Is It Time To Remove the Grizzly From the Endangered Species List?

With a record number of nuisance grizzly bears being trapped in Montana, some are asking if it's time to remove the grizzly from its listing under the Endangered Species Act.

From this story in The Missoulian:

The number of grizzly bears captured in Montana's Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem set records this year, prompting discussions among state wildlife officials about a new era in grizzly bear management.

Conflicts between bears and humans soared during the 2011 season and kept grizzly bear managers extremely busy, particularly in northwestern Montana. In the past 10 days alone, six additional bears were removed from the wild, according to John Fraley, spokesman for Region 1 of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The recent captures bring the grand total to 44 bears that were trapped in 2011, according to bear conflict specialists with FWP. Since 1993, the agency reports an annual average of 17 grizzly bear captures in the same management area.

"...According to FWP grizzly bear researcher Rick Mace, about 1,000 grizzlies now populate the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, or NCDE. The population continues to grow at about 2 percent to 3 percent every year, he said. "Although the recent removals of adult females with cubs are regrettable, these mortalities are well within sustainable mortality limits," Mace said.

FWP Region 1 Wildlife Program Manager Jim Williams said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that oversees grizzly bear recovery under the Endangered Species Act, agreed that removing the grizzlies was necessary. "We are entering a new era in grizzly bear management," Williams said. "With a functionally recovered population of grizzly bears we will continue to experience increased conflicts between bears and humans. As the NCDE grizzly bear population continues to grow, FWP can be more aggressive with removing those females and males that continue to conflict with humans."

Thoughts? Is the grizzly ready to be de-listed? Do you think we'll ever see the return of a limited grizzly hunt in the lower 48?