Missoula federal judge stops Wyoming’s grizzly bear hunt

A grizzly bear and her two cubs approach the carcass of a bison in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart/File Photo

Late Thursday, Missoula U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen issued a restraining order to stop Wyoming’s grizzly bear hunt scheduled to start on Saturday.

Earlier in the day, Christensen heard arguments in a case challenging the delisting of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears and refused to rule from the bench. Plaintiffs told him they would file to get the restraining order in case he couldn’t decide the case in time to stop the hunt.

Christensen wasted little time in granting the request, acknowledging that he didn’t wait for the defendants to respond. However, the Endangered Species Act requires that he weigh the case in favor of protecting endangered species as long as the public interest isn’t harmed.

“Here, the threat of death to individual grizzly bears posed by the scheduled hunt is sufficient,” Christensen wrote.

Christensen also acknowledged that the opponents of delisting had raised serious questions as to merits of the case argued earlier.

During Thursday’s arguments, Wyoming state attorney Eric Peterson had tried to head off an injunction saying the hunt wouldn’t hurt the population and that he could call the governor to work out adjustments to the hunt if the judge wanted. Christensen replied that Peterson wouldn’t need to call the governor.

The injunction remains in effect until Sept. 13.

Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at lundquist@missoulacurrent.com