Organizations Team Up in the Wake of a Severed Mountain Lion Foot Found in a Trap

Missoula, Mont. (April 14, 2015) – An unlikely alliance between the Bitterroot Houndsmen Association, Footloose Montana, and In Defense of Animals is calling on Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) for more accountability in the management of mountain lions in the Big Sky State after the gruesome and horrific discovery of a severed mountain lions limb in a foothold trap. The alliance is seeking a reduction in the overall quota of mountain lions in the Bitterroot Valley, by counting trap-related injuries and deaths toward the overall hunting quota, and by holding trappers accountable.

The severed mountain lion foot was discovered around March 24 by a resident in the Bitterroot Valley. He reported deep claw marks on a nearby tree, indicating that the estimated four-year-old male lion was desperately trying to seek shelter and escape the source of pain – a foothold trap set for wolves. Thanks to recreational and commercial trapping, this mountain lion is likely dead now, either succumbing to starvation, attack by other carnivores, shock, or a painful infection of the severed limb.

The illegally set trap had no identification tag attached to it, and was placed outside the official wolf trapping season, which ended on February 28.
According to Anja Heister with In Defense of Animals, “At least 15 mountain lions have been reported to FWP as caught in traps specifically set for wolves in addition to other species over the course of two trapping seasons, between 2012 and 2014. Yet, these tragic trapping-related injuries and mortalities do not count toward the overall quota for mountain lions. They are also considered merely “incidental” and go unpunished.”

The FWP Commission meets this Wednesday, April 15 to deliberate the quota for the 2015 mountain lion hunting season and we strongly encourage them to adopt the inclusion of incidental mortalities. “There is no question that the mortality of mountain lions exceeds what the Commission allows,” said Cal Ruark, former president of the Bitterroot Houndsmen Association. “It is time to reconcile the two numbers and reduce the quota, as well as acknowledging so-called “non-target incidents” as what they are – deaths of animals, which, at a very minimum, need to be recognized and counted.”

The Commission must be empowered and do the right thing as a result of this recent disturbing discovery. The maiming and likely subsequent death of this mountain lion is not an isolated incident and the time has come to make bold changes and offer dynamic solutions in order to prevent further animals from suffering the same horrific fate.

Chewed-off Canadian lynx foot--another trapping victim.  Photo by Jim Robertson

Chewed-off Canadian lynx foot–another trapping victim. Photo by Jim Robertson

Cougar Chews Off Foot to Escape Wolf Trap

Photo Jim Robertson

Photo Jim Robertson

I’ve had more than my share of heart-wrenching experiences with the gruesome evils of trapping. On a walk near our home in Eastern Washington, my dog stepped into a leg-hold trap that clamped down onto his front paw, prying his toes apart. He cried out in terror and frantically tried to shake it off, biting at the trap, at his paw, and at me as I fought to open the mindless steel jaws. The trap continued to cut deeper into his tender flesh and my efforts caused him even more pain. Finally, after many harrowing minutes, I was able to loosen the torture device enough for him to pull his foot free.  

Another dog I freed was caught in two leg-hold traps. One was latched onto her front leg, while the second gripped her hind leg, forcing her to remain standing for untold agonizing hours. Judging by how fatigued and dehydrated she was, she had been stuck there for several days. The sinister traps caused so much damage that a vet had to amputate one of her injured legs.  

With no other hope of escape and feeling vulnerable to anyone that comes along, many trapped animals resort to amputating their own leg. Trappers callously label this grim act of despair “wring-off”. Truly, freedom is precious to any animal desperate enough to take this extreme step. But if they don’t bleed to death or die from infection, they spend the rest of their lives crippled and quite possibly unable to keep up with a demanding life in the wild. Unlike the fictional character “Little Big Man,” who was distraught to the brink of suicide when he found that an animal had chewed off its leg to escape one of his traps, most trappers who find a wring-off are indifferent to the suffering they caused as they begrudgingly pitch the chewed-off limb and reset their trap.   

While I was camped near Bowron Lakes Provincial Park in B.C., Canada, in late March, my dog found just such a discarded limb–the front leg of a trapped lynx. In what has to be one of the more deceitful abuses of trust ever, free roaming animals– safely protected within the arbitrary boundaries of parks– lose all such protection and are deemed “fair game” for trapping as soon as they step across an invisible dividing line. Trappers consider the lands adjoining parks the most “productive” and will pay tens of thousands of dollars for permits to run trap-lines in those areas. I’ve had the displeasure of seeing three-legged coyotes near the North Cascades National Park, and within the Grand Tetons National Park.  

Sidestepping the indisputable cruelty issue, pro-trapping factions try to perpetuate the myth that trapping is sustainable. But time and again entire populations of “furbearers” are completely trapped out of an area, often within a single season. The winter after I found wolf tracks in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, all seven members of a pack who had found a niche in and around that preserve were killed–permissibly “harvested”– by trappers. Though wolves are extinct or endangered in most of the U.S., 1,500 are legally trapped in Alaska each year.

The preceding was excerpt from the book Exposing the Big Game,

http://www.earth-books.net/books/exposing-the-big-game

No animal should EVER go through the evil of trapping. And yet, in Montana, the Missoulian just reported that a mountain lion just got caught in a wolf trap: Mountain lion paw in wolf trap upsets Darby ex-houndsman

http://missoulian.com/news/local/mountain-lion-paw-in-wolf-trap-upsets-darby-ex-houndsman/article_1e1f05bc-0ccf-5603-8882-45982cd49763.html

April 11, 2015 8:00 am  •  by

HAMILTON – A mountain lion paw found torn off in a wolf trap has a former houndsman from Darby asking for change in the way the state manages the predator.

A little over two weeks ago, a friend of Cal Ruark’s dropped off the trap with the severed lion paw in it.

Ruark – a former president of the Bitterroot Houndsmen Association and now a mountain lion advocate – said his friend was antler hunting in the Reimel Creek area, east of the Sula Ranger District, when he made the gruesome find.

The man told Ruark there were deep claw marks in a tree near the location of the trap.

“He told me the trees were all tore to hell,” Ruark said. “The drag on the trap was hung up on a tree and there were claw marks on the trees where the lion had stood up on its back legs and tried to climb.”

Ruark is sure the mountain lion didn’t survive.

“It might have been able to get along for a little while, but it’s dead now,” he said. “It can’t hunt on three legs.”

Every year, mountain lions die after being caught in traps set for wolves or other furbearers.

Under the current rules, those dead lions are not considered under the quota system that Fish, Wildlife and Parks uses to manage mountain lion numbers.

Ruark believes that needs to change. He will take that request before the Fish and Wildlife Commission at its regular meeting this month.

***

KC York of Hamilton is leading an effort place a referendum on the ballot that could ban all trapping on public lands.

York said between October 2013 and February 2015, 32 mountain lions were captured in traps set for furbearers other than wolves. State records showed that 21 died, six suffered some type of damage to their paws, but were released and another five were set free unharmed.

“So 84 percent of those mountain lions captured in non-wolf sets were either dead or injured,” York said. “Only one of those trappings was determined to be illegal.”

In the two years that wolf trapping has been legal in Montana, York said state FWP records show that 16 mountain lions were caught in traps set for wolves. Five of those lions died.

York said 96 percent of the trappings were considered legal.

“You can’t legally trap a mountain lion in Montana,” she said. “These trappings are considered incidental. It goes with the territory of trapping in this state.”

Anja Heister, co-founder of Footloose Montana, said no one knows for sure how often a mountain lion loses a paw or toes to a trap.

“It was a horrific sight,” Heister said about the lion’s paw in the trap. “This was an incident that was actually discovered. No one knows for sure how often it happens. Trappers have a term for it when an animal loses a foot or a toe. They call it twist off or ring off.”

***

The Ravalli Republic contacted Montana Trapping Association president Toby Walrath of Corvallis for a comment on this story. Walrath said he would either provide a written comment or a phone contact for someone else in the organization Thursday night. By Friday’s end, the newspaper had received neither.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional wildlife manager Mike Thompson said all he could say about the issue at this point is that it was being investigated.

Ruark said he wants people to know about this.

“There are a lot of people who should be angry about this lion caught in a wolf trap,” Ruark said. “Trappers should be mad because it makes them look bad. Outfitters should be thoroughly angry because they get $5,000 a pop from their clients to kill one and now there’s one less to hunt. The fact that it’s not counted toward the quota should make local houndsmen angry, too. Everyone involved should be upset.

“But unless there’s a consequence, it’s only going to get worse,” he said. “It’s not right to ignore it when a mountain lion dies.”

If someone put all the mountain lions that died after being trapped in a pile and took a photograph, Ruark said people would pay attention.

“From my perspective, these incidental kills should be counted,” he said.

Bald Eagle Was Found In A Trap

This Bald Eagle Was Found In A Trap. Now She’s Finally Flying Free.


A female bald eagle has been released back into the wild, a month after being found stuck in a leg trap and suffering from elevated lead levels.



courtesy Jordan Spyke

Jordan Spyke, assistant director of the Montana Raptor Conservation Center (MRCC), told The Huffington Post that bald eagles can easily be lured by baited traps as they scavenge for food on the ground.

Fortunately, someone in Fort Belknap, Montana found the bird in the trap before she starved to death. On March 2, she became “Patient 14-15″ at MRCC.

“We don’t name any of our birds,” Spyke explained. “We don’t want to get attached to them or anything like that.”

Blood tests revealed that this bald eagle had elevated lead levels, likely from eating spent shot left by hunters. The trap had cut off circulation to her foot, so her toe had to be amputated. A local vet performed the surgery.

eagle surgery

Spyke and his team also treated the bird to remove the lead from her system. She was given flight therapy in their customized flight barn, the only such facility in Montana.

After a month of careful treatment, she was ready to return to the wild.

On April 1, the MRCC team put the eagle into a large crate and loaded her into their “raptor van” for the ride to the Headwaters National Park. As volunteers held the crate door open, the eagle’s eyes slowly adjusted to the light. The spectators made her nervous, they said, but she flew out and was on her way.

Spyke said releasing the bird after the “double whammy” of an amputation and lead poisoning “feels pretty great.” He said the eagle seemed happy to stretch her nearly 8-foot wingspan, too.

“It flew great,” Spyke recalls. “It came up with wings open, got the wind, and barreled out of there.”

MRCC treats about 180 raptors a year, Spyke said, many for severe injuries from gunshots, electrocution and car collisions. The center is able to rehabilitate and release about 40 percent of its patients.

After nearly disappearing in the 1960s, the American Bald Eagle population has returned to healthy levels thanks to decades of conservation efforts. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife service removed them from the endangered species

Urgent: Tell Montana Legislators to Reject Bill to Protect Fur Trapping Interests

http://ida.convio.net/site/MessageViewer?dlv_id=37281&em_id=36182.0&printer_friendly=1

In Defense of Animals

On April 7, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) House Committee will vote on SB 334, and your voice is urgently needed to defeat this detrimental and deceptive bill aimed at furthering the interests of the Montana’s recreational and commercial trappers and fur dealers.

SB 334 seeks to include furbearing animals under the term “game” animal. This means that the word ‘trapping’would no longer be used, and trapping is then completely subsumed under “hunting” in a sneaky effort to hide a cruel and unnecessary activity that is generally abhorred by the public.

SB 334 would also add three animal species, currently categorized as non-game species—badgers, raccoons and red foxes—to species currently classified as “predators”, so that a fur dealer in Montana could then buy and sell the pelts from these species.

SB 334 was introduced by Rep. Jennifer Fielder, who is on the board of the Sanders County Resource Council, which serves as a front group for militia activity, and she is a strong proponent of transferring federally managed public lands to the state so that privatization and exploitation can ensue. Her husband, Paul Fielder, is a district director of the Montana Trapper Association (MTA), who is heavily lobbying for this bill.

Click here to learn more and take action.

End Bobcat Trapping in California

https://takeaction.takepart.com/actions/end-bobcat-trapping-in-california

(Photo:mlorenzphotography/Getty Images)

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

About the Letter

Over the past few years, a rising demand for bobcat pelts in China and Russia has driven up fur prices and caused a boom in bobcat trapping in California. As a result, trappers have been targeting the boundaries of national parks, luring the cats out of these safe havens and into their deadly snares and cages. The California legislature passed the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 to protect our parks and wildlife from such commercial exploits. Yet the problem continues because trapping continues in other parts of the state and because the law has yet to be truly enforced.

The California Fish and Game Commission is tasked with this rule making, and one option it is now seriously considering is a statewide ban on all bobcat trapping. But the commission will only choose that option if it hears loud and clear that we value our wildlife alive—not trapped, killed, skinned, and exported to be worn as fur coats in Moscow or Beijing.

Take action—urge the commission to protect these ecologically important California natives by banning all bobcat trapping throughout the state.

https://takeaction.takepart.com/actions/end-bobcat-trapping-in-california

Save Dogs from the evil of Traps

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ACTION ALERT: Do you have a story about a dog caught in a trap or snare even if it was not your dog? Many animals, including dogs, are unintentionally brutally killed or injured in snares. Contact Governor Dayton, share your story, ask him to eliminate wildlife snaring.

Gov. Dayton phone #: 651-201-3400, toll-free: 800-657-3717
Gov. Dayton contact form: http://bit.ly/1EDwQgh

Please share your story with us. It may be used to pass legislation. Email: info@howlingforwolves.org

_______________________________

Bill in Legislature tries to save dogs from accidental trappings

 by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune

  • March 18, 2015 – 10:27 AM

Dogs continue to be trap victims, and a controversial bill in the Legislature aims to change that

Rosie Nordby knew something was wrong when she stepped outside her rural Pequot Lakes home Nov. 29 to retrieve the family’s three dogs, and Lily, a chocolate Lab with a two-week-old litter of eight puppies, was missing.

“It was like she just disappeared,” Nordby recalled this week.

She and her husband, Daren, and three kids searched, called neighbors and then authorities, fearing their hunting dog had been stolen. That night, the family hand-fed Lily’s puppies to keep them alive.

Rosie Nordby found Lily the next day, dead in a body-gripping trap set in a ditch about 750 feet from her family’s house.

“I was heartbroken,” she said. “I’m glad it was me who found her and not my kids. It was traumatic.”

Lily was one of at least 34 dogs caught accidentally in traps in Minnesota last year and among five that were killed. Since 2012, the Department of Natural Resources says 75 dogs have been caught in traps and snares, and 17 died. A group pushing for trapping restrictions claims at least 25 dogs have been killed during that time.

The issue, which gained attention in 2012 when the Legislature tightened some trapping restrictions in response to dog deaths, is again being scrutinized. A bill was introduced this session that further stiffens trapping regulations to reduce or eliminate accidental dog deaths.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration has testified in support of the measure.

Supporters say the changes made three years ago haven’t stopped the accidental trapping of dogs.

“We need to do something so our pets don’t get killed anymore,” said Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, author of the bill.

Hoffman’s bill would require body-gripping traps to be either completely submerged in water or have enclosures with smaller openings and larger recesses, or be placed at least 5 feet above ground. These methods would greatly reduce the chances of a dog being accidentally trapped, he said.

The Minnesota Trappers Association and the Minnesota Forest Zone Trappers Association both oppose the measure, saying the proposals would greatly limit the effectiveness of trappers.

“Trappers want this issue to go away more than anyone,” Gary Leistico, an attorney representing the Minnesota Trappers Association, testified Tuesday at a Senate hearing in St. Paul. “We’ll continue to work with everyone, but this bill … does much more than what it’s claimed to do. It would not allow meaningful trapping in Minnesota.”

The Minnesota Forest Zone Trappers Association also opposes the bill, as does Michael Tucker, who runs a wildlife removal service and is a member of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association. Tucker told legislators the bill would severely limit the ability of businesses like his to remove problem animals.

Trappers reduce predators of ground-nesting game birds, such as raccoons, skunks, mink, fox and coyotes, the groups say.

And a section in Hoffman’s bill requiring body-gripping traps used near water to be fully submerged would greatly reduce the taking of beavers, who cause damage to culverts and roads around the northern half the state, opponents say.

 

“You’re taking away the most effective way to trap beaver,” said Randy Goldenman of Zimmerman, who traps beaver for Sherburne County. “I catch up to 200 a year.”

Hoffman says his bill isn’t meant to be anti-trapping and wouldn’t inhibit trapping. “It will just make it safer for dogs and our pets,” he said.

The issue is an emotional one and drew impassioned testimony. Among those testifying in support was a handler for a search-and-rescue dog, the executive director of a Cloquet animal shelter that took in a dog injured in a trap and several hunters.

Loren Waalkens of Lake City, whose beagle, Frisbee, was caught in a body-grip trap in 2011, pleaded with senators to tighten regulations. Though he saved his dog with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, he said Frisbee now has breathing problems related to the incident.

And Waalkens said when he hunts rabbits he’s constantly concerned his dogs will encounter another trap. “It’s taken the joy of hunting from me,” he said. “Please do something about this.”

Kurt Boerner, an upland bird hunter from Wayzata, said his English setter had a close encounter with a trap, and since then he’s been on a quest to tighten trapping laws. He’s quit hunting when trapping season begins and told outstate friends not to come to Minnesota to hunt during trapping season.

“The problem isn’t trappers, it’s the regulations,” he testified.

Tim McCauley of Fridley is a board member of Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN, which has pushed for tighter trapping laws, too. He no longer hunts public lands in Minnesota during the trapping season, either, for fear of losing a dog.

“I won’t take the risk,” he said in an interview. “It would ruin my life if I lost my dog.”

Restrictions passed in 2012 require trappers to use a 7-inch overhang when using baited body-gripping traps on public lands. The overhang is intended to prevent dogs from sticking their heads in the trap to reach the bait.

Trapping proponents say the restriction is working. But the DNR reports that since 2012, 15 dogs have been trapped in boxes with overhangs.

Rosie Nordby’s dog was caught in a body-grip trap recessed in a box. The trap was recessed 6 inches, meaning it wasn’t legal. Two of the five dog deaths in 2014 were in illegally set traps.

Some, including DNR officials, say even if the recess had been a legal 7 inches, it probably wouldn’t have saved Lily because of the trap’s location. Meanwhile, the trapper was cited.

“The fine was a whopping $100,” Nordby said.

We can live with wolves in the wild

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/opinion/national-view/3660405-response-we-can-live-wolves-wild

by  Chris Albert

As much as I appreciated Sandy Updyke’s Jan. 14 column headlined, “City people don’t understand wolves” — it was refreshing to read something so thoughtful on this topic — I did have some disagreements.

As a veterinarian, I dispute her claim that foothold traps are “harmless.” Ischemia, or the lack of blood supply, is extremely painful. Depending on how long an animal is caught in a trap and depending on the trap’s tension, a foot may be damaged beyond repair. A rubber band around your finger for long enough would produce the same kind of damage (don’t try it).

Updyke also didn’t address the fear that animals face when exposed and unable to retreat or the sometimes-brutal methods of dispatch. Not to mention the fragmentation that happens to a family when a member of a social species like a wolf is taken. Traps are most certainly not harmless.

As for dogs and wolves, by far the most conflict occurs when hunting dogs are intentionally put in harm’s way. I don’t live in wolf country but have friends with pets who do. There are sensible guidelines that keep dogs safe: Don’t leave dogs outside alone, check an area with lights before sending a dog out and don’t leave out food or other attractants.

I wholeheartedly concurred that wolves are not deities or villains and that their hunting strategy is not pretty. Though why does the latter even matter? I even concur that people need to be able to shoot a wolf if it is imminently harming them or their animal.

That doesn’t seem to be what happens, though. It seems that people filled with hatred and a desire to inflict the most harm possible are turned loose on wolves to maximize destruction.

Wolf advisory boards have precious few advocates for wolves. The impact of killing a single wolf on that wolf’s family rarely if ever is considered by such boards.

We can live with wolves and other large carnivores. We can have them safely in our forests. Why would we want to? Because we will be much richer for it. It’s not only city folk who feel this way; there are plenty of people living where wolves do who want wolves free from hunting and trapping and killed only when it is truly unavoidable.

Chris Albert of Lebanon Junction, Ky., is a doctor of veterinary medicine.

copyrighted Hayden wolf walking

Some MT Wolf Hunt/Trap Stats

copyrighted wolf in river

MT: Lincoln County bagging fair share of wolves

 Justin Steck
The Western News

Ninety-six wolves have been taken, with eight harvested by trapping, during Montana’s wolf hunting and trapping season.

In region one, which encompasses Lincoln County, 30 wolves have been taken by hunting and two have been trapped. Those numbers were from John Fraley at Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks office in Kalispell.

Montana wolf trapping season got underway on Dec. 15 and will run until Feb 28. Archery season for wolves ran from Sept. 6-14, and general rifle season began Sept.15 and continues until Mar. 15.

Local taxidermist Gerry Mercer said trapping season starts to take-off when the snow falls and it starts to get cold, which should be soon. Last year he had a dozen wolves come through his shop.

According to 2013 numbers from Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks, the total number of wolves taken during the season was 230, 143 were hunted and 87 trapped.

Wolf Management Units 100 and 101, which include Lincoln County and a portion of Flathead County, were the areas with the highest numbers of harvested wolves in the state. The number of wolves taken in those two areas was 28 in 100 and 38 in 101.

Last year 24,479 wolf licenses were issued, 22,169 of those were to Montana residents.

Senate Bill 200 is a new bill that allows for landowners in Wolf Management Units 200, 400, 310 and 390 to take up to 100 wolves total that may potentially be a threat to humans, livestock or dogs. The quota will be examined in four 25-wolf increments throughout the year, with increases needing to be approved by Fish Wildlife & Parks.

The first fair chase wolf hunting season in Montana was 2009. Before then, no rules existed to regulate the number or means by which wolves could be taken. That year 60 wolves were taken during the season lasting from Oct. 25 to Nov. 15.

In 2011, the number of wolves harvested rose to 166. The total number of wolves killed during the 2012 season fell to 128.

Court challenges barred the 2010 wolf hunting season.

Source

New WDFW Pick is Former Idaho Gun-Nut

The following is an open letter by an anonymous reader…

The Fish and Wildlife Commission’s recent choice for the Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is an inappropriate choice for Washington.

The new director is from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, which is known for its brutal archaic wildlife management style.  They support many practices, which have been banned here by state initiatives because of the cruelty involved.  These practices include bear baiting, hounding, and the use of steel-jaw traps.  They promote the killing of wolves in all kinds of despicable ways and put little emphasis on protecting endangered species.

The primary mandate for WDFW is to protect, preserve, and perpetuate our state’s wildlife.  The Commission’s choice of director is inconsistent with this mandate and is ill suited for our state.  I fear for the future of our wildlife.

Featured Image -- 7624

Some gray wolves to be returned to endangered list

copyrighted wolf in water

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday threw out an Obama administration decision to remove gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered species list — a decision that will ban further wolf hunting and trapping in three states.

The order affects wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where the combined population is estimated at around 3,700. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped federal protections from those wolves in 2012 and handed over management to the states.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., ruled Friday the removal was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated the federal Endangered Species Act.

Unless overturned, her decision will block the states from scheduling additional hunting and trapping seasons for the predators. All three have had at least one hunting season since protections were lifted, while Minnesota and Wisconsin also have allowed trapping. More than 1,500 Great Lakes wolves have been killed, said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, one of several groups whose lawsuit prompted Howell’s ruling.

“We are pleased that the court has recognized that the basis for the delisting decision was flawed, and would stop wolf recovery in its tracks,” Lovvorn said.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin Shire said the agency was disappointed and would confer with the U.S. Department of Justice and the states about whether to appeal.

“The science clearly shows that wolves are recovered in the Great Lakes region, and we believe the Great Lakes states have clearly demonstrated their ability to effectively manage their wolf populations,” Shire said. “This is a significant step backward.”

State officials acknowledged being caught by surprise and said they would study the judge’s 111-page opinion before deciding what to do next.

“It’s an unusual turn of events,” said Tom Landwehr, Minnesota’s natural resources commissioner.

The ruling is the latest twist in more than a decade of court battles over the gray wolf, which has made a strong recovery after being shot, poisoned and trapped into near-extermination in the lower 48 states in the last century. Only a remnant pocket in northern Minnesota remained when the species was added to the federal endangered list in 1974.

The wolf is now well-established in the western Great Lakes and in the Northern Rockies, where the minimum population is estimated at around 1,700.

Animal protection advocates repeatedly have sued over federal efforts to drop federal protections in both regions, arguing that the wolf’s situation remains precarious. Meanwhile, ranchers and farmers complain of heavy financial losses from wolf attacks on livestock.

A judge in September restored endangered status to wolves in Wyoming, although those in Montana and Idaho remain off the list. The Fish and Wildlife Service is nearing a final decision on whether to lift protections across the remainder of the lower 48 states, except for a fledgling population of Mexican gray wolves in the desert Southwest.

In her opinion, Howell acknowledged the issue inspires passions on all sides but said the administration’s “practical policy reasons” for its action in the Great Lakes region don’t trump the requirements of the federal law, which “offers the broadest possible protections for endangered species by design.”

“This law reflects the commitment by the United States to act as a responsible steward of the Earth’s wildlife, even when such stewardship is inconvenient or difficult for the localities where an endangered or threatened species resides,” Howell wrote.

The ruling came too late to halt this fall’s hunting and trapping seasons. They have concluded in Minnesota, where 272 wolves were killed, and Wisconsin, where the total was 154.

Michigan’s only hunt was in 2013, when 22 wolves were taken. During the November election, voters rejected two pro-hunting laws approved by the Legislature. But a third remains on the books, and regulators had been expected to consider scheduling another hunt next year.

Minnesota and Wisconsin officials warned residents that with wolves classified as endangered once again, it’s no longer legal to shoot those preying on livestock or pets. Wolves can be killed only if threatening human life,

More: http://news.yahoo.com/great-lakes-wolves-ordered-returned-endangered-list-212002962.html