JACKSON, Wyoming — Federal wildlife managers expect six more grizzly bears will be killed during the next nine years as an unintended consequence of elk hunting in Grand Teton National Park and the adjacent National Elk Refuge.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projected the deaths would occur as a result of conflicts between elk hunters and grizzlies, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported Wednesday.
Hunting grizzly bears is illegal in most areas. The Fish and Wildlife Service classifies them as a threatened species in most of the lower 48 states.
About 700 live in the vicinity Grand Teton and nearby Yellowstone National Park.
In 2007, officials estimated that one grizzly would be killed during the 15-year span of a wildlife management plan in Grand Teton and the elk refuge.
The Fish and Wildlife Service raised the estimate last year to a total of seven bears after elk hunters killed a grizzly in the park 2012.
The Wyoming Wildlife Advocates group obtained the revised estimate through the Freedom of Information Act.
A Fish and Wildlife Service official did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Hunting of any animal is banned in most national parks, but Grand Teton can authorize limited elk hunting to control the population.
The hunters who killed the grizzly in 2012 were operating under that program. They shot and killed the bear when it charged them, and a judge determined they were acting in self defense, park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.
"It was unusual, and it was unfortunate," she told The Associated Press on Thursday. It was the first time a grizzly has been killed as a result of elk hunting in the park, she said.
People who are authorized to hunt elk in the park are required to carry bear-repellent spray in hopes that any animals that charge them can be turned away without gunfire.
Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com