Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Dana Christensen has postponed a controversial grizzly bear hunt for another two weeks, before making a decision of the legality of removing the Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List.

Tim Preso, managing attorney for the Northern Rockies office of Earthjustice, located in Bozeman, said he was encouraged by the two week extension, but believes hunting grizzly bears is in itself illegal.

“We’re happy with the decision because it means that grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region will not be killed,” said Preso. “The judge has essentially maintained the status quo without any hunting, until he can issue a final ruling on our and other challenges to the Yellowstone grizzly delisting decision, and we’re looking forward to his final decision.”

Preso reiterated some of his original arguments before Judge Christensen two weeks ago.

“We are now experiencing totally unprecedented levels of grizzly bear mortality in the Yellowstone region even without any hunting,” he said. “Bears are being killed in record numbers. In fact, 2018 is on pace to be the most lethal year to date. Bears are being killed by people as they seek out food sources that are related to meat, and that comes in the form of livestock or conflicts with hunters, and the result is dead bears.”

Preso said bears are seeking out meat because their natural food, the seeds of the white park pine have been virtually wiped out by climate change, and cutthroat trout have almost disappeared due to the introduction of lake trout into Yellowstone Lake.

“It certainly doesn’t look to us like it’s time to declare victory and remove endangered species act protections from this population when it’s suffering unprecedented mortality,” he said.

Wyoming Game and Fish officials were disappointed their hunt was delayed again, but environmental groups called the judge’s order ‘a stay of execution.’