JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — An annual elk hunt in Grand Teton National Park doesn't draw in and concentrate large numbers of grizzly bears, scientists have concluded.
The November to December hunt probably takes place too late in the year for grizzly bears to seek out animal remains that hunters leave behind, according to researchers with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team.
Many grizzly bears have denned up for winter hibernation by the time a significant number of elk remains have accumulated, study team leader Frank van Manen wrote recently in the academic journal Ursus.
The park holds the hunt to control elk numbers. Most national parks don't allow hunting, but the law establishing Grand Teton decades ago provides for the hunt.
The study team — made up of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal and state agencies — researches grizzlies in the region around Yellowstone National Park to help guide decisions about managing the species.
The researchers identified 31 grizzlies in and near the east side of Grand Teton in 2014 and 2015, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported. Eight bears were known to live in the area, and almost all went after elk carcasses within the hunt zone before hibernating.
The remaining bears included those that were passing through and proved much less likely to stick around by the time hunting began, the researchers found.
The study took place after a grizzly mauled a hunter in 2011 and a hunter shot and killed a charging grizzly in 2012.
“Although continuation of the elk reduction program with the current timing likely represents a scenario with a low relative risk, elk hunters should be aware that encounter risks remain real, as they are anywhere within occupied grizzly bear range,” the researchers wrote.
Over one-fourth of all grizzlies killed by people during a recent 15-year period were killed by hunters acting in self-defense, according to the study.