Humane Society brings post-season lawsuit against region’s wolf hunts

Washington — With Minnesota’s first modern-day wolf hunt recently in the books, animals rights groups wasted no time in filing a federal lawsuit, disputing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove the species in the Great Lakes region from the endangered species list, an action undertaken just over a year ago.

On Tuesday, the Humane Society of the United States and three other groups sued the USFWS over the decision, which the groups state in a press release, “threatens the fragile remnants of the gray wolf population by confining wolves to a small area in the Great Lakes region – where state wildlife managers have rushed forward with reckless killing programs that threaten wolves with the very same practices that pushed them to the brink of extinction in the first place.”

This year, Minnesota hunters and trappers harvested 413 wolves during two seasons. The state’s population is an estimated 3,000 wolves. Hunters and trappers in Wisconsin killed about 100, and the state of Michigan’s Legislature recently made wolves a game animal, clearing the way for a future hunt.

And in Minnesota, there was a local effort under way to derail the wolf hunting and trapping season. First a state appeals court and later the state supreme court denied a request for a preliminary injunction by the Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves, according to Ed Boggess, the DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division director.

However, Boggess said, a portion of the lawsuit remains in the legal pipeline.

“There’s still the underlying challenge to our rule-making process,” he said earlier this week.

The announcement by the Humane Society, along with the Born Free USA, Help Our Wolves Live, and Friends of Animals and Their Environment, didn’t come as a surprise to Boggess. He said the groups filed a 60-day “notice of intent” to sue in October.

This week’s lawsuit continues a long line of suits regarding gray wolves in the Midwest that began about a decade ago; it’s the fourth suit brought by the HSUS.

Prior to last year’s delisting, however, all three states met thresholds for removal from Endangered Species Act protections in the three states.

However, says Linda Hatfield, executive director of HOWL, “Wolf populations are just at the threshold of rebounding in many areas across the Great Lakes region. The recent delisting has taken wolves back to the old days, days before the ESA, the days of state-sponsored bounty payments to hunters and trappers that were intended to eliminate wolves from the landscape.”

According to the HSUS press release, the case was filed in federal district court for the District of Columbia.

The HSUS is a national organization whose agenda can be viewed at www.humanesociety.org. Born Free USA is a national group active in “animal welfare.” Both Help Our Wolves Live and Friends of Animals and Their Environment are Minnesota-based nonprofit organizations, both of which have about 200 members, according to the HSUS press release.

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