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Grizzly Bear Hazing Rules Allow Paintballs

A grizzly sow and cub in Yellowstone National Park.
Jim Peaco / NPS
A grizzly sow and cub in Yellowstone National Park.

New federal guidelines say it's OK to haze a grizzly bear-even with a paintball gun.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued grizzly bear hazing guidelines, which make a distinction between harassment, which is illegal under the Endangered Species Act, and hazing, which is intended to discourage undesirable behavior but has lacked legal definition.

The new rules make explicit that paintballs and cracker shells, among other methods such as banging pots and pans, are acceptable hazing techniques.

"I think whatever it takes to deter the bears from coming onto private property is necessary as long as it doesn't harm the bear," said Anne Smith with the advocacy group Shoot'em With A Camera. "Because, as we say, a fed bear is a dead bear."

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks applauded the new guidelines.

"Many people have been using these aversive conditioning methods for years, but previously we were operating in a legal gray zone-this order now specifically allows landowners to use these useful and effective conflict prevention tools! Hazing is imperative for keeping bears afraid of people and away from our residences and infrastructure," the agency wrote in a Facebook post.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Maggie Mullen, at mmullen5@uwyo.edu.

Copyright 2020 Wyoming Public Radio

Maggie Mullen is a fifth generation Wyomingite, born and raised in Casper. She is currently a Masters candidate in American Studies and will defend her thesis on female body hair in contemporary American culture this May. Before graduate school, she earned her BA in English and French from the University of Wyoming. Maggie enjoys writing, cooking, her bicycle, swimming in rivers and lakes, and most any dog.
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