HELENA, Mont. - A judge has ruled a small population of grizzly bears in Montana and Idaho near the Canadian border can be considered endangered even if they are not on the brink of extinction.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen's order Monday reversed the 2014 re-classification by U.S. wildlife officials for the 40-50 bears of the Cabinet-Yaak bear population under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said then that the bear population had stabilized and that its status should be "threatened" but not on a waiting list for classification as endangered.

The conservation group Alliance for the Wild Rockies sued and Christensen sided with the group.

The bears live about 300 miles from grizzlies near Yellowstone National Park that lost federal protection status in July.