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Wyoming Reauthorizes Grizzly Bear Hunt, Defies Federal Protections

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Wyoming invoked the 10th Amendment and cited a need to ‘protect the safety of its citizens … from dangerous and deadly grizzly bear encounters.’

Defying a federal judge’s 2018 order, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon last week signed a controversial bill into law authorizing the state’s game and fish commission to conduct a grizzly hunt if it deems necessary.

The bill (SF0093) immediately tasked the game and fish commission with determining whether a lottery-based hunt or interstate relocation of grizzly bears “would be beneficial for managing Wyoming’s wildlife.”

By signing the legislation, Gov. Gordon put the state squarely in opposition to federal Endangered Species Act protections upheld last year for the grizzlies. In September, Judge Dana Christensen blocked Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho from conducting the first planned grizzly hunt since 1974.

Judge Christensen’s decision overruled former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who delisted grizzly bears from federal protections in 2017 — a move Christensen called “illogical” and “simplistic.”

Governor Mark Gordon signs grizzly hunt bill
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signs SF0093 into law, reauthorizing a grizzly hunt

The bill, which received strong support from both the House and the Senate, invoked the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing states’ rights. It also claimed Judge Christensen’s decision “hinders the state of Wyoming’s ability” to manage the Yellowstone grizzly population and protect its citizens.

Wyoming Reauthorizes Grizzly Hunt

Some animal advocacy organizations immediately decried the new law, calling it “illegal.”

“Grizzly bears in Wyoming are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and hunting them is illegal under federal law,” said Erin Edge, a representative for the national conservation organization Defenders of Wildlife. “This new state law puts the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and Wyoming citizens at risk of civil and criminal penalties.”

Defenders of Wildlife pledged to take legal action if the state moved forward with a hunt.

According to the new law, the Game and Fish Commission will determine if a hunt is necessary to control Wyoming’s grizzly population. If so, a raffle would be held to issue licenses as originally planned in 2018.

However, the commission could decide instead to trap and relocate grizzlies to California or “other willing states with suitable habitat.”

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