Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Grizzly bear hunts scheduled in Idaho and Wyoming won't start as planned this weekend, due to a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge in Montana.
In the ruling Thursday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen blocked the hunts from starting for at least 14 days while he comes to a decision on the matter.
"The court is satisfied that a temporary restraining order is warranted," Christensen wrote in an opinion issued three hours after a hearing Thursday. "Here the threat of death to individual grizzly bears posed by the scheduled hunt is sufficient. Indeed, harm to members of endangered species is irreparable because once a member of an endangered species has been injured, the task of preserving that species becomes all the more difficult."
Environmental advocates praised Christensen's order.
"We're profoundly relieved the grizzly bears got a stay of execution today," Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement. "We look forward to the judge's thorough findings on all of the myriad flaws in the government's approach to grizzly bear management in Greater Yellowstone."
Last year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that the Yellowstone grizzly bear, a localized class of the North American grizzly found in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem around Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, would no longer be considered endangered. When the bear hit the endangered list in 1975, it was estimated there were fewer than 150 left. Now there are roughly 750.
After that announcement, Wyoming and Idaho decided to hold grizzly hunts this September. In announcing its hunt, Idaho Department of Fish and Game called hunting a "management tool" when there are more than 600 bears in the population. It added that the region's grizzly population has been stable for the last decade.
Environmental groups have sued the federal government to challenge the delisting decision.
A protester outside the courthouse Thursday told NBC Montana they want the hunt called off and federal protections put back in place.
"We're here because we're just appalled by the hunts that are happening -- hopefully not happening -- in a couple days here in Wyoming and Idaho," Laiken Jordahl said. "Just last year the grizzly was listed as an endangered species ... and we think hunting as many of 23 of them is a horrible and horrific idea."