Hunting gray wolves in Wyoming as trophy game or shooting them as predators has been banned under a ruling Tuesday by a federal judge that places the animals back under control of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington D.C. struck down a 2012 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Wyoming and place their management under control of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Wolves had previously been hunted as trophy game in the northwestern corner of the state, and were killed as predators without restrictions across most of the rest of Wyoming.
State wildlife managers will seek to stay Berman’s decision, in conjunction with the creation of an emergency rule which confirms previously existing management protocols, according to a statement released by the office of Gov. Matt Mead.
“There are many positives in Judge Jackson’s decision. However, she held that Wyoming’s plan was not sufficiently formalized to support the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2012 rule allowing limited take of gray wolves,” Mead said. “We believe an emergency rule can remedy this, and I have instructed the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Attorney General to proceed accordingly.”
Wyoming’s season for trophy hunting of gray wolves had been set to begin in October. In the meantime, killing wolves as predators or as trophy game will be prohibited in keeping with Berman’s ruling.
Hunters who have already purchased a 2014 gray wolf license will have fees refunded. Wyoming Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott defended his agency’s handling of wolves over the last two years as “sound management.”
Berman’s ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by several environmental groups, including The Humane Society of the United States. Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society, said he was “pleased that wolves will not be hunted in Wyoming” this year.
Pacelle noted that “a federal court recognized that sport hunting of wolves is inconsistent with the need for continued protections for this iconic species.”
The ruling is the latest in a series of back-and-forth federal court decisions regarding state and federal management of gray wolves both under the protection of the Endangered Species Act and beyond the scope of that legislation.
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