Tag Archives: yellowstone

Poll: Majority oppose removing protections for grizzly bears

A new national poll shows that the majority of voters oppose the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the list of federally threatened and endangered species.

Majorities across all demographics, party affiliations and geographic regions of the United States oppose the proposed delisting, which would hand over management of GYE grizzlies to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The states have signaled they will open up trophy hunting seasons on bears.

The FWS estimates around 700 grizzlies live in the ecosytem and that there may be as few as 800 to 1,000 in the entire lower 48 states, in contrast to the 50,000 grizzly bears historical estimates suggest once roamed North America.

The poll, announced by The Humane Society of the United States, showed that more than two-thirds of Americans oppose opening up a trophy hunting season on grizzly bears in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Also, a two-thirds majority supports the idea of a five-year moratorium on trophy hunting to ensure the full recovery of the grizzly bear population.

The poll  also shows that an even larger majority of American voters — 80 percent —oppose allowing state managers to use certain trophy hunt methods, like hounding— where packs of radio-collared dogs chase bears into trees — and baiting — where piles of rotten and junk foods are used to lure bears in for an easy kill.

Nicole Paquette, vice president of wildlife protection of The Humane Society of the United States said in a statement released this week, “These polling results demonstrate that most Americans believe Yellowstone’s grizzly bears should not be killed for trophies. Not only is there no scientific justification for this premature proposal, there is no public appetite. Grizzly bears are far from recovered and face a range of threats including the loss of critical food sources like white bark pine. We don’t want trophy hunting added to that list of threats.”

“The prospect of a hunt is especially troubling, but we were pleased to see that even 50 percent of hunters nationwide oppose delisting of grizzlies, compared to only 33 percent who support it,” added Kent Nelson, executive director for Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “It’s also gratifying to see that a full 62 percent of hunters support a five-year moratorium on delisting, while just 33 percent support it. This is telling.”

Both groups urged the FWS to reject the proposal and they are encouraging supporters to submit comments by May 10 asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain ESA protections.

 

About the poll

The poll, conducted by Remington Research Group on behalf of The HSUS and WWA from April 7-9, surveyed 3,087 voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percent, with a 95 percent level of confidence.

The questions

Q: The grizzly bears of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are found in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton areas, situated on the borders of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and are considered the most famous bears in the world. Each year millions of tourists travel to the parks from all over the world for the chance to see these animals.  Do you agree or disagree that grizzly bears are a valuable part of the Yellowstone area?
Agree: 81%
Disagree: 9%

Undecided: 10%

Q: What is your opinion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
Favorable: 54%
Unfavorable: 17%
No opinion: 29%

Q: Grizzly bears once ranged from northern Mexico to Alaska—perhaps as many as 50,000 in the lower 48. In 1975, after decades of being driven to near extinction due to habitat loss and hunting, grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem were granted federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Currently, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population is roughly 2% of its historic range, and the bears are still vulnerable due to a host of threats, including habitat loss and loss of food sources.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed to delist Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act.   Do you support or oppose removing federal Endangered Species Act protections?
Support: 26%
Oppose: 55%
Undecided: 19%
Q: If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes Endangered Species Act protections from grizzly bears who live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, management of these bears will revert to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  These wildlife managers have already stated they intend to open trophy hunting seasons as early as 2017.  Do you support or oppose opening up trophy hunts on Yellowstone area grizzly bears?
Support: 20%
Oppose: 68%

Undecided: 12%

Q: Should Yellowstone’s grizzly bears lose their Endangered Species Act protections, management of these animals revert to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming who have stated they will open up a trophy hunting season.  Do you agree or disagree that there should be at least a 5-year moratorium on trophy hunting to ensure that the population is fully recovered?

Agree: 67%
Disagree: 20%
Undecided: 13%
Q: Once delisted, it is possible that state managers could allow Yellowstone area grizzly bears to be hunted by the following methods – hounding—where participants release packs of radio-collared dogs to chase bears into trees—and baiting, where piles of rotten and junk foods are placed in a certain location to lure bears for an easy kill at point blank range.  Do you support or oppose allowing trophy hunters to use these methods to kill Yellowstone area grizzly bears?
Support: 11%
Oppose: 80%
Undecided: 9%
Q: Do you identify as a hunter?
Yes: 27%
No: 73%
Q: Do you identify as an angler?
Yes: 34%
No: 66%
Q: Do you identify as a wildlife viewer?
Yes: 78%
No: 22%

Grizzly protection in Yellowstone may end

The federal government is proposing to lift threatened-species protections for hundreds of Yellowstone-area grizzlies, opening the door to future hunts for the fearsome bears across parts of three states for the first time since the 1970s.

The Associated Press obtained details of the proposal in advance of an announcement on March 3. It caps a four-decade, government-sponsored effort to rebuild the grizzly population and follows the lifting of protections in recent years for more than a dozen other species, including the gray wolf, brown pelican and flying squirrel.

Hunting within Yellowstone National Park would still be prohibited. But the proposal could allow animals to be taken in surrounding parts of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

“By the time the curtain closes on the Obama administration, we are on track to have delisted more species due to recovery than all previous administrations combined,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe told the AP. “We’ve done that because of several decades of hard work, like with the grizzly bear.”

The Grizzly in America

Grizzlies once roamed much of North America and came to symbolize the continent’s untamed wilderness. Hunters and trappers had nearly wiped them out across most of the Lower 48 states by the late 1800s.

A final decision on the proposal is due within a year. It could come sooner if state wildlife commissioners act quickly to adopt rules on how much hunting is allowed. Those rules are not mandatory under the federal proposal, federal officials said.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock told the AP that the bear population would be responsibly managed by state wildlife officials. The Democrat said if a public hunt for the animals is pursued, it could be done in a way that avoids killing bears that live on the periphery of Yellowstone National Park.

“Yellowstone wildlife is treasured. We understand that. We’ll manage them in a way that addresses that sensitivity,” Bullock said.

Protections would remain in place for about 1,000 bears in and around Glacier National Park and smaller populations elsewhere in Montana, Idaho and Washington state. Grizzlies are not protected in Alaska, where hunting has long been allowed.

Since grizzlies in the Lower 48 were added to the endangered and threatened species list in 1975, the number in the Yellowstone region increased from 136 animals to an estimated 700 to 1,000 today, according to government researchers.

Yet after years of growth, the grizzly population plateaued in recent years, and some wildlife advocates say it’s too soon to allow hunting. Also opposed are dozens of American Indian tribes that view the grizzly as a sacred animal.

Formal consultations between the tribes and the Interior Department are ongoing, although Ashe said the issue is unlikely to be resolved.

Federal and state officials said limits on how many bears can be killed will safeguard against a collapse in the bear population.

If bear numbers drop below 600, intentional killings through hunting and the removal of bears that attack livestock would be prohibited. Exceptions would be made for bears that threaten public safety. More hunting would be allowed when bear numbers increase.

Grizzly numbers rebounded despite declines in some of their key food sources, including cutthroat trout and the nuts of whitebark pine, a high-elevation tree devastated by bark beetles and an invasive fungus.

Environmentalists argue that those declines are good reasons to keep protecting the region’s grizzlies. But government-sponsored studies have shown grizzlies are able to adapt easily to different types of food, said Brian Nesvik, wildlife and law enforcement chief for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The last legal hunts for Yellowstone-area bears happened in the 1970s. The animals were taken off the threatened species list in 2007, but that move was struck down and protections were restored two years later after environmental groups challenged the government in court.

State officials and members of Congress have pointed to the case of the grizzly bear as an example of how the Endangered Species Act needs changes so animals don’t linger under federal protections once they are recovered.

Ashe said reforms aren’t needed as much as money to help species recover.

Federal judge rules against wolf hunting in Wyoming

A federal judge on Sept. 23 reinstated federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming, rejecting the state’s “wolf-management” plan that allowed them to be hunted as unprotected predators.

“The court has ruled and Wyoming’s kill-on-sight approach to wolf management throughout much of the state must stop,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who added that the “ruling restores much-needed federal protection to wolves throughout Wyoming, which allowed killing along the borders of Yellowstone National Park and throughout national forest lands south of Jackson Hole where wolves were treated as vermin under state management. If Wyoming wants to resume management of wolves, it must develop a legitimate conservation plan that ensures a vibrant wolf population in the northern Rockies.”

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled in favor of national environmental groups that said protections were severely lacking for the wolf, for years considered an endangered species threatened with extinction. Earthjustice represented Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity in the complaint.

The judge said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was wrong to trust the state’s promises to protect at least 100 wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation. Environmentalists have said that Wyoming law authorized unlimited wolf killing in a “predator” zone that extended throughout most of the state, and provided inadequate protection for wolves even where killing was regulated.

The judge ended both predatory and trophy hunting of wolves in Wyoming.

“The court affirmed that delisting gray wolves in Wyoming by the Obama administration was premature and a violation of federal law,” said Defenders of Wildlife president and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark. “Any state that has a wolf-management plan that allows for unlimited wolf killing throughout most of the state should not be allowed to manage wolves. Wolves need to remain protected under the Endangered Species Act until the species is fully recovered. State laws and policies that treat wolves like vermin are as outdated and discredited today as they were a century ago.”

“We’re thrilled that protections for Wyoming’s fragile population of wolves have been restored,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “With Wyoming allowing wolves to be shot on sight across more than 80 percent of the state, there is no way protections for wolves should have ever been removed.”

The state, which claims the wolf population is stable, seems likely to seek a stay and appeal to allow the wolf hunting to continue. The state took over wolf management in 2012, after the federal government ruled that wolves did not need protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Wisconsin also has authorized wolf hunts, as have Minnesota and other states. Michigan voters will cast ballots this year on whether to sanction hunting wolves, but state lawmakers already canceled wolf hunting for this year.