JACKSON, Wyo. — On Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that they plan to carry out a series of targeted hazing operations on Grizzly Bear 863.
Hazing tactics include loud noise(s), rubber bullets, trained dogs, and other means to move 863 from the roadside where tourists, photographers, and highway travelers have been viewing the family.
Grizzly 863, also known as Felicia by public observers, has become habituated to the roadside along Highway 26/287. This location has subjected 863 and her two cubs to increased human activity.
“As a result of continued harassment by wildlife viewers creating unsafe conditions on Togwotee Pass in Wyoming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners plan to conduct targeted hazing operations on Grizzly Bear 863,” said the Service on Friday.
While Felicia and her cubs have yet to harm humans, the Service is concerned that they will become aggressive due to enhanced human disturbance.
“Approaching, disturbing, or feeding bears – as is occurring on Togwotee Pass – is extremely dangerous to both humans and bears. These actions habituate animals to human development and can lead to dangerous human conditioned behavior. When this happens, bears may become aggressive and threaten human safety.
The Service explained that if hazing operations are unsuccessful, relocation or possibly euthanasia are on the table for 863.
“If hazing does not resolve conflicts on Togwotee Pass, escalating management options include relocation and possibly euthanasia. By avoiding approaching or feeding bears, the public can help ensure that the need for such significant management options is unnecessary,” said the Service.
While bears inside national parks are protected, 863 and her cubs roam in national forest lands and are not entitled to a wildlife management entity to ensure their safety and that of their observers. Therefore, the Service has the jurisdiction to decide how they will handle their chosen whereabouts.
Meanwhile, community members and wildlife advocates are taking issue with the Service’s decision to haze and possibly kill 863. Advocates argue that such hazing is only being brought on due to human presence, not aggressive behavior exhibited by the bear and her cubs.
The majority of community backlash can be viewed across social media, where individuals are tagging #savefelicia to raise awareness surrounding the issue. A petition created on Change.org for the Service to cease the killing of 863 has generated over 15,000 signatures.
To view the full petition click here.
To read more information on the Service’s hazing operation plans click here.