Gray Wolves Hunters Face Injunction

By: Jennifer Hong
Published: Aug 16, 2021

As Idaho and Montana prepare to open a major hunting season on a newly recovered population among wolves, a coalition of groups went to court over the weekend to ask for an emergency injunction to stop the hunt.

“Beginning in less than three weeks, hundreds of gray wolves that should be protected as endangered species are about to be hunted and killed. Our only option is to seek an injunction to stop the illegal killing of wolves,” Mike Garrity, director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said in announcing the petition, filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Actually, the hunts are legal because special legislation passed by Congress as a rider on a must-pass appropriations bill earlier this year directed that Endangered Species Act protections be lifted for the wolves. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the population largely recovered throughout Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, with more than 1,650 wolves now ranging through much of the region.

“Under state management, the Service expects the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population will be maintained above recovery levels and no longer faces a risk of extinction,” the department said in a statement this month on an agreement that will allow the last Endangered Species Act protections for the animals to be lifted in Wyoming.

However, has the population really recovered? That has been the crux of the wave of alarm that has accompanied the move to state management. Conservationists fear that the wolf hunts will cripple a population they say is only marginally recovered and still very vulnerable.

In their injunction petition, the alliance — along with Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians — points out that U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy was clearly uncomfortable with the backdoor political process that resulted in lifting Endangered Species Act protections for the wolves.

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