On Thanksgiving Day, 2012, an adult grizzly bear was shot and killed by hunters participating in Grand Teton National Park’s ERP. This incident followed a 2011 mauling of a hunter by a grizzly bear in the same area. Grizzly bear-hunter conflicts in Grand Teton have escalated as the distribution and density of grizzly bears has increased.
Grand Teton National Park’s establishing 1950 legislation provides for the controlled reduction of elk in the park, when necessary, for the conservation of the Jackson elk herd. Conditions that resulted in this legislation, as it pertains to elk management, persist today. These conditions include large numbers of elk from several herd segments that migrate through the park during the fall, and a continuing need for regulation of the Jackson elk herd to reach the objective of 11,000 animals established by the WGFD and the 2007 Bison and Elk Management Plan. Furthermore, park harvests have contributed about one-quarter of the annual Jackson elk herd harvest in recent years.
Actions to be executed for the 2013 ERP include:
1. Limiting possession of ammunition to seven cartridges daily to decrease the potential for elk “wounding loss,” as the adjacent National Elk Refuge (NER) has required for several years.
2. Limiting the number of shots fired by a hunter at a group of running elk, also to decrease the potential for elk “wounding loss.”
3. Requiring the use of non-lead ammunition by hunters—who are deputized rangers while they participate in the ERP. Beginning in 2009, the NPS required the use of non-lead ammunition by park rangers for all culling operations and for the dispatching of sick or wounded animals. Requiring non-lead ammunition will help reduce lead contamination throughout the park environment, where researchers have documented ingestion of lead from bullets by eagles and other scavengers.
4. Closing the portion of the Snake River bottom between the Deadman’s Bar river access road and Ditch Creek to decrease the probability of grizzly bear-hunter conflicts in an area of thick timber and poor visibility.
5. Opening to hunting the area between the Gros Ventre River and the road to Kelly, immediately adjacent to the NER and between Gros Ventre Junction and a point just west of the Gros Ventre campground. This measure is designed to increase elk harvest and replace the loss of hunt areas due to closure of the river bottom.
6. Opening Hunt Area 79 to Type IV Hunt Area 75 license holders for two weeks at the beginning of the ERP season to focus on Grand Teton summer-resident elk and to spread out the hunters.
Existing measures already in place to mitigate grizzly bear-hunter encounters include:
· Prohibiting the use of artificial elk calls.
· Requiring hunters to carry a can of EPA-registered bear spray in a way that it is readily available for use.
· Providing camping areas with bear-resistant carcass storage facilities.
· Providing bear safety literature to all ERP permit holders.
· Maintaining a high contact rate (approximately 30%) between park rangers and hunters in the field to help inform and educate ERP participants about bear safe hunting practices.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Grand Teton National Park officials meet annually to establish seasons and harvest goals for the ERP.