Published Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 | 10:16 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 | 10:17 a.m.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal officials are delaying their decision on whether to lift protections for more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park and allow hunting.
The delay comes amid opposition from dozens of American Indian tribes and conservation groups that say hunts could reverse the grizzly's four-decade recovery.
Officials had planned to finalize the proposal to turn jurisdiction on grizzlies over to state wildlife agencies by the end of 2016.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director Michael Thabault (TAH'-boh) said it could take the agency another six months to finish reviewing 650,000 public comments.
More than 100 Yellowstone-area grizzlies have been killed in the past two years, often by wildlife managers following attacks on livestock and occasionally during run-ins with hunters.
Thabault says the death rate is sustainable given the size of the population.