ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo.— The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will meet on July 18 and 19 to decide whether to require hunters to carry bear spray in grizzly bear habitat, in response to a petition from conservation groups. The commission will also consider how to control the spread of chronic wasting disease and whether to adopt regulations for wolf hunting.
In April a coalition of organizations petitioned the commission to adopt regulations requiring hunters in grizzly habitat to carry bear spray. The proposal follows years of high grizzly bear mortalities due to hunter encounters with bears. The commission is set to discuss and vote on the measure at the Rock Springs meeting.
“Bear spray has been proven time and time again to be the most effective tool in preventing injury to both people and bears in close encounters, including hunting conflicts,” said Bonnie Rice, a senior representative of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. “It’s common sense to require hunters to carry bear spray, and the commission should make it mandatory.”
“Wyoming today has the opportunity to adopt a common-sense policy that will protect bears and hunters alike,” said Nicholas Arrivo, a staff attorney at the Humane Society of the United States. “The evidence that bear spray works is overwhelming, and the time to enact this lifesaving proposal is now.”
“Hunters should absolutely be required to carry bear spray to protect both themselves and grizzlies,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Hunting season happens at the same time grizzlies are out eating as much as they can. There’s no good reason to not have a bear spray mandate.”
“This common-sense safety measure is akin to requiring a helmet when riding a bike,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “We know it works, and we know it saves lives, so it should be standard practice.”
“It’s clear and simple; bear spray works,” said Kristin Combs, executive director for Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “Hunters are extremely vulnerable, especially deep in bear habitat precisely when the animals are actively searching for food. This one easy practice will undoubtedly save the lives of both humans and bears.”
In recent years Yellowstone’s grizzly bears have suffered record levels of human-caused mortality. Hunting-related conflicts consistently represent one of the leading causes of grizzly bear mortality in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Most human injuries caused by grizzly bears occur during encounters with hunters.
Mandatory bear spray could prevent these unnecessary casualties. Peer-reviewed studies have shown that bear spray is 98 percent effective at preventing human injuries during bear encounters, while firearms are effective only 50 percent of the time.