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Groups ask Minnesota Supreme Court to stop wolf hunt

Gray wolf

On the same day Wisconsin's wolf season opened, two wolf advocacy groups on Monday asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to stop this autumn's first state wolf hunting and trapping seasons.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves asked the state's high court for an injunction halting the season set to begin in less than three weeks. The Minnesota Court of Appeals last week refused to issue an injunction, and any actual trial is likely months away, after the planned season.

"I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will recognize what the Court of Appeals did not -- that the shooting and trapping of 400 wolves is an irreversible harm caused by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources," said Collette Adkins Giese, a Minneapolis-based attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Rushing to open a hunt this fall, the DNR slammed the door on meaningful public participation in a controversial management decision about wolf hunting and trapping. Only by stopping the hunt can we ensure that these state officials follow the law."

The groups, which want a fast answer from the Supreme Court, have claimed the DNR did not follow state regulations in establishing the seasons. The DNR has argued that it followed all necessary steps.

Meanwhile two other groups -- the Humane Society of the U.S. and Fund for Animals -- say they have filed formal notice with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking the federal agency to re-list gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act. The groups say they will seek court action if the agency doesn't restore federal protections on its own.

Like the groups within Minnesota, the national pro-wolf groups say state wildlife officials are allowing too many wolves to be killed too soon after federal protections were dropped.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put faith in the state wildlife agencies to responsibly manage wolf populations, but their overzealous and extreme plans to allow for trophy hunting and recreational trapping immediately after de-listing demonstrate that such confidence was unwarranted," Wayne Pacelle, president of the Human Society of the U.S., said in a statement. "The states have allowed the most extreme voices to grab hold of wolf management, and the result could be devastating for this species."

Chris Niskanen, spokesman for the DNR, said the agency is standing by the "sound science" used to develop the wolf seasons, which he said remain conservative under scenarios considered by wolf experts.

Minnesota's wolf hunting season will start Nov. 3, with a trapping season starting Nov. 24. Up to 400 wolves can be killed under the state's upcoming sport seasons.

Through the 1960s wolves were considered vermin in Minnesota with no reasons or season required to kill them, and with the state paying a bounty for their hides.

Minnesota now has an estimated 3,000 wolves, up from fewer than 500 in the 1970s when the animal was placed on the federal endangered species list and protected. With wolf numbers now stable or rising, the federal government recently moved to remove wolves from the endangered list and hand their management back to states and Indian tribes.

Minnesota lawmakers this year compelled the DNR to move forward with a wolf season, including moving it earlier to occur during the state's firearms deer-hunting season. The DNR received more than 23,000 applications for the 6,000 available licenses.

Wisconsin's wolf hunt started Monday, although court action has stopped or at least delayed the use of hounds for wolf hunting in Wisconsin.