Grizzly Bear Hunt Postponed Two Weeks by Federal Judge

September 7, 2018 | Hunt

A Federal judge’s decision all but ended Wyoming and Idaho’s first grizzly bear seasons in decades. Judge Dana L. Christensen spent most of Thursday, August 30, listening to arguments from conservation groups and tribal members before deciding that any loss of grizzly bears through a hunt warranted a 14-day delay to the season.

The conservation groups argued that as grizzlies expand their range they’ll be met with a less-ample food supply and increased danger from human conflicts. The groups also reasoned that since the only bears removed from the endangered list were in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, there was not enough consideration given to the rest of the species elsewhere.

Christensen’s decision came two days before the opening day of Idaho’s only season and Wyoming’s first season. The first season would take place outside of what was determined to be a suitable habitat zone for the bears. The second season, which could still possibly open on September, 15, would take place within the suitable habitat zone, which borders Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

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Immediately after the decision, officials with Wyoming Game and Fish began calling tag holders and informing them of the judge’s ruling.

“This is unfortunate. Game and Fish has a robust grizzly bear management program with strong regulations, protections and population monitoring for grizzly bears. We believe in state-led management of wildlife and involving the public in decisions like the creation and implementation of a conservative hunting opportunity for those who want that experience,” Director of Wyoming Game and Fish Department Scott Talbott said in a statement. “We will now await further information about whether the bears will remain under state management, or if they go back to federal management.”

This isn’t a new situation for Wyoming Game and Fish. The grizzly decision is on a path similar to when state and Federal wildlife agencies decided to delist the gray wolf. After the wolf’s delisting in 2013, lawsuits put the species back on the Endangered Species List late the following year.

The Idaho and Wyoming grizzly bear seasons are suspended two weeks as a Federal judge further decides how to handle the case.

According to Wyoming Native Guy Eastman, of Eastmans’ Hunting Journal, the grizzly decision is just the second coming of the wolf situation.

“The vast majority of the state seemed to approve the management plan. But we’re kinda used to it; we saw it happen with the wolves too,” Eastman said. “I think people are frustrated that politically-affiliated groups from California can see a judge in Montana about a Wyoming issue.”

In 2017 the gray wolf was removed from the Endangered Species Act once again. Since the removal, U.S Fish and WIldlife Services report the gray wolf population is up 300% from original expectations.

According to Eastman, the wolf example lends credibility to the notion that the bears will be delisted eventually.

“It’s been reviewed, compiled re-reviewed ad nauseam,” Eastman said. “U.S. Fish and Wildlife want them off the list, and the state of Wyoming wants them off the list.”

In the meantime, grizzly tag holders wait anxiously for another decision on September 13, when the two week suspension expires.