Facts & Fibs: Delisting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Grizzly Bear

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Animal-rights organizations and activists love to distort the truth in their quest to bang the fundraising drum to “save” any and all game animals from what they call the evils of hunting. When it comes to iconic species that resonate with the general public, the clamor grows louder and more ominous – which funds their lawsuits and appeals. Here are some of the most common myths spread by animal-rights organizations regarding the delisting of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears and the truth behind those fibs.

Fib: Hunting will take place in Yellowstone National Park

Fact:  Hunting is prohibited in most national parks by federal regulation, 36 C.F.R. 2.2.  Delisting the grizzly will not change that. The population of bears delisted resides in areas of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho that border Yellowstone National Park, hence the name Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Those three states may eventually choose to allow hunting on land they manage near Yellowstone, but hunting would not take place inside the park boundaries.

Fib: Grizzlies are still endangered/critical/threatened               

Fact: This distinct population of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has surpassed every recovery metric put forth under the Endangered Species Act. The FWS says the Yellowstone grizzly population dropped down to as few as 136 bears in 1975, but the number has now rebounded to more than 700 bears and that number has remained stable from 2002 to 2014. The grizzly population has exceeded the goal of 500 bears by at least 40 percent, and has remained stable for nearly a decade while also tripling their occupied range.

Fib: The grizzlies are “isolated” and not recovered across historic range

Fact:   Opponents of delisting can make this same argument as to just about any species. Of course human settlement means that the total number of acres of habitat available for grizzlies and all other species across the continent is less today than it was before Columbus sailed. The bottom line is that for grizzlies and most other species, “historic range” as measured by some arbitrary date two or more centuries ago will never be recovered.  Yet, as with the grizzlies, there is no danger of extinction, because the current range is stable.  Whether the ESA applies is predicated upon whether there is a danger of extinction. Delisting must occur if there is no danger of extinction, as is the case with the GYE population.        

Fib: Loss of whitebark pine as a primary food source will cause populations to plummet

Fact: The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team tasked with studying this issue found that the Yellowstone grizzly population has remained relatively constant and close to carrying capacity, despite the decline in whitebark pine, to which animal-rights organizations and activists claim the bear’s survival is inextricably linked.  With a diet consisting of more than 250 species of plants and animals, grizzlies have easily coped with the unpredictable nature of whitebark pine seeds, as they have for millennia. 

Fib: “Trophy” hunting and other mortality will lead to extinction

Fact: Animal-rights organizations push the idea that “trophy” hunters will be allowed to slaughter any and all grizzlies found in the three states; that both hunters and the states are salivating to kill them all. They contend that the population won’t be able to handle natural mortality, fragmented habitat and hunting mortality.

Wildlife biologists take all mortality rates into account, as well as reproduction rates and population data, and will take a very conservative approach to any hunting, as outlined in a federal and state management plan that’s in place. Modern, regulated hunting has never resulted in a single species going extinct, and the North American model of wildlife management has only maximized populations of all wildlife.

Fib: Lack of federal control will allow states to kill all grizzlies

Fact: The Humane Society of the United States and other organizations promote the idea that once delisted, grizzly bears will be killed to extinction by lax state regulators.  First off, states generally manage wildlife across America and they have an excellent track record. In this case, the Yellowstone grizzly will be classified as a game species with science-based state wildlife managers in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana setting area-wide mortality limits. Federal and state managers will work together for five years after delisting, and further safeguards exist for the federal government to take immediate action in the unlikely instance that population levels drop below a safe level. 

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: OnlineFacebookTwitter and Instagram.