JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Grizzly bear hunting in Wyoming will not start until the fall of 2017 at the soonest, but state game managers are starting the process that will shape what the hunts will look like with the release of a draft grizzly bear management plan on Tuesday.
A stipulation included in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protection from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s 700-plus grizzlies requires the states to establish hunting regulations before the bears are officially delisted as a threatened species.
Wildlife managers will hold public meetings around the state on Wyoming’s proposed grizzly bear management plans and regulations, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
Nesvik said any proposed grizzly hunting regulations will be “conservative in nature” and will seek to minimize the killing of sows, which drive the population size.
Eight statewide meetings on the draft management plan are scheduled, beginning March 30 and ending April 7, and there are opportunities for written public comment.
The public meetings will be held in Casper, Sheridan, Cody, Lander, Jackson, Pinedale, Green River and Cheyenne.
Grizzlies were last hunted in Wyoming in the mid-1970s. During a brief period in the interim that Wyoming, Montana and Idaho had jurisdiction, from 2007 to 2009, hunting did not take place.
There are many steps that must be taken before hunting can take place, but some components of hunting have already been decided by state law.
For the opportunity to harvest a grizzly, nonresidents will have to fork over $6,000, while residents will pay $600. That’s by far the most expensive tag in the state, more than double the second-most costly license, which is for a bull bison.
In Wyoming, the bears will likely be a “trophy game” species, a category that includes black bears and mountain lions. Wolves were also managed as a trophy game species from 2012 to 2014, when the carnivore was being managed by the state.
Typically, trophy game hunting licenses in Wyoming are available over the counter and are unlimited in supply. But Nesvik doubted that would work with grizzlies.
“The demand for those licenses will be so high that there will be no option but to have a limited-quota type of drawing for those licenses,” Nesvik said. “There’s no way we can make those general, over the counter — like for a mountain lion.”
Fish and Wildlife’s proposal imposes strict controls over grizzly mortality in the core of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, where grizzlies have been closely monitored for decades. Along the fringes of grizzly range, where numbers are less understood, states will have more leeway.