Montana Judge Reinstates Limits on Wolf Hunting Near Yellowstone & Glacier National Parks

by Taylor Cunningham
John Morrison/Getty

A Montana judge temporarily reinstated limits on wolf hunting and trapping near Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks after several conversationalist groups argued that looser rules would harm local populations.

Last winter, state officials gave hunters permission to kill a total of 450 wolves. But the government quickly banned all hunting near Yellowstone after 23 wolves were killed.

This October, conservation groups filed a joint suit over laws the state legislature passed in 2021 that hoped to lessen the gray wolf numbers. Those laws made killing the animals easier by allowing the use of snares and upping each person’s allowed quota from five to 20 wolves. Half of those kills could come from hunting and the other half could come from trapping.

Project Coyote and WildEarth Guardians’ attorneys argued that the new rules would take a heavy toll on wolf populations and also interfere with animals on federal land, where hunting is banned.

State District Court Judge Christopher Abbott sided with the groups on Tuesday. And he ordered Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks to give hunters a limit of five wolves each. Abbot also blocked people from using snares.

The judgment takes effect immediately and remains in place until Nov. 29. However, he is set to hear more on the matter on Nov. 28.

“This is a promising step in the right direction,” said Lizzy Pennock, of WildEarth Guardians. “And we will continue using all means necessary to end the senseless, politically motivated slaughter of Montana’s beloved wolves.”

Montana Judge Will Hear More on the Matter of Wolf Hunting Later This Month

Under the new legislation last winter, 273 wolves were hunted in Montana. The total state population began at about 1,100. As it stands, this year will allow the killing of 456. The season opened in September and as of Nov. 16, a reported 56 had been shot.

The conservation groups asked Abbot to stop all wolf hunting and trapping, but he said only wanted to prevent an “acceleration” once trapping season begins on Nov. 28.

“At least some hunting activity can proceed without severe impacts on wolf populations at least long enough to afford the state an opportunity to be heard,” he wrote.

Government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns left wolves all but extinct by the 1930s. But after the species gained protections under the federal endangered species act, it rebounded and got off the list in 2011. However, many groups argue that animals should still be protected.