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Game and Fish ready to talk about bears

A grizzly boar walks along the edge of Blacktail Ponds in Yellowstone National Park in March. As the Wyoming Game and Fish Department prepares to manage grizzly bears outside of the park, the department is planning to discuss the issue with the public. Meeting dates will be announced soon. A grizzly boar walks along the edge of Blacktail Ponds in Yellowstone National Park in March. As the Wyoming Game and Fish Department prepares to manage grizzly bears outside of the park, the department is planning to discuss the issue with the public. Meeting dates will be announced soon. Photo courtesy Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service

Informal meetings an invitation to discuss management options, hunting

Before making decisions on how to best manage grizzly bears in the state, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department plans to host “scoping meetings” to discuss the issue with the public.

“We especially want to listen,” said Dan Thompson, supervisor of the large carnivore program for the Game and Fish. “Most everybody has some interest in grizzlies.”

The sessions — one of which will be scheduled in Cody — won’t be formal meetings, but rather an exchange of ideas and a way for the Game and Fish to share information on what they’re currently doing in their management program.

“The public doesn’t realize everything we’ve been doing,” Thompson said.

One of the hot topics will be the potential to hunt grizzly bears.

The state gained the right to offer hunting seasons, within federal regulations, after Endangered Species Act protections for grizzlies were removed in June.

The delisting was celebrated as a milestone in the carnivore’s recovery and by those seeking to slow the spread of the bears into conflict areas. It was also met with fierce opposition by conservation organizations claiming the bears are vulnerable to human and environmental threats.

“The grizzly is a major part of what makes the region in and around Yellowstone National Park so special and unique. We should not be taking a gamble with the grizzly’s future,” Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso, representing a coalition of tribal and conservation interests including the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and National Parks Conservation Association, said in a release in August.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed, seeking to have grizzlies relisted.

“It’s unfortunate that litigation is framing our management efforts,” Thompson said.

Originally from Iowa and a former mountain lion specialist in South Dakota, Thompson has been with the Game and Fish for 10 years and hopes to share information about programs including Bearwise, monitoring, research and conflict management — the latter being the least favorite to the wildlife biologist.

“Grizzly are moving into areas they haven’t been seen for 100 years,” Thompson said. “My second worst day of work is putting down a bear.”

His worst day, he said, is dealing with a human fatality.

The Game and Fish will announce the dates of the scoping meetings in the near future.

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