A grizzly bear mother and her two cubs are at risk for relocation or even death after making their home near a Wyoming highway.
The bear, known as “Felicia” by Jackson Hole residents poses a threat, wildlife officials say, for her family’s proximity to a 55-mile highway in the Togwotee Mountain Pass.
People have also been spotted approaching and trying to feed the bear.
“Human-conditioned behavior,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release, could lead to aggressive bear behavior.
If park rangers aren’t able to scare the bear off the road using rubber bullets or loud noises over the next 10 to 14 days, U.S. Fish and Wildlife service says Felicia and her cubs will likely be relocated or euthanized.
Wildlife advocates, including Savannah Rose Burgess, say euthanasia shouldn’t be an option. Burgess launched a petition on June 11 to save Felicia and her cubs that has more than 34,500 signatures as of Thursday.
With her team, Burgess is also working to launch a bear ambassador program where a person or multiple people would ensure visitors are following appropriate guidelines in the presence of bears.
“We have the opportunity here to make a really impactful change,” Burgess told USA TODAY. “It is absolutely horrible to try to think of removing this animal. She’s important and she’s vital, and not just vital to her species in the reproductive sense.”
Felicia, according to Burgess, has never been aggressive, charged anyone or received human food rewards. Award-winning wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen, who has documented Felicia for over six years, also says that she is very calm and collected.
“This is more of a people management issue than a bear management issue. We need more people on the ground who are trained and educated,” Mangelsen told USA TODAY.
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Mangelsen and his assistant, Susan Cedarholm, are working with different entities such as the forest service and the wildlife service to come up with a solution to keep Felicia alive and other bears that may come along.
“We are all working for the same cause,” Mangelsen said.
Jack Bayles, owner of Team399 that helps fund grizzly bear education and protection, says that it is up to the person to be informed on bear guidelines. An incident happened in Yellowstone National Park where a woman disregarded park rules to stay 100 yards away from bears, and it ended up charging her.
“I think the bear ambassador program can be really effective. The wildlife brigade in Grand Teton National Park, for example, has been highly successful in managing people around these situations,” Bayles said.
Bayles said that part of keeping bears alive is respecting their boundaries.
“The bears have done nothing wrong. There just happens to be a road that goes through her territory,” Bayles said. “I think it’s incumbent upon the public to understand what their role is when they come into a grizzly habitat.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Grizzly bear Felicia, cubs near Wyoming road may be euthanized: FWS