WYOMING – As of Monday, grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are officially delisted from the Endangered Species Act and under the control of Wyoming Game and Fish (G&F).
Wyoming G&F as well as Idaho, Montana and tribal wildlife authorities will now manage their states’ populations separately and cooperatively to maintain a “conservative total” of at least 500 bears and 48 females with cubs in the central demographic monitoring area (DMA) around the primary conservation area of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
The population estimate inside the DMA is “conservative” at 690 bears at this time. Wyoming has the largest share of the bear population.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) filed and published its final delisting rule, which was followed by a 30-day protest period. A handful of conservation groups filed notices of their intent to sue after the GYE delisting was official. None posted statements about having filed those lawsuits as of press time Monday.
G&F chief warden Brain Nesvik said Monday the state has spent $45 million to accomplish grizzly bear recovery and management, while also leading management and monitoring the bears with FWS oversight.
“On the ground management will change very little with the exception being that federal oversight will no longer occur on decisions regarding management actions such as capture, relocation and removal, and hunting of grizzly bears in those areas where Wyoming has jurisdiction,” he said.
G&F officials said Monday, “Any consideration of hunting grizzly bears in Wyoming will come after a public discussion allowing for ample time to take input.”
For those who encounter a delisted GYE grizzly in the backcountry or around pets and livestock, Nesvik clarified citizens’ legal rights for protection.
“First, any person always has the right to protect their life from any species of wildlife,” he said. “Second, unlike other species of trophy game animals in Wyoming, the law does not allow a person to take a grizzly bear to protect their livestock, pets or other property.”
People heading into grizzly territory, which is widening in northwest Wyoming’s mountains and foothills, can get tips and rules on using bear spray, identifying bears and taking safety precautions at https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Wildlife-in-Wyoming/More-Wildlife/Large-Carnivore.