U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy denied environmental groups' request for an injunction to stop wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho, ruling Tuesday night that the plaintiffs "failed to show a likelihood of irreparable harm to the wolf population." It means Montana's first state-sponsored wolf hunting season will begin as planned Sept. 15.
But environmental groups are still claiming victory, because Molloy also ruled that, although they didn't meet their burden for issuing a preliminary injunction, they "are likely to be able to meet their burden to show the balance of equities tip in their favor. They would also likely prevail in showing an injunction is in the public interest."
"We're feeling very positive and optimistic that in the long run we have an enormous chance of success in this case," says Louisa Willcox of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
NRDC and a handful of other environmental groups sued the federal government in June over its decision to remove wolves from the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho and give management authority to the states, which allow for hunting. Montana set a wolf hunt quota of 75 wolves, Idaho 220. Idaho's hunt began Sept. 1.
"We are concerned about what might happen in the meantime...," Willcox says. "We hope that people are prudent and careful. And we also think that wolves might be harder to hunt than people believe."
Jerry Brenner of Frenchtown's Five Valley Taxidermy, for one, is happy with Molloy's decision.
"That's good," he says. "I've been keeping my eye on it and I've had a lot of customers that have called and asked me about prices to do a wolf."