Although the action was neither confrontational, nor controversial, it was somewhat unusual. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission last week endorsed giving away grizzly bears if asked.
Just in case another state, the federal government, an international government, or a Native American tribe requests a grizzly or so, the commission approved a process that could make it happen.
That is, as long as it does not impact local grizzly populations.
Scott Edberg, deputy chief of the wildlife division, made the request for philosophical support for the action called “translocation.”
This would basically be an amendment to existing statutes that allow for Wyoming to assist other entities if they wish to help reestablish wildlife in their historic ranges.
This specifically allows for the transfer of grizzlies.
The oddity here, in the timing at the meeting in Powell last week, is Wyoming does not currently have authority to manage grizzlies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem.
And it does not have the power to donate grizzlies on its own at the moment.
As one point of clarification to a commissioner’s question, Edberg said, “a live one.”
After decades of research and studies following the grizzly population regional decline to 136 in the early 1970s, the population regenerated, surpassed court-ordered standards by growing to more than 700, and was delisted from Endangered Species Act protection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2017.
Bear supervisory authority was returned to the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and Wyoming promulgated rules for a limited hunt as part of its management program.
Numerous lawsuits were filed to overturn the delisting procedure and in the autumn of 2018, a federal court in Missoula, Mont., returned the management power to Fish and Wildlife for now and ordered relisting of the bear.
While the new regulation language the commission approved does indicate a willingness to assist other governments, (perhaps for zoos, too) the last words in the paragraph read, “Any translocation of a grizzly bear outside of Wyoming while under Endangered Species Act protections must be approved and facilitated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.”
Commissioner Peter Rude, who did some studying of the issue, said the wording change would be a statement to other places if they wished to beef up species in their areas.
“It’s kind of in response, ‘We’ll help you do that,’” he said. “The only one they have there in California is the one on the state flag.
“We’ll do our part for reintroduction.”