As Endangered Species Act protection ends, it’s all about the numbers.

grizzly yellowstone

Editor’s note: For more on grizzlies, see our feature investigation, “Yellowstone Grizzlies Face Unbearable Divides”

The total number of grizzly bears that will be available for hunting inside the Yellowstone Demographic Monitoring Area each year will depend on the annual estimated grizzly population.

The Demographic Monitoring Areas covers 16,000 square miles and includes Yellowstone and Grand Tetons national parks, surrounding national forests and wilderness areas and the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Up to 20 grizzly bears could be hunted in 2017 based on 2016 population estimates and acceptable federally set mortality limits. Trophy hunting is highly unlikely in 2017 because the three states bordering Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks intend to hold public hearings before hunting rules are finalized.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set an annual population goal of 674 bears within the Demographic Monitoring Area, which is the estimated average population between 2002 and 2014.

The agency has set total mortality rates for independent males, independent females and dependent young in order to maintain the target population. The mortality rates increase as the population rises above 674.

Last year there were an estimated 695 bears in the monitoring area. The maximum mortality limits for independent males at this size of population was 20 percent and for independent females and dependent young 9 percent.

The estimated number of independent males in 2016 two years and older was 238. The estimated number of independent females two years and older was also 238. The estimated number of dependent young was 213.

Based on these numbers, the total acceptable mortality for independent males last year would have been 47.6 (20 percent of 238). The total acceptable mortality for independent females would have been 21.4 (9 percent of 238).  The total acceptable mortality rate for dependent young would have been 19.17 (9 percent of 213).

grizzly hunting quotas
If mortality from all causes other than legal hunting is less than the total number of allowable deaths based on the mortality percentage at corresponding population levels, then the difference can be allocated to the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho for possible trophy hunts. Source: Federal Register/Vol. 82, No. 125/Friday, June 30, 2017

According to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2016 annual report, the actual number of independent male deaths within the monitoring area last year was 37. The total number of independent female deaths was 12. And the total number of dependent young deaths was 9.

This means that if hunting is allowed in 2017 the total number of independent male grizzlies that could be shot would be approximately 11 (47.6 – 37 = 10.6). The total number of independent females that could be killed by hunters would be approximately 9 (21.4 – 12 = 9.4).

Hunting of dependent young will not be allowed within the monitoring area.

Wyoming is allocated 58 percent of the total number of bears that can be hunted each year; Montana will receive 34 percent and Idaho 8 percent. If hunting is allowed in 2017, Wyoming would have the right to hunt approximately 12 grizzly bears, Montana 7 and Idaho 2 (allowing for rounding).

If the total estimated population falls below 600, no hunting will be allowed unless necessary to address human safety.

The are no limits on the number of Yellowstone grizzlies that can be hunted in the zone between Demographic Monitoring Area boundary and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem boundary. Each state will determine how many bears can be hunted in this region.

John Dougherty

is an investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker.

Get The Revelator Newsletter