Western Watersheds Project and the Western Environmental Law Center filed a notice of intent to sue over bear-baiting that is permitted on Forest Service lands. Bear-baiting is a practice that involves the use of dumping hundreds of pounds of human foods to attract bears so they can be shot by hunters. This is occurring in areas where grizzly bears are found and further exacerbating bear-human conflicts. When the Forest Service last updated its bear-baiting policies, it was determined that there would be a negligible impact of bear-baiting on grizzly bear populations. However, in the 23 years since the policies were last reviewed, at least nine grizzlies have been killed due to conflicts directly relating to bear-baiting.
The Forest Service has special food storage restriction on much of the National Forest land in Wyoming and Idaho, however, both of these states still allow bear-baiting for black bear hunting. So, a camper spending the night in the National Forest has to properly store food in a bear bag or bear-proof container, but just a few yards away, a bear-baiting station could be set up with several pounds of doughnuts inside. This is a direct contradiction of policies that needs to be revisited and revised.
The organizations are asking the Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revisit their early findings and complete an updated analysis on the impacts of allowing black bear baiting on national forests in Idaho and Wyoming and, in particular, allowing baiting in areas occupied by threatened grizzly bears.
“Recovering grizzly bears to healthy population numbers, and restoring the great bear to key linkage areas like the mountain backcountry along the Montana-Idaho border, are key priorities for grizzly recovery,” said Erik Molvar, executive director of the Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project. “Setting out bait stations in grizzly country is a recipe for creating human-bear conflicts, and the Forest Service needs to put a halt to this irresponsible activity.”
Furthermore, baiting of black bears for hunting purposes is unethical and should be illegal. At least 11 states, including Montana, have banned the use of bear-baiting. Luring bears to food sites and then shooting them is not consistent with fair chase principles or the North American Model of Wildlife Management. It’s past time for Idaho and Wyoming to honor the intent of ethical hunting and ban these practices statewide.
Photo: Angie Birmingham