Wyoming grizzly bear ‘conflict activities’ down in 2019

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During 2019, Wyoming Game and Fish captured 33 grizzly bears in an attempt to prevent or resolve conflicts, 15 of which were relocated to Forest Service land, according to the agency.

That was a significant decrease in grizzly bear conflict activities and subsequent management actions by the agency compared to 2018. A strong natural food year coupled with the previous year’s management actions and grizzly bear population dynamics were likely the reason. In 2019 there were also no human injuries or fatalities due to grizzly bears.

“While conflicts will always ebb and flow with a biologically recovered population, we were very fortunate that we did not have any human injuries or fatalities due to grizzly bears,” said Rick King, chief of the Game and Fish wildlife division. “There was also a reduced number of human-caused grizzly bear mortalities in Wyoming. This is something we strive for every year.”

The details were part of the 2019 Annual Report of Grizzly Bear Management Captures, Relocations, and Removals completed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department which is now available on the department website. The annual report is required by state statute and quantifies management actions by the Game and Fish in relation to grizzly bear conflict resolution in Wyoming outside the national parks and Wind River Reservation.

Of the 34 capture events, 20 captures were a result of bears killing livestock (primarily cattle), 10 were captures involving bears that obtained food rewards (pet, livestock food, garbage, fruit trees), or were frequenting developed sites or populated areas unsuitable for grizzly bears. Three events were non-target captures at livestock depredation sites, and one bear was captured and relocated from the Cody landfill.

Of the 34 capture events, 18 (53%) were in Park County, eight (23%) were in Sublette County, four (12%) were in Fremont County, three (9%) were in Hot Springs County and one (3%) was in Teton County.

Of the 33 bears captured, 18 bears were removed from the population, and one bear died during capture. Of these 19 human-caused mortalities associated with management captures, 10 were outside of the Demographic Monitoring Area.

Because grizzly bears remain under federal protection, Game and Fish manages grizzly bears in Wyoming under the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

“We have documented an increasing distribution of grizzly bears throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which leads to a higher conflict potential, especially as bears expand into more agricultural, residential and human-dominated landscapes,” said Brian DeBolt, large carnivore conflict coordinator. 

“All captured grizzly bears provide a wealth of information into overall grizzly bear population status and health,” DeBolt said.

“Relocation of grizzly bears reduces the chance of property damage, reduces the potential for bears to become food conditioned, allows bears to forage on natural foods and remain wary of people and provides a non-lethal option when and where appropriate,” King said.

Grizzly bears are relocated in accordance with state and federal laws, regulations and policy. More about how the Game and Fish manages grizzly bears in Wyoming is available online. Game and Fish also continues to educate the public about how to proactively live and recreate in bear country to avoid conflicts as part of its “Bear Wise Wyoming” program.

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