December 6, 2022 |

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is seeking public input regarding changes to their black bear hunting policies.

The agency held a public information meeting on November 28th in Laramie to present proposed changes to the 2023/2025 black bear hunting seasons. Other Big game animal seasons, such as elk and mule deer, are reviewed every year. Trophy animals like black bears and mountain lions are analyzed every three years. Wyoming Game and Fish Biologist Teal Cufaude explained why there is a difference.

Photo courtesy of WGFD.

Wyoming Game and Fish biologists use information from the black bear hunting season to determine what, if any, changes are required for the next three years. Cufaude said between 50 and 70 bears are killed each season. She said her department uses data collected from hunters to make recommendations.

Cufaude said due to their elusive nature, black bear populations are difficult to estimate. In most hunting areas, WGFD relies on harvested bears to devise an estimate of how many of the species may inhabit an area. The wildlife biologist said the Sierra Madres are unique because studies have been done in the mountains here.

The data collected in the Sierra Maderas was gathered using hair snare traps. These strands of barbed wire are deployed where bears are suspected to travel. When a black bear brushes against the wire, tufts of fur are pulled off. Scientists are able to obtain DNA from the hair and determine the age and sex of the animal. Cufaude said she is hoping to arrange a similar study in the Snowy Range.

Cufaude said the proposed changes focus on the Snowy Range and Sierra Madres. Both areas have female bear quotas. The wildlife biologist explained how the black bear season differs from traditional big game.

At the November 28th meeting, WGFD outlined their proposed changes for the 2023 through 2025 black bear hunting seasons. In the Snowy Range, Cufaude said the state wildlife agency focused on extending the amount of hunting time in both the fall and spring.

Cufaude said the agency is not recommending any changes to the female black bear limit for the Snowy Range. It is set for nine kills in the spring and eight in the fall. Once the quota is hit, hunting stops, even if there is time left over in the season. The wildlife biologist said lengthening the hunting season should give people a better chance to reach the mortality limits.

For the Sierra Maderas, WGFD is not offering to extend the hunting season. Instead, Cufaude said, they would like to raise the number of female black bears killed. The 2021 Black Bear Hunting Guide shows the quota at 10 females in the spring and nine in the fall.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is holding meetings to review its proposed changes to the black bear hunting season. The public information gathering meeting in Laramie was on November 28th, but there will be another in Green River on December 5th and Lander on December 6th. Cufaude said people can go to the WGFD website to view and comment on the recommendations.

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish website, the public comment period closes at 5pm on December 14th. All comments will be presented to the Game and Fish Commission before their January 11th and 12th meetings.

Every three years, WGFD use data collected from bears killed by hunters to review their black bear hunting policies. For the Snowy Range, WGFD are recommending an extended hunting season. In the Sierra Madres, increased kill limits are being considered. Meetings are being held around the area to gauge the public’s reaction to these potential changes.

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