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Groups file to stop Montana wolf hunt

By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian

A group of wolf advocates have requested an emergency halt to wolf hunting in the Rocky Mountains, one week before the general rifle season begins in Montana.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians want to return the gray wolf to federal Endangered Species Act protection. After Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, delisted the wolf with a congressional rider last spring, the groups challenged the action in U.S. District Court.

The Missoula court upheld the congressional delisting, and the wolf advocates appealed to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That appeal has not been argued yet.

“The hearing on summary judgment is scheduled for Nov. 8, but you know they can take a long time to rule, a year or two,” said AWR Director Michael Garrity. “The general rifle season is about to start, so we asked for the emergency injunction.”

Montana and Idaho wildlife departments authorized hunting seasons for this fall. So far, Idaho hunters have reported 60 wolves killed, while Montana hunters have logged 17. Montana has a quota of 220 wolves for the 2011 season, while Idaho has not set a quota.

Wolf hunting in Montana is temporarily closed in most parts of the state between the end of archery season Sunday and the start of rifle season this Saturday.

Garrity also included the 81 Idaho wolves and 64 Montana wolves killed for livestock protection or other circumstances.

“We wanted to make the point to the Ninth Circuit that lots of wolves have been killed,” Garrity said. “If they get listed again as endangered species, there’s more restrictions on (federal) wildlife services. Now they can kill them like coyotes.”

However, state and federal wildlife managers killed similar numbers of wolves in both states when the animals were under federal protection.