The Idaho Department of Fish and Game cancelled Idaho’s scheduled one-tag grizzly bear hunt on Tuesday after a federal district judge in Missoula, Mont., ordered federal protections restored for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, which includes part of eastern Idaho.
In a ruling Monday, Judge Dana Christensen found that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had ignored the overall welfare of grizzlies nationwide.
“The [Endangered Species Act] does not permit the Service to use the distinct population segment designation to circumvent analysis of a species' overall well-being,” the ruling stated.
“We couldn’t be happier to see federal protection restored by today’s ruling, which affirms that sound science and the rule of law still trump political meddling in species recovery decisions,” said Josh Osher, Montana director of Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project.
However, Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore called the ruling “a setback for grizzly bear conservation” that could impede further recovery efforts.
“I believe that tolerance of animals on the landscape requires a balance between the social and biological needs,” Moore said.
He said that tolerance is being stretched thin in western Wyoming, where there have been numerous incidents of depredation.
The ruling followed two two-week restraining orders temporarily blocking the hunt issued by the court beginning Aug. 30.
It also affects a scheduled hunt of up to 22 grizzly bears in Wyoming.
An estimated 718 grizzly bears are in the greater Yellowstone “demographic monitoring area,” which encompasses suitable grizzly habitat in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. The population has increased from about 130 in 1975, when they were placed on the endangered species list.
No hunt has been scheduled in Montana.