The Wyoming Game and Fish Department released its annual report on grizzly bear management captures, relocations, and removals. The report noted a sharp increase in conflicts with grizzly bears. Nearly twice as many bears were captured in 2021 compared to the previous year and conflicts with livestock increased dramatically.
Because grizzly bears remain under federal protection, Game and Fish manages them in Wyoming under the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. During 2021 in response to conflicts investigated by Game and Fish, Large Carnivore Section personnel captured 45 individual grizzly bears in an attempt to prevent or resolve conflicts. Half of the conflicts were a result of grizzly bears killing livestock. Most captures were adult males. In 2020, 26 grizzly bears were captured in 27 separate capture events.
“In comparison to last year, conflicts — especially with livestock — increased. This is due to the growing number of bears on the landscape expanding beyond their suitable range and spilling into areas they haven’t been in recent history,” said Brian DeBolt, Game and Fish large carnivore conflict coordinator.
“Game and Fish tries to mitigate conflicts with proactive strategies and a great deal of educational efforts for people living, working and recreating in these areas. However, sometimes a direct management action — like a relocation — is necessary to minimize human-bear conflicts,” said DeBolt.
Relocations are becoming increasingly difficult, noted DeBolt. Nineteen grizzly bears were relocated to U.S. Forest Service land in or adjacent to the core grizzly bear habitat referred to as the “recovery zone.” Nearly twice as many grizzly bears were relocated in 2021 compared to 2020.
“It’s becoming more challenging to find a suitable relocation option for conflict bears. A successful relocation site needs to be somewhere the bear won’t immediately find itself back into conflicts with people or livestock, has suitable range as well as some biological factors. Sites are limited right now due to high grizzly bear population densities,” DeBolt said.
“Our primary goal is to work with producers and land management agencies in any way we can to reduce livestock depredation risk. Game and Fish does all it can to prevent conflicts from occurring,” DeBolt said. “Further, the department continues to prioritize efforts like Bear Wise Wyoming, a program that teaches people how to live with bears and minizine conflict potential while recreating outdoors.”
The 2021 Annual Report of Grizzly Bear Management Captures, Relocations and Removals is available on the department website.