By on October 27, 2015

Grizz Confidential

151028FromOurReadersA recent story in the Jackson Hole News & Guide about grizzly bears being killed during hunter encounters exposes a troubling lack of measures taken by wildlife managers to prevent such deaths and the minimal consequences afterwards for killing a federally protected species.

On Thanksgiving Day, 2012, hunters in Grand Teton National Park surprised a grizzly bear on an elk that had been shot and not retrieved. Naturally protecting its critical food source as winter neared, the grizzly charged the hunters. Seconds later, the bear lay dead. No charges were filed, and the incident was deemed self-defense.

An average of about 10 such incidents occur each year during hunting season. Most get a brief mention in the media, and then are forgotten. Until next time. And there always seems to be a next time. So far this year, 46 grizzlies have been killed in conflicts with humans, and we can expect more before the end of hunting season.

These incidents tend to have several things in common. First, they rarely result in charges being filed; if charges are filed they tend to result in small fines, which are sometimes wholly or partially suspended, and which serve as a weak deterrent to hunters. Second, bear spray rarely is used to deter an attack and usually not readily available. The result is a dead bear, rather than a bear that retreated and likely would be leery of humans in the future.

Obviously, we aren’t recommending that hunters don’t defend themselves. Although not the solution 100 percent of the time, bear spray has been shown to be more effective in deterring an attack or warding off an aggressive bear than bullets.

Studies on the use of bear spray vs. the use of guns to deter bear attacks consistently show that bear spray is much more effective. A 2008 Journal of Conservation Management study, cited in the N&G article, found that bear spray in Alaska was effective in stopping “undesirable behavior” 92 percent of the time. Other research has found that when firearms are involved in encounters with Alaskan black, grizzly and Polar bears, injuries occurred 56 percent of the time.

The simple fact is that both hunter and bear are more likely to survive an encounter when bear spray is deployed rather than guns.

So, a couple of questions: why aren’t hunters carrying bear spray and why aren’t wildlife managers mandating that hunters carry spray? If Grand Teton National Park can require hunters to carry it, other federal and state agencies can as well. It’s best for bears and it’s the best way to prevent human injuries or death as well.

Approximately 80 percent of grizzly bear deaths are caused by conflicts with humans, whether it’s with ranchers, hunters or in vehicle collisions. During the last 20 years, at least four government documents that reviewed conflicts and made recommendations to reduce them have been published. Unfortunately, few of the recommendations, like carrying bear spray, have been implemented. There’s no excuse, and the only explanation is lack of political will.

Also troubling, as reported by the News & Guide, is a lack of transparency bordering on willful obstinance among government agencies. The News & Guide obtained its information on hunter-grizzly encounters through a federal Freedom of Information Act request. After waiting for the information for a year, the various federal agencies provided less than 20 percent of the data requested, and much of it was redacted.

These aren’t national security issues; these are routine investigations of potential wildlife-related violations. Why the obsessive secrecy? Or are they so sloppy they can’t find the files? The public has a right to know what it’s public servants are, or, as in this case, are not, doing.

Also of great concern is the minimal amount of effort invested in investigations of hunter-caused grizzly deaths — especially for those that occur in remote areas. In these instances, it appears the investigation consisted of little more than interviews with hunters involved. Understandably, agencies need the funding and resources to conduct thorough investigations. Not providing those resources is an indication of the priority agencies place on conflict prevention.

Investigations also take months or even years to complete. This means that the public served by the investigating agency would not know if the results of an investigation reveal that too many female grizzlies had been killed, for example, and the population put at risk. Learning this a year after the fact is unacceptable, especially after grizzlies are removed from the Endangered Species List and states allow the bears to be hunted.

Grizzlies remain a vulnerable species and important component of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. They’re also worth millions of dollars to communities in the GYE. Federal and state agencies owe it to the public they serve to better protect this national treasure.

–Roger Hayden
Managing Director
Wyoming Wildlife Advocates

Corporate Welfare

We must not raise taxes or use taxpayer money to subsidize workforce housing for the private sector.

Our affordable housing problem is a problem between employers and employees, and the government should not get in the middle. If employers are having trouble filling positions they need to either pay higher wages, subsidize housing for their employees, or rework their business plans to operate more efficiently.

To require the general public to subsidize workforce housing through government subsidies creates a windfall not only for the lucky individuals who are able to take advantage of large housing subsidies, but more importantly a windfall for employers who are able to enjoy having the taxpayers pay part of their employee costs. This is a blatant form of corporate welfare, and only throws more fuel on the fire of our overheated economy by publicly subsidizing private commercial enterprises.

Why are we even talking about low wage jobs in a community that has negative unemployment?

Take for instance the controversial rent increases at Blair Place; those increases could be mitigated by a $2 or $3 per hour raise in wages for the average tenant, but as long as the government is ready to rush in and subsidize housing costs businesses will continue to avoid paying the full cost of their employees, and the taxpayer will continue to get the shaft.

If employers can’t fill low wage positions then wages should rise until those positions become attractive to potential employees, and if higher wages create a headwind to economic growth is that really a problem in the current local economic climate? Slower growth would mean, fewer jobs, less traffic, and less demand for workforce housing.

I urge our elected officials: Do not raise taxes, and do not use taxpayer money to subsidize workforce housing for the private sector. Those are the “do nots.” Here are the “dos”:

1) Do use taxpayer money to subsidize housing for PUBLIC sector employees. We are all stakeholders in local government, and we have an interest in making sure it provides its services as efficiently and at as low a cost as possible.

2)  Do create well crafted incentives to spur the private sector to develop high density workforce housing in the core urbanized areas of Town.

– Judd Grossman

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