Thomas D. Mangelsen is feeling grateful for the luck of the draw, but even he couldn’t have imagined it would happen in a lottery staged to allot licenses for trophy hunting grizzly bears.
If you don’t yet grasp the trickster irony, then you don’t know the famed American wildlife photographer who makes his home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
One of the country’s most publicly outspoken critics of trophy sport hunting, Mangelsen learned Thursday, July 25 that he finished high enough in Wyoming’s bear hunting sweepstakes that he might be able to legally stalk a Greater Yellowstone grizzly this fall.
Euphoric at the prospect, he relishes the chance and, if called by wildlife managers with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, he will pursue a coveted grizzly not with a gun but as he always does, with a long camera lens.
Only a week ago, Mangelsen helped ignite a new movement, hastily organized by five women in Jackson Hole called “Shoot’em With A Camera—Not A Gun.” It sought to enlist non-hunters nationwide to put in for one of Wyoming’s 22 bear hunting licenses. The intent being that if any one of them is awarded a tag to fell a grizzly they will elect not to lethally use it, thus keeping a bear alive.
Wyoming is planning in September to recommence trophy hunting of grizzlies, a big game event which hasn’t happened for 44 years and was halted when bruins in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem were listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1975.
Back then, it is believed the grizzly population in Greater Yellowstone was just 136 individuals or fewer, with the majority of bears found inside Yellowstone National Park. In the decades since, thanks to strict regulations governing habitat protection, a prohibition on hunting, reducing conflicts with people and stiff penalties awaiting poachers, the number has climbed to around 700 in the primary bear recovery zone.
Some 7,000 people in all applied for bear tags, including Mangelsen, his good friend the global conservation icon Jane Goodall, elephant conservationist Cynthia Moss, and a long list of others. When asked Thursday how he felt, Mangelsen said “amazing” and invited Mountain Journal to join him on his photographic pursuit of grizzlies. Full disclosure: this writer collaborated with Mangelsen on the recent book, Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek, An Intimate Portrait of 399, the Most Famous Bear in America.
The recovery of grizzly bears in a region synonymous with them is counted as one of the greatest wildlife success stories in U.S. history. Today, the possibility they could be hunted again is as controversial as almost any wildlife issue in the 21st century. Indeed, heightened by social media, there is global interest.
After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared that grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone were biologically recovered and announced its intention to give custodial management back to Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, the decision was met with a public outcry. More than 650,000 people submitted comments in response, the vast majority opposing removal of federal protection and allowing states to hold trophy hunts.
Read full article: Bruin Lottery: Photographer Tom Mangelsen Scores A Wyoming Grizzly Tag