Yellowstone grizzly bears could be hunted under new regulations

Montana wildlife officials announced Thursday that they would recommend against hosting a grizzly bear hunt near Yellowstone National Park, but the door is still open to future hunts.

An area near Yellowstone shared by Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho would be the potential hunting site for the formerly endangered animal. Wyoming Game and Fish Department asked permission to begin drafting hunting regulations in January, Jackson Hole News & Guide reported.

“We are dang sure supportive of hunting them,” Jeff Smith, the president of Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, told Jackson Hole News &Guide. “Because we hunt everything else in Wyoming.”

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took Yellowstone grizzly bears off the endangered list in June 2017 after 42 years of federal protection. The population of grizzlies in or near Yellowstone had grown from less than 150 in the mid-1970s to 690 in 2017, according to the National Park Service.

The change did not affect the protected status of other groups of grizzlies in 48 states, though their status could soon change as well, The New York Times reported at the time.

Now that Yellowstone's grizzlies are not protected by the federal government, their population management falls to the three neighboring states' discretion, paving the way for hunting as soon as this fall. The hunting would take place outside of the park itself but would affect the grizzlies who make their home in the park and its surrounding area.

Debate has raged over the question of hunting grizzlies, with some saying the grizzly population will need to be managed with hunting in the same way that other large carnivores have required. Trophy hunting is a concern, however, particularly for animal rights' groups.

A petition against the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission's hunting proposal garnered more than 215,000 signatures.

This story originally appeared in Travel + Leisure.