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Grizzly delisting next year?

Grizzly bears could be delisted in the next year or so, but it must be proven the bruins can get by without whitebark pine nuts.

That’s what Mark Bruscino said at the Wyoming Outfitters Guide Association and Cody Country Outfitters and Guides Association meeting Saturday morning in Cody.

Bruscino is the Wyoming Game and Fish Department statewide supervisor of the large carnivore management section.

He was part of a panel comprised of state and federal officials and one outfitter.

“I’m optimistic — knock on wood — that we’re going to move this thing forward in the next 12 to 14 months,” Bruscino said.

Whitebark pine has declined by 90 percent in some areas of the northern Rockies.

Bruscino said he hopes the service will issue a delisting rule saying whitebark pine is not a major obstacle in the grizzly’s recovery.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead supports delisting, said Steve Ferrell, policy adviser to the governor and former Game and Fish Department director.

Two years ago, the governor sent a letter to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar saying the population was recovered. Mead is expecting a delisting rule by April 2014, Ferrell said.

Salazar wrote to Mead last summer and said he was expecting a report in 2014 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service analyzing the effects of decreasing whitebark on grizzlies.

“All participants agreed that the Yellowstone grizzly population was recovered and that declines in whitebark pine do not threaten the future of the grizzly population,” said Salazar in July 2012.

Most in the scientific community do not believe whitebark will cause a major impact in the grizzly population in the Greater Yellowstone Area, Bruscino said.

Grizzlies eat whitebark nuts when available and switch to other foods in whitebark bust years, such as young ungulates and truffles, Bruscino said. Truffles are a sort of wild potato.

“They (grizzlies) live in a lot of places where there is no whitebark pine,” Bruscino said.

Scientists don’t know what the future holds for whitebark or the decline of native fish and ungulates, but, “we think the bear will be fine,” said Dan Tyers, U.S. Forest Service grizzly coordinator.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service likely will issue a draft delisting rule in 2014 followed by a final rule in late 2014 or early 2015, Bruscino said.

If people or groups disagree with the rule, they can challenge delisting in court, Bruscino said.

An audience member asked what are signs the grizzly bear recovery area is at carrying capacity.

Some bears would have less body fat due to food competition, and subordinate bears would be pushed out of good habitat by older bears, resulting in increased bear-human conflicts, Bruscino said.

BJ Hill, a Jackson outfitter, said he has problems with older grizzlies entering his hunting camps.

Hunting could be used to reduce conflict bears. Hunting pressure could be directed in the front country where the problem bears are at to reduce conflicts, Bruscino said.

Environmentalists hold Yellowstone and Grand Teton park bears in very high regard, Hill said. 

One of Hill’s examples was grizzly bear No. 399, one of the most photographed grizzly bears in Grand Teton National Park.

“Grand Teton, it’s the celebrity status that is going to make delisting an issue,” Hill said.

There were an estimated 610 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Area in 2012, under the current counting model, but that is a conservative estimate. The actual number could be 20 percent higher than that, Bruscino said.

Hill said he believes there are 1,500 to 2,000 grizzlies in the GYA.

“I think that’s high,” Bruscino said.

With delisting would come hunting.

The quota would be low the first year. What is important is to remove all the wolf and bear hunting hype, Bruscino said.

The population will be monitored. “It’s not a free fall,” Tyers said.

If there is any indication the population is declining, hunting will be the first thing to go, Bruscino said.

The Game and Fish has done all the grizzly recovery work in Wyoming. It can successfully manage the bear as a big game animal into the future if it is delisted, Bruscino said.

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4 comments

  • posted by Sam Parks

    April 11, 2013 4:21 pm

    "He was part of a panel comprised of state and federal officials and one outfitter."

    Quite a diverse array of opinions and stakehoders...not. No wonder these outfitters are so close-minded about predators.

  • posted by Timothy C. Mayo

    April 09, 2013 6:50 pm

    ...the last time the Wyoming Game & Fish Department "managed" grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem it took thirty (30) years of protection for their recovery...keep in mind that even with Endangered Species protection there was a ten percent (10%) population loss...many at the hands of hunters...

  • posted by Dewey

    April 09, 2013 4:47 pm

    Wyo G&F has proven beyond doubt that they will manage delisted grizzles no better than listed grizzles; that is politically not ecologically nor zoologically. They are doing the same thing to wolves as well. All management is done to assuage human concerns rather than what is best for the wildlife. Bears and wolves do not pay taxes or send reps to Cheyenne on their behalf, and have no clout.

    But we have to ask this: Wyo G&F is scrambling to find money to keep its budget up. There are fewer hunters to pay the fees, and the Lej isn't forthcoming with any appropriations. The Lej would not even allow G&F to raise license fees, which was very shortsighted. Both Grizzly bears and Grey Wolves are money holes for Wyo G&F...they cost many times more to administer than any possible revenue from licenses. If Grizzlies were to pay their own way for management on hunting tags alone, those licenses would have to sell for at least $ 10,000 per. This past year, Wyo G&F spent almost half a million on Wolf management ( Believe it ! Taken right from their budget lines ). I seem to recall that 2700 wolf tags were sold for $ 18.00 each , so G&F took in $ 48,600 in wolf revenue...one TENTH the cost of managing the animal inclusive.

    None of this pencils out well. Past present or future.

    Pay no attention to those guys waving their arms in the air saying there are 2,000 bears in the GYE. They are definitively loony about bear numbers. Always have been.

    The other side of the coin is Grizzly Bears have problems with outfitters encroaching on them, Blowhard BJ Hill. You aren't King of the Woods.

  • posted by dmgold

    April 09, 2013 10:57 am

    "...BJ Hill, a Jackson outfitter, said he has problems with older grizzlies entering his hunting camps...."
    Sounds like Mr. Hill needs to keep a cleaner camp.

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