Breaking News: Federal Court Restores Protections for Great Lakes Wolves, Ends Trophy Hunting and Commercial Trapping

By on December 19, 2014

This afternoon, we received the very welcome and far-reaching news that a federal judge just issued an order requiring that sport hunting and trapping of wolves in the Great Lakes region must end immediately, in response to our legal action. This comes just six weeks after voters in Michigan soundly rejected a trophy hunting season in the state and also rejected the idea of a seven-member group of political appointees making decisions about whether wolves should be hunted, trapped, or hounded.

The HSUS filed suit in 2013 to overturn a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. 

The decision to strip wolves of protection threatened the fragile remnants of the gray wolf population by confining wolves to a small area in the Great Lakes region—where state politicians and agency officials 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.

In the short time since federal protections have been removed, trophy hunters and trappers have killed more than 1,500 Great Lakes wolves under hostile state management programs that encourage dramatic reductions in wolf populations. Wisconsin had announced plans to cut what was an 800-member wolf population to just 350 animals, and it authorized trapping, hounding, and trophy hunting to get there. In fact over 80 percent of the wolves this year alone were cruelly trapped

In its 111-page ruling, the court chided the USFWS for failing to explain why it ignored the potential for further recovery of wolves into areas of its historic range that remain viable habitat for the species. The court also noted that the USFWS has failed to explain how the “virtually unregulated” killing of wolves by states in the Great Lakes region does not constitute a continued threat to the species.

Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin lawmakers all rushed to set up killing programs for wolves. In fact, the Michigan legislature passed three separate laws to designate wolves as a game species, in its zeal to allow the state to authorize a trophy hunting and trapping season for wolves, and to undermine a fair election by Michigan voters on wolf hunting. It was only the referendums that we launched that prevented a much larger body count in that state, avoiding the bloodletting that we saw in Minnesota and Wisconsin. A series of stories from M-Live, a consortium of newspapers, laid bare that Michigan lawmakers relied on false stories about wolves to push through a hunting season. The lead sponsor of the hunting program had to apologize on the Senate floor for misleading statements.

Today’s ruling renders null and void the Michigan legislature’s efforts earlier this year to force a wolf hunt, despite the people of Michigan’s opposition. And it locks down the trapping and hounding and trophy hunting programs in the other Great Lakes states that left so many wolves dead and packs disrupted. A recent, peer-reviewed study from researchers at Washington State University, looking at 25 years of data, reveals that random killing of wolves, as these states permitted, actually increases the chance of wolf depredations on livestock.

Today’s ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia follows another ruling by the same court in September that rejected the USFWS’s decision to delist wolves in the state of Wyoming. The HSUS was also a plaintiff in the Wyoming litigation. 

The HSUS simply wouldn’t tolerate this slaughter of wolves, so we stepped up at the ballot box and in the courts to turn it around, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.

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Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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