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Grizzly management: Wyoming seeks state management of grizzly bears

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and Brian Nesvik, director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), discussed the state’s plan to seek management of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear population in a press conference at the State Capital on Sept. 15.  

During the press conference, Gordon commented, “In 1975, there were as few as 136 bears in the GYE. Today, there are more than 1,000.”  

Therefore, the governor is petitioning that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) delist the GYE grizzly bear population from federal protection. 

“It’s time for grizzly bears to be returned fully to the states for management, as our citizens have supported recovery efforts,” commented Gordon. 

By the numbers 

“Grizzly bears, by all measures, have been fully recovered since 2003,” shared Gordon. “With refined population estimates, data show the population numbers of 1,000 bears exponentially meets all scientific requirements for a recovered, once endangered species.” 

Combined with this data, the state intends to embrace new annual management targets and mortality thresholds to secure an appropriate grizzly bear population, which will meet federal requirements, according to Gordon. 

“The state is committed to the bears’ long-term genetic health and will provide for translocation of bears into the population as needed to maintain genetic diversity,” Gordon said. 

Petition timeline 

“The petition will be filed in the coming weeks,” said Gordon. “There are statutory requirements and timelines for [FWS] review and decisions.” 

  Several months ago, Gordon requested the WGFD and Wyoming Attorney General to evaluate all options in finding a convenient and effective way to return management back to the state of Wyoming.  

“This is a wonderful day of celebration, not only for the grizzly bears, but for the state of Wyoming,” commented Gordon, noting throughout history, Wyomingites have proved to be experts in wildlife conservation of the state’s most valued and iconic species. “The current GYE grizzly bear population has resolved biologically.”  

Gordon continued, if challenges arise petitioning the FWS federal protection the state of Wyoming is committed to overcoming these challenges with additional policy changes. 

Gordon also shared, amendments to the current management plan will be made to meet required legal conditions to satisfy federal post-delisting standards.  

Nesvik gave further remarks on the state’s petition, stating, “Once the petition is filed in the coming weeks, the FWS has 90 days to make a decision to find there is substantial evidence indicating the state’s petition be warranted.”  

If substantial data is obtained, the FWS has a full year to complete the status review.  

Determining factors will be based on “biological parameters, state regulatory mechanisms and potential threats to the population,” Nesvik said, noting final decisions will be made after the 12-month target date, and the final delisting notice and rule from FWS will transfer management of grizzly bears to the state of Wyoming.  

“Right now, the state doesn’t have any way to proactively manage those bears and to control expansion, Nesvik continued.” 

Sister states 

In addition to federal protections pertaining to the state of Wyoming, Gordon is proactively working with Idaho and Montana to amend management agreements. In 2016, the Tri-State Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was put in place to protect the GYE grizzly bear population.  

“This agreement will be reviewed by the WGFD Commission in the coming weeks,” Gordon commented. “Wyoming has a strong track record of successfully managing other large species, such as black bears, mountain lions and gray wolves.”  

Gordon shared, “As of Sept. 15, we know there is an expanding number of grizzly bears biologically for a suitable population. This is a marked day of celebration, not only for grizzly bears, but for Wyoming.” 

Cost of management 

Nesvik explained all expenses concerning grizzly bears are derived from primarily hunting and fishing licenses in the WGFD budget.  

“Currently, we are allocating about $2 million per year to all grizzly bear management activities,” Nesvik adds.  

 According to Nesvik, if a bear hunting season is implemented as a result of this petition, it would result in a small amount of revenue, similar to the process of elk management. 

Looking ahead, any revenue generated from licensing sales during a bear hunting season will be directed to the WGFD Commission for allocated expenses.  

Final thoughts 

Gordon concluded, “Thank you to Wyoming ranchers, hunters and anyone living, working or recreating in the ever-expanding bear country who have been partners over the last several decades, to reach this point. I’m grateful for the hard work and decades of efforts on the behalf of the grizzly bear.”  

In addition to thanking Wyomingites, he specially thanked WGFD for all the interest they have taken in this species.  

“Today is a victory in the history of this species conservation in Wyoming and indeed for the world,” Gordon stated. 

Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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