No doubt you are aware of the tenuous position of Grizzly 399 and her four cubs. Maybe they passed through your yard this fall or crossed the highway on your morning commute.
We know from decades of research that once bears become habituated to human foods there is rarely a good outcome. Birdseed and garbage result in a slippery slope of worsening behavior, bears become emboldened, and the result is a concern for human and bear safety.
Thankfully, due to the coordinated efforts by state and federal agencies, 399 and her cubs have been shepherded back to Grand Teton National Park. But we know from history that she is a harbinger of what is to come. Fifteen years ago, when this bear burst onto the scene, it was relatively rare to encounter grizzly bears in southern Grand Teton National Park. Today it’s common. In fact, grizzly bears now occupy habitat surrounding Jackson Hole.
Unfortunately, six grizzly and two black bears were euthanized this summer in our valley due to human food rewards. Our careless actions of leaving unnatural foods accessible to wildlife, whether intentional or due to ignorance or apathy, are having repercussions for these bears and many other animals.
You probably moved here for the solitude, the scenery, the wildlife, the recreational opportunities or all the above. In the past two years we have broken records in real estate transactions and visitation in Teton County, and we have been on this upward trajectory for decades. It is no surprise that we are rapidly growing, since Jackson has so much to offer for human health and well-being. This population growth comes with consequences, and we must work together as a growing community to mold our behaviors.
Given the unparalleled wildlife and wild places of our region, we are obligated to protect the ecosystem while enjoying a vibrant tourism-based economy. The choices we make as a community and as individuals have repercussions, often beyond our imagination, for how we leave this place for future generations.
We have a vision. Our community has stepped up to protect our world-renowned ecosystem time and again to help our wildlife survive in the face of human development, and we are poised to make a clear decision to further protect wildlife, including bears, from conflict.
While it may be too late to change Grizzly 399’s behavior, we can adopt wildlife feeding rules now that keep human attractants away from other bears and wildlife.
Right now, Teton County is considering an update to the Wildlife Feeding Land Development Regulations, which will ease human-wildlife conflict by reducing wildlife access to unnatural foods. This LDR amendment will move the needle in Teton County toward greater wildlife protection, recognizing both its intrinsic value and its economic contribution. The new rules have been carefully crafted by the county’s hardworking planning staff and a diverse group of stakeholders over the course of years. Now is the time to fix the rules and protect our bears and other wildlife.
Please join us in expressing support for the county’s efforts to protect wildlife throughout Teton County. This LDR amendment will be heard by the county Planning and Building Commission on Dec. 13 and by the Board of County Commissioners in the New Year. Read the rules and share your comments ahead of time — our whole community should be involved in getting these protections over the finish line. We owe it to our wild neighbors to preserve the resources they need to survive. Let’s build a bear-friendly Jackson Hole together, because Jackson cares about bears.
Teton County’s LDR updates can be found at this website: JacksonTetonPlan.com/352/Wild-Animal-Feeding-and-Bear-Conflict-Ar