Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lawsuit to stop wolf hunt denied

Organizations intend to file case again


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

A member of the former Phantom Hill wolf pack takes a rest in Golden Eagle subdivision. Photo by Curtis Tidwell

A request for an emergency injunction to stop wolf hunting in Idaho and Montana was denied on Tuesday by the 9th District Court of Appeals in Missoula, Mont.

Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians filed the request Monday, just days before Montana's wolf rifle season was set to begin. The request was based on a pending appeal of District Judge Donald Molloy's decision upholding a budget rider passed by both houses of Congress in May that removed Rocky Mountain wolves from federal protection.

Mike Garrity, executive director for the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said the groups intend to file another request after oral arguments on the appeal are heard Nov. 8.

"The bad news is, they denied it. The good news is, we can try again," Garrity said. "We're just disappointed that the hunting and trapping of wolves in Idaho can continue for another three weeks."

The same three groups sued for an injunction to stop all wolf hunts in August, but the case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning the groups could file again.

Garrity said in a press release that the organizations filed a second suit because they were concerned about the number of wolves killed already this season and the number of tags that have been sold.

"Seventeen wolves have already been killed during Montana's early archery wolf hunting season and 60 wolves in Idaho's wolf hunting season," Garrity said. "The only way to stop this senseless, politically driven wolf slaughter is to seek an emergency injunction."

According to Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesman Niels Nokkentved, the department sold 26,589 wolf tags as of Oct. 17. About 11,400 tags were sold in Montana, causing Garrity to worry about the wolf-hunter ratio.

"[Over] 37,000 humans armed with high-powered rifles and long-range scopes will now be trying to kill the approximately 1,000 wolves remaining in Montana and Idaho," Garrity said. "Our only option is to seek an immediate halt to what we believe is the illegal killing of wolves."

Nokkentved said that as hunters in Idaho are allowed to purchase two tags per calendar year, the number of tags purchased does not directly match the number of wolf hunters. Many hunters simply buy a tag in case they run into a wolf while hunting deer or elk, he added, not necessarily because they are seeking the animals out.

Most recent counts from the department place the estimate of wolves in Idaho alone at more than 1,000, as a December 2010 estimate of 750 wolves would not include this spring's pups.

The alliance's goal, Garrity said, is to stop hunters from pursuing wolves in any fashion.

"We're doing all we can to hold back the tide of wolf-killing in Montana, Idaho and elsewhere in the Northern Rockies," he said.

__________________________________________________

Wood River Wolf Project wraps up season

The Wood River Wolf Project finished its 2011 season last week with a final summary meeting that lauded the success of the project. "[It was] another great year with less than a half dozen sheep lost out of thousands," said John Motsinger, spokesman for Defenders of Wildlife, in an email. "We're constantly learning more about the best ways to reduce conflict." "The project was viewed as a great success," said County Commissioner Larry Schoen, the county's liaison to the project. The project focuses on nonlethal ways to keep wolves from killing sheep and cattle. Through fencing, patrolling and alarm systems, volunteers with the project hope to reduce the number of depredations without killing wolves.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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