JACKSON, Wyo. — The latest grizzly bear conflict report from Wyoming Game & Fish is out. It highlights every capture, relocation and removal from 2019. The annual report also showed a significant decrease in conflicts compared to 2018.
“We have documented an increasing distribution of grizzly bears throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which leads to a higher conflict potential, especially as bears expand into more agricultural, residential and human-dominated landscapes,” said Brian DeBolt, large carnivore conflict coordinator. “Game and Fish responds with proactive and responsive management strategies; this report summarizes those situations requiring an on-the-ground capture effort to reduce conflict.”
Because grizzly bears remain under federal protection, Game and Fish manages grizzly bears in Wyoming under the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. During 2019, Game and Fish captured 33 individual grizzly bears in an attempt to prevent or resolve conflicts.
“All captured grizzly bears provide a wealth of information into overall grizzly bear population status and health,” DeBolt said.
Fifteen grizzly bears were relocated to U.S. Forest Service land in or adjacent to the core grizzly bear habitat referred to as the ‘recovery zone.’
Rick King, chief of the Game and Fish wildlife division, said, “Relocation of grizzly bears reduces the chance of property damage, reduces the potential for bears to become food-conditioned, allows bears to forage on natural foods and remain wary of people and provides a non-lethal option when and where appropriate.”
A significant decrease in grizzly bear conflict activities and subsequent management actions was noticed by Game and Fish compared to 2018 due to a strong natural food year coupled with the previous year’s management actions and grizzly bear population dynamics. In 2019, there were no human injuries or fatalities due to grizzly bears.
“While conflicts will always ebb and flow with a biologically recovered population, we were very fortunate that we did not have any human injuries or fatalities due to grizzly bears,” King said. “There was also a reduced number of human-caused grizzly bear mortalities in Wyoming. This is something we strive for every year.”
Deeper dive into the 2019 report
During 2019, the Department captured 33 individual grizzly bears in 34 capture events in an attempt to prevent or resolve conflicts; meaning one bear was captured twice. Most captures were adult males.
Of the 34 capture events, 20 captures were a result of bears killing livestock (primarily cattle), 10 were captures involving bears that obtained food rewards (pet, livestock food, garbage, fruit trees), or were frequenting developed sites or human-populated areas unsuitable for grizzly bear occupancy. Three events were non-target captures at livestock depredation sites, and one bear was captured and relocated from the Cody landfill.
Of the 34 capture events, 18 (53%) were in Park County, eight (23%) were in Sublette County, four (12%) were in Fremont County, 3 (9%) were in Hot Springs County and one (3%) was in Teton County.
Fifteen of the 34 captured bears were relocated. All relocated grizzly bears were released on U.S. Forest Service lands in or adjacent to the Primary Conservation Area. Of the 15 relocated bears, nine were conducted in Park County (60%), five (33%) were in Teton County, and one (8%) was in Fremont County.
Grizzly bears are removed (lethally or through live placement in an approved facility) from the population due to a history of previous conflicts, a known history of close association with humans, or if they have been deemed unsuitable for release into the wild (e.g. orphaned cubs, poor physical condition, or human safety concern). Of the 33 bears captured, 18 bears were removed from the population, and one bear died during capture.
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