U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen is delaying the start of the first grizzly bear hunts in decades in the Rockies by two more weeks, according to the Associated Press.
Opponents of the hunts in Wyoming and Idaho asked the judge Wednesday for another two-week delay while the judge considers whether federal protections for grizzlies should be restored.
After a hearing in Missoula, Montana, last month, Christensen initially put the hunt on hold for two weeks. That order was set to expire today, and hunt opponents argued that state officials could immediately allow bears to be killed.
Wildlife advocates and Native American tribes say bears living in and around Yellowstone National Park face continued threats to their survival.
The U.S. Interior Department in 2017 declared the animals no longer needed federal protections. Up to 23 bears would be allowed to be killed in the hunts.
Opponents of the hunt lauded the judge's decision Thursday.
“We are gratified Yellowstone’s beloved bears are once again safe from trophy hunters’ bullets,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, in a statement. “We look forward to the judge’s thoughtful resolution of the deep flaws with the feds’ removal of protections from these imperiled bears.”
Likewise, Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center issued a statement, saying: “There is simply no need to rush into a grizzly bear hunt, with potentially devastating consequences for this iconic species, when the merits of that hunt are being reviewed in federal court.”
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— The Associated Press contributed to this report.