As Idaho and Montana prepare to open a hunting season on wolves, a coalition of activist groups went to court to ask for an emergency injunction to stop the hunt.
Special legislation passed by Congress in April directed that Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections be lifted for the wolves. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) considers the population largely recovered throughout Idaho, Montana and Wyoming with more than 1,650 wolves now ranging through much of the region.
"Under state management, USFWS expects the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population will be maintained above recovery levels and no longer faces a risk of extinction," the department said in a statement.
In their injunction petition, the animal activist groups point out that U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy was clearly uncomfortable with the political process that resulted in lifting ESA protections for the wolves.
Lawmakers who approved the budget rider said a long series of lawsuits had dragged out the normal process of delisting the wolves and left ranchers and residents vulnerable to a predator whose numbers were expanding too quickly.
Idaho plans to allow wolf hunting in most parts of the state from Aug. 30 to March 31, and trapping from Nov. 15 through March 31 in parts of the state. The state has about 1,000 wolves and has promised that it won't go below 150.
Montana will launch an archery season on wolves Sept. 3 and a rifle season Sept. 15. Montana will allow the hunting of up to 220 of the state's 566 wolves.
The petition seeks to halt the debut of both hunts until the appeals court rules on the groups' petition seeking to have the budget rider held unconstitutional.
Reprinted in part from the Los Angeles Times