As usual, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates will be publishing our analysis of mortality data for the Greater Yellowstone grizzly population.
As of June 26th, the official record of known and probable grizzly mortalities shows 19 mortalities, well ahead of last years count of 9 at the same time and 14 in 2016.
What isn’t apparent without reading between the lines is that this year has so far been hard on young grizzlies, i.e., the cubs and subadults.
While there are only three “official” sub-adult/cub deaths, we can easily infer from the information provided that of the undisclosed mortalities – undisclosed because they are under investigation – 5 were cubs or sub-adults “at side” of a sow. So “unofficially” at this moment 42% of all known mortality this year has been of young grizzlies.
Continuing recent trends, the number of mortalities “under investigation” remains high with over half of all 2018 mortalities under investigation. A designation of “under Investigation” typically means that a grizzly was illegally poached, killed in self-defense or defense of livestock, or as a result of mistaken identity.
The large number of mortalities under investigation make it difficult to see other trends right now. Usually, sex and age class data isn’t released until an investigation concludes and in the meantime clarity and transparency suffer as the percentage of mortalities under investigation rises.
Otherwise, some things we are watching (we’re not yet ready to call them trends):
First, we are worried about female mortality being high, but with the current data set it is impossible to determine with any certainty.
Second, it is becoming clear that management removals outside the DMA are rising significantly relative to inside mortality under the new post-delisting regime. This isn’t a surprise.
Similarly, and as expected, the balance of mortalities between the three states is skewing solidly towards Wyoming, with almost 4 out of 5 mortalities occurring within the state.
To sum up, it appears that the first full year of post delisting grizzly management has been hard on the bears, especially the young. With Wyoming’s grizzly hunt upcoming, it seems it will be getting harder.
We close wondering whether we will have to add a category for “harvested” this fall. (Yes, we hate the word, too, but it likely will be the “official” designation for bears killed by licensed hunters.)