Killing Grizzlies: Mistaken Identity Killing Chances Of Delisting?
By Todd Helms
“Right now, the problem is too many people with too many guns, and too much time on their hands,” Chuck Neal, a retired federal ecologist said.
A couple weeks ago a Wyoming bear hunter killed a grizzly bear in the Cody, Wyoming area. The hunter, Patrick M. Gogerty mistook the grizzly for a black bear on the opening day of Wyoming’s firearm, black bear season. Gogerty turned himself in the day after his mistake.
I’m not here to debate the abilities of the numerous folks who have killed grizzlies they mistook for black bears. As you can see from the opening quote, there are enough people who are up in arms over this mistake and others like it. Grizzlies have attained a cult like following in North America, wolves too for that matter, and in the western states and provinces few topics divide folks so quickly and cleanly as grizzly bears in particular. Mr. Neal’s ignorant comment from above displays the anger some people feel about this topic. It’s almost as if a human being were murdered, but that probably wouldn’t evoke as much uproar as a grizzly being killed, a sad fact.
My opinion, (I know the adage about opinions and anal orifices) grizzly bears NEED to be delisted pronto and management turned over to the states as federal legal precedent clearly shows that wildlife ownership/management belongs to the states in which the wildlife reside. State management of state owned wildlife, such as grizzlies, wolves, elk and deer isn’t just legal it is prudent.
As a resident of the Cody area I have driven up the “North Fork” (the area where the most recent grizzly was killed) too many times to count. I have hunted deer, elk and black bears along this stretch of highway, fished the river and enjoyed animal viewing during closed hunting seasons. I have NEVER seen a black bear along this stretch of road in or out of black bear hunting season. The reason for that? The bears know they are vulnerable in that area and make themselves very scarce. Grizzlies, not so much.
My point? Grizzly bear numbers have expanded beyond the predetermined recovery goal in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. That should mean that the bears are removed from the ESA and managed by the State of Wyoming BUT, the goal posts keep getting moved thanks to litigation from environmental dissidents. Enough is enough, if you’re not throwing your support behind the efforts to delist and hunt these bears then your inaction is part of the problem and we will continue to lose ground to preservationists wearing conservationist clothing.
Don’t get me wrong. . . “knowing your target and what lies beyond it,” is a foundational precept of being a responsible and safe hunter. Taking the time to educate yourself on proper bear identification and then making sure you are shooting a legal bear is of utmost importance. Each grizzly that is mistaken for a black bear and killed is another strike against the delisting and legal hunting of the big bruins, not to mention a tragic waste. It is the responsibility of hunters to make sure we are in the right, no excuses.
But, what do I know? I’m just someone with “too many guns and too much time on my hands.”