Nobody knows if they’ll actually go through with it or if it’ll work.
The prospect of a grizzly bear hunt in Wyoming has been an extremely contentious subject ever since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Greater Yellowstone population of grizzly bears from protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2017. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission announced their decision to open a grizzly hunting season at a meeting in May 2018 after taking public comments on the subject for months. And now, groups like the Sierra Club and Earthjustice have strongly denounced the planned hunt.
While a lawsuit is currently pending in court that could also stop the controversial hunt, anti-hunters are also hedging their bets and looking for other ways to disrupt the Wyoming grizzly bear hunt in case the court doesn’t decide in their favor.
In short, those opposed to the hunting season plan to apply for grizzly bear tags themselves.
Wyoming will issue a limited number of grizzly bear tags for the 2018 hunt through a lottery system. If large number of anti-hunters apply, it’ll increase the overall pool of applicants and therefore make it more difficult for someone who actually plans on hunting to draw a tag. Additionally, any tags anti-hunters draw will reduce the number of available tags for hunters.
Obviously, if any anti-hunters are drawn for the hunt, they don’t plan on killing a bear. Their idea is to reduce the overall grizzly bear harvest as much as possible by attempting to limit opportunities for hunters to harvest grizzly bears.
At least that’s their plan, anyway.
The only question is whether or not they’ll actually succeed in making it more difficult for actual hunters to pursue bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem this fall.
While there’s nothing illegal about this plan to disrupt the Wyoming grizzly bear hunt, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department did take some steps to make this exact scenario a more difficult process when they wrote the grizzly bear hunting regulations.
For instance, anyone applying for the hunt must have a valid hunter education certification. True, those aren’t extremely difficult to get, but it does take a little bit of effort and planning to obtain one.
Additionally, grizzly bear tags are only good for 10 days at a time. A hunter who draws a tag will forfeit it if they don’t harvest a bear within that time frame. In that case, the WGFD would just issue the tag to the next person on the list. The season will continue until Nov. 15 or when the grizzly quota is reached, whichever comes first.
Finally, disrupting the hunt in this manner will require anti-hunters to pony up some cash. It’ll cost $5 for Wyoming residents and $15 for nonresidents just to apply for the hunt. If they get drawn for a tag, they’ll need to buy a grizzly bear tag to implement the plan. At $600 for residents and $6,000 for non-residents, those tags aren’t exactly cheap.
So, while it’s absolutely possible they could cause some problems, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to derail the hunt outright using this plan.
You can also look at this from a “glass half-full” perspective and take note of the possibility of all those anti-hunters contributing money for wildlife conservation and game management in Wyoming by applying for the hunt.
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem encompasses parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The vast majority of the grizzly population is concentrated in what’s known as the “Demographic Monitoring Area,” which includes Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, as well as the town of Jackson. Hunting won’t be allowed in either Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Park.
Though wildlife officials in Montana decided not to open a grizzly bear season this year, Idaho will be joining Wyoming in offering what will be the first grizzly bear hunt in the lower 48 states since the 1970s.
Could people attempt a plan similar to the one described above to disrupt the Idaho grizzly bear hunt? Probably.
However, the state will only issue a single bear tag this year and only Idaho residents may apply. So, while it’s true that person who applies to protest the hunt and gets drawn could effectively end the season and ensure that no grizzly bears are harvested, it’s a very unlikely scenario.
Wyoming is accepting applications for the grizzly bear hunt through July 16. Apply for the hunt here.