Environmentalists are wait-and-see over wolf-killing injunction | AspenTimes.com

Environmentalists are wait-and-see over wolf-killing injunction

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

LANDER, Wyo.” Environmentalists say they’re taking a wait-and-see approach to whether they will ask a federal judge to suspend any killing of wolves in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

A request for an injunction to suspend wolf killings would accompany plans by a coalition of 11 environmental groups to file suit over the animals’ removal from federal protection.

The federal government removed wolves from the endangered species list in the three states on Friday. Responsibility for managing wolves is being handed to the states, all three of which are planning wolf hunts this fall.

Groups including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a notice a month ago of their intent to sue the federal government within 60 days over the delisting.

In Wyoming, wolves will be subject to limited hunting in the state’s northwest corner but elsewhere may now be shot by anyone with a legal gun. Mike Leahy, Rocky Mountain director for Defenders of Wildlife, said whether the groups will ask a judge to suspend wolf killing depends on how many wolves are killed in the state.

“Once the 60 days are up, we’ll file the lawsuit itself, and then we’ll have to decide if we’re going to ask for an injunction,” Leahy said. “We’re choosing to wait and see how much people exploit the flexibility in the state plans to go out and kill wolves.”

He said mass killing of wolves outside Wyoming’s trophy game zone almost certainly would lead to an injunction request. An injunction would essentially force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to return wolves to the endangered species list until the lawsuit is resolved.

“Injunctions are hard to get,” Leahy said. “There’s never a guarantee that you’re going to get an injunction from a judge, and that’s kind of why we’re waiting to see how things play out on the ground.”

Most of Wyoming’s estimated 359 wolves live inside the trophy game zone. Another 30 to 35 live outside the zone, although Leahy said 10 packs roam areas near the border of the two zones.

“So a significant and quick reduction in Wyoming’s wolf numbers is possible,” he said.

State wildlife officials have said they have long experience managing wildlife populations and should be trusted not to allow wolf numbers to fall too low.

The 1,500 estimated wolves currently living in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana are descendants from 31 wolves reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s.