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Wolf decision appealed as hunting tags go on sale

Published on August 9, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on August 9, 2011 11:18AM


Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- Wolf hunting licenses went on sale Monday in Montana as environmentalists appealed a federal judge's decision to uphold the removal of the Northern Rockies gray wolf from the endangered species list.

Congress this spring removed federal protections for wolves in Montana, Idaho and parts of Utah, Washington and Oregon. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy earlier this month was critical of the congressional budget rider that removed the predator's status, but said court precedent required him to rule it constitutional.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies appealed that decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, arguing it still believes the way Congress made the move was unconstitutional.

Montana hunters will be able to shoot as many as 220 gray wolves in Montana in a hunt scheduled to begin in early September, first with an archery season and then later with a rifle season. The state expects that the hunt will reduce the predator's Montana population by about 25 percent to a minimum 425 wolves.

Environmentalists say they believe the population will be reduced further than that.

Without a hunt, the Montana population under state estimates was projected to increase to more than 600 animals.

There is no limit on the number of licenses sold, but the hunting season will be closed in hunting districts around the state as regional quotas are reached.

There is no limit on the number of licenses sold, but the hunting season will be closed in hunting districts around the state as regional quotas are reached.

State wildlife managers say the target quota makes good use of available science to make sure there remains a viable population controlled to limit conflicts with livestock owners and reduce predation on big game prized by hunters.

Idaho's hunt starts at the end of August, although managers say they plan to keep the wolf population above 150 animals and 15 breeding pairs.

Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said the planned hunts will kill far too many wolves and result in long-term damage to the recovery of the species.

He was particularly critical of political leaders who designed the maneuver in Congress -- Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho -- exempting wolves from endangered species action and the court decisions surrounding it.

"We are doing all we can to hold back the tide of wolf-killing in Montana, Idaho, and elsewhere in the Northern Rockies," Garrity said in a release. "This ecologically important species is being unfairly targeted out of ignorance and intolerance and now lack a federal shield from being killed."

Garrity said a decision has not yet been made on whether to ask the courts to intervene quickly in order to stop this season's planned hunts.

Congress' action did not include wolves in Wyoming. Wyoming officials and the U.S. Department of Interior earlier this month reached a separate, tentative agreement over how to end federal protections for wolves there.


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