Yellowstone Grizzly Bears Can't Be Hunted, Says New Court Ruling


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist


A Grizzly Bear stands proud in Yellowstone National Park. Bill Dreitlein/Shutterstock

The grizzly bears of Yellowstone will remain protected against hunting. A US court has ruled that grizzly bears living in the Yellowstone National Park region should remain federally protected, sparing the population from plans for trophy hunts in the states of Wyoming and Idaho.

Back in 2017, the US Fish and Wildlife Service stripped Yellowstone grizzly bears of their federal protection. However, after a number of organizations, indigenous groups, and individuals sued the federal government agency, a federal court ruled the Trump administration had illegally removed the protections in 2018. 


On Wednesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, ruling that Yellowstone grizzly bears must remain protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“This is a tremendous victory for all who cherish Yellowstone’s grizzly bears and for those who’ve worked to ensure they’re protected under the Endangered Species Act," Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "Grizzlies still have a long way to go before recovery. Hunting these beautiful animals around America’s most treasured national park should never again be an option.”

The initial decision to remove the grizzlies’ federal protection came after an assessment of the bear population within the park found their numbers had grown in recent decades. When grizzlies were added to the Endangered Species Act in 1975, just 136 bears were living within the park. By 2019, there were an estimated 728 bears. The US Fish and Wildlife Service said this apparent good news meant the population had “recovered to the point where federal protections can be removed.” The decision led Wyoming and Idaho to plan for licensed grizzly hunts, the first such trophy hunts of grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park in over 40 years.

However, the new ruling states the removal of federal protections was not based on good science. The court said there was a lack of “concrete, enforceable mechanisms” to “ensure long-term genetic health of the Yellowstone grizzly” and, as such, the population should be protected. 


“The courts have repeatedly slammed the Fish and Wildlife Service for prematurely removing federal protections from grizzly bears,” said Zaccardi. “I hope the agency will now concentrate on fully recovering these magnificent animals, not stripping them of needed safeguards.”

Not everyone was happy about the ruling though. US Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) maintains the science is settled, arguing hunting should be allowed as the population has recovered sufficiently. 

“The court is flat wrong. The grizzly bear is fully recovered in Wyoming. That’s a fact,” Senator Barrasso said in a statement“It’s well past time for the grizzly bear in Wyoming to come off of the Endangered Species List. Wyoming – not an activist court – should determine how the bear is managed.” 

Many conservations, on the other hand, strongly disagree. 


  • tag
  • bear,

  • conservation,

  • Yellowstone National Park,

  • wildlife,

  • yellowstone,

  • hunting,

  • grizzly bear,

  • brown bear,

  • trophy hunting