Montana officials are urging a judge to lift wolf hunting restrictions that a lawsuit filed by several environmentalist groups brought forth in October.
Earlier this month, District Court Judge Chris Abbott decided to temporarily amend the state’s recent authorization to kill 456 wolves statewide, including six wolves outside of Yellowstone.
As Abbot continues to hear the case, he lowered each hunter’s seasonal quota from 20 to five. He also decreased the number of wolves that could be killed near Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. And he completely banned neck snares during trapping season, which began Monday (Nov 28).
Gov. Greg Gianforte immediately denounced the ruling and said that Abbot was “overstepped his bounds to align with extreme activists.” The Montana Department of Fish and Wildlife agree.
The state had a chance to argue its side on Monday afternoon. And Abbot is reportedly taking the night to decide if he will keep the bans as the case continues. The judge is not expected to make a decision until Tuesday—the same day that the temporary quotas end.
The Biden Administration May Reinstate Wolves Federal Protections
Until 2011, the endangered species list gave wolves protection from all hunting. When the government decided that the population had successfully rebounded, states opened hunting seasons with imposed per-person quotas. Montana was rather conservative with its kill limits until 2021.
Once the federal government passed legislation to increase wolf hunting, environmentalist groups spoke out in fear that the Montana population, which is estimated to be 1,100, would take a drastic hit. And when the state loosened its rules, WildEarth Guardians and the Coyote Project took the matter to court.
Abbott partially sided with the groups. But he stated that “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.”
The Biden administration is considering restoring all protection for wolves. The review came after advocates petitioned that hunting laws had become too much of a threat to the animal. Abbot’s current ruling hasn’t eradicated hunting altogether. But the groups still feel hopeful that the decision was “a promising step in the right direction.”
“we will continue using all means necessary to end the senseless, politically motivated slaughter of Montana’s beloved wolves,” said Lizzy Pennock, of WildEarth Guardians.
Last winter, Montana hunters killed a total of 273 wolves, including 23 near Yellowstone. As of Monday, 69 wolves had been shot since the start of the 2022 season, which began in September.