PCEC does not oppose the concept of Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (FWP) managing the Grizzly. However, we do think the FWP’s proposed 2016 Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Hunting Regulation Framework ill-conceived and urge reconsideration.
Much of Park County is prime grizzly habitat, a place bears call home, just like we do. People and bears have coexisted here for centuries. Living in Park County requires an acceptance of this reality. In fact, today many residents choose to live here because of the proximity to wild lands and wilderness that support the grizzly. PCEC believes we have a responsibility to support protection of the grizzly and the habitat it needs to thrive, which directly benefits all of us who live here, and those who travel from around the world to visit this area. Many recent economic studies back this up: people spend a great deal of money locally for an opportunity to experience the wealth of the wildlands and wildlife in Park County and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).
Many PCEC members and Park County residents hunt for sport and rely on harvesting game for food. We believe that hunting is an important part of our culture and heritage in Montana. We know that hunters are some of the fiercest wildlife conservationists around, but we also know when to draw the line between sport and avarice, and know many hunters who would agree with us. When or if Montana is allowed to implement a management plan for the grizzly, we think that the idea of including a grizzly hunt as antithetical to helping the grizzly. We need to protect the grizzly and the habitat it needs in order for the species to continue to thrive, not only in Park County and the GYE, but across the State. Montana can manage the grizzly without hunting it!
For PCEC the primary problems with a grizzly hunt are as follows:
- Mortality Rates – Significant mortality rates already exist and harvesting additional bears will have a considerably negative effect on grizzly populations, even with quotas in place. In 2015 there were a record number of 61 grizzly deaths in the GYE, a large majority of which were human caused, either through management related euthanizing, accidental killing, or in self-defense. In fact, human caused grizzly mortalities have risen considerably in the last ten years, raising additional cause for concern: even without the added pressure from hunting, these increasing mortality levels are already unsustainable. Couple this reality with the fact that grizzlies have one of the slowest reproduction rates of all North American mammals and the absurdity of hunting comes into focus.
- Habitat and Food Sources – Relying on the optimistic view that grizzlies are opportunistic omnivores avoids the heart of the issue: that the habitat and major food sources grizzlies rely upon are currently compromised by climate change. Hunting will only add an additional stress on shifting bear populations, potentially driving bears from areas where necessary foraging may be crucial to their survival. Think of the many bears that relied upon the wild caraway root in lower Tom Miner basin in recent years, which has been an important supplementary food source in years when there was a wild berry shortage. The isolation of the GYE bears only compounds this issue.3.
- Management – There is no evidence to support hunting as an effective management tool with respect to grizzly bears. Problem or “nuisance” bears are already managed by FWP with euthanizing and relocation. Claiming that hunting will aid that effort is myopic at best. Hunters won’t distinguish between “good” bears or “bad” bears. Hunters will target the largest, healthiest “trophy” bears. Is the FWP proposing to guide hunters to “problem” bears?
- Financial – The FWP has not clearly spelled out how this additional program and hunt will be budgeted and paid for. The absence of bear tag sales won’t affect the management budget in any real manner. In fact, we have reason to believe that hunting will place unforeseen financial pressures on FWP further stressing the agency’s budget.
- Social – The State claims that hunting will create a greater acceptance of grizzly bears, while conversely teaching bears to be warry of human presence. There is no evidence for these assumptions and the converse is just as relevant. Hunting could very well undermine people’s attitudes of acceptance. It also goes without saying that teaching a bear a lesson by killing it will end up being the last thing that bear ever learns.
Submit Your Comments to Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks by June 18.
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Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks
PO Box 200701
Helena, MT 59620-0701