107 Photographers Call on Wyoming to Reject Proposed Grizzly Bear Trophy Hunt

Tribal leaders want to see grizzly bears left on endangered list. On Wednesday, wildlife photographers voiced their concerns.

Published May 24, 2018

JACKSON, Wyo. — On Wednesday 107 wildlife photographers released a letter calling on Wyoming Governor Matt Mead to halt his state’s proposed grizzly bear trophy hunt. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission votes on the proposal in just four days. The signers emphasized the importance of saving iconic wildlife like the globally-loved Mother 399 who is at-risk if a hunt happens. These artists depend on the $3.2 billion tourism economy and the tens of thousands of jobs in Wyoming driven by the Yellowstone region’s natural system. See their full letter here. Thomas and Trip are available for interview and comment.

Mangelsen has offered Mothers “Watch”, “Mother’s Day” and “The Matriarch” photographs for use.

American Indians were at hand on Wednesday to show their opposition.

In addition to the letter, wildlife photographers released the following statements:

“As a young wildlife photographer, I’ve been fortunate to observe a lot of bear behavior in the wild in both Wyoming and Alaska. It has been my hope that by sharing images of unique bear behavior and intimate family moments that I would inspire the younger generation to grow up with a greater respect for our country’s wildlife. I fear that a trophy hunting season of grizzly bears in Wyoming will instead teach the younger generation that they’re not a species worth celebrating or protecting,” said photographer Ashleigh Sculley.“Grizzly Bears especially, after all that they have been through, have earned the right to live a life truly wild. If we allow hunters to shoot them, we have failed the Grizzly and every young person in this country who may never grow up to see one in the wild. The bears belong to all of us. Let them live life wild.”

“Wyoming’s trophy hunting proposal will destroy critical progress in recovering the Yellowstone grizzly population. We spent four decades and tens of millions of dollars saving these majestic bears from extinction, and now the state of Wyoming is proposing to kill them for a trophy on somebody’s wall?” said photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen, recently featured on 60 minutes. “Every time I see the faces of kids and their parents watching a grizzly bear in the wild for the first – and possibly only – time in their lives, it brings tears to my eyes. Their awe and excitement is truly something to behold. We cannot let the state of Wyoming rob millions of people of this once-in-a-lifetime experience by allowing a trophy hunt of these majestic bears.”

“From 2015 through 2017, there were 175 known grizzly bear mortalities in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Although grizzlies were not officially “hunted” during that time, most of the fatalities recorded were human-caused,” said photographer Sandy Sisti. “We don’t need to lose any more of Yellowstone country’s grizzly bears to trophy hunting.  Not now. Not ever.”

“Growing up in a family of hunters, I learned from a young age that to take the life of an animal who shares with me the ability to hunt and fish, an animal as beautiful and important to its ecosystem as a bear, simply to hang its head on my wall and place its hide on my floor is to show a deep disrespect and carelessness for the beauty and wildness that makes Wyoming what it is,” said filmmaker and photographer Trip Jennings. “To be in the presence of a bear for the first time or the hundredth, is something to be savored for a lifetime. Allowing a bear hunt will change their numbers and their demeanor, making them skittish and much harder to see. It will take away that experience from countless people and Wyoming will lose a part of the wildness that is its hallmark.”

“Is the future of grizzly bears only to exist within the invisible boundaries of just a few isolated National Parks in the United States? I see Wyoming’s proposed trophy hunt as an overtly aggressive barrier to the future of grizzly bears on public wilderness land outside of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and in direct conflict with bears’ ability to breed outside of what is currently a genetically isolated ecosystem,” said photographer Ronan Donovan. “Are we that selfish as a society that an animal can be revered by millions as a symbol of wildness and then that same animal can end up on a wall as one person’s personal property? That seems very much at odds with the American view of our collective wild things in wild places that exist on public lands. Trophy hunting grizzly bears takes a giant step backwards in managing bears into the future, especially as the pressures on grizzly bears are increasing due to climate change.”

“I don’t think the intention of the Endangered Species Act and conservation efforts is to get bear numbers up just enough to immediately start hunting them again,” said wildlife photojournalist Morgan Heim. “I’m supportive of responsible hunting, but this seems like a short-sighted vision that disrespects the animals, the years of sacrifice and conservation work and is ecologically risky. Bottomline, it would not be the brightest move on the part of Wyoming.”

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