid of humans, I don’t understand how that would play out,” Annis said. “Bears are solitary animals. If someone kills one, it’s dead. It would have to stay alive to actually learn something.”

Annis said people have been hunting black bears forever and they still come around people. Alaska has allowed hunting of brown bears — which are called grizzlies in the Lower 48 — and there are still conflicts between bears and humans there.

“I don’t see where there is any evidence that bears learn to fear humans because of hunting,” she said. “If people want to be able to hunt grizzly bears as a trophy, that’s what they should say.”

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes grizzly bear specialist Stacy Courville said he couldn’t say for sure how bears would react to being hunted, but there is one thing he knows for certain.

“Dead bears don’t learn anything,” he said. “Unless there is a bear right there standing next to the one that got shot, I’m not sure how bears would learn anything about being hunted. … Intuitively, that doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Courville’s experience does tell him that grizzly bears are capable of learning to avoid unpleasant situations.

A cornfield surrounded by an electric fence near St. Ignatius has shown him that numerous times.

“We had bears that were patrolling the outside perimeter almost every night in hopes of finding a way in,” he said. “We had bears inside the fence that couldn’t get out. When they finally did decide to leave and the fence was turned off, they still hesitated before going through it.”

The female bear stuck inside the fence had two cubs with her. As the corn patch was harvested and it grew smaller and smaller, Courville occasionally saw her stand up and look around.

When the three finally decided to make a break for it, Courville happened to be there to watch.

“While mom barreled right through the fence, the two cubs hesitated when they got to the fence,” he said. “She was already across the county road before they even attempted to get through the fence. That was learned behavior.”

NRA, hunting group say grizzly bear hunts needed for safety

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/nra-hunting-group-grizzly-bear-hunts-needed-safety-51380004

PHOTO: This undated file photo provided by the National Park Service shows a grizzly bear walking along a ridge in Montana. National Park Service via AP, FILE
This undated file photo provided by the National Park Service shows a grizzly bear walking along a ridge in Montana.

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The National Rifle Association and a sport hunting group want to ensure their members can hunt grizzly bears in the three-state region around Yellowstone National Park after the animals lost U.S. protections.

Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are considering limited trophy hunts for grizzlies outside the park in future years after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revoked the species’ threatened status in July.

Conservation groups have sued to restore protections, and now the NRA and Safari Club International have asked U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen to let them intervene in the case.

Several of the groups’ members said in affidavits submitted by their attorneys that hunting would help the region’s economy, allow states to better manage the animals and improve public safety.

“Having the ability to hunt grizzlies would be great for business. I would also personally hunt a grizzly if given an opportunity to do so,” said Edwin Johnson, a 70-year-old hunting outfitter who lives in Gardiner, Montana. “They need to be hunted so that they fear the scent of humans, rather than following it as they do now.”

An estimated 700 bears live in and around Yellowstone National Park. Attacks on humans have increased since the animals rebounded from widespread extermination in the last century.

At least six lawsuits to restore protections for grizzlies are pending in Montana and Illinois, although most are expected to be consolidated into a single case in coming months.

An attorney for environmentalists in one of the Montana cases said no decision has been made on whether to fight the attempt by the NRA and Safari Club to intervene.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to stop trophy hunting of grizzly bears leaving Yellowstone National Park,” said Matthew Bishop with the Western Environmental Law Center, who is representing WildEarth Guardians.

———

TRUMP OFFICIALS JUST PROVIDED ‘A GIFT TO TROPHY HUNTING’ IN THE FORM OF YELLOWSTONE GRIZZLY BEARS

http://www.newsweek.com/yellowstone-grizzly-bear-trump-hunting-628432?utm_source=internal&utm_campaign=right&utm_medium=related2

grizzly bear
A grizzly bear roams through the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, on May 18, 2014. Conservation groups have slammed the decision to remove the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act.JIM URQUHART/REUTERS

The decision by President Donald Trump’s administration to remove the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the list of endangered species has been called “a gift to trophy hunting” by conservation groups.

Related: Killing of famed Yellowstone grizzly intensifies protection debate

The bear has enjoyed protected status for 42 years, during which time its numbers grew to more than 700 from just 136. On Thursday, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said it is now time to call the operation a success and to remove the bear from the Endangered Species Act, instead allowing states to take control over its future.

“This achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of state, tribal, federal and private partners,” Zinke said in a statement. “As a Montanan, I am proud of what we’ve achieved together.”

The move, which was first proposed by the previous administration of President Barack Obama last year, will go into effect 30 days after it is published in the federal register. At least immediately, it will not lead to open season on grizzly bear hunting. As well as being restricted to the bears that travel outside of the park’s boundaries, hunts will only be allowed if the number of bears remains above 600.

However, many conservationists argue that Thursday’s decision adds yet another threat to the future survival of the bears, whose habitat they say is already endangered by climate change.

“The Trump Administration’s delisting maneuver is a gift to trophy hunting and oil and gas interests,” Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, tells Newsweek in an email. “The bears continue to face an array of threats, and the last thing they need are wealthy elites chasing them down and shooting them for trophies.”

The action will not affect the nearly 1,000 grizzlies inhabiting Glacier National Park in Montana. But experts have said protections for those bears could soon similarly be removed, according to The New York Times.

Prior to the 1850s and the onset of widespread hunting and trapping, grizzly bears across North America numbered around 50,000. And some conservationists have argued that placing their conservation back in the hands of states, which can use hunting as a form of population control, is an unnecessary risk. Indeed, Tim Preso, an attorney for environmental law firm Earthjustice, has said that legal action to prevent the change is already being considered.

“We’re certainly prepared to take a stand to protect the grizzly, if necessary,” he told the Associated Press. “There’s only one Yellowstone. There’s only one place like this. We ought not to take an unjustified gamble with an iconic species of this region.”

In addition to conservation groups, the move has also been opposed by Native American tribes, for whom the grizzly bear is a sacred animal. A treaty opposing hunting of the bear has been signed by 125 tribes.

Zinke, a former senator from Montana, has a lifetime score of just 4 percent from the League of Conservation Voters, with the group indicating that of 73 votes on bills with environmental impact, only three were pro-environment.

Trump’s two sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, are known to be fond of big-game hunting and have previously attracted criticism for posing for photos alongside dead animals, including a leopard and an elephant.

What went so wrong with Trump sons that they could kill this beautiful creature

Grizzly roadmap: Studies show grizzlies finding their way around people

http://missoulian.com/news/local/grizzly-roadmap-studies-show-grizzlies-finding-their-way-around-people/article_265135ca-15b5-5e28-bc2a-bde1e15935c4.html#tracking-source=home-top-story-1

Grizzly bear management has evolved from growing populations to moving them around. And a couple of new reports give mixed signals about how the keystone predators travel.

In the United States, evidence has grown that grizzlies have almost bridged the gap between the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem north of Missoula and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem south of Bozeman. But a British Columbia study released this month raises doubts about the condition of its much larger bear population.

Grizzly movement matters because the rare and federally protected animals must avoid inbreeding for their populations to remain healthy.

Critics of taking Greater Yellowstone grizzlies off the endangered species list say that the recovery area lacks connectivity to other bears, and so risks genetic decay.

The U.S. Interior Department proposed turning Greater Yellowstone grizzlies over to state management in July, and is developing rules for similar delisting of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem population within a year.

Montana researchers Cecily Costello of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Frank van Manen of the U.S. Geological Survey published a report on possible grizzly pathways out of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in the journal Ecosphere. Their work lends hope that the genetically isolated population around Yellowstone National Park may soon get a breeding boost as northern bears shake their family tree.

“There were routes that were not obvious before we started, and a lot more alternatives than we thought initially,” van Manen said.

Some bears leave the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex via the short but precarious path around Helena through the Big Belt Mountains toward Bozeman and relative security north of Yellowstone. Others loop around Butte to approach Yellowstone from the west.

One counter-intuitive result van Manen observed was that the heavily used routes weren’t necessarily the best ones.

“The concentration isn’t because that’s the great habitat,” van Manen said. “It’s because there’s not a lot of great places to go. Those are pinch-points.”

Knowing that allows land managers and bear advocates to do two things. One is to make sure those pinch-points don’t become too hazardous for grizzlies, such as providing wildlife crossings at freeways.

The other is to protect the qualities of the more dispersed routes.

“Those (dispersed routes) have really good, secure habitat like the Beaverhead and Bitterroot mountains that are already well-protected with little human influence,” van Manen said. “That might make those routes more effective in the long run. We shouldn’t just focus on the ones with highest concentration.”

At least 21 grizzly bears have been tracked moving between the two recovery areas. Almost all have been males. Female bears are much less likely to cross highways or human settlements, the authors noted.

“Our analyses placed much greater emphasis on potential paths following the Rattlesnake, Garnet, John Long, Flint Creek, Anaconda, Pioneer and Highland Mountains,” the authors wrote. “The Tobacco Root Mountains may be a particularly pivotal stepping stone, as many different paths converged on this mountain range.”

***

Three smaller recovery areas in the Cabinet-Yaak, Selkirk and North Cascades mountains of Montana, Idaho and Washington also depend on the movement of grizzly bears. Pathways there cross the international border between the United States and Canada, where British Columbia has a much larger grizzly population.

Last week British Columbia Auditor General Carol Bellringer warned that supply of grizzlies may be at risk as well.

The southeast corner of the province bordering Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park holds B.C.’s greatest concentration of grizzlies. That zone is also the only portion of the B.C.-U.S. border open to grizzly hunting. But three of the four zones just to the west, bordering the small Cabinet-Yaak, Selkirk and North Cascade U.S. recovery zones, were considered threatened populations by the Canadians.

+2 

British Columbia grizzly bear population units
British Columbia Auditor General

British Columbia has slightly more than twice Montana’s area and more than four times its population, although about 2.6 million of the province’s 4.6 million people live in the greater Vancouver area north of Seattle.

It also has more than 10 times the grizzly bears: an estimated 15,000 compared to the 1,500 to 1,800 estimated in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which includes Idaho and Wyoming. Alberta had about 580 grizzlies, including about 140 in the region between Waterton Lakes National Park and Banff.

Grizzlies can be hunted in British Columbia, but Bellringer said that was less a threat to their management than loss of habitat.

“The expansion of development in oil and gas, forestry and human settlement makes it more difficult for grizzly bears to mate, and results in food source loss, as well as more human-bear conflict,” Bellringer wrote. “An increase in resource roads — 600,000 kilometers (100,000 miles) existing and more added every year — also leads to more human-bear conflict, and ultimately, grizzly bear deaths.”

British Columbia charges residents $80 for a license to hunt during its grizzly season, while nonresidents pay $1,030. Grizzly hunting brings about $6 million to $7.6 million to the provincial economy. Commercial bear viewing in just one part of the province, the Great Bear Rainforest, was worth $15 million in 2012, according to the auditor’s report.

While sales of resident hunting licenses have stayed steady at around 300 a year, nonresident sales have spiked. They grew from about 800 in 2000 to 1,700 in 2016. The audit did not separate Canadian and foreign purchases in the nonresident category.

The possibility of U.S. states offering grizzly hunting seasons has been a major controversy in the delisting debate. But van Manen noted that the Canadians were borrowing many of the same steps Americans have used in the Endangered Species Act recovery process to maintain their bear populations.

“We’ve certainly been fortunate we have a strong piece of legislation like the ESA,” van Manen said. “Roads are key. Keeping road density below certain thresholds is key to effective grizzly bear conservation.

“In the Yellowstone, that’s accomplished by setting standards for secure habitat that are at the same levels as 1998 or below. The same thing is happening with the NCDE (Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem) conservation strategy. That guarantees that in the core of the ecosystem, the road densities and motorized access will really not change.”