Laura Lundquist

(Missoula Current) Wolf advocates asked a Montana judge to halt the state’s wolf hunting and trapping season while their lawsuit against the state is being considered.

Late Thursday afternoon, attorneys for WildEarth Guardians and Project Coyote filed in Lewis and Clark County court for a temporary restraining order and injunction to stop Montana’s current wolf hunt and prevent the wolf trapping season from starting on Nov. 28.

“As of the filing of this motion, 55 wolves have died at the hands of Montana hunters, including one near the border of Yellowstone National Park. When the trapping season opens on November 28, this killing will accelerate as new dispatch methods enter the field,” attorney Rob Farris-Olsen wrote in the request.

The “new dispatch methods” include neck snares, which were mandated by the 2021 Legislature. The judge has about two weeks to consider the request before the trapping season begins.

The restraining order request comes two weeks after the two  organizations filed a lawsuit to stop the state’s wolf seasons, saying Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ current goal of killing 456 wolves is not scientifically justified. 

That would amount to killing about 40% of the estimated population, which isn’t supported by Montana’s outdated wolf management plan. They also question FWP’S methods of estimating wolf population size.

“Multiple studies document that illegal poaching increases during legal recreation hunts so we know that untold numbers of additional wolves, as well as non-target animals, have been indiscriminately killed and are not reflected in the official death toll. We need to put a halt to this season's wolf hunting and trapping seasons at least until the court can determine whether the state of Montana is in violation of its policies,” said Michelle Lute, Project Coyote wolf and carnivore conservation director.

The lawsuit also asserts that FWP has violated Montana’s constitution by not managing wolves wisely for the benefit of the public and future generations under the Public Trust Doctrine, which states that wildlife belongs to the people. 

“Wolves killed pursuant to an illegal policy, including National Park wolves, cannot be retrieved – they are dead forever. The potential for irreparable harm however may go beyond the loss of individual wolves and create permanent consequences for the entire ecosystem,” Farris-Olsen wrote in the request.

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