Federal judge stops grizzly hunt, for now

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FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2013, file photo, a grizzly bear cub searches for fallen fruit beneath an apple tree a few miles from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Mont. A judge will decide whether the Lower 48 states' first grizzly bear hunting season in more than four decades will open as scheduled the weekend of Aug. 31, 2018. (Alan Rogers/The Casper Star-Tribune via AP, file)

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen last week issued a temporary restraining order to stop a grizzly bear hunt near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Idaho.

Grizzly bears number about 700 animals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. They were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2017. In turn, the states of Wyoming and Idaho announced they would have grizzly bear hunts.

Montana could have had a hunt as well, but held off. Wyoming’s hunt could have allowed the taking of more than 20 bears total and even would allow baiting of bears in some areas.

Idaho’s hunt was for one male grizzly bear.

The Crow Indian Tribe, with support from the Western Environmental Law Center, filed suit.

The Crow, and many other tribes across the West, consider the grizzly bear sacred and oppose grizzly hunting.

Christensen’s ruling stopped the hunts, which were scheduled to start Sept.1, for 14 days.

A permanent ruling on the matter is expected in the next two weeks.

His ruling could have an impact on whether grizzly bears will be delisted in the Northern Continental Ecosystem. The federal government is moving toward delisting that population, which consists of about 1,000 grizzlies roaming 8 million acres from Glacier National Park south to Ovando along the Continental Divide.

One issue is whether a population of bears, known as a “distinct population segment” can be delisted under the Act.

Some bear activists maintain that bears shouldn’t be delisted until they’ve established populations across their native range. For example, the Selway-Bitterroot along the Montana-Idaho border used to have grizzlies, but it has few, if any, today, wiped out by humans years ago.

Populations are also struggling in the Cabinet Mountains of Northwest Montana, where there’s more than 1 million acres of public land, but only about 50 grizzly bears.

But states have argued that the bears are recovered in both the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide and should be delisted and managed as game animals, just as black bears, mountain lions and wolves are.

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