Monday, 14 December 2015

Bad news, bears: Yellowstone grizzlies poised to lose protection from hunting

Leaked letter points to plan to remove park’s grizzly bear population from endangered species list, where it was placed in 1975

Tuesday 8 December 2015 17.46 GMTLast modified on Tuesday 8 December 201521.16 GMT

State and federal wildlife officials are set to strip grizzly bears of their protection from hunting around Yellowstone national park, with a plan that would remove one of the species’ last populations from the endangered species list.

A leaked letter from Dan Ashe, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to state officials notes there is a “mutually understood process that will allow the Service to proceed with a proposed delisting” for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region.

Yellowstone grizzlies were placed on the federal endangered species list in 1975, at a time when the population had declined to 136. It has now rebounded to between 674 and 839 in counts taken last year, with occupied habitat increasing by more than 50%.

This recovery has led to calls from Idaho,Montana and Wyoming – the states that contain and surround Yellowstone – to remove the bears from Endangered Species Act protections.

Under a plan being considered by the FWS, the bears would be delisted under a number of conditions, including that numbers not be allowed to fall below 600 “unless necessary to address human safety issues”. Allowed mortality rates for the bears would be increased as their numbers grow, with up to 10% of adult females and 22% of adult males allowed to be killed via hunting and other methods if the population exceeds 747.

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