Volume 5, Number 34 - November 17, 2005
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Delisting - The time has come
Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner Jerry Galles joined WG&F Department Assistant Wildlife Division Chief John Emmerich in hosting a press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the effects of the grizzly bear delisting proposal.
Galles noted that with an estimated population of 600 grizzlies in the region, 75 percent of this population is within the borders of Wyoming, including inside Yellowstone National Park.
Emmerich said although he has not yet seen the proposed delisting rule, he expects the mortality limits set by federal officials will be increased from the current 4 percent to 9 percent.
An increase in grizzly mortalities is expected, since work to date has emphasized increasing grizzly numbers and work in the future will take a different perspective - stabilizing those numbers, Emmerich said.
Emmerich said mortalities, through both control and hunting, will occur in areas where the state's goal is to stabilize the population rather than let it continue to grow, such as in areas where conflicts occur. Although grizzlies cannot be hunted in national parks, about 300 grizzlies occur on national forest lands within the state, Emmerich said.
Hunting is a management option that can be used to both reduce bear densities and instill some fear of humans in bears.
Once bears are delisted, they return to state management, but until then, the federal recovery plan guides management.
The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan provides criteria for determining if human-caused grizzly bear mortalities have exceeded annual thresholds established in the plan. Known mortalities occurring within theY ellowstone Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone and a 10-mile perimeter area are counted against mortality quotas. Under these criteria, 17 known human-caused grizzly bear mortalities, including six adult females and nine total females, were applied to the calculation of mortality threshold for 2004, according to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team report for 2004. Using these results, total human-caused mortality was under the 4-percent criteria, but female mortalities exceeded the annual mortality thresholds during 2004. The female mortality threshold had not been exceeded since 1997.
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team's 2004 report documented 26 grizzly bear mortalities: 19 (including nine females and 10 males) were known human-caused bear deaths. Two of these occurred more than 10 miles outside the recovery zone in Wyoming, including one at Sweeney Creek near Pinedale. Both these instances involved male grizzly bears that were misidentified and mistakenly killed by black bear hunters over bait. Seven of the human-caused mortalities were management removals resulting from a variety of causes, including two food rewards, three cases of property damage, one livestock depredation and one nuisance activity in a campground. In addition to the mistaken identity kill outside the 10-mile perimeter, there were seven other known hunting-related mortalities.
According to Tuesday's announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Sercvice, the federal agency has determined that the Yellowstone grizzly bear distinct population segment is a recovered population no longer meetingthe ESA's definition of threatened or endangered.
"This DPS has increased from estimates as low as 136 individuals when listed in 1975 to more than 580 animals as of 2004," FWS reported. "This population has been increasing since the mid-1990s and isincreasing at 4 to 7 percent per year. The range of this population also has increased dramatically, as evidenced by the 48 percent increase in occupied habitat since the 1970s."
FWS noted that grizzlies in the region continue to increase their range and distribution annually and now occupy habitats they have been absent from for decades.
FWS reported that currently, roughly 90 percent of females grizzlies with cubs occupy the primary conservation area and about 10 percent of females with cubs have expanded beyond PCA within the DPS. Grizzly bears now occupy 68 percent of suitable habitat within the proposed DPS and may soon occupy the remainder of the suitable habitat within the proposed DPS.
FWS determined that the Yellowstone DPS "now represents aviable population which has sufficient numbers and distribution of reproductive individuals so as to provide a high likelihood that the species will continue to exist and be well-distributed throughout its range for the foreseeable future."
Four other grizzly populations in the lower 48 states have not yet recovered and will continue to be protected as threatened species under the ESA.
The proposal to de-list the Yellowstone population of grizzly bears will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, Nov. 17. The public can submit comments on the proposal to: Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University Hall 309, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812. Comments can also be sent by electronic mail to FW6_grizzly_yellowstone@fws.gov. All comments must be received by Feb. 15, 2006.
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