By TIM HULL
(CN) – The 9th Circuit refused to stop wolf hunting in two Rocky Mountain states prior to a hearing on federal protection for the once-endangered animal set for early November.
In the meantime, environmental groups claim that some 216 gray wolves have been killed so far this year in Idaho and Montana, with hundreds more threatened as the hunting season goes on.
“Nearly 37,000 humans are, or soon will be, attempting to kill slightly more than 1,000 remaining wolves in Idaho and Montana – using more effective equipment and operating in more favorable hunting conditions than have existed thus far in the wolf-hunting season,” according an emergency motion for an injunction filed Monday by Alliance for the Wild Rockies.
Since the U.S. Congress yanked the species’ federal protection last spring, Idaho had issued some 25,000 wolf-hunting permits, and Montana has issued about 11,400. But at the end of 2010, the “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that there were 705 wolves in Idaho and 566 wolves in Montana,” according to the alliance.
As winter snow falls in the region, hunters will find it easier to track wolves, the group says.
In early August, a Montana federal judge upheld the constitutionality of a Department of Defense budget rider that directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the gray wolf, a species that roams the northern Rocky Mountains through Montana, Idaho, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and northern Utah.
Fish and Wildlife had issued a final rule to remove the species from the Endangered Species List in 2009, but a federal judge found that the rule violated the Endangered Species Act by protecting a listed species only across part of its range. The court vacated the rule, and the wolves remained protected until the passage of an appropriations bill by Congress this past April. A rider to that bill, signed into law by President Barack Obama, directed Fish and Wildlife to reissue the 2009 rule.
Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups asked the San Francisco-based federal appeals court to consider the issue.
In a brief order published late Tuesday, the court denied the group’s request for an immediate stop to the hunting, ruling that the “motion for injunction pending appeal will be considered at the time of oral argument on November 8, 2011.”