Environmental groups continue to voice alarm after the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission recommended moving forward on a grizzly bear hunting season. At a January meeting, the commissioners instructed the Game and Fish Department to start writing rules for hunting regulations. The first season could open as early as this fall.
The decision to allow hunting comes after months of public meetings around the state, during which people discussed how the state will take up grizzly bear management now that the species has been delisted. In a press release, Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik said those meetings were helpful.
Supporters of the move argue that hunting will be an effective tool for managing the species and reducing conflicts. But Sierra Club Wyoming Chapter Director Connie Wilbert disagrees withholding the population to “as low of a number as possible,” and thinks the agency should focus more on allowing bears in the Greater Yellowstone area to breed with other populations.
“I think the Game and Fish and our state could take a much stronger role in creating and implementing a program to promote coexistence with grizzly bears and other top carnivores, and I’m disappointed that they just don’t seem to be interested in doing that,” Wilbur said.
Wilbur said the agency should have taken public opposition to hunting more seriously.
“That includes pretty much-unified opposition by Native American tribes throughout the region, including the tribes here in Wyoming,” Wilbur said.
Devin Oldman of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Office said all of the tribes whose ancestral lands were in Wyoming should have had a voice in the decision. Another public comment period will open in February once Game and Fish have drafted its regulations.