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A grizzly bear in Wyoming has a new home after state wildlife authorities relocated him to the greater Yellowstone area following an attack on a pair of cattle in another part of the state.
The Wyoming Department of Fish and Game moved the male bear from southwest Cody to the Sunlight Creek Drainage after he attacked two calves on an undisclosed ranch. The drainage is about 30 miles outside of the northwest entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
Bear relocation is a common practice across the United States. But there’s some skepticism about whether or not it actually works. Pete Pekins, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of New Hampshire, has been studying this topic since 2000. According to his findings, 60% of relocated bears returned to their original homes. Younger bears were less likely to return to the site of capture, but most of them traveled away from the relocation site. And since relocation doesn’t necessarily have a direct impact on habituation, it’s possible that they’ll continue the behaviors that caused their relocation. Every bear is different, requiring its own evaluation prior to relocation.
“If this bear had developed a proclivity for depredation with a previous conflict history we may have discussed the option of euthanasia with the US Fish and Wildilfe Service (they have the final say in all management actions),” said Dr. Dan Thompson, large carnivore section supervisor of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “In this circumstance, the bear did not have a previous conflict or capture history, so the decision was made to relocate the bear.”
Relocations like this one aren’t particularly unusual. Last year, Wyoming Game and Fish trapped 45 bears, which was about twice the number over the precious year. 30 of those bears were euthanized, and 19 were relocated. In 2020, the agency trapped 26 bears, euthanizing 18.
While Yellowstone visitors may not be thrilled to hear about a new problem bear in the neighborhood, Thompson notes that the bear’s new stomping grounds are actually not well-traveled, and that the bear isn’t any more of a threat to humans than any other wild bear.
“The location of the relocation was primarily chosen due to its secure nature (behind a locked gate) with a lack of human activity,” Thompson said. “This bear could wander in any direction, but again we do not move bears that we feel are a direct safety threat to people, regardless of whether they are park visitors or not,.”
Grizzly bears can live for 20 to 25 years, and males usually have a home range of about 600 square miles. More than 1,000 grizzly bears currently live in and around Yellowstone, where human attacks are rare. Since 1872, only 8 people have been killed by grizzlies there, the National Park Service says.