September 13, 2009

Plan seeks to reduce bear kills

Associated Press

Federal and state wildlife agencies have launched a campaign to prevent grizzly bear killings in the greater Yellowstone region after a record number of bears died last year.

More backcountry ranger patrols are planned, warning signs will be posted and hunters and hikers will be encouraged to use pepper spray instead of firearms when approached by a bear.

Humans killed 48 bears last year, out of 79 total grizzly deaths. That included at least 20 killed by hunters who shot the animals out of self-defense or after mistaking them for black bears.

About 600 grizzlies are in the Yellowstone region of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. They were removed from the endangered species list in 2007, although it remains illegal to intentionally shoot the animals.

Seventeen grizzlies have died so far this year. If the death rate stays high for a second consecutive year, that would trigger a review of the bear’s endangered status.

One conservation group is suggesting that hikers and hunters should be required to carry pepper spray when in grizzly country.

Biologists who study grizzlies insist the population in the 15,000-square-mile Yellowstone region remains strong, growing on average 4 to 5 percent a year.

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