The wolverine trapping season in Montana has been halted after a Helena judge approved the request by eight conservation groups and an individual.
District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock issued a temporary restraining order Friday morning that suspends the trapping, snaring or killing of wolverines in Montana until after a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for Jan. 10.
The wolverine trapping season was scheduled to begin Saturday, Dec. 1. A total of five wolverines can be trapped in Montana. It is the only state in the lower 48 that allows wolverine trapping.
The Western Environmental Law Center out of Helena filed a lawsuit in early November against Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks on behalf of the Helena Hunters and Anglers Association, Friends of the Wild Swan, Montana Ecosystem Defense Council, Native Ecosystems Council, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Swan View Coalition, Wild Earth Guardians, Footloose Montana and George Wuerthner.
The lawsuit claims that FWP is allowing the wolverine population to be damaged through trapping. The conservation groups had previously asked FWP to end trapping until the wolverine population becomes healthy enough that it would not need federal protection.
Sherlock, in his court order, notes that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated that wolverines are warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The federal agency could officially list the animal as endangered in February, the order states.
“Based on the information provided by plaintiffs, it appears that the population of wolverines in Montana is unclear,” Sherlock wrote.
A temporary restraining order does not resolve the merits of the case. Sherlock said he would reevaluate the status of the restraining order after the Jan. 10 injunction hearing.
“For us it’s important that they take a timeout until the court has the time to carefully consider the issues,” Matthew Bishop, the attorney representing the conservation groups, told the Beacon.
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