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Yellowstone-area grizzly coordinators to meet in Jackson Wednesday and Thursday

Yellowstone-area grizzly coordinators to meet in Jackson Wednesday and Thursday

Author: Billy Arnold 

Published by: JHN News & Guide

Officials who coordinate grizzly bear management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are set to meet in Jackson Wednesday and Thursday, talking about grizzly conflicts, populations and future management.

The meeting of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee comes as Montana, Wyoming and Idaho push to remove the area’s grizzly bear population from the endangered species list and as the first grizzlies of the season emerge in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.

But it is also happening just a few days before Teton County is set to review and possibly approve an update to county land development regulations aimed at requiring bear-resistant trash cans countywide and reducing access to things like bird feeders and livestock feed that attract and endanger bears.

The meeting also follows a relatively deadly 2021 season for Teton County’s grizzly population. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department euthanized five bears in the county, according to an annual report from the department. It makes the decision to do so with authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Officials from both agencies will be present at the Wednesday and Thursday meeting.

“Lethal removals increased last year in Teton County,” said Dan Thompson, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s large carnivore supervisor. Bears that were killed generally “already had a history,” he said.

“We’ve been dealing with some of them for a couple of years,” the large carnivore biologist said. “As we do more and more proactive and reactive work, the options become more and more limited.”

The bears that were put down included grizzlies 946, 1017, 1022, 1028, and 1048.

All five had previously been captured and relocated after preying on cattle, getting into human food at campsites or accessing food rewards — garbage, grain and horse feed — in residential areas.

Two of those bears, 1022 and 1048, were euthanized after being relocated earlier in 2021. The bears had returned to residential areas, where they continued accessing livestock feed and garbage.

Four other grizzlies were relocated to Teton County from Park and Sublette counties. Three of those bears were what Game and Fish called “non-target captures,” grizzlies that weren’t specifically involved in a conflict but relocated to either focus trapping efforts on conflict bears in the area or for human safety. Two of those grizzlies were captured in Park County and one in Sublette County before being brought to Teton County.

The two bears — a mother and cub — were dropped in Bailey Creek. The third was relocated to Buffalo Fork.

One other bear relocated to Jackson Hole was released in the Grassy Lake area just south of Yellowstone National Park after frequenting a guest lodge and eating hay in horse feed bunks.

Conflict reports from Wyoming Game and Fish and wildlife officials from Montana, Idaho, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks are set for 8:40 a.m. Thursday.

Kristin Combs, executive director for Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, said she is curious to hear how the group of state and federal wildlife and land managers spell out plans for managing conflicts going forward.

Grizzly 399’s romp through southern Jackson Hole last fall, Combs said, “pointed out to us what our weaknesses are.”

“We can use that information and that data to make better decisions and to really start to button some of this stuff down so we don’t just have this continued, repeated conflict situation,” Combs said.

Teton County started a review of its regulations on bear proofing and wildlife feeding amid the hubbub over 399. On Tuesday, Chris Colligan, a project manager for Teton County who was formerly the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s wildlife program coordinator, will provide an update on Teton County’s proposals. They include requiring bear-resistant trash cans countywide, banning feeding of all wildlife and requiring attractants like bird feeders to be hung out of reach of bears and wildlife.

The Teton County Board of County Commissioners is set to review the possible code change Tuesday.

The conversations Wednesday and Thursday will likely be farther reaching than Teton County’s regulations. Officials attending are from regional national forests and parks, and wildlife agencies.

The meetings are scheduled for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and 8:30 a.m. to noon Thursday in the Bridger Room at the Lodge at Jackson Hole.

Public comment will be taken both days: At 4:45 p.m. Wednesday and at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

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