WG&F reports grizzly capture work
by Wyoming Game and Fish Department
February 10, 2009
Wyoming's bear management team had a busy year in 2008 addressing conflicts and when necessary, capturing and relocating bears that were causing problems.
During the year, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department captured 28 individual grizzly bears on 32 occasions (three were captured twice and one was captured a third time) in an attempt to prevent or resolve conflicts with people and livestock. All bears were captured in western Wyoming.
Bear management officer Mark Bruscino said captures were up slightly this year largely due to the fact that a number of the bears had a previous history of being involved in conflicts. Captures included 18 individual bears and 10 captures were family groups consisting of females with yearling cubs. Of the 32 capture events, 24 were relocated from areas where they were causing conflicts and eight were removed from the population by management authorities. Bears are more likely to be euthanized if they have a history of being involved in previous conflicts, a known history of close association with humans or are deemed unsuitable for release into the wild. Age, sex and physical condition of the bear are taken into account before a decision is made to remove the animal from the population.
This past year grizzlies were involved in 132 conflicts. According to Bruscino, that is about average. Bruscino said a conflict is defined as an event when a bear causes damage to property, livestock, receives food rewards such as getting into garbage or causes human injury. Of the conflicts in 2008, only two resulted in injury to people. Severity of the injuries ranged from a few scratches, to cuts where stitches were needed. Both incidents involved elk hunters.
Bruscino said the Greater Yellowstone Area grizzly population is doing well and has expanded in numbers and distribution over the last 15 years. Grizzlies were removed from the Threatened Species List in April 2007. The expansion of grizzly populations is evidenced in part from capture locations in recent years. Captures in 2008 came from several western Wyoming counties including 13 bears captured in Park County, nine in Fremont County, six in Teton County and four in Sublette County. All bears were released on U.S. Forest Service lands in the Grizzly Bear Primary Conservation Area, the area formerly designated as the Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone. Of the 24 bears moved from their capture site, 21 were released in Park County and three releases took place in Teton County.
Relocated independent bears (not cubs) are fitted with radio tracking collars to allow documentation of movements after release. Of the 12 bears wearing functional radio collars, three moved back to within 10 miles of their capture site, but were not known to cause any problems. Authorities removed one relocated bear after it caused further conflict in an area located 31 miles from its release site. An elk hunter killed another bear and the others remained within the Primary Conservation Area and surrounding national forest lands.
As is usually the case, human-bear interactions and conflicts are typically a result of bears seeking unnatural foods in association with people or property or when they kill livestock. Bruscino said numbers and locations of conflicts are affected by human foods and garbage.
"Reducing the availability of these attractants greatly reduces the incidence of bears getting into trouble," Bruscino said.