HomeUSA newsMontana Judge Restricts Wolf Hunting Near Yellowstone Park

Montana Judge Restricts Wolf Hunting Near Yellowstone Park

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A Montana judge temporarily restricted hunting and trapping of wolves near Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and imposed stricter statewide limits on killing predators, out of concern that looser hunting rules adopted last year past in the Republican-controlled state could harm its population.

State officials authorized the kill of 450 wolves during the winter of 2021-22, but ended up shutting down the hunt near Yellowstone National Park after 23 wolves from the park died, most of them in Montana.

Last month, conservation groups sued over 2021 laws passed by the Legislature that were intended to reduce the number of gray wolves by making it easier to kill them. The laws allowed the use of traps, which some consider inhumane, and led to rules allowing people to kill up to 20 wolves each: 10 from the hunt and 10 from the traps.

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Lawyers for WildEarth Guardians and Project Coyote argued that the rules in place this winter would harm wolf populations and interfere with management of the animals on federal lands like Yellowstone, where hunting is not allowed.

State District Court Judge Christopher Abbott ordered Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Tuesday to return to a limit of five wolves killed per person. He also blocked the use of traps when the trapping season begins on November 28 and reimposed strict limits on hunting and trapping near national parks.

The Junction Butte wolf pack is seen in an aerial photo near Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, on March 21, 2019.
(National Park Service via AP, File)

The order expires on November 29, but Abbott has set a hearing on the matter for November 28 in Lewis and Clark counties.

“This is a promising step in the right direction, and we will continue to use any means necessary to end the senseless and politically motivated slaughter of Montana’s beloved wolves,” said Lizzy Pennock of WildEarth Guardians.

Montana wildlife officials said the changes ordered by Abbott would take effect immediately.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Hank Worsech said in a statement that the state has “proven that we can control wolves.”

“We will comply with the judge’s order and wait for the opportunity to defend good scientific and management strategies,” he said.

Gov. Greg Gianforte criticized the ruling in a social media post, saying the judge “overstepped his bounds to align himself with extreme activists.”

Gianforte caught and killed a Yellowstone radio-collared wolf last year on private land near the park. He later received a warning for violating state hunting rules by killing the wolf without first taking a required hunter education course.

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A total of 273 wolves were reported to have died in Montana last winter, out of a population of approximately 1,100 wolves. This year, the state authorized the killing of up to 456, including six north of Yellowstone Park. Abbott’s order narrows that down to two wolves out of the park.

As of Wednesday, hunters had killed 56 wolves since the season began in September.

The judge said he wanted to prevent an “acceleration” of wolf kills as the catching season begins. But he rejected a request by conservation groups to stop all hunting and trapping of wolves.

“At least some hunting activities can continue without severe impacts on wolf populations at least long enough for the state to have a chance to be heard,” Abbott wrote.

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Wolves were exterminated in most of the US in the 1930s under government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns. They were reintroduced from Canada to the Rocky Mountains of the northern US in the 1990s and have recovered in areas of the Great Lakes.

Wilderness areas in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have become strongholds for wolf populations, and wolves were removed from the federal endangered species list in the region in 2011. That helped fuel the species’ expansion into recent years in parts of Oregon, Washington state and California.

Montana and Idaho relaxed their wolf hunting rules at the urging of hunters and ranchers who wanted fewer wolves on the landscape.

Last year, advocates petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to restore endangered protections for wolves in the western US. The Biden administration said in a preliminary finding last September that protections for wolves may need to be reinstated because new laws in Idaho and Montana pose a potential threat. wolves throughout the region.

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