Don’t expect Gov. Butch Otter to give up grizzly bear management like he did wolf management.
U.S. District Court Judge Donald Malloy relisted grizzly bears just like he did wolves. But Otter won’t benefit the same rhetoric riffs against the federal government he made with wolves by backing out of grizzly bear management.
That because nobody can call these bears “their bears.” Grizzly bears are native to Idaho, never left the area around Yellowstone, and came back with the cooperation of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The Idaho Legislature's grizzlt bear plan recognized that once recovered, it was Idaho’s responsibility to pay for bear management and the costs of grizzly bear depredation on livestock and even game.
Wolves get special dimissal for their reintroduction even though elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, turkeys, pheasants, chukars and many other Idaho game species were brought here from somewhere else. No one calls the bears Canadian grizzlies to suggest they are not worthy.
Of course when loggers and environmentalists had developed a local plan to bring grizzlies in from Montana to restore the population in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Idaho balked. Then Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said we did want any “massive, flesh-eating carnivores,” here even though we already had them.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission again this week reiterated its hope the bear, whose population keeps rising in Greater Yellowstone to more than 600, is removed from the threatened species list. Throughout the ecosystem grizzly bear deaths have rose along with the population.
Environmentalists say the higher death rate reflects the continued threats of human encroachment and reduced food sources such as whitebark pine. Biologists say all the good habitat is occupied and the bears are expanding.
Remarkably, Idaho reported few grizzly conflicts with people this summer despite the dozens in neighboring states. The primary reason is the hands-on, aggressive efforts of Fish and Game, the Forest Service and local officials to keep bears away from garbage.
Commissioners issued a statement urging that nuisance bears killed outside primary conservation area in Idaho – the place everyone agrees grizzlies need special treatment -- should not count against mortality thresholds established in the grizzly bear conservation strategy.
The commission also does not support any "actions that curtail or limit hunting opportunities outside the primary conservation area, to enhance the expansion of grizzly bear populations," the statement says.
That would be something like a ban on bear baiting for black bears. It is a practice that has lost support among hunters over time because of “fair chase” concerns but remains popular especially for keeping the black bear population down.
Otter would be getting a great prize if he were to get the first grizzly bear tag in Idaho. A limited hunt could happen if the bear is delisted and the population continues to expand.
But until bears are recovered statewide, an issue the commission doesn’t want to aid by moving bears out from around Yellowstone, Idaho won’t get its world class trophy hunt.