SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department will host public meetings around the state throughout November and December to address proposed changes to black bear hunting seasons, regulations for firearm cartridges and archery equipment and collection of shed antlers and horns.
Proposals include a change to language about preference for registering bait sites for black bear hunting. With the proposed changes, a hunter may apply to register the same site March 1 through March 20 but does not explicitly receive preference for the site.
A hunter would lose preference for their site by failing to provide the site GPS coordinates to the WGFD during the previous calendar year.
Large carnivore biologist Dan Bjornlie compiled an interim report on black bear hunting season data — the full report with data from the 2019 fall hunting season will be made available to the public before the commission meeting in January, he said.
Bjornlie said harvest trend data shows sex and age classifications for black bears that indicate the overall health of the black bear population. Male bears are more vulnerable to harvest, especially by hunters who use bait, he said.
A higher ratio of males in harvest data indicates a robust population while a higher ratio of harvested females lowers the population’s ability to reproduce and recover.
Harvest data is used to make management decisions that balance hunting opportunities with maintaining a viable black bear population, Bjornlie said.
Other proposed edits to the regulations would allow hunters to use their sportsperson identification number to mark a bear bait container.
Public information specialist Christina Schmidt said the change could simplify the identification process as sportsperson identification numbers remain constant while bear hunting license numbers change every year.
Boundaries in hunt areas 1 and 32 are proposed to change as a way to mitigate black bear conflicts, using hunting seasons as a management tool.
“Conflict bears” in the Sheridan area mostly refer to bears who impede on residential and ranching areas and occasionally conflict with livestock, Bjornlie said.
The Cody regional office recommended the change to hunt areas 1 and 32 to address regular issues with conflict bears in the area, he said.
“Department personnel have removed several conflict bears in the Lower Shoshone and Crooked Creek drainages near Lovell in Hunt Area 1 which is proposed to become part of Hunt Area 32. The Department is also proposing to modify the boundary description for Hunt Area 7 as a result of previous public comments,” according to the WGFD statement of reasons.
Hunt area 32 has no harvest limit because there’s limited hunting opportunity in that area anyway, Bjornlie said. Currently, the boundary lies west of the Bighorn river.
The proposed changes would shift hunt area 32’s boundary to run along the Bighorn river and allow hunters to take bears during hunting season rather than relying on WGFD personnel to remove conflict bears in the region, Bjornlie said.
Other proposed edits to regulations include clarifying language and removing redundant specifications for punishment for falsifying registration documents.
Sheridan’s public meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. at the Sheridan WGFD office, 700 Valley View Drive.
A public comment form is available at wgfd.wyo.gov/get-involved/public-meetings. The deadline for comment is Dec. 16 at 5 p.m.