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Western Watersheds Project and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in federal district court Friday over the government’s permits for the killing of four grizzly bears in Grand Teton National Park.
Grizzly bears have been listed under the Endangered Species Act since 1975. While numbers have increased since listing, the bears continue to face many perils threatening full recovery. In Grand Teton National Park, this threat is elk hunters who might have a lethal conflict with a grizzly during their pursuit of prey.
An unfortunate consequence of the winter-feeding program on the nearby National Elk Refuge is the necessity of an Elk Reduction Program. The feeding program sustains high numbers of elk which are then “controlled” though hunting. Because of the possibility that an elk hunter might kill a grizzly, the Fish and Wildlife Service afforded the Park a “take permit” for one bear. Once that bear was killed in 2012, the Park requested a new consultation. Instead, the Fish and Wildlife Service produced a short addendum allowing for more four more bears to be killed by 2022.
This new permission fails to conform to the level of analysis necessary for killing a “threatened” species or to consider the big picture for grizzly bear recovery in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, including the livestock-related killings in the Upper Green. The authorized killing of these four grizzlies, when added to the amount of other similar grizzly “take” determinations issued by FWS and currently in effect for other actions in the Greater Yellowstone region, could result in the killing of as many as 65 female grizzly bears in a single year.