Anti-hunters win two of Wyoming’s first grizzly bear tags issued in over 40 years
By JIM MATTHEWS
Anti-hunting activists have won two of Wyoming’s first grizzly bear hunting tags issued in 44 years, according to the group Shoot ‘Em With a Camera, a Jackson Hole, Wyo.-based anti-bear hunting organization that encouraged people to apply for the 22 permits issued for this fall’s hunting season. Those two tag holders have said they will not shoot a bear, except with a camera.
This will be the first hunting season is 44 years in Wyoming, if the hunt isn’t stopped in the court system where a challenge will be heard in early August. The season was closed in 1975 when the grizzly was declared an endangered species in the lower 48 states and the population was estimated to be less than 150 animals. The conservative estimate of today’s population is over 700 animals, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has removed the great bear from the protected list and given management back to the states where the bears live around Yellowstone National Park (Montana, Idaho and Wyoming).
The Wyoming hunt will not allow more than two female grizzly bears to be harvested or a total of 12 grizzly bears in the hunt within the Greater Yellowstone Management Area. Hunters were drawn sequentially and each will be given a 10-day hunting period to try to fill their tag. If two females are killed, the season is closed. In the hunting zones outside the GYMA, an additional 12 bears of either sex may be taken.
The two anti-bear hunters drawn for tags are both from Jackson, Wyo., and one is nationally famous wildlife photographer, Tom Mangelsen, and an outspoken critic of the bear hunt, and the other is Kelly L. Mayor. Both have said they will spend the 10-day time in the field so another hunter won’t have the opportunity. The season is expected to run from September 15th to November 15th. Mayor will have the second hunt period, while Mangelsen has the eighth period.
There were nearly 6,000 applications for the 22 hunt periods. The cost to apply was $5 for residents and $15 for non-residents. The bear tag itself will cost $600 for residents and $6,000 for non-residents.
There are two interesting aspects of anti-hunters drawing big game tags.
The first can be argued to be a good thing. For the first time ever, these people are helping support wildlife programs run by the state of Wyoming. In the past, all they ever done is give lip service and file lawsuits that cost these agencies buckets of cash to defend the science that supports limited harvest. I’m not sure I’m willing to tell them this is illegal or unethical somehow because they are taking away the opportunity from some other hunter. I can see the trail of this argument (there are a bunch of hunter harassment laws on the books). But who am I to tell someone they can’t pony up the application and tag fees and then choose not to hunt? How is that any different than telling bird hunters they can’t shoot birds on the ground and must only shoot them in the air. If the bag and possession limits are not exceeded, who am I to dictate how a person hunts. I know, the anti-hunters are telling hunters we shouldn’t hunt and they trying to force via legislation their attitudes on us -- even though we have the science behind us (they only like science when it supports their opinion). I get that. We respect their position, but they spit on ours.
The reality is simple and hunters shouldn’t get their shorts in a knot over this. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has set the harvest quotas very conservatively on what the bear population will easily absorb. If they don’t meet that quota with the current hunting structure, they will simply increase the number of tags to meet those harvest quotas. All the while, they will be getting anti-hunters money to help run the program.
The second aspect of anti-hunters applying for tags may also be a good thing that will wring even more money out of them -- perhaps far more than they intended. The antis were more than happy to send in $5 to reduce the odds a hunter was drawn for a bear tag. But what if they were all fined on top of their application fee? How can they be fined?
The thing I have not seen is whether or not the anti-hunters who applied for these grizzly tags have a hunter safety certificate. As in nearly all states, Wyoming has a hunter safety program and it is mandatory before you can buy a hunting license of any type. While both of the antis who were drawn were born before 1966, the Wyoming birth date cutoff for mandating hunter safety classes, I’m not sure either of these people meet all the other requirements of this law. Wouldn’t they be disqualified and other hunters added to the list? Could they face fines?
And what about all those other antis who sent in their $5 or $15 fees with their application paperwork? It seems like there must have been a bunch of them because two of them were actually drawn for these tags. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has all of those people’s information and could easily check if they have hunter safety certificates. If they don’t, aren’t they violating the law? Wouldn’t that be like driving without a license? Couldn’t they be fined -- perhaps an amount equal to the cost of a resident grizzly bear tag with the money earmarked for the bear management program?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 909-887-3444.