A federal judge just ruled to temporarily block the first slated grizzly bear hunt in the Yellowstone area in over 40 years.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen has issued a restraining order to temporarily block the first Yellowstone-area grizzly hunt in more than 40 years. The judge's ruling took place just two days before Wyoming and Idaho were set to open a grizzly bear hunting season in the region.
The order places a 14-day hold on the grizzly bear hunt. The judge will hear arguments as to the merits of the federal government removing the bruins from endangered species status.
In her ruling, Judge Christensen said the "harm to members of endangered species is irreparable because once a member of an endangered species has been injured, the task of preserving that species becomes all the more difficult."
Animal rights groups are touting the ruling as a victory. They say that the bears' removal from endangered species status is based on faulty science. They maintain that the status of grizzlies is still in peril.
"There is simply no need to rush into a grizzly bear hunt, with potentially devastating consequences for this iconic species, when the merits of that hunt are being reviewed in federal court," said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center.
"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 in the order.
Attorneys for the states disagreed that the bear population is in danger. "The likelihood of any significant harm to the population is essentially nil," said Erik Petersen, Wyoming's senior assistant attorney general.
Yellowstone area bears were given endangered species status in 1975, when their population was around 136 animals. There are now around 700, prompting federal biologists to remove the big bears from the endangered species listing. The criteria for removal of an animal from endangered species status is that the population must be self-sustaining.
The proposed hunt would allow hunters to kill 22 bears. Last year Wyoming officials killed at least 14 grizzly bears that attacked livestock or threatened humans. Hunters killed nine additional bears in self-defense.
"The fact of the matter is that we need to do something for the benefit of the bear," said hunting guide Sy Gilliland. "We can't turn the clock back and remove the people from Wyoming. The bear is overflowing. He just needs to have his number trimmed back for the benefit of the species overall."
Human-grizzly conflicts have definitely risen in recent years, as both human activity in bear country has increased and the bear population has grown unabated.