Local experts react to possible grizzly delisting

(Jackson, Wyo.) - Earlier today, we confirmed that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service will make a decision in early 2016 on whether to submit a proposal to take the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear off of the Endangered Species List. Since this news broke, several local organizations and experts have commented on the issue: *Grizzly Bear 360 Community* "Having sat through the entire IBSC [Interagency Bear Study Committee] meeting last month in Teton Village, it became apparent to us here at the Grizzly Bear 760 Community, that the population monitoring system being used to determine the current number of Grizzly Bears in the GYE is questionable to say the least. "We do not know of any other arena, be it wildlife management, business endeavors, banking decisions, etc., where a 40 percent variance in your baseline number is accepted as 'best science available.' This raises serious concern for us. The original number they have calculated will in fact be the foundation upon which the great Grizzly Bear is managed for decades to come. We have to know with 100 percent certainty that the accuracy of this baseline number is flawless. If IBSC doesn’t have it exactly right from the beginning, it will have detrimental consequences for decades to come. A 40 percent variance is not acceptable in any situation, especially determining if and when Grizzly Bears are ready to be delisted. "The other area of concern is the absolute readiness of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho to properly manage these Bears. We need to see the details of their plans to assure enough time, money and resources are being dedicated to maintaining healthy population of Grizzly Bears, where they live. We fear the 'opportunity to hunt' is driving the States plans, rather than the 'protecting and preserving of Grizzly Bears.' We do not trust the State’s ability to properly manage an animal fresh off the Endangered Species List. Their track records speak for themselves. It has been demonstrated again and again that the citizens of these three states, as well as the country at large, do not want to see Grizzly Bears managed down to the bottom line number. It terrifies us to think how quickly we could lose the foot hold the Bears have at this point in time (even though we have no idea in the world how many Bears are actually out there). "And lastly, we do not feel any of the parties involved with these lofty decisions have done nearly enough to educate those living close to and with Bears. Tolerance and acceptance is key to their survival. Grizzly Bears have a right to live on the same landscape as we do, and we have the right to protect them from heading toward extinction, once again." - Cindy Campbell, Bear 360 *Yellowstone National Park* "The National Park Service is committed to preserving a sustainable wild grizzly bear population. We look forward to providing input on the Draft Rule and Conservation Strategy for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming," said Amy Bartlett with the Yellowstone National Park public affairs office. *Local Wildlife Biologist* "Wyoming's commitment to not allow the hunting of females with cubs if bears are delisted is certainly good news but should have been an obvious restriction. Studies clearly show bear populations fall unsustainably when females and cubs are hunted. "The biggest issue is that we don't know how many bears we have. Counting grizzlies is very difficult and different methods of counting the population give very different results We don't actually know how many Grizzlies live in the GYE, and we don't have a full proof method to ensure any number, 674 or otherwise, is actually how many bears are maintained. "I also have concerns about genetic connectivity between grizzly populations at 674 bears. We have poor to sometimes no connectivity in the west with the bear numbers we have, reducing the population will only make that issue worse. Bears are already inbreeding beyond sustainable levels but the states have not done much to show how they would encourage connectivity." *Grand Teton National Park* "We can say that regardless of any decisions that may be made, Grand Teton NP will continue our vigorous program of monitoring and managing grizzly bears and people to reduce bear-human conflicts and risk to human safety and to ensure the long-term conservation of the the grizzly bear population and its habitat," said Andrew White, acting public affairs officer for Grand Teton National Park. - Tenley Thompson, Jackson wildlife biologist What thoughts do you have on this issue? Let us know here. *Feature Photo: "Blaze" with one of her cubs this year. h/t Amy Gerber /