Injunction to stop wolf hunts requested
Sublette County wolf harvest at issue
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
April 29, 2008
Environmental and animal advocate organizations that filed a lawsuit yesterday challenging the delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies also filed a request for an injunction. The federal court has not yet set a date for a hearing on the request. In order to issue an injunction, the court must decide that the plaintiffs have a probability of success on the merits of its claims.
According to a brief filed in support of the injunction request:
"Since delisting, a spate of wolf killings by a variety of methods— pursuing wolves long distances with snowmobiles, shooting wolves from the roadside, and lying in wait for wolves at state-run elk feedgrounds—demonstrates the need now, as much as ever, to protect wolves under the Endangered Species Act. Without such protections, widespread unregulated killing of wolves will significantly reduce the abundance and distribution of wolves during the pendency of this case challenging wolf delisting. To prevent irreparable harm to wolves and members of plaintiff organizations, Plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction to reinstate Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves until this Court issues a final decision on the merits of this case."
"Wolf delisting and implementation of state laws are already causing irreparable harm to wolves and members of the plaintiff organizations. Wolves are being exterminated as pests in nearly 90 percent of Wyoming, where they are classified as predators. Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming laws allow wolves to be killed without a permit in response to perceived conflicts with livestock. In Idaho, wolves may be killed without a permit for merely “worrying” livestock or domestic animals."
The brief argues that while wolf recovery numbers exceed population goals established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the need for the three wolf populations to be connected via genetic interchange has not been addressed.
"Moreover, FWS has sanctioned post-delisting wolf management schemes in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming that will only increase the isolation of wolves in the core wolf recovery areas. Unregulated wolf killing that is permitted by state laws—and already underway—will significantly diminish the prospects for connectivity among northern Rockies wolf populations."
Northern Rockies wolves also face immediate threats to their survival due to inadequate state regulatory mechanisms, according to the brief. "At least 13 wolves have been killed in Wyoming as predators in just one month," the brief noted.
"[I]njury to wolves—on individual, pack, and population levels—constitutes irreparable injury warranting injunctive relief," the brief asserts. "At least 37 wolves have already been killed since wolves in the northern Rockies lost ESA protections on March 28, 2008. More are certain to die under state predator control laws. At least 13 wolves have been legally killed in Sublette County, within Wyoming’s predator zone. Two wolves were killed on the edge of a state-run feed ground on the day delisting took effect. Another was pursued for more than 35 miles by an individual on a snowmobile before it was shot. Because Wyoming law allows 10 days for reporting a wolf kill, and because many wolf kills go unreported, the toll in Wyoming is likely even higher."
The brief goes through a few wolf kills in Idaho as well and concludes, "Given hostility within the region toward wolves, more are certain to die."
The brief argues that delisting harms individual members of the organizations that filed the lawsuit because they enjoy seeing and hearing wolves in the wild, but opportunities for these activities are decreased with delisting.
"The killings of wolves in Sublette County, Wyoming—within Wyoming’s predator zone—present the real possibility that plaintiffs’ members will no longer be able to view any wolves in Sublette County," according to the brief, which also refers to a sworn declaration signed by Franz Camenzind of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.
Camenzind declared he was personally harmed by the killing of Wolf 253M near Daniel. "I was injured by the killing of Wolf 253M, because I will never be able to see this well-known wolf again. I also regularly look for wolves in Sublette County, Wyoming, and will continue to do so in the future. My prospects for seeing wolves in Sublette County have been seriously reduced by wolf delisting, Wyoming state management, the Wyoming predator status and the resulting killing of wolves."
The request for an injunction concluded: "Because Plaintiffs are likely to prevail in their challenge to FWS’ delisting decision—a decision that has caused and will continue to cause irreparable harm to wolves, wolf packs, wolf populations, and plaintiffs’ members—this Court should enter a preliminary injunction reinstating essential ESA protections for wolves."