POWELL — More than half of all grizzly bear management actions carried out last year by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department happened in Park County, according to a new report released Tuesday.
In 2020, the department captured 26 individual grizzly bears in an attempt to prevent or resolve conflicts. Of those, 15 captures (56%) were conducted in Park County. Of those captured, 18 bears were euthanized, including nine outside of an area deemed to be appropriate habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (known as the Demographic Monitoring Area).
Of the 27 captures, 13 captures resulted from bears killing livestock (primarily cattle), 13 were captures involving bears that obtained food rewards (pet or livestock food, garbage, fruit trees), or were frequenting developed sites or human populated areas unsuitable for grizzly bear occupancy.
The annual report is required by state statute and quantifies management actions by the Game and Fish in relation to grizzly bear conflict resolution in Wyoming outside the National Parks and Wind River Reservation. It was submitted to the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Interim Committee and prepared by Brian DeBolt, Large Carnivore Conflict Coordinator.
Because grizzly bears remain under federal protection, Game and Fish manages the species in Wyoming under the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There were more than 200 conflicts reported last year.
“In comparison to some previous years, we had relatively low conflict in suitable habitat for bears,” DeBolt said. “Game and Fish tries to mitigate conflicts with proactive strategies and a great deal of educational effort for people living, working and recreating in these areas. However, sometimes a direct management action is necessary to minimize human-bear conflicts.”
Nine grizzly bears were relocated to U.S. Forest Service land in or adjacent to the core grizzly bear habitat.
Increased recreation on public land was a concern for managers in 2020. But the abundance of the grizzly’s natural foods — and bear wise practices by many recreationists — made a difference, thus preventing the need for more captures and relocations due to conflict, DeBolt said.
“We’ll continue to prioritize efforts like Bear Wise Wyoming, a program that teaches people how to live with bears and minimize conflict potential while recreating outdoors,” he said.
A total of 49 grizzly bears were found dead or were euthanized by wildlife officials in conflict management efforts in the Demographic Monitoring Area last year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Under the direction of Fish and Wildlife, state officials from Idaho, Montana and Wyoming euthanized 28 of the 49 bears. A total of five grizzlies were killed after being struck by vehicles last year.