Hunting regulations proposed by Wyoming Game and Fish seek to protect famous and frequently seen bears, like mother 399 seen above, in Grand Teton National Park. A no-hunting buffer zone is proposed east of the national park. Hunting also would be prohibited within a quarter mile of major highways and no hunter could shoot a bear with dependent young, or the young themselves. (c Leine Stikkel)

Hunters could kill up to 24 grizzly bears this year under Wyoming hunting regulations proposed today, but only half that quota could be taken inside the bear’s core range known as the Demographic Monitoring Area.

The proposed regulations and seasons set two quotas — one for inside the 19,270 square-mile Demographic Monitoring Area, and another outside the DMA where grizzly numbers don’t contribute to the official population count. The regulations would permit 2 females and 10 males to be killed inside the monitoring area and 12 grizzlies of any sex outside, during a two month fall season, according to regulations being circulated for public comment.

No hunting is proposed in Grand Teton or Yellowstone national parks although there is an ongoing disagreement between Wyoming and conservationists whether that prohibition applies to private inholdings. Licenses would cost $600 for residents, $6,000 for out-of-staters.

The Demographic Monitoring Area population is calculated annually to ensure numbers stay above 500 —the ecosystem goal is 674— per an agreement between Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and the federal government.

The proposed seasons should ensure that grizzly bears persist in healthy numbers in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, Wyoming’s Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik said in an interview.

“Those mortality limits are calculated not to allow for a decline,” he said of the population. “The [hunting] numbers are so low I don’t think you can see any change in the grizzly bear population because of this hunting season in the Demographic Monitoring Area.”

But Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, disagreed strongly with the proposal.

“Wyoming’s reckless hunt ignores the fact that grizzly bears remain endangered in Yellowstone and across the West,” she said in a statement. “It’s tragic that these imperiled animals will be shot and killed so trophy hunters can stick heads on their walls.”

Two hunters at a time

Wyoming would allow only two hunters in the field at a time in the DMA to ensure the quota of female grizzlies is not exceeded. Outside the DMA, Game and Fish also will select hunters through a lottery draw. The season inside the DMA — which is divided into six hunt areas, each with its own quota of between one and three bears —  is proposed to run from Sept. 15 to Nov. 15. Outside of the DMA the season would run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15

Wyoming’s proposed 2018 hunting season for grizzly bears would set two quotas. Inside the Demographic Monitoring Area (dark black line) up to 12 grizzlies could be killed but no more than two females. Outside the DMA, another dozen grizzlies could be hunted and killed. (Wyoming Game and Fish Dept.)

The proposed regulations and seasons also include a buffer zone east of Grand Teton National Park that could help protect famous and roadside bears that draw thousands of tourists annually. No hunting would be allowed in the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway between Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, Nesvik said, nor would hunting be allowed within a quarter mile of major highways.

Other major provisions include closing the entire DMA season after two female grizzlies are killed and not opening the season near moth-rich talus slopes when grizzlies usually congregate there.

Hunters who draw a license for the DMA would be required to take an orientation and training course and would have to report a kill within 24 hours. In what may be a worldwide first, hunters in the DMA will carry a satellite-linked texting device — like a SPOT emergency transmitter — to report a kill immediately.

The devices, which will likely play a larger role in future seasons, would allow Game and Fish to release another hunter into the field as soon as an active hunter kills a grizzly, provided the quota of two females would not be in jeopardy.

Nesvik explained the complexity of hunting a species whose sex is difficult to identify in the field and where there is a strict limit on the killing of females.

“Because it’s difficult to distinguish [sex], people will have a grizzly bear license valid for either sex,” he said. “If two females are harvested, we‘ll be done — no more hunters will be allowed to go.”

Once a single female is killed in the DMA, only one hunter would be in the field at a time. “It’s as tightly regulated as it could be,” he said of the two-female limit in the Demographic Monitoring Area.

“That’s as close to a 100 percent guarantee we won’t go over the female quota” as it is possible to get, he said.

The use of the satellite-linked texting device may be pioneering. “We don’t believe it’s ever been done,” he said. “We hope it’s going to help us with timely reporting.”

Hunters would not be allowed to kill a bear with dependent young or dependent cubs themselves either inside or outside the DMA. Traps, snares and hunting dogs would be prohibited.

Hunting outside the core area should not affect the official population estimate, Nesvik said. “We don’t feel … harvesting up to 10 or 12 [outside] will have an effect inside the DMA,” he said.

“Most of the mortality among grizzly bears in recent years has occurred outside the DMA and has not caused decline inside the DMA,” he said. The most recent year was an outlier, he said.

Outside the DMA, “we don’t necessarily want to encourage grizzly bear expansion or even occupancy,” Nesvik said. “There’s private land … places where they are in conflict.” Baiting could be authorized outside the DMA to prevent depredations and conflicts with humans.

Buffer for Grand Teton bears

The buffer zone east of Grand Teton “is to ensure providing more protection to those highly visible bears,” Nesvik said. Nevertheless, “there’s no way, when you have a managed population, that you can pick out a specific bear and protect it wherever it goes.”

The buffer restriction and the prohibition of hunting grizzlies in the Rockefeller Parkway are not being implemented for biological reasons, he said, but in response to public input.

High in the wilderness, grizzlies gather in large numbers on talus slopes to mine the rocks for army cutworm moths. Generally, hunters shouldn’t be there when the bears are because of the timing of the hunting seasons.

“The seasons are going to be timed in such a way bears will not be on moth sites when hunting starts — for the most part,” Nesvik said. “The bears and moths will be largely gone when the season opens. There’s not a good way to predict every year on Sept. 1 the moths will leave the moth sites.”

Grizzly hunters, unlike big game hunters, would not be required to retrieve the meat from their kills. Nesvik said Wyoming residents generally reject the notion that trophy hunting is unacceptable.

“Our job is to use science to manage large carnivore species and to manage for an opportunity that exists,” he said. “This is not different from the current management of lions, wolves, black bears [where you’re] not required to consume the meat.

“To this point, people believe it is ethical to hunt large carnivore species in the state and not have to retrieve the meat.”

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“Wyoming is going to take a cautious, conservative approach to this,” Nesvik said of the hunting season. “While we recognize there’s an opportunity out there, there’s not a rush to immediately go out and maximize all opportunities.

“We need to have a couple of years of this because it’s new,” Nesvik said. “The public needs to feel comfortable that the department’s going to take an approach that’s conservative.”

The regulations will be the subject of meetings statewide with comments due April 30. The Game and Fish Commission will consider the regulation at its meeting scheduled for May 23 in Lander.

This story was updated to include the cost of licenses — Ed.


Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at or (307)...

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  1. Its to bad the draft plan doesn’t match what they are saying in public. That’s the first problem.. They really should read what they wrote before sending out to the public. disgraceful. People need to learn how to read and write.

  2. Dewey Vanderhoff’s comment is thoughtful and correct, but it fails to take into account the fact that the small group of good ol’ boys who run Wyoming want to kill grizzly bears for fun and profit and do not care that the overwhelming percentage of Wyoming residents want to preserve and protect the Great Bears under the ESA because they are icons of American history and have not even come close to recovery from near extirpation. Over 90% of the residents of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming who submitted commented with regard to the 2007 delisting of the Great Bears opposed delisting, but those comments were ignored. (Over 99% of all comments opposed delisting.) The 2007 delisting was invalidated in litigation, which ended in 2011, and hopefully the new (2017) delisting, pushed relentlessly by Wyoming Governor Mead, also will be invalidated in litigation now in progress. The judicial branch of government has never been more important in assuring that the will of the American public, not special interests, prevails.

  3. Where does the money from tag sales go? I personally think trophy hunting is silly, but I could perhaps get behind this hunt if the money from tag sales goes back into bear conservation and management…and that money is enough to make some measurable difference.

  4. What we see here is a glaring example of the presumptuous management procedure used by Wyo G&F since the 1980’s : Micromanagement of wildlife. Presumptuous because we have to accept on faith , not science, that Wyoming Game & Fish has sufficient quantitative knowledge of what it takes to sustain wildlife at landscape scale along time lines measured in tens of decades. Notwithstanding that Game and Fish has not evolved to the point where it distinguishes bona fide wildlife from a game animal , the management of species in Wyoming is almost entirely based on the money and the demands of of people ( read: special interests groups and economic stakeholders).
    Why else would living breathing Grizzly bears outside a made-up map boundary but well within good bear habitat not be considered as worth anything towards the long term viability of the bear, but only as a target to put the crosshairs on or a nuisance animal to be disposed of ; disallowed ?

    Wyoming Game & Fish is deeply complicit in the deeply flawed multi-agency state/federal Yellowstone Grizzly management plan that was four decades in the making but at the end of the day is regressive. Firstly, the state management plan is woefully lacking in assigning critical worth to the dynamics of the habitat assigned to the bear in the PCA and DMA. Game and Fish has no authority to enforce habitat protections where they are needed, instead relying on a collage of other land management agencies and jurisdictions to maybe manage the habitat , let alone adapt to changing conditions affecting food sources .The climate change denying extractive industry supporting Ryan Zinke Era at Department of Interior does not give much optimism towards any of this. Secondly , the plan does not follow the letter and spirit of the Endangered Species act to assure the bear can replenish and sustain itself in numbers and dispersion across all available habitat without unnecessat human impediments and mostly without restraint from political boundaries. This argument can be condensed down to an alarming lack of opportunity for the grizzly to genetically interconnect from Yellowstone to British Columbia going north ; central idaho going west ; Utah , Colorado going south. Instead of forcibly removing any bear found outside the core recovery zone, those extraneous bears should be allowed to disperse, or even be physically relocated to new habitat areas outside the . There are other management tools in the toolbox besides a rifle. Thirdly , the grizzly bear should not be assuming management of the Grizzly as a state resource if that State will not guarantee sufficient support for that management in advance. Who can say here and now that Wyoming and its game department will have the necessary funds to effectivley manage grizzles down the road? That costs $ 1 – 2 million per year rpesently , but the bear cannot p[ossibly generate much more than a piddly $ 50,000 in hunting tag revenue hunting bears. The deficit will have to come from somewhere else, and G&F is already in crisis mode for funding — because the time honored business model of funding Wyo G & F is no longer viable. ALL States in the West will have to come up with new ways to fund their various wildlife and natural resource programs going forward , but Wyoming Game and Fish is far too dependent already on hunters and fishermen to pay the costs . All wildlife in Wyoming is imperiled by economics, and we cannot hunt and fish our way to solvency. be careful what you ask for in assuming management of a megafauna species, Wyoming, because they come with high costs built in. Can Wyoming even afford grizzly bears ? The State legislature had to deal with a $ 700 million budget shortfall this session.

    It would be far better all around to leave the Great Bear in federal hands to be managed for the totality of the American people and paid for by them and our foreign visitor friends , instead of subjecting the grizzly to the whims and shortfalls of a single state’s foibles and scapegoating. The bears do not care where the state lines are. Perhaps we should craft a longterm bear plan based on what bears require, rather than what people demand. That ancient Hindhu parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant can be easily adapted to the Northern Rockies’ Grizzly Bear and Grey Wolf situation . We just need to open our eyes , look around a thousand miles in all directions, then ask the bear what will work best…