"We call these vandal killings," says Chris Servheen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly bear recovery coordinator, "people who just kill things and let them lay." He’s talking about the 11 grizzly bears that were killed illegally last year in northwestern Montana; one was poisoned and the rest were shot or otherwise killed. In 2004, people illegally killed 10 grizzlies in the region, which is home to about 500 bears (HCN, 10/17/05: Handling grizzlies: How much is enough?).
The Fish and
Wildlife Service has little information about the killings, but
says most occur where public and private lands meet. The Wildlife
Service and the Montana Department of Game and Fish jointly plan to
increase rewards for information to between $5,000 and $10,000.
In 2004, people killed 54 grizzlies in the Lower 48
states — making it the worst year for human-caused deaths
since the bear was listed as endangered in 1975, according to
Louisa Willcox, director of the Natural Resources Defense
Council’s bear project. Even though they’re protected,
Willcox says, grizzlies still suffer high mortality due to road
building, poaching, hunters mistaking them for black bears, and
agencies killing problem bears.
Secretary Gale Norton believes that Yellowstone’s grizzly
population — now estimated at more than 600 bears — has
recovered sufficiently from its low of a couple hundred during the
early 1970s. And on Nov. 15, she announced plans to boot the
region’s bears off the endangered species list (HCN, 9/19/05:
Yellowstone’s Grizzlies Not out of the woods yet) (HCN,
9/19/05: Yellowstone's Grizzlies A success story). The delisting
proposal is online at http://tinyurl.com/8x74w.
The public comment deadline is Feb. 15.