Wildlife Watch: grizzly bear management

Wildlife Watch: grizzly bear management

This story is taken from MT Lowdown, a weekly news bulletin with original reports and analysis published every Friday.

In anticipation of possible delisting, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has developed a proposal to guide grizzly bear management in Montana, which is home to more than half of the Lower 48 grizzly bears.

In an introduction to an environmental impact statement accompanying the plan, FWP Director Henry “Hank” Worsech said the proposal forwarded by the FWP will support a more coordinated approach, increase clarity surrounding the management of grizzly bears by the state and will strengthen the regulatory mechanisms necessary for grizzly bears to be delisted.

On Tuesday, FWP announced the release of three versions of the plan: a 217-page draft proposal, a 202-page environmental impact statement analyzing the potential results if the state adopts the plan, and a 15-page FAQ that highlights highlight some aspects of the plan. key guidelines.

Three elements of the plan likely to generate considerable interest include the state’s strategy for managing bears that stray from established recovery areas, how wildlife managers will deal with bears that come into conflict with humans, for example by killing livestock or damaging property, and whether FWP will support a grizzly bear hunting season.

Before being driven to near extinction in the 20th century, grizzly bears were widespread across North America, ranging from the Pacific coast to the Mississippi River. Although conservationists celebrate the fact that grizzly bear populations are increasing and dispersing, this same recovery puts wildlife managers in the difficult position of mitigating human-bear conflict as the two species mutually sink into their respective habitats.

The USFWS has identified four grizzly bear recovery areas located at least partially within Montana. The August 2020 report, produced by the Grizzly Bear Advisory Council, highlights the importance of ensuring connectivity between these recovery areas.

FWP’s plan recommends that grizzly bears roaming east of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem be “tolerated only so long as they remain conflict-free” and states that “the presence grizzly bears would not be a goal in areas away from their largely mountainous and grassland habitats. habitats where agricultural development predominates.

The plan includes spongy language regarding population goals, saying that developing statewide minimum, maximum or optimal population goals “would not be helpful.”

The proposal also says grizzly bears could be subject to recreational hunting if the governor-appointed Fish and Wildlife Commission establishes one. Such hunts “would most likely be concentrated in (but not limited to) areas where connectivity is unlikely,” the plan continues.

FWP is accepting comments on the plan and environmental impact statement until January 5.

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