Outdoors

US to Seek End to Protections for Montana Bears this Fall

Wildlife officials are finalizing criteria to determine if the animals have enough habitat to shield them from extinction

BILLINGS — U.S. officials expect to release a proposal this fall that would remove federal protections for grizzly bears in northwestern Montana, home to the largest grizzly population in the Lower 48.

The plan was released Wednesday as part of the U.S. Interior Department’s regulatory agenda for coming months.

An estimated 1,000 bears occupy at least 22,000 square miles in northwestern Montana centered on Glacier National Park.

Wildlife officials are finalizing criteria to determine if the animals have enough habitat to shield them from extinction.

The Interior Department is locked in a court battle with conservationists and American Indian tribes over the lifting of protections for another group of grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park. Wyoming and Idaho are planning limited trophy hunts for those animals this fall.

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