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Partnerships target grizzly bear education

10_29_13_Article_BearSprayThe National Elk Refuge is pleased to partner with both a State agency and local non–profit during the fall elk and bison hunting seasons to increase public education on grizzly bear management and reduce conflicts between humans and bears.

photo credit: Ture Schultz, National Elk Refuge volunteer 

 

October 30, 2013  (NER 13-26)

The National Elk Refuge is pleased to partner with both a State agency and local non–profit during the fall elk and bison hunting seasons to increase public education on grizzly bear management and reduce conflicts between humans and bears. 

The Wyoming Game & Fish Department (WGFD) is sponsoring a free educational program at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, located at 532 N. Cache Street in Jackson, on Thursday, November 14 from 3:30 to 5:00 pm. The program will highlight grizzly bear management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. WGFD presenters that afternoon include Dan Thompson, Large Carnivore Management Section Supervisor from the Lander Regional Office and Mike Boyce, Large Carnivore Biologist from the Jackson Regional Office. The biologists will distribute bear education materials from 3:30 – 4:00 pm, followed by a showing of the 9–minute video Yellowstone Grizzly Bears: A Success Story. The film, produced by the State wildlife management organization, tells the story of the once–dwindling population of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The video shares the collaboration and cooperation of grizzly bear management by multiple State and Federal agencies. Following the short film, the guest biologists will answer questions and lead a discussion with attendees. 

The film Yellowstone Grizzly Bears: A Success Story is also available for viewing on the National Elk Refuge’s multimedia link page at http://1.usa.gov/1hqPMl0 and available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=S98tneF-VaM. 

In addition to the WGFD program, the National Elk Refuge has partnered with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) this fall to provide bear–deterrent pepper spray for licensed hunters during the 2013 Refuge elk and bison hunting programs. With the help of local board members and supporters, the GYC purchased and donated 250 canisters of bear spray to the Refuge for distribution. The purpose of the program is to educate hunters in the field who are interested in bear spray and would not otherwise use it as part of their own personal safety. 

The canisters are available on a first–come, first–served basis for licensed hunters in the field who do not own or are not carrying bear–deterrent spray. Law enforcement officers will provide bear spray canisters to hunters in the field who are interested in participating in the voluntary program; the canisters will not be distributed from other locations. In addition to the bear spray, law enforcement officers will carry informational materials that explain bear spray’s effectiveness and best practices for its deployment. 

The bear spray program was prompted by an expanding grizzly bear distribution and recent sightings on the National Elk Refuge this summer. On August 21, a sow grizzly bear and three cubs were spotted scavenging on bison carcasses. The following week, a single adult grizzly bear was seen crossing Highway 89 from the Refuge. These two events represent the first two documented occurrences of grizzly bears on the Refuge in two decades. “We are encouraging hunters to take the proper precautions because we expect to see more bear activity on the Refuge as the grizzly range expands,” said Refuge Manager Steve Kallin. “This program is an important part of a larger effort to educate hunters, with the goal of preventing dangerous encounters and improving safety for hunters and bears.” 

Chris Colligan, Wildlife Program Manager for the GYC, explained, “Our hope is to increase the voluntary use of bear-spray by hunters on the NER to significantly reduce the chance of hunters incidentally killing grizzly bears. Maintaining social tolerance for grizzlies as they expand their range into suitable habitat is vital for long-term conservation of bears.” Colligan added, “Bear spray is a proven tool in avoiding conflicts – it’s a win–win for hunters and bears.” 

Bear–deterrent pepper spray is also available for purchase from many outdoor retailers in Jackson as well as at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center. Proceeds from sales at the Visitor Center are returned to the National Elk Refuge in support of educational programming. 

Elk and bison hunting seasons on the National Elk Refuge run through December 15 and January 12, respectively. 

 

Last Updated: Oct 30, 2013
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