By Matt Volz and Matthew Brown
A federal judge has put a 14-day hold on the first public grizzly bear hunts in Wyoming and Idaho in more than 40 years, as he considers whether the government was wrong to lift federal protections on the animals.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen’s order came just two days before the states prepared to open their grizzly bear hunting seasons on Saturday, which would have been the first in the Lower 48 states since Montana’s last hunt in 1991.
“The threat of death to individual bears posed by the scheduled hunts is sufficient” to justify a delay in the state’s hunting seasons, Christensen wrote.
The move marked a victory for wildlife advocates and Native American tribes that sued over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision in 2017 to lift federal protections for 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.
“We’re thrilled,” said Mike Garrity, the executive director for plaintiff Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Now the judge has time to rule without grizzly bears being killed starting Saturday morning.”
The plaintiffs had argued the bears still face threats to their survival. Federal wildlife officials say the bears are thriving.
Fewer than two dozen bears would be allowed to be killed in the hunts.