Wyoming Approves First Grizzly Hunt

May 30, 2018 | Hunt

A unanimous vote in Wyoming just paved the way for the state’s first sanctioned grizzly bear hunt in decades.

Wyoming now joins Idaho as the only states in the lower 48 to offer a small number of grizzly bear tags. Both seasons, however, still rely on the decision of Federal Judge Dana Christensen. In August, Judge Christensen will consider the validity of several lawsuits that were filed against the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services when the bears were taken off the endangered species list. The judge’s decision could add the bears back onto the endangered species list, thus ending the proposed season less than a month before it begins.

Wyoming’s vote comes one year after the bears were removed from the Endangered Species List when the total grizzly population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem reached over an estimated 700 bears.

The vote, which took place in Lander Wyoming, was made up of 7 volunteers appointed by the governor who represent different judicial districts across the state.

Just before the vote, the town hall, where the decision passed, was filled with Wyoming natives, transplants, hunters, outfitters, environmental groups, animal rights advocates, along with both concerned and supportive citizens. The public was given one last chance, via a public forum, to express their appreciation, concerns and dissatisfaction with the hunt in an attempt to sway the panel’s opinion.

The feedback ranged from science-based concerns, like whether the bears should really be considered ‘recovered,’ to both the positive and negative economic impacts a hunting season could have.

Wyoming received over 4 million visitors to Yellowstone last year, and locals are afraid a grizzly hunt will deter tourists from visiting the parks, and cost the state millions in tourism revenue.

The hunt will consist of two units, one within an area deemed the suitable habitat zone, which borders the National Parks, and one outside the area where there is a higher rate of grizzly and human conflicts.

Wyoming approves a strict hunting season on grizzlies, around the greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

The state will award 11 grizzly tags for the area closest to Yellowstone and hold a quota for one sow bear. This means as soon as the first sow is harvested, the entire season will come to an end.

Hunters and wildlife managers alike know these quotas can be extremely hard to monitor, so in an effort to mitigate the chance of over harvest, Wyoming Game and Fish will only allow one hunter into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem at a time, for a ten day window, to harvest a bear. Each hunter will also be required to take a class on how to properly differentiate between male and female bears.

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Of the 23 available tags (11 inside the suitable habitat zone and 12 outside of it), 19 will go to resident hunters who will pay a price of $600 per tag.

Four tags will be awarded to out of state hunters, who will pay a much steeper fee of $6,000 per tag.

Communications director for Wyoming Game and Fish, Renny MacKay, is not concerned with the hunt affecting tourism numbers. He said many people come to Wyoming to see elk, bison and black bears, all of which have more liberal hunting regulations than the new grizzly season. Last year was the second busiest tourist season in Yellowstone’s history, with over 4 million visitors, and the busiest ever for Grand Teton, which has set new attendance records four years straight.

MacKay also said even though he sees no real effect on the state’s tourism, the Department of Game and Fish has still listened and responded to some of the public’s concerns by closing a hunting zone adjacent to Grand Teton National Park.

Follow onX Hunt on Instagram and Facebook for more grizzly season news as we get closer to opening day in September.