Environmental groups today went to court to stop wolf hunts in Idaho, where big-game rifle hunting is just underway, and Montana, where the season begins next week.
The motion for an emergency injunction seeks a decision in the next 21 days.
According to the conservation group WildEarth Guardians, environmentalists behind the legal challenge are alarmed by the two states’ issuance of more than 36,000 licenses to hunt wolves this year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the two states have fewer than 1,271 wolves.
WildEarth Guardians says dozens of wolves already have been killed during Idaho and Montana’s early hunting season for archery hunters, muzzle-loaded gun hunters, backcountry hunters and trappers.
The pursuit of an emergency ruling to stop rifle hunting in the two Rocky Mountain states comes against the backdrop of a longer effort to overturn a decision to allow the practice with regard to gray wolves. The predator was reintroduced in the U.S. a little more than a decade ago. This year Congress ordered its removal from the federal list of endangered species — in defiance of earlier court rulings.
A U.S. District Court ruling upheld that congressional action, which resulted in lifting federal endangered-species protection for more than 1,300 wolves in the region. The same environmental groups behind today’s emergency injunction filing have challenged the district court ruling to the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals.
Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said his group and others seeking the injunction have asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule some time before the already scheduled Nov. 8 hearing on their legal challenge. He said the imminence of rifle-hunting season should compel the courts to act quickly.
“You’re about to have 37,000 people with high-powered rifles and long-range scopes trying to shoot the 1,000 or so remaining wolves in Monana and Idaho,” Garrity said.
If the court grants the injunction, the hunting season stops until the court rules on the appeal. So far hunters have killed 60 wolves in Idaho since the season began in August.