A federal judge has once again delayed Wyoming’s grizzly hunting season by two weeks.
U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen of Missoula said Thursday that he needed more time to decide whether to reinstate federal protections for the Yellowstone area’s grizzlies. However, Christensen mentioned in the ruling that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may have “erred” in delisting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzlies.
Christensen’s decision came on the heels of his first restraining order issued Aug. 30 — 36 hours prior to the start of the proposed season.
Grizzly bear advocates who’ve sued over the species’ delisting — plaintiffs that include environmental groups and Native American tribes — had asked the judge to continue to keep the hunts on hold.
“In the absence of a temporary restraining order, the plaintiffs face the potential death of members of a threatened species. That hardship substantially outweighs the hardship to be endured by the defendants and intervenor-defendants, who must refrain only from hunting grizzly bears for an additional two weeks,” Christensen wrote in his ruling.
The decision was met with disappointment by Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials.
“The Game and Fish will abide by Judge Christensen’s order,” said Brian Nesvik, chief of wildlife for the Game and Fish. “We are disappointed. Wyoming Game and Fish has a strong grizzly bear management program with protections for the bear population as a whole, but also allows for a conservative hunting season.”
The first grizzly hunt in the lower 48 states in more than 40 years was previously scheduled to start Sept. 1 in an area outside prime grizzly habitat, called the demographic monitoring area (DMA). A second part of the scheduled hunt was to start Sept. 15 inside the DMA. Both hunts are on hold until at least Sept. 26.
“We will be notifying hunters today about the update,” Nesvik said.
The decision also upset Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who has been a proponent of the hunts.
“Governor Mead remains disappointed by the temporary restraining order. Grizzly bears remain under Wyoming management and he hopes a final decision on the case will be reached soon,” said Mead policy advisor David Wilms.