G&F denies request to cancel grizzly hunt

By Joy Ufford

Pinedale Roundup

Via Wyoming News Exchange

PINEDALE — The death of an adult grizzly sow shot in self-defense on May 31 near the Boulder Basin will have no impact on this year’s first hunting season in years. 

Nor will four grizzly deaths from last fall that were found and reported this spring, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott. One female and two cubs were found in Montana and one unknown adult in Yellowstone after the winter and reported recently by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team as 2018 mortalities, because Wyoming, Idaho and Montana had already met in January to set quotas for the recently delisted Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population. 

On Wednesday, Talbott responded to and denied six conservation groups’ July 16 request to immediately cancel the hunts opening in September due to the newly reported carcasses. 

He said Game and Fish is aware the four additional grizzlies died in 2017 – but “is confident that the grizzly bear quotas approved by the (Wyoming Game and Fish) Commission in May of 2018 are consistent with the discretionary mortality limits allotted to Wyoming by the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in January 2018…” 

Wyoming’s discretionary mortality allocations incorporated into the 2018 hunt quotas “include an estimate for unknown, unreported mortalities to address the exact situation you describe – latent mortality,” Talbott said in the letter addressed to The Humane Society of the United States. “Furthermore, any additional 2017 mortality discovered after last January’s meeting will be accounted for in next year’s allocations. (Game and Fish) is confident that the long-term viability of the species is not jeopardized by the conservative quotas contained in Chapter 68.”

After receiving Talbott’s decision letter, Andrea Santarsiere, senior attorney for Center for Biological Diversity, told the Pinedale Roundup on Wednesday the groups are “disappointed.”

CBD is one of six that first addressed the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team on June 27 with questions about how it reported the 2017 deaths in 2018. The others are The Humane Society, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, WildEarth Guardians and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. They then sent the July 16 letter requesting no 2018 hunt to the Commission.

“I can say that (Game and Fish’s) statement that the hunt quotas include an estimate for unknown, unreported mortalities (or ‘latent mortality’) is incorrect,” Santarsiere said in an email. “The IGBST report added these mortalities to the total mortality but did not change the number of unknown, unreported mortality.” 

She continued, “This is a clear attempt by Wyoming to go forward with their aggressive hunt no matter what. It is disappointing and demonstrates Wyoming’s willingness to cater to the wishes of trophy hunters while ignoring the situation on the ground.” 

The coalition had referred to the IGBST report and asked for this year’s grizzly hunts to be cancelled. 

“In light of this new information, and as specified by the Final Conservation Strategy, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Commission must adjust fall 2018 hunt quotas downward in order to comply with the framework governing management of this population following removal of federal protection for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Sufficient time remains to make this critical adjustment before the hunting season opens,” it said. 

The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office advised on Talbott’s official response. 

The states use a process outlined in the Tri-State Memorandum of Agreement, with known and estimated unknown mortalities from the previous year, to determine each state’s “potential hunting opportunities,” said Game and Fish spokesman Renny McKay. 

“States have all the latitude under that cap” after maximum quotas are decided, McKay added.

Game and Fish could, if it wanted, adapt its hunting regulation with approval from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, but it doesn’t meet again before September, he said. 

The MOA formula determines each state’s maximum number of male and female grizzlies that can be hunted and then each state decides if it will hold a grizzly hunt or not. 

“That would be part of the discussion at the 2019 meeting,” McKay said of the grizzly sow shot in self-defense in Sublette County. “It’s not a factor for this year.” 

Wyoming’s 2018 harvest inside the delisted grizzlies’ “suitable habitat” is set at one female and/or 10 male grizzlies – as soon as one female is taken, the hunt closes. That season can run from Sept. 15 through Nov. 15. Outside “suitable habitat” in hunt areas 7 and 8, the limited-quota hunt for up to 12 male or female grizzlies opens Sept. 1 and closes Nov. 5 or when the quota is met.