Commission backs plan to maintain Montana grizzly population

Commission backs plan to maintain Montana grizzly population
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Montana wildlife commissioners have endorsed a plan to manage the largest grizzly bear population in the Lower 48 states at current levels as federal officials consider lifting protections on the animals.

Thursday’s decision sets a population objective of at least 800 bears across a 16,000-square mile (42,000-square kilometer) area of northwestern Montana.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say they plan to maintain a higher number of animals – roughly 1,000 bears – to give the population a protective buffer.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks will take public comments on the proposal before a final decision expected in December.

A population of about 700 grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park lost their protected status last year. Wyoming and Idaho plan to allow hunting of the animals this fall.