from the Center for Biodiversity
MISSOULA, Mont.— The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee will consider on Tuesday whether to implement additional measures to reduce conflicts between grizzly bears and people in the northern Rockies, as requested by conservation groups and others.
The number of grizzly bear deaths has spiked to unprecedented levels in recent years. In 2018 at least 120 bears died in the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide regions. Most were preventable mortalities from human-related causes.
“There are many effective ways to prevent conflicts and to keep people and bears safe. Our state and federal agencies must do more to reduce grizzly bear mortalities and to promote coexistence in areas where grizzly bears live now as well as in places they are likely to be in the future,” said Bonnie Rice, senior representative for Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. “We must make a concerted effort to reverse this trend of continually increasing grizzly deaths, so grizzlies can achieve full recovery and connectivity with other populations.”
In January several conservation organizations sent the committee’s Yellowstone subcommittee a letter[link to letter] urging it to take steps to reduce conflicts and implement more safeguards to protect grizzly bears. The groups called on the committee to update a 2009 mortality and conflicts report[link to report] and prepare a detailed review of progress implementing the conflict-prevention recommendations from the report.
“State and federal agencies need to act fast to prevent conflicts between grizzlies and people in the northern Rockies before more of these magnificent bears are killed,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are plenty of ways to reduce conflicts that have been proven effective, and it’s time to fully implement those lifesaving practices.”
Many of the common-sense recommendations of the 2009 report have not been implemented. For example, requiring hunters to carry bear spray and properly dispose of elk and deer carcasses could reduce conflicts during hunting season, when many conflicts occur. The letter stressed the urgency for the committee to act before this year’s hunting season. Recent documentation of a grizzly bear in the Kelly Creek drainage in the Bitterroot ecosystem — the same drainage where a grizzly was killed over a bait station in 2007 — also demonstrates the need for ending the outdated practice of bear baiting.
“Conflicts can be greatly reduced by employing a variety of techniques that have proven successful. State and federal agencies, with help from NGOs and the public, can work together to achieve conflict prevention that works,” said Kristin Combs, executive director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “We appreciate the IGBC considering this topic at the meeting and urge them to quickly take decisive action to reduce grizzly bear deaths.”
The Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee responded to the group’s letter in February, agreeing to make conflict reduction a priority and to update the outdated 2009 conflict report. The subcommittee also discussed the issue during its April meeting in Bozeman. Agency representatives from the Yellowstone, Northern Continental Divide, Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak ecosystems will speak to the issue at tomorrow’s meeting.
“Record numbers of grizzlies are dying unnecessarily in conflicts with humans each year,” said Nicholas Arrivo, a staff attorney at the Humane Society of the United States. “State and federal managers must implement proven coexistence programs to halt this bloody trend.”