- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - Montana wildlife officials have released draft regulations for grizzly bear hunting in anticipation of the bears’ possible removal from the endangered species list.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is proposing spring and fall hunting seasons in seven districts near the border of Yellowstone National Park. Each district would have a quota on the number of bears that can be killed, reported The Bozeman Daily Chronicle (http://bit.ly/23scgar ).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft proposal for removing the grizzly bear’s Endangered Species Act protections in March. It includes caps on how many bears can be killed within a 19,279-square-mile area that includes Yellowstone National Park and parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. The caps will depend on population within the area.

The draft plan would give Wyoming 58 percent of the total number of bears that can be killed, Montana 34 percent and Idaho 8 percent.

The federal plan also requires that the states have management plans in place, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim.

“This is a first attempt at hopefully a management option that we’re going to have here down the road,” Aasheim said.

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider the proposal at its next meeting and take an initial vote. If approved, it will be open for public comment.

Grizzly bears have been listed as a threatened species since 1975, although they were briefly delisted in 2007 before a lawsuit reinstated the protections.

“I think the agency has put in a lot of safeguards to ensure we don’t have an overharvest,” said Nick Gevock, conservation director for the pro-delisting organization Montana Wildlife Federation.

But the Sierra Club’s Bonnie Rice said the grizzly population is still vulnerable. She opposes delisting and hunting grizzlies.

Rice called it “completely misguided” to begin hunting when 61 bears were killed last year even though no hunting took place.

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Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com

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