A Case for Hunting Grizzly Bears

A case for hunting Grizzly Bears

by Maggie Nutter

We all love our families and friends and would like to know that they are safe from harm.  We care that children are safe as they play outdoors or go to do their chores, and that Gramma is safe as she walks out to get the mail or work in the flower bed.

When actual bears or bear scat is found in play areas or a bear eats the 4-H pig, this sense of safety for our children is rocked. When you parents find grizzly bear tracks around their beehives and bear scat under the chokecherry bushes in their yard, the concerned for those with dwindling vision, poor hearing and reduced mobility is rightly increased.  We should be able to feel safe and be safe in our home and yard and on our property.

We want our families safe!!

So what does keeping your family safe have to do with grizzly bear hunting?

It is a fact that Wildlife, specifically Bears in this case can learn behavior such as being wary of humans.


Jon Swenson, a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in As, Norway, who lived in Montana as a child and actually worked for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.  Swenson’s research http://bit.ly/SwedishBearHunt  has shown that increased hunting pressure over the last 10 years had changed the behavior of the Swedish Brown bear. http://bit.ly/BearMom

“In a variation of “women and children first,” Scandinavian biologists found that female brown bears keep their cubs close a year longer than usual as defense from hunters.

“The young are like a shield, a protection, that increases the survival of the mother,” said Jon Swenson, a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in As, Norway. “If that’s inheritable, and it might be, then it’s an example of hunter-induced evolution. Animals respond to selection pressures, and a lot of hunting is selective.”

…But while taxonomically Swedish brown bears and American grizzly bears are identical, in the woods they’re quite different. North American Ursus arctos horribilis are known for ferocity and occasionally eating livestock or picnic supplies. Swenson said Swedish Ursus arctos arctos rarely encounter people or raid human food. Thousands of years of persecution by humans has turned them into secretive, highly nocturnal, vegetarian animals the Swedes often call ghost bears.”

Swenson had earlier written a review of literature, in 1999, http://bit.ly/2kenE04   on the effects of hunting on brown bear behavior in Eurasia.   The “Tentative Conclusions” included, “Bear access to human food was always associated with a relatively rapid loss of wariness to humans.”

“Hunted Bears. —When human-derived food was not a confounding variable, the authors indicated that bears were more wary where they were hunted.  Also, the initiation of hunting with rifles or helicopter changed the wariness of bears rapidly.  Hunters may selectively remove bolder individuals, but it is difficult to imagine that this has a genetic effect unless a large proportion of the population is removed.  The differences inside and outside Russian reserves suggest that the effect is learned rather than genetic, because gene flow in brown bear populations occurs over areas much larger than Russian reserves. (Craighead et al. 1995) The rapid changes in behavior that were reported also suggest learning as the most important behavior-modifying mechanism.  Young brown bears remain with their mother for more than a year, which allows them ample time to learn from their mothers how to react to humans.”

Swenson also summarizes the importance of preventing bears from getting human derived food, which makes them less wary.   The issue with food availability is twofold.

On agriculture land, one can not just pick up the corn field or even fence all of the crops.  It would be highly difficult and expensive, if not impossible, to fence every grain bin, fruit tree, berry bush or garden.   Land owners are expected to change ranch operations and farming practices to reduce bears getting human produced food and reduce livestock depredation.  Even when ranchers and farmers change their practices, it may help on their operation at that time, but as bears move out further onto private lands new farmers and ranchers will be expected to change their practices.  It is one thing in a national or state park to ask visitors to secure their food or attractants, it is totally another to inflict this duty on the land owners of working lands.  It is the mission of the farmer and rancher to grow food.   They should not be forced to host grizzly bears causing income loss and increasing the possibility of harm to their families.


Another valid and important reason to support hunting of grizzly bears would be population control.  The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committees position on hunting grizzly bears is simple and direct.

“In recovered and delisted grizzly bear populations, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) supports the use of regulated hunting following the principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (Geist et al. 2001) as one approach to help manage numbers and distribution of bears to promote coexistence and help minimize conflict. Although specifics regarding the hunting of a recovered grizzly bear population will be unique to the ecosystem and legal jurisdictions involved, IGBC supports hunting regulations that reflect the best available science, are adaptable to changing factors, are established in a public process, and are consistent with standards in the ecosystem specific Conservation Strategies.” http://igbconline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/121213_IGBC_GB_Hunting_Position-1.pdf


The IGBC statement gives solid reasons for the future use of hunting in the management of this large predator. (manage numbers, distribution of bears to promote coexistence and minimize conflict)

The North American Model for Wildlife Conservation   http://bit.ly/2lXjGJB  is used by the United States Fish Wildlife, our state wildlife agencies and also the Canadian Wildlife Service for managing wildlife.  It is praised as the reason that North America has been able to build and recover large numbers of both game and non-game animals and its 7 concepts are well worth understanding.

The population of grizzly bears continues to increase and spread out over private lands. This larger grizzly occupied area increases the number of people that are exposed to safety risks due to the bears presence.  Allowing hunting of the grizzlies out of the Demographic Monitoring Area/Primary Conservation Area  is a way to keep the area of land occupied by grizzlies from extending all across the state.  management-zones

While some have stated that we could just remove the “bad bears” that is not always possible. Also using terms such as ‘bad bears’ and ‘good bears’ moralized what bears behaviors.  More correct terms would be “nuisance bear” or “conflict bear.”

‘Bad’ bears that have injured or killed livestock, destroyed private property or become habituated to human are often evasive and not able to be caught for tagging as nuisance or conflict bears.  This allows the bears to continue to cause damage and conflicts without the strikes against them that would determine their status for removal according to the 1986 Interagency Grizzly Bear Guidelines.  http://bit.ly/2mgSypf

Also, it is rare that females with cubs are removed from the population even though studies have shown that cubs raised by females involved in conflicts have a 62.5% chance of being involved in conflicts later in life. http://bit.ly/2lU43lW

An actual hunting regulated by the state would ensure that the population in the Demographic Monitory Area remains high enough to meet the minimum population of a future Delisting Rule and Conservation Strategy and yet allow control of the population on private lands across the state.

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