Montanans Celebrate Halting of Wolverine Trapping
Court grants temporary restraining order less than 24 hours before the recreational trapping season opens.
Matthew Bishop, Attorney, WELC, 406-324-8011 (office) or
Helena, MT – Less than 24 hours before the start of the
wolverine trapping season, a Montana District Court in Helena put a halt to the
recreational trapping while the underlying case to determine the lawfulness of
wolverine trapping in Montana makes its way through court. This is an important
step toward protecting wolverine from extinction in the Lower 48. The exceptionally
low wolverine population suffers greatly when even one of the rare animals is
In the decision to grant the temporary restraining order
halting the trapping, 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
“We’re thrilled the Court suspended the wolverine trapping
season,” said Matthew Bishop, the WELC attorney representing the plaintiffs. “The
state shouldn’t be kicking wolverines while they’re down.”
On October 11, the Western Environmental Law Center, on
behalf of eight community groups - including Helena Hunters and Anglers
Association - and one local resident, filed a lawsuit to halt wolverine trapping in
Montana until the species’ population has recovered.
On December 14, 2010, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
determined that the wolverine deserves federal protection under the Endangered
Species Act (“ESA”). However, the agency also said it could not undertake the
necessary rulemaking process for lack of time, so the wolverine remains a
“candidate” species awaiting protective status.
Montana is the only state in the Lower 48 that still
allows the rare wolverine to be trapped. Montana’s wolverine population is
estimated at 100-175 animals, with no more than 35 individuals capable of
producing offspring. The current quota in Montana allows five wolverines to be
trapped and killed each season. Wolverines are trapped for their fur.
"Wolverines are facing enormous threats from climate
change and habitat loss, trapping should not be one of them," said Arlene
Montgomery, Program Director for Friends of the Wild Swan. "We are pleased
that the judge granted the restraining order so that he can fully evaluate this
Since being designated a “candidate” species for ESA
protection, local residents have submitted extensive comments to the Montana
Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission asking the agency to end the trapping of
wolverines. The Commissioners did not respond or otherwise address these
comments. The State also refused to address the merits of a formal petition submitted by Mr.
Bishop on behalf of the same eight conservation groups and one individual
asking the State to adopt a new rule ending the trapping of wolverines until
they are no longer a candidate or listed species under the ESA.
Trapping is the major source of wolverine mortality in
Montana and has had significant negative effects on subpopulations inhabiting
Montana’s small, isolated island ranges. In one study spanning a three year
period, of the 14 wolverines researchers followed in the Pioneer Mountains, six
were killed in traps, including four adult males and two pregnant females,
killing half of the estimated wolverine population there.
The Western Environmental Law Center 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, WildEarth Guardians, Footloose Montana and
Mr. George Wuerthner.
Read the judge’s order here: http://www.westernlaw.org/sites/default/files/TRO.Order_.Granting.11.30.12.pdf