Yet again, politics and emotion have stuck their noses into scientific areas where they don’t belong. Wyoming and Idaho were set to open their respective grizzly bear hunting seasons on Saturday, which would have been the first grizzly hunting seasons in the lower 48 since 1974. Because the grizzly is such an iconic species, this hunt gained a lot of attention from both hunters and opponents to the hunt.
However, biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Idaho Fish and Game Department, and a bunch of other agencies and organizations, have been studying the bears for decades. Using their professional knowledge and scientific methods, they’ve determined that there are more bears in the region surrounding Yellowstone National Park than the habitat can support. That means a well-regulated hunting season will not only cause no harm to the grizzly population, but will actually help it, because it will remove some of the competition among these very territorial animals.
Yet animal rights groups have sued to end the hunting season before it was to begin. And mere days before the season was to start, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen in Montana issued a 14-day temporary restraining order on the season. Christensen based his ruling on motions filed immediately after the hearing by the plaintiffs in the case, but he did not wait to allow briefs from the Fish and Wildlife service or from Wyoming or Idaho biologists to be considered before issuing the order.
So the hunt’s on hold for now. Politics and misguided emotions once again overcome scientific evidence.