Controlling Bear Baiting in Grizzly Habitat
Hundreds of pounds of human foods, such as doughnuts and bread, do not belong in the wild. But some hunters use these foods to attract and shoot black bears in a practice known as bear baiting. Not only does the practice violate “fair chase” hunting ethics, black bear baiting can attract grizzly bears and cause unwanted interactions with people.
The U.S. Forest Service used to restrict black bear baiting on national forest lands, but in 1995 the agency adopted a “hands-off” baiting policy in national forests that largely relegates managing the practice to individual states. Most western states–including Oregon, Washington, and Montana–ban black bear baiting, but Idaho and Wyoming still allow it on our national forests in those states–even in areas where grizzlies are known to roam.
When the Forest Service adopted its baiting policy in 1995, it assumed the impacts to grizzly bears would be negligible. New science, however, reveals the consequences to grizzly bears of using bait to kill black bears are much more serious than originally thought.
Further, many grizzly bears have been killed at black bear baiting stations in national forests in Idaho and Wyoming, including the first grizzly seen in Idaho’s Bitterroot region since 1946. In another example, a hunter mistakenly killed a grizzly bear in Idaho, reportedly thinking it was a black bear.
We took the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service to court to force the agencies to reconsider whether bear baiting in forests is consistent with recovering grizzlies. We received a disappointing ruling, and are considering next steps, including appeal.