MISSOULA- A federal judge in Missoula has delayed the upcoming Wyoming grizzly bear hunt, which was scheduled to start Saturday.
Judge Dana Christensen granted a two-week temporary restraining order Thursday in favor of the Crow Tribe and other plantiffs, who had sued to stop the hunt.
Christensen ruled that a provision of the federal Endangered Species Act stating that the tribes could suffer “irreparable harm” applied in the case.
Wyoming was preparing to hold its first grizzly bear hunt in 40 years over the objections of tribes and other conservation groups, who argued the grizzly bears still needed protection as an endangered species.
On Thursday, critics of the plan lined up outside the federal courthouse in Missoula, complaining the grizzlies would be “slaughtered”, reversing years of a recovering population.
Inside the court, attorneys for conservation and animal rights groups complained the Feds had “abandoned reason” and science, leaving state plans that “create new threats” to bears that “didn’t exist before”, especially with increasing conflicts with people.
But attorneys for Montana FWP, Idaho and Wyoming argued the state-managed plans are the next step in managing growing bear populations, and for Montana especially, coming up with a way to handle the “connectivity” of grizzlies across the state’s wild areas.
“It’s something that Montana contemplates in both its Western Montana plan and its Southwest Montana plan. And we want to see the conditions that allow that to happen. And so we’re managing with that in mind,” said Montana FWP attorney Bill Schenk.
“The government looked at this issue of grizzly bears getting into conflicts with people and getting killed as a result based on old data from a decade or more ago,” said plaintiff attorney Tim Preso. “When what we’ve seen from 2015 is three and four times historic mortality levels.”
By mid-afternoon, the plaintiffs in the case, including the conservation groups and tribes, filed the motion seeking the temporary restraining order blocking the Wyoming hunt.
Click here to see more background on this case.
Click here to see the story of an outfitter who was looking forward to the hunt.