Grizzly bears haven’t been hunted in Yellowstone National Park for over 40 years. Prior to their becoming protected, the grizzly population was massively depleted as a result of over-hunting. Last year, the federal government determined that the grizzly population had successfully covered. As a result, they would no longer fall under the protections granted to endangered species, which eventually led to the approval of grizzly hunts in two states—Wyoming and Idaho.
The proposal called for 22 tags being granted in Wyoming for grizzlies and one in Idaho. However, a federal judge suspended the approval just two days before the hunting season was set to open up. That was the end of August, and the suspension was supposed to last two weeks until a decision could be made as to whether or not the grizzlies should remain under federal protection.
On September 13th, a judge extended the delay for another two weeks. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen believes that there are still some questions that need to be answered about the lawfulness of the federal government’s decision to lift the ban on grizzly hunting.
The decision to delay the lifting of the protections come on the heels of a lawsuit filed by local Native American tribes and animal rights groups. While these groups welcome the delay and hope that it can remain permanent, Wyoming Fish and Game feels differently.
Brian Nesvik, the chief game warden of the Wyoming Fish and Game Department believes that the planned hunting season was a conservative approach that still fit in with a “strong” grizzly bear management program.
While grizzlies can be hunted legally in Alaska, grizzlies in the rest of the rest of the lower 48 remain listed as threatened species. If the hunt is allowed to proceed, 12 bears in outlying areas of Wyoming could be killed, and 10 more could be killed in the areas immediately around Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. If a female bear was harvested in the area around the national parks, the hunt would immediately be called off.