Thousands of people have applied for a permit to participate in the state of Wyoming’s first hunt since grizzly bears were delisted from the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Wyoming Game & Fish officials are allowing up to 22 bears to be killed this fall. However, not everyone applying for a license is a hunter, as many environmentalists have teamed up for a campaign to “Shoot ’em with a Camera, Not a Gun.”
One such activist, nature photographer Tom Mangelsen, has been randomly selected to receive one of the coveted hunting licenses.
“The time has come in 2018 to really think about the value of wildlife for what it is for everybody,” Mangelsen told NPR after 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.”
Hunters are frustrated as activists apply for access to the short hunting season, arguing that the population of the bears has made a full recovery.
Sy Gilliland is a hunting guide in Wyoming and a spokesman for the hunting community.
“It’s like being Monday-morning quarterbacked by people who don’t really have a clue what’s happening on the ground,” Gilliland told USA Today. “The science backs this up. This bear population has recovered. It’s de-listed. The bear is heavily studied. It’s heavily monitored.”
Scientists and conservationists argue that the grizzly bears have only recently recovered, and that future environmental conditions will make it difficult for this trend to continue.
Bonnie Rice is representative for the Sierra Club, which aims to protect wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Rockies ecosystems.
“Allowing a trophy hunt of these majestic animals – the second-slowest mammal to reproduce in North America – so soon after they lost Endangered Species protections does nothing to build public confidence in state management of grizzly bears,” Rice said in a statement.
According to the National Park Service, the grizzly population has grown from 136 in 1975 to nearly 700 today.
Conservation measures to protect grizzly bears will not change in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, regardless of the protected status of grizzly bears.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer