The answer is maybe, possibly, could be. With an estimated population of over 1100 bears in the GYE (Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem which includes Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park), the grizzlies are doing pretty well. Selective hunting of the great bears is certainly on the table as a tool to maintain healthy bear populations. I am on record as being in favor of a common-sense hunting policy of grizzly bears in Montana, but I won’t hold my breath. We all know politics and fearmongering will poison the process, as usual.

But with or without legalized hunting, I am pleased the bears are doing well. ‘Course I don’t own sheep, or run cattle or bow-hunt in camo anymore. I can imagine the day when legalized grizzly bear hunting becomes reality in Montana and FWP announces a Governor’s tag available to the highest bidder, resident or non-resident, to hunt grizzly bears anywhere in the state…starting at $1,000,000. That’s a nice, round, number. Walk The Earth.

Commission asked to sign off on new Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear MOA

  • BRETT FRENCH Billings Gazette
  • 17 hrs ago

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission is being asked at its June 20 meeting to sign off on a revised agreement with Wyoming and Idaho regarding management of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bears, once they are delisted.

The states signed a similar Tri-State Memorandum of Agreement in 2017, but a new way of counting bears — the integrated population model, or IPM — is now being utilized by wildlife biologists, requiring the update.

“It’s a really great, new, efficient way to use all of the data that’s collected to estimate grizzly bear populations, and then use that information as we move forward with management,” said Rick King, chief of the Wildlife Division for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in his January presentation to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regarding the MOA.

This grizzly bear appeared alongside the Beartooth Pass Highway in the summer of 2023.Kevin Kooistra, Courtesy photo

Wyoming and Idaho have already signed off on the agreement. Montanans have until May 27 to comment on the proposal and can do so by logging on to Fish and Wildlife Commission’s web page.

King said the document is important to show that all three states are cooperating and coordinating on grizzly bear management once they are delisted.

“One of the main differences that I’d point out is just simply that it’s a little bit of a change from the previous Tri-State MOA, in that now we are committed to managing for a range of a population and we’re also able to sit down annually and estimate mortality for both male and female grizzly bears and then allocate discretionary mortality accordingly on an annual basis,” King explained.

One of the goals behind the MOA is to allocate “discretionary mortality” of grizzly bears, which could include grizzly hunting, while ensuring the conservation of the species. The allocation of grizzly bear mortality is based on how much of each state the bears occupy in what’s called the Demographic Monitoring Area. Since Wyoming has the largest percentage of land in the DMA, it would be allocated 58% of the discretionary mortality, Montana would get 34% and Idaho 8%.

However, “Hunting will not be considered in Montana for at least five years after delisting,” FWP noted.

These allocations are only applied after “all other forms of mortality are taken into consideration.” The goal is to maintain the GYE grizzly population at between 800 to 950 animals.

Fifteen months ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service undertook a status review of grizzly bears in the GYE and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. Twice before the agency has determined the populations have met recovery goals. Both times the decisions were overturned in court. The bears were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1975.

For the GYE, a 22-million-acre region, the recovery population was targeted at 500 bears. In 2022 the estimated population was 965. The goal for bears in the NCDE was 800. That group is now estimated at 1,138.

“The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population is fully recovered, a robust healthy population,” King said. “It’s probably one of the most studied wildlife populations anywhere in North America or maybe across the entire world.”

When the agreement was approved in 2021, advocates included Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and the Rocky Mountain Front Ranchlands Group. The agreement was unanimously approved by the commission. Wolves of the Rockies opposed the measure based on concerns that grizzly bears could be targeted for reduction through less stringent hunting regulations as the Legislature decided to enact regarding wolves. A representative of the Blackfeet Tribe said they do not support hunting of grizzlies and want authority to manage all wildlife on the reservation.

In a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing on May 2, Montana Sen. Steve Daines impatiently pressed Interior Secretary Deb Haaland over the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s delay in completing its status review.

“The science tells us we’re well over the targets” for recovery and delisting, Daines told Haaland.

“I am pleading with you to look at the science, de-list the bears, return the management of this incredible species back to the people of Montana where it belongs,” he concluded.

As part of the Tri-State MOA, Montana plans this summer to translocate at least two grizzly bears from outside the GYE into the region to promote genetic diversity in the population.