Wolf hunt: Next stop, Minnesota Supreme Court?
St. Paul — On the same day two national animal rights groups signaled their intent to sue the federal government over gray wolves’ removal earlier this year from the endangered species list, two other groups asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to stop the wolf hunt that’s set to begin Nov. 3.
The state Appeals Court last week declined a request from the Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves for a preliminary injunction that would have stopped hunting and trapping of wolves this fall.
State wildlife officials cheered the Appeals Court decision, though they privately expected the groups’ appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Absent Supreme Court intervention, the wolf-hunting season will begin Nov. 3. Hunters who were successful in the lottery already have begun to buy their licenses. As of earlier this week, the DNR had sold more than 1,400 of the 3,600 licenses that are available for the early season.
State DNR officials have capped at 400 the number of wolves hunters and trappers may take during this first-ever state-managed wolf season.
“We strongly believe this year’s hunt is a very conservative approach to beginning wolf management in the state, and wolf hunting and trapping in the state,” DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said. “It will have no significant impact on wolf populations, and we believe the information we learn from this first hunt will be very valuable for us when we craft future hunts in order to reduce those human-wolf conflicts that we know exist in wolf country.”
The Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves argued the DNR didn’t take formal public comment before it established this year’s wolf seasons. While those groups’ case against the DNR is pending – and a final ruling is expected early next year – the Appeals Court declined to stop this year’s hunting and trapping seasons.
In denying the petition, the Appeals Court judges wrote, in part, that “we deny petitioners’ motion for injunctive relief because petitioners have not demonstrated that they will suffer irreparable harm attributable to the rules that they challenge.”
Said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement: “I’m hopeful the Supreme Court will recognize what the Appeals Court did not – that the shooting and trapping of 400 wolves is an irreversible harm caused by the Minnesota DNR. Rushing to open a hunt this fall, the department slammed the door on meaningful public participation in a controversial management decision about wolf hunting and trapping. Only by stopping the hunt can we ensure that these state officials follow the law and do their duty to protect our state’s wildlife.”
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria and chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, believes both the state and the federal government are on firm footing when it comes to wolves.
“All the I’s have been dotted and the T’s have been crossed,” he said. “I think it’s a last-ditch effort by those who truly believe and truly feel we shouldn’t be taking and managing the gray wolf.”
The Humane Society of the United States and The Fund for Animals on Monday also said they want wolves in the Great Lakes region returned to the endangered species list.
They also asked the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin to postpone hunting and trapping seasons until the suit they intend to file can be decided. There was no indication that Minnesota planned to comply with that request, and the Wisconsin wolf season got under way Monday.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put their faith in the state wildlife agencies to responsibly manage wolf populations, but their overzealous and extreme plans to allow for trophy hunting and recreational trapping immediately after de-listing demonstrate that such confidence was unwarranted,” Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, said in a statement. “Between Minnesota’s broken promise to wait five years before hunting wolves, and Wisconsin’s reckless plan to shoot and trap hundreds of wolves in the first year, it is painfully clear that federal protection must be reasserted. The states have allowed the most extreme voices to grab hold of wolf management, and the result could be devastating for this species.”