The state of Wyoming announced Wednesday that it will allow grizzly bear hunts for the first time in 44 years.
In a unanimous vote, the state’s Fish and Game Commission approved the hunting of 22 grizzly bears in the fall, in areas east and south of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
The ruling comes after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rolled back protections on grizzlies last year — removing Yellowstone grizzly bears from the federal Endangered Species list after 42 years on it. This will be the state’s first hunt of the mammal since 1974.
When rolling back protections on the animal in June, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke cheered the successful comeback of the bears while listed as endangered.
“This achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of the state, tribal, federal and private partners,” Zinke said in a statement. “As a Montanan, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together.”
Environmentalists say that although the species’ numbers grew while listed as endangered, the bears continue to be threatened due to loss of food sources and human-caused mortalities.
“The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has ignored concerns raised by Wyoming residents and national park supporters across the country by approving its destructive grizzly hunting plan.
For the first time in decades, 23 Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears including females will be hunted this fall on lands neighboring Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks,” said Bart Melton, regional director for National Parks Conservation Association, in a statement
Nicole Paquette, vice president of wildlife for the Humane Society, said the rule was primed to benefit trophy hunters.
“The goal of trophy hunters is to slay the world’s rarest and most iconic animals for nothing more than a macabre display of body parts and for bragging rights.
It’s shameful that the Commission has chosen to subject Wyoming’s grizzly bears to such a fate,” she said in a statement. “This decision is reckless and ignores the best available science, which shows that grizzly bears need greater, not less, protections if they are to survive.”
The Commission received more than 185,000 comments opposing the proposed hunt, Paquette said.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission emphasized that they shaped the plan around public input and are taking a “conservative” approach to regulating the new hunting season.