Montana will handle grizzly bears a bit differently after Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed two bills into law last month. Senate Bill 98 and Senate Bill 337 were considered controversial when proposed. Vocal opponents argued that changing how grizzlies are managed could result in more of them killed, The Rocket Miner reports.
Senate Bill 98 augments the “circumstance in which a person can kill a grizzly” in order to either protect a life or property. Further, anyone who kills a grizzly for these reasons has “absolute defense” against being charged with a crime, according to The Rocket Miner. Supporters of the bill include ranchers across the Rocky Mountain Front who have been very vocal about grizzly bears expanding further east, the Independent Record reports. Those against this stipulation say that it goes against federal law and opens up permission for ranchers to freely “shoot bears in self-defense.” The bill also says that grizzlies have rebounded enough that they no longer warrant federal endangered species protection.
Senate Bill 337 changes how grizzly bears are relocated should they be captured following a conflict. Now, if a bear is “captured outside of a federal recovery zone,” Montana is prohibited from relocating it, pushing the responsibility back onto federal authorities who can either move it or euthanize it, according to The Rocket Miner. According to the Independent Record, in support are Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, saying it creates a clear process for how state wildlife managers will respond to conflicts. Opponents argue that this just opens up the possibility of more grizzlies being killed due to “less cooperation between state and federal authorities.”