Just under two dozen American grizzlies could be killed this September in what the New York Times calls the "first large-scale hunt for grizzly bears in 43 years" outside of Alaska. A year after the grizzly population near Yellowstone National Park was removed from federal protection—with numbers estimated at 700, up from 136 in 1975, per National Geographic—the Wyoming Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to allow hunters to shoot up to 22 grizzlies on public and private lands east of the park. Officials say the carefully planned trophy hunt won't hurt the species' recovery. But critics point out grizzlies are some of the slowest terrestrial mammals to reproduce, with females birthing offspring once every three years, and stress 56 bears died in 2017 as a result of poaching, vehicle collisions, and other issues.
"You can't kill that many bears through hunting, on top of the number already dying through a variety of causes, and not have a negative impact on the bear population," one critic tells NatGeo. Others say climate change puts the grizzly food supply at risk. Critics also say the sale of bear licenses is unlikely to help Wyoming's budget crisis. An out-of-state hunter must pay $6,000, but Wyoming residents will pay $600. Several lawsuits, including some from tribal groups who view the grizzly as sacred, are seeking to restore federal protection of the animal, thus ending hunts. Should they fail, there's talk of mass protests. Idaho is only allowing one male grizzly to be killed this year, while Montana is skipping a hunt, "citing pending lawsuits and a wish to move cautiously as the species nears recovery," per the Missoulian. (Bear baiting may be allowed on federal land in Alaska.)