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Commission: Grizzlies are state's business

by Jay Patrick
| December 9, 2010 8:00 PM

BOISE - State fish and game commissioners want to rein in eastern Idaho's grizzly bears.

"They're expanding," said Steve Schmidt, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional director in Idaho Falls, in an interview Monday. "We've seen them expand south and west and they are more common where they have already been."

With the population of Yellowstone grizzlies at an all-time high - about 600 - the animals are ranging outside their designated conservation area, which includes parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, but Idaho hasn't yet seen the serious bear-human run-ins that Montana and Wyoming have recently - about 50 Yellowstone bears have been killed this year.

"We feel fortunate we have had very few conflicts," Schmidt said.

But anticipating future problems, the commission recently adopted a position statement on Yellowstone grizzlies calling for state control, and the ability to allow killing of the animals.

"Any delay in the return of management authority back to the states and/or increased federal actions that limit or restrict Idaho sportsman, livestock owners and the general public will further erode support for grizzly bears," the statement reads.

With the statement, the commission throws its weight behind the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFW) effort to have the bears taken off the endangered species list. The agency took the animals off the list in 2007 but a subsequent lawsuit from a conservation group led a Montana judge in 2009 to reinstate the endangered status, saying the feds did not adequately account for a decline in food sources (nuts of the White Pine tree) due to climate change. USFW is appealing.

The commission in the position statement also said it opposes relocation of Yellowstone bears to other parts of the state.

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