Bears forced to defer to cows

  A plan by Wyoming officials to relocate two grizzly bears with a taste for beef has environmentalists concerned. They say cows are taking precedence over bears in important grizzly habitat near Jackson, Wyo.

In mid-September, Wyoming officials decided to move one bear from a grazing allotment inside Grand Teton National Park and another from the an allotment inside Bridger-Teton National Forest after complaints from local rancher Terry Schramm. Schramm has lost 12 cows this year to bears.

Environmentalists charge that moving out a grizzly disturbs years of research on grizzly-cattle conflicts. In addition, they say, two-thirds of the allotment is designated as "Situation 1" habitat, where policy requires that conflicts be resolved in favor of the bear, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Meredith Taylor of the nonprofit Greater Yellowstone Coalition called moving the bears out a "quick fix," especially since other grizzlies have already taken up killing cattle on the allotment. But John Talbott, director of Wyoming's Game and Fish Department, says the agency will continue to remove or even kill the bears if cattle attacks persist. Taylor believes a better response would be to remove dead carcasses that attract bears, or to shift the cattle to other available allotments.

*Warren Cornwall

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