By Glen Wunderlich
With the Yellowstone population of grizzly bears having grown from a threatening low number of 136 bears in 1975 to a present estimate of 700, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, has announced that federal protections are to be removed. Accordingly, management of the magnificent beasts is to return to the affected states and tribes. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) Distinct Population Segment (DPS) consists of portions of northwestern Wyoming, southwestern Montana and eastern Idaho. Grizzly bear populations outside of this DPS in the lower 48 states will be treated separately under the ESA and will continue to be protected.
Success? Not so fast, says the largest anti-hunting organization in the world, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Its lawyers have lined up in advance of the next round of nonsensical court battles between scientific game management and its emotionally charged rhetoric. It matters not that grizzly bears have more than doubled their range since the mid-1970s, now occupying more than 22,500 square miles. Once again, the fight is over hunting.
One thing we’ve learned over the years is that sustainability of any species of game animal is guaranteed, if hunting is permitted. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, it works every time it is employed. Just like so many other North American success stories including whitetail deer, wild turkeys, elk, antelope – you name it. They are all thriving under management plans that use hunting as a primary tool to manage the balance between a growing human population and habitat resources.
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear population was determined to be recovered because multiple factors indicate it is healthy and will be sustained into the future. These factors include not only the number and distribution of bears throughout the ecosystem, but also the quantity and quality of the habitat available and the states’ commitments to manage the population from now on in a manner that maintains its healthy and secure status.
The GYE population of grizzly bears has surpassed recovery goals in both population benchmarks and duration of time meeting those goals, proving that the population is not just recovered, but stable and growing. Moreover, more than 100 grizzly bears have been killed for depredation of livestock or attacks on humans in the last two years – a significant number indicative of the population having reached social tolerance levels within the available habitat.
However, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS states in his blog, “ Specifically, the delisting rule ignores the ongoing existential threat posed to these bears by habitat loss, disappearance of staple foods like whitebark pine and cutthroat trout…”
What is ironic about this statement is that if these essential elements of the bears’ existence actually remain in jeopardy, then why would any group supporting the animals’ welfare take taxpayer dollars for lawsuit expenses earmarked for the very habitat improvements it says are lacking?
Simply stated, it’s to pad its annual $130 million budget and fund its hefty retirement accounts, to stop all hunting, and to put us all on strict diets of vegan shoots and sprouts.