In the fall of 2018, the first legal, scheduled grizzly bear hunt managed by a state government will be held in Wyoming. Much of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) is in the state of Wyoming. Grizzly bear/human conflicts have escalated with the expanding grizzly population. In 2017, of the 56 known and probable deaths of grizzly bears in the GYE, most were caused when bears attacked people or were destroying property.
Names will be drawn until 10 hunters have paid for their licenses and certified they’ve taken a firearms safety course. Each license will be valid for a 10-day window of opportunity.
If approved, hunting could account for a sizeable portion of grizzly deaths in the region this year but not likely the biggest. Of the 56 known and suspected deaths of Yellowstone grizzlies in 2017, 40 were caused by people including 19 killed by elk hunters and others in self-defense.
The data base for grizzly bear mortality in the GYE is available on the Internet, provided by the United States Geological Survey. They conveniently list the place and cause of death in the intensively studied grizzly population.
Looking only at the grizzly deaths that occurred in Wyoming, there were 35 in 2017. Of those 35, 13 were killed by government management officials because of depredations, destroying property, and being a direct threat to humans. Nine other grizzlys were killed while attacking humans, in self defense (or as a result of the attack).
One grizzly was killed by a hunter who mistook it for a black bear. One was killed in a road accident. Three died of natural causes, of which two were killed by other bears. For the remaining eight bears, the cause of death was unknown for five and under investigation for three.
Bears are a sustainable resource whose increasing population is creating more and more conflicts with humans in Wyoming.
Those who disparage the danger that bears pose often say you are more likely to be killed by lightning than attacked by a bear.
Wyoming is considered the number one state for death by lightning. Wyoming averages about .72 deaths by lightning per year, or 1.25 per million.
In 2017, counting only grizzly bear attacks where the bear was investigated and known to have been killed in self defense, there were nine. This does not count black bear attacks, attacks where the bear was not killed, or where the attack was never reported to the authorities.
Even with those incomplete figures, in Wyoming in 2017, you were 12 times as likely to be attacked by a bear as you are to be killed by a lightning strike.
When bears are hunted, they learn to associate humans with danger. There are a number of mechanisms for this to occur. Bears have incredibly sensitive noses. They are also cannibals. If they find a bear carcass that has been killed by a human, they will associate humans with danger. If bears are hunted with dogs, and not killed, they will associate dogs with danger. If bears are stung by debris or fragments from a close shot, they will learn to associate shooting and humans with danger. If near grown cubs are with a adult bear that is killed by humans, the cub will associate humans with danger.
Up until the 1960’s bears were considered dangerous wild animals. Bears were hunted so hard people began to believe that bears were naturally afraid of humans. It was not true. As more protections for bears have been added to human law, more bears failed to learn that humans are dangerous.
The more bears are hunted, the more they will associate humans with danger. Bears with the most aggressive learned behavior will be selected out of the bear population.
In Wyoming, in 2017, at least 22 grizzly bears were deliberately killed because they endangered humans and their property.
In 2018, 22 permits will be issued to hunt and kill bears. The number may be coincidental. The state of Wyoming will charge between $600 and $6,000 for the permits. Instead of costing the state and people of Wyoming to control the grizzly bear population, hunters will pay the State to control the population for them.
The more bears learn to fear humans, the safer humans will be. The more bears learn to fear humans, the more bear management will be done on a scientific basis, instead of reacting to bear-human conflicts.
©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.