Conflict with humans is the number one cause of grizzly mortality. Human caused grizzly mortality occurs over conflicts with hunters, livestock, human foods, and garbage, and with vehicles on highways throughout the ecosystem. Keeping both bears and people safe means more grizzlies survive and expand their range – and it builds social acceptance and community pride. The success of recovery means that grizzlies have expanded to places that haven’t seen bears in decades, such as the southern Wind River Range, Tobacco Root Mountains, the Beartooth Front near Red Lodge, and south to the Wyoming Range near Big Piney. Bears in these distant corners of the ecosystem face challenging conflicts with humans and are struggling to occupy these landscapes.
To effectively reduce conflicts, we must scale up our efforts and develop strategic partnerships that leverage GYC’s resources with new funding sources.
Keeping People and Bears Safe
- Outfitting Greater Yellowstone grizzly country with bear-proof containers at all campgrounds, trailheads, landfills, and communities.
- The U.S. Forest Service has recently completed an analysis of grizzly conflicts across the five national forests within the ecosystem. This assessment includes infrastructure needs, as well as prioritization of the most pressing conflict sites.
- GYC has initiated a partnership with the Forest Service to cost-share this needed infrastructure, leveraging both federal and private funds to ensure all Forest Service campgrounds are adequately bear proofed by 2017.
- Bear Proof over 164 campgrounds in five national forests.
Safe hunters...safe bears
- Bear deterrent pepper spray is known to be the most effective method for avoiding dangerous confrontations (such as charging when encountered at a gut pile or carcass) in 92% of encounters where it’s used correctly. Additionally, bear spray is more effective at deterring attacks than firearms, with the added benefit that it is non-lethal to bears. Conversely, use of firearms solely to deter attacks resulted in bears being killed in 60 percent of the time. Increasing the use of bear spray by hunters will result in fewer lethal conflicts for both bears and people, which will also help maintain social tolerance for grizzlies.
- GYC initiated a partnership with the National Elk Refuge in 2013 to provide important outreach and bear spray canisters to 250 hunters. We seek to continue this program and expand it across the ecosystem.
- There are an estimated 20,300 licensed elk hunters in occupied grizzly bear habitat. Our goal is to develop a hunter-targeted program that offsets costs and increases availability of bear spray. Long-term, we seek mandatory bear spray carry regulations in occupied grizzly bear habitat.
- Every hunter carries bear spray.
Prevent Livestock Loss and Grizzly Bear Removals
- Roughly 20 percent of human-caused mortalities are management removals due to livestock depredation. There are many examples of conflict reduction with livestock producers that have proven successful in Greater Yellowstone and beyond. One of the best examples is the Blackfoot Valley of Montana where the Blackfoot Challenge has facilitated a partnership with livestock producers to reduce carnivore conflicts on private land by 96 percent in the past 15 years. Our aim is to replicate this successful effort on a region-wide scale, by developing electric fencing, carcass removal, bear patrollers, and range rider programs in partnership with landowners, ranchers, and agencies.
- Our initial focus will be the Upper Green River Valley, which is home to the largest grazing allotments and the single largest source of conflict with grizzly bears in the region. Repeated livestock depredations have resulted in the lethal removal of 11 bears in recent years. We also have emerging opportunities in southwest Montana’s Centennial Valley and Tom Miner Basin.
Voluntary Grazing Allotment Buy-Out fund
- The most effective way to prevent livestock loss and lethal bear management actions is to remove the source of conflict altogether. GYC has a successful history of working with ranchers and federal agencies to negotiate and fund voluntary grazing allotment buyouts in key places for grizzlies, such as the Taylor Fork in Montana and several areas around Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
- In the past we have operated in an opportunistic fashion, often waiting for livestock producers to contact us, an agency employee, or another conservation group to discuss a potential buyout.
- Persistent wildlife conflicts, challenging management conditions, poor access and retirement from the industry are commonly the motivating factors for a deal that compensates the producer and permanently removes livestock. We believe that by raising significant funds, we can be more proactive and effective in incentivizing this win-win strategy for bears and people.
- As in the past, we would establish partnerships that would leverage GYC funds one to three times. There are currently several emerging opportunities to employ this strategy that would result in three voluntary allotment buyouts.