Grizzlies on the Move South
Many hunters choose the Grey’s River region of Wyoming for their mule deer and elk pursuits for any number of good reasons. Region-G is home to some of the largest mule deer on the planet Earth and the massive public lands in this region are free of designated Wilderness and grizzly bears making the area even more appealing to masses of nonresident hunters.
While the area still remains free and clear of designated Wilderness area the absence of grizzly bears may have just vacated the equation. As of late May, a grizzly bear was spotted and verified by a local and Wyoming Game and Fish officials near the town of Kemmerer nearly 200 miles to the South of Yellowstone Park. Photo evidence of the bear was further confirmed with tracks and hair samples to put the verified sighting into the books once and for all as the most Southern grizzly bear sighting in over 50-years.
With a saturated habitat and ever-growing bear population, the grizzly bears have been left with little choice but to drastically expand their range deeper and deeper into the less prime habitats of parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Wyoming in particular has seen some bears in some very non-traditional areas. Last year, a bear was trapped near the town of Byron, Wyoming nearly 120 miles East of Yellowstone National Park. Add to that this most recent sighting and grizzly bears now can be confirmed to inhabit nearly one-third of the entire state of Wyoming.
Although the grizzly bear continues to be a true conservation success story for the Rocky Mountain region, the circumstances surrounding this expansion can be somewhat troublesome for the Wyoming Game and Fish and US Fish and Wildlife agencies as they work hard to struggle with a balance between bears and bear conflicts in these newly formed habitats for the bears.
There’s no doubt, that warmer, lower climates, and less lucrative food sources will push the bears into trouble with local stock growers, landowners, and recreationists.
As for the deer hunters in Region-G, while there is certainly little to worry about with this sighting, hunting and camping could change in the future as more grizzly bears are seen in the area and begin to take hold as a viable population. Camping and backpacking in the Grey’s River could be a different endeavor if Wyoming’s Game and Fish and the Forest Service implement a be “Bear Aware” strategy for regulation in the area. A rule set, that those of us from the Cody and Jackson areas are beyond familiar with. For those locals in the Afton and Star Valley areas, we can honestly now say, “there goes the neighborhood.”