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Judge Places Limits on Hunting Wolves Near Yellowstone

Hunting and trapping wolves near Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks has been temporarily restricted by a Montana judge, who has also put tighter statewide restrictions in place on hunting predators. According to the Associated Press, conservation groups filed a suit last month over laws passed in 2021 that changed the rules to allow individual hunters to use snare traps and allotted each to take up to 20 wolves: ten wolves could be captured through hunting and ten through trapping by each person.

During the winter of 2021-22, 450 wolves were tagged. However, the hunting season was cut short after 23 wolves from near Yellowstone National Park were killed.

The attorneys representing WildEarth Guardians and Project Coyote maintain that those allotments will harm the overall wolf population, including those living in Yellowstone and on other federal lands. State District Court Judge Christopher Abbott ordered Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to revert back to the five wolves per person limit. Abbot also eliminated the use of snares during trapping season, which begins on November 28, while also reinstating limits on hunting and trapping by the national parks.

His order only goes through November 29, but a hearing is set for November 28 to further address the issue. WildEath Guardian's Lizzy Pennock said, "This is a promising step in the right direction, and we will continue using all means necessary to end the senseless, politically motivated slaughter of Montana's beloved wolves."

In a statement, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Director Hank Worsech said the agency has "proven we can manage wolves." He continued, "We will comply with the judge's order and look forward to the opportunity to defend good science and management strategies."

According to the Associate Press, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte wrote on social media that the judge "overstepped his bounds to align with extreme activists." Reports from last year indicated that Gianforte did not take the mandatory trapper education course before he killed a radio-collared wolf on private land neat Yellowstone in 2021. He was issued a warning for violating the state's rules.

In 2021, 273 wolves were killed out of the 1,100 Montana population. The 2022 numbers initially allowed for 456, with six taken north of Yellowstone. Abbot's ruling lowers that number to two. The season began in September, and 56 wolves have been killed so far.

Abbot said, "At least some hunting activity can proceed without severe impacts on wolf populations long enough to allow the state to be heard."

READ MORE: Where, When, and How to Hunt Wolves