HELENA (Mark R Thorsell) — If the federal government proceeds with plans to lift protection for grizzly bears on the Northern Continental Divide, Montana would manage the population to maintain a minimum of 800 bears.
That’s one of the objectives listed in a newly released policy for the state’s management of bears that will be review by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioners later this week.
Although there’s been no specific step to “de-list” the grizzlies in areas like Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness, most federal and state managers are already preparing for that step.
They’ve said bear populations are increasing, as evidenced by the greater number of grizzlies that being seen out on the prairies east of the Rocky Mountain Front.
But conservation and wildlife groups are disputing those claims. FWP staff have now released a proposed rule would set “demographic objectives” for the grizzly bears in the NCDE.
The proposal would maintain populations of “at least 800 bears,” maintain a population of sows with cubs in at least 21 of 23 bear management units and limit bear mortality for males to “no more than 15%” of the estimated male grizzlies
Objectives of the rule include monitoring the number of grizzlies to maintain there are “at least” 800 bears in the NCDE and making sure there are grizzly sows with cubs in the vast majority of the bear management units over the 16-thousand square mile area. The rule also sets standards for preserving the number of healthy male grizzlies.
The state’s rule is another part of the management framework Montana will need to assume responsibility for grizzlies if the bears are de-listed. The FWP Commission is expected to ask for additional public comment and could make a final decision by the end of the year.
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Mark R Thorsell