Court grants temporary restraining order before season opens

HELENA – Less than 24 hours before the start of the wolverine trapping season, a Montana District Court in Helena put a halt to it as the underlying case makes its way through state courts.

Environmental activists call this an important step toward protecting the animal from extinction in the Lower 48, because the species’ population suffers when even one of the animals is killed.

On Oct. 11, the Western Environmental Law Center, on behalf of eight community groups and one local resident, filed a lawsuit to halt wolverine trapping in Montana until the species’ population has recovered.

In the decision, the Court opined, “Balancing the loss of a ‘recreational harvest opportunity’ against the possible damage to a potentially endangered species, the Court finds equity lies in favor of issuing a temporary restraining order.”

On Dec. 14, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the wolverine deserves federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, yet they remain a ‘candidate’ species awaiting protective status.

Montana is the only state in the Lower 48 that still allows wolverine trapping, which are trapped for their fur. The state’s current quota allows five wolverines to be trapped and killed each season.

Montana’s wolverine population is estimated at 100 to 175 animals.

Since being designated a ‘candidate’ species for ESA protection, residents have submitted extensive comments to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission asking the agency to end the trapping of wolverines. The Commissioners did not respond or otherwise address these comments.

In one study spanning a three year period, in the Pioneer Mountains, six wolverines were killed in traps, including four adult males and two pregnant females, killing half of the estimated population there.

The WELC is representing 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 Mr. George Wuerthner.