Hunters hoping to legally shoot a grizzly bear in Wyoming for the first time since the Ford administration might be out of luck. A federal judge has halted Yellowstone National Park-area grizzly hunts that were supposed to start Saturday morning, the AP reports. US District Judge Dana Christensen granted a 14-day restraining order after hearing arguments from tribal and environmental groups opposed to lifting federal protection of the animals. Wyoming, which last had a grizzly hunt in 1974, had issued a dozen hunters licenses to kill a total of 22 bears. Thousands had applied. A hunt has also been called off in Idaho, which issued a single hunter a license to kill a single bear.
The number of grizzlies in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming has rebounded to more than 2,000 from a low of a few hundred in 1975, when protections were introduced. Hunt critics, however, say the bears still face threats to their survival—and are considered sacred by Native American groups. "It’s essential to protecting our religious and spiritual freedoms, and treaty rights in Yellowstone,” says Blackwood Confederacy Chiefs president Stan Grier, per Reuters. "This sacred being is considered to be a deity by many tribes, not a rug." Montana—which held the last grizzly hunt in the lower 48, in 1991—had already decided not to issue licenses this year. (Read more grizzly bear stories.)