The tradition of early elk (Cervus elaphus) hunting seasons adjacent to Yellowstone National Park (YNP), USA, provides grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) with ungulate remains left by hunters. We investigated the fall (Aug–Oct) distribution of grizzly bears relative to the boundaries of YNP and the opening of September elk hunting seasons. Based on results from exact tests of conditional independence, we estimated the odds of radiomarked bears being outside YNP during the elk hunt versus before the hunt. Along the northern boundary, bears were 2.40 times more likely to be outside YNP during the hunt in good whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) seed-crop years and 2.72 times more likely in poor seed-crop years. The level of confidence associated with 1-sided confidence intervals with a lower endpoint of 1 was approximately 94% in good seed-crop years and 61% in poor years. Along the southern boundary of YNP, radiomarked bears were 2.32 times more likely to be outside the park during the hunt in good whitebark pine seed-crop years and 4.35 times more likely in poor seed-crop years. The level of confidence associated with 1-sided confidence intervals with a lower endpoint of 1 was approximately 93% in both cases. Increased seasonal bear densities and human presence in early hunt units increases potential for conflicts between bears and hunters. Numbers of reported hunting-related grizzly bear mortalities have increased in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) during the last decade, and nearly half of this increase is due to bear deaths occurring in early hunt units during September. Human-caused grizzly bear mortality thresholds established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have not been exceeded in recent years. This is because agency actions have reduced other sources of human-caused mortalities, and because population parameters that mortality thresholds are based on have increased. Agencies must continue to monitor and manage hunter-caused grizzly bear mortality at sustainable levels to ensure the long-term health of the GYE population.
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Vol. 68 • No. 1