Judge puts limits on Montana’s wolf season
(Missoula Current) A judge has granted a temporary order requiring Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to immediately reduce the number of wolves that hunters can kill and stop the use of neck snares.
On Tuesday, Lewis and Clark County judge Christopher Abbott agreed that two environmental groups provided enough of an argument against the state’s wolf management to justify a two-week temporary restraining order on Montana’s wolf season.
For the next two weeks, according to FWP, hunters can still shoot wolves, but they can kill only five wolves this season instead of 20. The order also brings back the wolf districts around Glacier and Yellowstone national parks and reinstates the kill quotas that existed in 2020: two wolves in district 110 outside Glacier Park and one wolf each in districts 313 and 316 north of Yellowstone Park.
One wolf has already been shot in 313 so it’s now closed.
Finally, trappers won’t be allowed to use snares once wolf trapping season opens and they also are limited to five wolves. The glitch is that trapping season starts on Nov. 28 and the temporary order expires the next day.
However, another hearing is scheduled for Nov. 28, when the judge will decide whether or not to replace the restraining order with a longer injunction.
Gov. Greg Gianforte, who hunts wolves, expressed displeasure with the ruling.
"The legislature makes laws, the Fish and Wildlife Commission sets rules based on both those laws and science, and FWP implements those rules," he tweeted late Tuesday. "Unfortunately, another activist judge overstepped his bounds today to align with extreme activists."
At the end of October, WildEarth Guardians and Project Coyote sued FWP and the FWP commission over the 2022 wolf season, saying the commission’s target of 456 wolves killed this season, the recently liberalized methods of killing, and questionable population monitoring broke some rules and laws.
On Nov. 11, the two groups requested a restraining order and injunction to stop or reduce the killing this season while the lawsuit made its way through the courts. This order was Abbot’s answer.
Abbott justified the restraining order, saying “that interim relief is necessary to ensure there is no acceleration of wolf kills that would impede relief at the preliminary injunction stage.”
“We collectively breathed a sigh of relief when we saw this order, knowing that Yellowstone’s wolves—and wolves across the state—will have some protections in place while we wait for their day in court,” said Lizzy Pennock, WildEarth Guardians carnivore coexistence advocate, in a release. “This is a promising step in the right direction, and we will continue using all means necessary to end the senseless, politically-motivated slaughter of Montana’s beloved wolves.”
Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at firstname.lastname@example.org.