BOISE, Idaho — Idaho hunters would be allowed to kill one grizzly bear in their lifetimes under new proposed rules that could open up the eastern part of the state to grizzly hunting if federal officials decide next year to remove the bears’ protected status as a threatened species.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced the plan Thursday and said that it would seek public input until July 27 on a package of grizzly hunting rules that also specifies how hunters would have to report bear kills.
The more than 700 grizzlies around Yellowstone National Park have been considered a threatened species since 1975 and protected from hunting.
But federal wildlife officials say the population has sufficiently recovered to turn over management to Wyoming, Montana and Idaho — potentially allowing grizzly hunting in the three states pending a final decision on the threatened species status by March 2017.
The three states are required to outline their proposed grizzly hunting regulations before that decision, and the rules proposed by Idaho are part of that process.
Idaho officials say hunters would be allowed to kill male and female bears under the rules, which would also mandate reporting bear kills within 24 hours and showing the bears’ hides and skulls to state conservation officers within five days. Hunters would not be allowed to shoot bears within 200 yards of dumps or landfills.
Any rules adopted by the Fish and Game Commission would have to be approved by the Idaho Legislature, probably in early 2017.
No proposal has been made yet on how long a grizzly hunting season would last in Idaho, but Fish and Game spokesman Mike Demick said in a statement that “any potential hunting season would be very limited.”
The commission would set the hunting season and decide how many bears could be killed each season.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesman Gregg Losinski said the protection of grizzlies in Yellowstone has been a success, meaning “the population is expanding and needs to be managed.”
Idaho last month approved a plan also backed by Montana and Wyoming that would halt grizzly hunting if the bear population drops below 600. It also bans hunters from killing female bears that have cubs.
The number of bears that could be killed in each state would vary from year to year, depending on the number of bear deaths during the previous year.
The three states have also approved a plan that would let Wyoming hunters kill the most bears, followed by Montana hunters and Idaho hunters.
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