Situation Update: Judge lets wolf season resume near Yellowstone

Judge lets wolf season resume near Yellowstone

By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press
Updated 7:42 pm, Wednesday, January 2, 2013
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wolf hunting and trapping can resume near Yellowstone National Park after a Montana judge on Wednesday blocked the state from shutting down the practice over concerns that too many animals used in research were being killed.

The restraining order from Judge Nels Swandal allows hunting and trapping to resume in areas east and west of the town of Gardiner in Park County.

State officials closed the gray wolf season in those areas on Dec. 10. That came after several wolves collared for scientific research were killed, drawing complaints from wildlife advocates.

The move prompted a lawsuit from sporting groups and a state lawmaker from Park County, Rep. Alan Redfield, who said the public was not given enough chance to weigh in on the closures.

In his order, Swandal sided with the plaintiffs. He said the lack of public notice appeared to violate the Montana Constitution and threatened to deprive the public of the legal right to harvest wolves.

He ordered the state “to immediately reinstitute and allow hunting and trapping of wolves in all areas of Park County.”

A Jan. 14 hearing was scheduled in the case. The other plaintiffs are Citizens for Balanced Use, Big Game Forever, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association and Montana Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife.

A spokesman for the state, Ron Aasheim, said Montana wildlife commissioners followed proper public notice requirements before issuing the closures.

Wildlife advocate Marc Cooke said the lawsuit over the 60-square-mile closure area revealed the “irrational hatred” of some hunting and trapping supporters.

“You have 145,000 square miles in Montana, and they’re fighting over a measly 60 square miles of land that is critical habitat for these animals. To me, it’s very vindictive,” he said.

Montana had an estimated 650 wolves at the end of 2011. Through Wednesday hunters reported killing 103 of the animals and trappers had killed at least 30 more.

State officials lifted quotas on wolves across most of Montana this spring in hopes of decreasing a predator population blamed for livestock attacks and driving down elk numbers in some areas.

But park officials said at least seven Yellowstone wolves — including five wearing tracking collars — were shot by hunters in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Also shot were four collared wolves originally from the park but now living outside it. Three more shot in the vicinity of the park had unknown origins and were not wearing collars, park officials said.

The current season marks Montana’s first experience with wolf trapping since the animals lost their endangered species protections last year under an order from Congress.

Wolf hunting has also been contentious in Wyoming this season. The state took over wolf management from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Oct. 1, and hunters killed 43 wolves out of a 52-animal quota before Wyoming’s hunt ended Dec. 31.

Coalitions of environmental groups have filed federal lawsuits, now pending in Washington, D.C., and Denver, seeking to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclaim wolf management from Wyoming.

The groups say they’re concerned that Wyoming’s wolf management plan won’t ensure long term survival of the species, which the federal government reintroduced into Yellowstone in the mid-1990s.

Wolves in Wyoming are classified as unprotected predators that may be shot on sight in most of the state. They’re managed as trophy game animals in a flexible trophy hunting zone on the outskirts of Yellowstone.

Idaho also allows hunting and trapping of wolves, although it allows a maximum of 30 animals a year to be taken in a zone just outside Yellowstone. Through Wednesday, hunters and trappers in Idaho reported killing 154 wolves statewide, including 11 near Yellowstone.

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Well, there’s the facts and figures according to the Associated Press. I don’t know what to say. This time I’m in agreement with Marc Cooke; these hunting groups and some Montana state reps have an “irrational hatered” of wolves. As I said in an earlier post, wolf hunting should be considered a hate crime.

Time to put our full support behind the coalitions of environmental groups who’ve filed federal lawsuits seeking to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take back wolf management from Wyoming. Come to think of it, Montana and Idaho need to be included in that lawsuit…

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

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9 thoughts on “Situation Update: Judge lets wolf season resume near Yellowstone

  1. What kind of sick person is it, that wants to torture, maim, murder and then call that a trophy. What kind of cold blooded, egocentric sadist takes pleasure in this. If these scum did it to humans what they so clearly enjoy with wolves, they would be called serial killers. The make up and desires are exactly the same. It’s only the prey that’s different. Get rid of your serial killers(hunters). They have no place in a civilised society, unless of course you’re happy for the rest of the world to view you as cowards to these monsters!

  2. How is it that a lawsuit from people like me doesn’t do jack, but a lawsuit from the ill-bred gets approved overnight? Maybe judge Swandal has a rifle shoved up his ass by Alan Redfield. Inside job as always with this fine country called the US. And why complain about “the public was not given enough chance to weigh in on the closures.” when most people don’t know what is happening. I say F Alan Redfield!

  3. Reblogged this on Happy Tails and Tales Blog and commented:
    I am still just so sick about how many people can outwardly hate wolves. If I ever have kids, I fear that my favorite animal on earth will not be on the planet for them to see. We will have to teach them about wolves like we learn about dinosaurs, as they too are extinct. :/

    • I sometimes find myself fantasising about hunting down wolves and giving them a BIG HUG and an apology but that is unlikely to actually happen.

  4. Jim, in the Wildlife News there has been some discussion – sorry I don’t have links or otherwise handy – but this judge will be off the bench in a very short time to be replaced by another. According to the blog posters, she was in practice with this judge. There is hope, but the general feeling isn’t terribly optimistic at this point.
    Like our other friends here, I, too, am appalled by this judge giving the killers that “weigh-in” opportunity. The more I read about the assault on wildlife, the more surreal it becomes. It is a travesty. I’m so sick of signing letters, petitions, comments to articles, letters to lawmakers. Soon most states will have called off the hunts for this season. Then what? It’s time some of that “viewer” money gets funneled where it belongs. Meanwhile, I can think of nothing better than to keep financially supporting some of the better organizations that continue to file law suits. Any other suggestions?

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