After more than 40 years of being protected under the Endangered Species Act, one grizzly bear will be up for grabs as Idaho officials sign off on opening a hunting season for residents this fall.
Thursday, Idaho Fish and Game commissioners created the new season with a single hunting tag drawn by a lottery system for a male grizzly. That’s despite most of the roughly 7,000 public comments being against the move.
Idaho, Montana and Wyoming were given the chance to create hunting seasons after federal officials de-listed grizzly bears roaming near Yellowstone National Park last year. Montana declined to hold one, while Wyoming officials are considering authorizing an 11-bear hunt.
“I think it’s a momentous opportunity we have for Idaho,” says Toby Boudreau, the assistant chief of wildlife for Idaho Fish and Game.
Hunting is consistent with the conservation plan for the bears, he says, in the hopes that the population will continue to grow. As of 2017, scientists estimate 718 grizzlies live within the greater Yellowstone monitoring area.
But Andrea Santarsiere with the Center for Biological Diversity railed against the decision.
“In doing this it seems as though Idaho is just bowing to the wishes of trophy hunters who really just want to gun down these grizzly bears so they can mount a head on their wall or put a rug on the floor,” Santarsiere says.
The person who draws the tag will only be allowed to kill a male grizzly. Santarsiere worries the hunter won’t be able to differentiate between a male or female bear.
“All of these bears are large and when you’re out in the wild, if you’re not constantly somebody who’s out there watching grizzly bears or photographing grizzly bears, you’re probably not going to be able to tell the difference,” she says.
Boudreau notes Idaho Fish and Game biologists will help teach the tag holder how to identify a male grizzly, but admits there aren’t any legal penalties for killing a female.
If it were to happen, he says the death would be counted against any potential hunt held the following year.
Idaho residents will be able to apply for a tag June 15 through July 15. The hunt will run Sept. 1 through Nov. 15.
Like other rare game in Idaho, including moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats, hunters would only be able to fill a tag once in their lifetimes. If they were unsuccessful, tag fees would be refunded.
Idaho’s grizzly bear season isn’t guaranteed to launch, though. Santarsiere’s group, among others, has filed a lawsuit in Montana to reinstate federal protections for the animals.
She says it’s unclear if it will be resolved by September.
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