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UPDATE: Federal Judge Freezes Grizzly Hunts In Idaho, Wyoming

Neal Herbert
National Park Service

6:00 p.m. update: A federal judge has put the freeze on grizzly bear hunts near Yellowstone National Park while he mulls reinstating Endangered Species Act protections for the animals. They will now be pushed back at least two weeks. 

A federal judge is taking his time deciding whether or not to reinstitute Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears.

The animals were delisted last year and now Idaho and Wyoming are planning grizzly bear hunts starting this Saturday.

At a hearing Thursday, attorneys representing tribes and conservationists argued the federal government either ignored or misinterpreted scientific research before delisting the bears.

“The court heard arguments from both sides and is carefully considering the issues right now,” said attorney Matthew Bishop. “But we’re in a tough spot because we don’t have a decision.”

The plaintiffs have filed a temporary restraining order to stop Saturday’s hunt while U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen mulls the case. They argue the Yellowstone grizzly is isolated from other populations in the contiguous United States and that hurts genetic diversity.

But the federal government said grizzlies living around the nation’s oldest national park aren’t in immediate danger of becoming extinct anymore.

Attorney Cody Wisniewski represents Wyoming ranchers and farmers in the case. He said his clients like having the states in charge.

“They’re people that encounter grizzly bears just as a part of their daily lives,” he said. “Their goal is just to have local management. To be able to go to their local representatives, their elected officials, the people that live in and beside them in their state in order to resolve any disputes.”

If Saturday’s hunt goes forward, around two dozen bears could be harvested in Wyoming and Idaho.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.