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Conservation groups planning next steps in wolf hunting lawsuit

A wolf in Yellowstone National Park.
Jacob W. Frank
A wolf in Yellowstone National Park.

Following a Helena judge’s ruling last month, Montana’s wolf hunting and trapping seasons are underway with looser regulations. But two conservation groups say their lawsuit against Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is far from over.

District Court Judge Christopher Abbott’s ruling denied a request from Wild Earth Guardians and Project Coyote for a preliminary injunction that would have reinstated some 2020 regulations including a decrease in wolf quotas for districts near Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, a reduction in the number of wolves an individual hunter or trapper can kill and a ban on the use of neck snares for trapping.

Lizzy Pennock, an attorney for Wild Earth Guardians, says her organization was disappointed by the ruling but is preparing for the next steps

“This is just one small piece of the much longer case that's going to carry on probably for the next six months or a year," she said. "So we still have all the merits of the initial complaint we filed on October 27. We haven't decided on any of those merits.”

This case is part of a larger ongoing disagreement over how to manage wolves, particularly the Northern Rocky Mountain subpopulation, found in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and parts of Utah, Washington and Oregon. All other gray wolves are under federal protection as part of the Endangered Species Act.

In their lawsuit, the conservation groups argue Montana Fish Wildlife and Park’ and the state Fish and Wildlife commission’s management of Montana’s wolves is unconstitutional. Pennock says they expect FWP’s answer to their complaints by mid-January. FWP did not respond to YPR’s request for comment.