The return of the wolf and grizzly bear to the northern Rockies are two success stories that emerged from the Endangered Species Act. When grizzly bears were classified as Endangered Species in 1975, there were 100 to 200 of them, mostly in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Their number is now estimated at approximately 1,800 in the lower 48 states. The grizzlies made this comeback largely because the hunt was stopped, the trash was carefully managed, and poachers were effectively controlled.
Outside of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, grizzly bears roam primarily in wilderness areas of the state, although they are expanding into more populous areas where they are increasingly prone to being hit by cars, shot by hunters, and killed or removed by biologists due to conflict People. And bears and wolves pose a real threat to livestock and humans. Every year, hikers or hunters are attacked by bears, and in many parts of the state any hiker is warned to be “bear conscious” and to use a pepper-based spray for protection carry.
The debate over protecting endangered species, especially predators, has long disrupted Montana, pitting liberal urban areas across the state and across the country against rural ranchers who are increasingly concerned that their cattle will be killed or against hunters who believe that wildlife is in decline. So far, a measured approach – which includes hunting wolves and state intervention if grizzlies get into someone’s beehive or henhouse – along with plenty of protection has prevailed. But with the increased management of wildlife in the Culture Wars, antagonism to expanding federal control, and Republican control of the state, the balance has shifted, conservationists say.
The new bills address the management of bears and wolves in a number of ways. One of the new bills would pay wolf hunters their expenses – in fact, critics say, a bounty – to kill the animals. Another bill would allow animals to be trapped using a metal airplane cable shaped into a noose that would hang over a trail. If the animal has its head trapped in you, it will tighten as the animal tries to escape until it is strangled to death. Snares can be used for coyotes in Montana, but not for wolves.
A major problem with snares is that they also kill non-target species such as moose, elk, deer, and even dogs. “Sling is cheap,” said Mr. Bangs. “It’s not uncommon for a trapper to put 100 on. And you catch all kinds of things.” Snares used on coyotes, for example, accidentally killed 28 mountain lions from 2015 to 2020, Gevock said.
Another bill would extend the wolf trapping and fishing season. Wildlife experts say the extended season would overlap with the time when grizzly bears and black bears are no longer in their burrows and could be accidentally caught. Another would resume black bear hunting with dogs and prevent Montana wildlife officials from relocating grizzly bears caught outside of recreation areas. Most of the habitats in the recovery zone are occupied, which means that many grizzlies would most likely need to be euthanized.