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Montana Wolf Hunt Faces Looming Legal Threat

— October 28, 2022

The lawsuit alleges that Montana has violated state law and provisions of the state constitution by loosening restrictions on the hunting and trapping of wolves.

Two conservation organizations have filed a lawsuit alleging that Montana’s revised wolf hunting and trapping policies violate state law.

According to The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the complaint was filed by WildEarth Guardians and Project Coyote in Lewis and Clark County Court on Thursday.

The lawsuit names as defendants several government entities, including the State of Montana; Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks; and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Collectively, the conservation organizations claim that the defendant entities relied on an “outdated and scientifically-deficient wolf management plan” that “authorized the killing of 456 wolves this coming winter.”

In their lawsuit, WildEarth Guardians and Project Coyote allege that, if permitted to continue, Montana’s planned wolf hunt could result in the loss of an estimated 40% of the state’s wolf population.

These actions, the plaintiffs say, violate the Montana State Constitution, the Montana Administrative Procedure Act, and the so-called “Public Trust Doctrine,” which obliges the government to protect and maintain certain natural and cultural resources for the use and enjoyment of the people.

“Montana’s politically-motivated wolf slaughter is illegal and completely unmoored from scientifically sound wildlife management,” said Lizzy Pennock of WildEarth Guardians.

Wolves; image courtesy of Baptiste_lheurette via Pixabay,

“Trophy hunting for wolves does not put food on anyone’s table, make elk populations healthier, or protect livestock. Montana’s pile of wolf carcasses stacks higher every day, and we are done waiting for somebody else to act,” Pennock added.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle notes that, during the 2021 Montana legislative session, lawmakers introduced and passed several bills relaxing restrictions on wolf hunting and trapping regulations.

The policies, says the Chronicle, attracted criticism from environmentalist organizations across the country, especially after wolf hunting and trapping reduced the wolf population of Yellowstone National Park by an estimated 20% during the 2021-2022 winter season.

However, the state reported that—in spite of the marked increase in wolf harvesting—the overall population and distribution of wolves across Montana remained stable and consistent.

The state’s monitoring system suggested that wolf trapping efforts actually decreased during the same period—potentially due to harsh winter weather.

Nevertheless, WildEarth Guardians and Project Coyote maintain that Montana’s wolf population mapping model is not scientifically sound and reliant on “inadequate data and unreliable methods at each step of its analysis.”

A spokesperson for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks said that the agency has not yet been served the lawsuit and does not typically comment on pending litigation.


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