First grizzly hunt in more than 40 years isn’t without controversy

The first grizzly bear hunting season since 1975 is expected to begin this fall. However, not everyone is happy about it – including some of the people who drew the coveted grizzly tags.

For many years, Wyoming’s grizzly bear population has been above target recovery numbers, according to the biologists who work closely with the bears. It’s certainly time to begin efforts to manage their numbers intentionally, and hunting is one of the most efficient tools wildlife management officials have at their disposal.

With that in mind, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department crafted regulations for the hunting season, designating a quota of up to 10 boars and up to two sows in the areas closest to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and another 12 bears in Hunt Area 7. The chances that the maximum 24 bears will be taken are slim, but opponents of the hunt are concerned about that number. If all 24 were to be killed, it would reduce the grizzly population too much, they say.

Those opponents have found a way to use the Game and Fish’s own rules as a way to protest – and disrupt – the hunt. Hunters who are selected in the lottery are given first choice to buy the license, and then they are given 10 days to hunt. Only one hunter may hunt at a time.

However, at least two of the hunters who have been awarded licenses in the lottery have stated that they will not hunt the bears they’re allowed to hunt. At least not with rifles. Tom Mangelsen, a world-renowned wildlife photographer from Jackson, said he will use his 10-day season to photograph the bears, rather than kill any of them, and another hunter has said the same thing. That means at least 20 days of the season, there will be no bears taken.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all shakes out.