The wheels are turning and it's about time. Once again the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstoneindex.html) is mulling a decision to delist grizzly bears from the threatened and endangered status. This would give management back to the states and with it the possibility of hunting seasons in the near future. Wyoming, Idaho and Montana are ready. Of course this same proposal has come up in the past, most recently in 2007 and again in 2011. Don't hold your breath, but 2014 is a solid goal to delist grizzlies based on comments from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
It's a good start and if you live in grizzly country as I do, you know that the population has rebounded more than enough to create a constant barrage of conflicts. For instance Wyoming radio stations were blaring restrictions for soft-sided tents this past week at a campground that was receiving an unusually high number of grizzly visitors in addition to the campers enjoying the Rocky Mountains. There's also the annual grizzly mauling or two, and the occasional death. Four individuals have died from grizzly attacks in the past two years.
Hunters and outfitters have annual run-ins with grizzlies during hunting season (www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/grizzly/factsheets.html). Camp raiding and carcass robbing has become a frequent irritant of backcountry hunters. A regulated hunting season would eliminate some of these issues as bears acquire a fear of humans and stick to a natural way of life. Trouble bears are already removed on a consistent basis, but government officials handle the chore that hunters could easily help with if a regulated hunting season would be implemented.
In 2012 the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Area was estimated at 610 animals. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department believes that estimate could be 20 percent higher. Many outfitters, especially those with backcountry experience, believe even those figures are too conservative.
It appears as if Salazar is behind the delisting and the USFWS has been hustling to put together a solid case for delisting. Should you plan for a grizzly bear hunt yet? I think the future is brighter than ever before. The science is sound. The politics seem to be in place. Grizzly bears are abundant. The historical hunting of grizzly bears could soon return to the lower 48. Are you hopeful? Let's hear your comments.