A single tag will be offered to one hunter for the “once in a lifetime” hunt of a male grizzly.
By many measures, grizzly bears are doing well. In 1975, estimates of grizzly populations in the lower 48 states hovered around 140. Since that time, the apex predator has been listed as “threatened” and received protections through the Endangered Species Act. Today, grizzly numbers around Yellowstone National Park are estimated at over 700.
As a result, last summer Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delisted grizzlies from federal protections. And today, Idaho Fish and Game (IFG) approved the first grizzly bear hunt in decades. The agency will issue one tag for one male bear, awarded through a statewide lottery.
The move marks the first sanctioned grizzly hunt in the contiguous states, with both Wyoming and Montana considering similar measures. But the hunt is expected to draw legal challenges, adding to lawsuits already filed in the wake of Zinke’s decision in 2017.
Idaho Grizzly Hunt
“The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population has met federal recovery criteria since the early 2000s,” IFG said in a statement. “And Idaho will continue to responsibly manage the population in coordination with Wyoming and Montana now that federal protections are lifted.”
But the agency proposed a grizzly hunt in March to gauge residents’ interest. After a public comment period that ran from April to early May, IFG said responses “greatly varied, but the majority favored moving forward with a grizzly hunt.”
Rules set forth surrounding hunting in Yellowstone’s “demographic monitoring area” (DMA) outline how many bears are allowed to be hunted in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Given the current grizzly population and Idaho’s land within the DMA, the state can issue only one tag.
Montana has said it won’t pursue a grizzly hunt this year. But Wyoming could allow up to 24 grizzly tags if it moves ahead with a controlled hunt.
Idaho’s hunt represents a “once in a lifetime” permit for hunters. The state will open lottery applications for the single tag from June 15 through July 15. The hunt will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15.
All three states agreed that no bear hunts will be permitted if grizzly numbers in the DMA drop below 600.