Load your weapons, wolf hunters: U.S. District Court Judge Donald Malloy ruled today that Idaho and Montana wolf hunts may proceed unhindered, despite complaints from environmentalists and wildlife conservation groups.
Molloy said he believed U.S. Fish and Wildlife scientists had established clear evidence that wolf populations in those two states (about 1,350) could withstand reductions of up to 30 percent without sustaining any harm. Montana and Idaho have issued hunting permits to take about 20 percent of their wolves.
But Molloy complicated his ruling by saying that wolves could eventually return to Endangered Species protection, and cited the continued protection of Wyoming's wolves as a flaw in the U.S.F.W.S.'s lifting of protection for wolves.
"The Service has distinguished a natural population of wolves based on a political line, not the best available science," Molloy wrote in his 14-page opinion. "That, by definition, seems arbitrary and capricious."
Despite this small concession, environmental groups hoping for an injunction against wolf hunts remain disappointed. Wildlife managers from Idaho seem happy for now.
Jim Unsworth with Idaho Fish and Game said his state's hunt so far has gone smoothly.
"Everything is working just like we planned, which shouldn't be a surprise since we've done this for years with other critters," Unsworth said.
Idaho's wolf hunt began on September 1, and three wolves have been killed so far. Montana's hunt begins on September 15.
What happens during a wolf hunt? Check out BACKPACKER's January special on wolf hunting in Alaska to find out.