Associated Press File
At the request of the Earthjustice environmental law firm, a federal judge in Missoula, Mont., has extended his temporary restraining order on grizzly bear hunts in Wyoming and Idaho another 14 days.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen issued a 14-day stay on Aug. 30 and renewed it on Sept. 13. The hunts were scheduled to begin Sept. 1 and would have allowed for up to 23 bears to be killed outside Yellowstone National Park in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 22 in Wyoming and one in Idaho.
If the judge rules in the states’ favor at the end of the month, there still could be time for hunts, said Rebekah Fitzgerald, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokeswoman.
“We are disappointed the hunt continues to be postponed. We feel Wyoming has put together a strong grizzly bear management program that allows for protection of the bear population and conservative hunting,” Fitzgerald said.
She said she does not know the likelihood of further restraining order extensions and that the season is scheduled to go through Nov. 15.
The Sierra Club of Greater Yellowstone issued a statement calling the extension a critical win for grizzlies still on the road to recovery.
The department has said 718 grizzlies are in the ecosystem and the criteria for recovery was 500.
Ranchers support the hunts, having lost cattle and sheep to grizzly bears. Wyoming paid $455,000 for grizzly livestock kills in 2016, $509,000 in 2015 and $301,000 in 2014, according to the state.
One rancher, Mary Thoman, wrote in an Aug. 29 USA Today column that if the grizzly population continues to grow unchecked it will be impossible for ranchers to earn a living. Her ranch lost 445 sheep to grizzlies in one year and has given up federal grazing permits because the loss has been so great, her attorney said.