Hunters who participate in the annual elk reduction hunt at Grand Teton National Park better be great shots, as they'll be limited to how many shots they'll be able to take.
The new rules come in the wake of the fatal shooting of a grizzly bear during last fall's hunt, which is mandated by the park's enabling legislation as a means to control the size of the Jackson elk herd at roughly 11,000 animals.
On Thanksgiving Day, 2012, an adult grizzly was shot and killed by hunters participating in the annual hunt. That incident followed a 2011 mauling of a hunter by a grizzly in the same area. Grizzly bear-hunter conflicts in Grand Teton have escalated as the distribution and density of grizzly bears has increased.
New rules for the 2013 hunt include:
* Limiting possession of ammunition per hunter to seven cartridges daily to decrease the potential for elk "wounding loss," as the adjacent National Elk Refuge (NER) has required for several years.
* Limiting to one the number of shots fired by a hunter at a group of running elk, also to decrease the potential for elk "wounding loss."
* Requiring the use of non-lead ammunition by hunters-who are deputized rangers while they participate in the hunt.
Beginning in 2009, the NPS required the use of non-lead ammunition by park rangers for all culling operations and for the dispatching of sick or wounded animals. Requiring non-lead ammunition will help reduce lead contamination throughout the park environment, where researchers have documented ingestion of lead from bullets by eagles and other scavengers.
* Closing the portion of the Snake River bottom between the Deadman's Bar river access road and Ditch Creek to decrease the probability of grizzly bear-hunter conflicts in an area of thick timber and poor visibility.
* Opening to hunting the area between the Gros Ventre River and the road to Kelly, immediately adjacent to the National Elk Refuge and between Gros Ventre Junction and a point just west of the Gros Ventre campground. This measure is designed to increase elk harvest and replace the loss of hunt areas due to closure of the river bottom.
* Opening Hunt Area 79 to Type IV Hunt Area 75 license holders for two weeks at the beginning of the ERP season to focus on Grand Teton summer-resident elk and to spread out the hunters.
Existing measures already in place to mitigate grizzly bear-hunter encounters include:
* Prohibiting the use of artificial elk calls.
* Requiring hunters to carry a can of EPA-registered bear spray in a way that it is readily available for use.
* Providing camping areas with bear-resistant carcass storage facilities.
* Providing bear safety literature to all ERP permit holders.
* Maintaining a high contact rate (approximately 30 percent) between park rangers and hunters in the field to help inform and educate hunt participants about bear safe hunting practices.