This year was supposed to be the first grizzly bear hunt in the lower 48 in 40 years. The bear was almost wiped out during the last century, but has since made a remarkable recovery. They recovered so much that biologist from the US Fish and Wild life Service recommended that they be removed from the endangered species list and be turned over to state management, which meant a hunting season would soon follow.
This upset animal rights groups and a few Native American tribes, who sued to have the protections reinstated. After a few weeks of arguments, a federal judge put a 14 day stay on the hunt until she can make her ruling.
According to the Reuters, the 14-day restraining order by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen in Missoula, Montana, came two days before Wyoming and Idaho were scheduled to open licensed grizzly hunts allowing as many as 23 bears in the two states.
Christensen heard arguments from both sides on Thursday and took the case under advisement without indicating when he would render a decision. But in granting the restraining order, he said that the anti-hunting groups and tribal groups had shown that they were “likely to succeed on the merits” of their lawsuits.
Hunters have voiced their displeasure with the decision.
“I don’t think a grizzly or an elk is more important, we should have balance,” argues Taylor Engum, the owner of East Fork Outfitters, one of four guide companies licensed to hold the hunt.
“The plan (to hunt) is solid, the population is solid, and I think it’s going to continue to be,” says Engum.
The judge’s restraining order lasts two weeks, so it is still possible the hunt could be reopened after the court has more time to deliberate the arguments from anti-hunting groups and U.S. Fish & Game.
Until a final decision is made we can only hope that the judge rules on the side of science and not emotion. It is cases like this that put the endangered species act in jeopardy. The law was never intended to protect recovered animals. Anti-hunting groups have been abusing it for the last few decades in order to protect their favorite animal.