Nature photographer gets license for Wyoming's grizzly bear hunt, says he won’t: ‘Hunters do not have the right’

In addition, an activist group claims a second hunter, too, has agreed to refrain from killing a bear

A nature photographer in Wyoming has snagged one of only 10 new hunting licenses issued by the state’s Game and Fish Department following the state’s decision to allow the hunting of grizzly bears, but he isn’t planning on shooting any. Not with a gun, at least.

Tom Mangelsen, a critic of Wyoming’s new hunting initiative, learned he had obtained one of the state’s coveted licenses on Thursday, after drawing a No. 8 on an issuance list, the Associated Press reported. He was one of only up to 10 hunters to be allowed a chance to kill a grizzly during the hunt.

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"The time has come [in] 2018 to really think about the value of wildlife for what it is for everybody," Mangelsen told NPR following the drawing. "The public has the right to see bears and the hunters do not have the right to take that away from the public."

He also touted his license on Instagram alongside a picture of a family of bears, writing, "There are certain circumstances that would keep me from getting in the field, but if given the opportunity, you can be sure that I will be buying the $600 license and spending all of the allotted ten days hunting with a camera. With only one person allowed in the field at one time, hopefully the ten days I take up will save the lives of some of these amazing animals."

Mangelsen was just one of many activists to apply for a license following the Wyoming Game and Fish’s decision in May to allow the hunt — the first such hunt in Wyoming since before grizzlies became protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1975. Those protections were relaxed in 2017, USA Today reports.

Members of a group of wildlife conservationists in Jackson, Wyo. — posting to Facebook under the name "Shoot ‘Em With a Camera" — had also applied for the licenses, intending to slow the hunt, or take time away from hunters with intentions of killing the animals. The group also reposted news of Mangelsen’s license and claimed that another licensee — who drew No. 2 — has joined the group's efforts and will refrain from killing a bear.

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Not everyone feels the same way as Mangelsen or the activists, as evidenced by the nearly 7,000 people who applied for the hunting licenses.

Back in May, a spokesman for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said “science supports” the hunt, as the bears’ numbers have increased to around 700 under the last 42 years of federal protection.

Sy Gilliland, a hunting guide in Wyoming, added to USA Today that the activists’ backlash is “like being Monday-morning quarterbacked by people who don’t really have a clue what’s happening on the ground.”

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Grizzly bears were de-listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2017, though the National Park Service stated that no grizzly hunts would take place within Yellowstone or Grand Tetons parks. The upcoming hunt, however, will take place in adjacent areas between Sept. 15 and Nov. 15.

During the hunt, license-holders will be allowed into a designated Demographic Monitoring Area for the purposes of hunting over a period of 10 days, one at a time. The 10-day limit was specifically instated by game wardens to deter activists seeking licenses solely to take up as much time in the hunting zones as possible.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.