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Wildlife leaders discuss human-bear conflict mitigation

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By Jessianne Castle EBS ENVIRONMENTAL & OUTDOORS EDITOR

BOZEMAN – During the annual spring meeting of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee on April 3 and 4, wildlife managers discussed some of the best ways to prevent human-grizzly bear conflicts and deaths at a time when bruins continue to recolonize their historic ranges beyond Yellowstone National Park.

The committee, which consists of representatives from federal, state, county and tribal agencies, is a subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and is responsible for grizzly bear recovery within the Yellowstone region.

Despite ongoing litigation concerning delisting of the bear, the multiagency group continues to monitor the number of bears in the area, as well as the number of known bear mortalities. And as grizzlies continue to colonize historic ranges beyond the original monitoring area around Yellowstone, wildlife officials must make management decisions when bears have conflicts with humans, such as breaking into structures or preying on ranchers’ calves.

“A lot of things influence conflicts: biological factors, habitat quality and quantity, we’re seeing changes in the population,” Wyoming Game and Fish’s Dan Thompson, who supervises the agency’s large carnivore section, told the committee. “As the population becomes more dense and expands, it changes the game. We have to talk about social tolerance [and] intolerance.”

Overall, state and federal agencies reported numerous human-grizzly bear conflicts in 2018. Year to year the total number of conflicts varies, but overall does not appear to indicate an increase in the number of human run-ins with bears. However, the data does show that cattle depredation is becoming more common as the grizzly population expands.

In order to address ongoing conflicts, reduce the number of bears removed from conflict areas and ensure the mortality threshold remains low, agency staff will spend the next few months reviewing a 2009 report and its recommendations on reducing human-bear conflict and death. Some of the priorities listed during the meeting included working with livestock producers, preventing conflicts in the front and backcountry and educating hunters.

For more information about the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee, visit igbconline.org/yellowstone-subcommittee.

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