BILLINGS, Mont. — With bear-human conflicts on the rise, wildlife managers in the Northern Rockies are laying the groundwork for trophy hunts for the animals in anticipation of the government lifting their threatened species status.
It’s expected to be another two years before about 600 bears around Yellowstone National Park lose their federal protections, and possibly longer for about 1,000 bears in the region centered on Glacier National Park.
Yet already government officials say those populations have recovered to the point that limited hunting for small numbers of bears could occur after protections are lifted — and without harm to the species’ decades-long recovery. That could include hunts in areas of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho where bear-human conflicts and livestock attacks are on the rise.
A federal-state committee that oversees grizzly bears will consider adopting a pro-hunting policy next week during a meeting in Missoula. Precise details on bear hunts have not been crafted.
It’s taken decades for grizzlies to rebound from widespread extermination, and some wildlife advocates say it’s too soon to talk about a hunt.
But state wildlife officials said hunting is a proven approach of wildlife management that could work for grizzlies just as it does for species such as elk, mountain lions and black bears.
“We have bears that are in conflict (with people), and certainly one of the ways that we could deal with that would be to reduce populations through hunting," said Jim Unsworth, deputy director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.