On Sep. 24, 2018, Federal U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen reinstated federal protection for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), overturning the March 2017 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to delist the GYE grizzlies from Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections.
Judge Christensen’s ruling effectively ended the planned hunts in Idaho and Wyoming, despite the fact that the region’s grizzly population has exceeded every scientifically established recovery criteria since 2003. Numbers have risen from 136 bears when they were listed in 1975 to more than 700 today. In fact, they’re so densely populated that they have reached carrying capacity.
“Grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are clearly recovered—they should be managed by wildlife professionals—not the Courts,” said Chris W. Cox, Executive Director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). “It’s time for state fish and game agencies to take over bear management with the help of hunters. NRA will continue to fight until we achieve this goal.”
The states’ hunts originally scheduled to begin on Sept. 1 planned to allow hunters with special permits to take as many as 23 grizzlies (22 in Wyoming and one in Idaho), but were put on hold twice by Judge Christensen to deliberate over animal rights extremist groups’ demands to restore the bears’ federal ESA protections.
The recent ruling reinstating federal protection for the bears came just 10 days after a Wyoming hunting guide was mauled and killed by a grizzly while field-dressing an elk near Jackson Hole, and despite federal and state officials’ claims that grizzly delisting and hunting seasons are necessary due to the rise in human-grizzly conflicts and livestock depredation.