by Laura Lundquist, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wolverines won’t be trapped in Montana this season and possibly for many years to come.
On Monday, Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock agreed to cancel a Jan. 10 hearing that could have stopped the existing injunction on wolverine trapping.
That basically means wolverine trapping will be suspended indefinitely because of an impending U.S. Fish and Wildlife ruling.
Two years ago, Fish and Wildlife acknowledged that wolverines deserved protection under the Endangered Species Act. But wolverines have had to wait in line for listing behind several other threatened species.
Now the Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to issue a rule within the next two weeks protecting wolverines. If that happens, the injunction will be unnecessary because no one could trap or hunt wolverines until populations recover.
In October, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks challenged the injunction after the Western Environmental Law Center filed to stop the state from starting the trapping season, which was scheduled to begin Dec. 1.
But Monday, shortly after Gov. Steve Bullock was sworn in, FWP joined eight plaintiffs, including Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan, to file the motion to abandon the challenge.
“Gov. Bullock has gotten off on the right foot,” said Michael Garrity, executive director of Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Now FWP can help recover wolverines instead of managing their trapping.”
The FWP Commission on Aug. 2 had authorized a wolverine-trapping season, making it the only state that allowed such trapping.
The season was approved despite FWP’s determination that wolverines could be at risk for extinction because of declining numbers, range or habitat. In 2000, FWP wolverine counts peaked at 118 but have hovered in the single digits since 2006.
Biologists estimate that only 250 to 300 wolverines remain throughout the West.