A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit from conservation groups that want to block wolf hunts that have killed more than 500 of the predators across the Northern Rockies in recent months.
The ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Congress had the right to intervene when it stripped protections from wolves last spring. Lawmakers stepped in after court rulings kept wolves on the endangered list for years after they reached recovery goals.
Wildlife advocates claimed in their lawsuit that Congress violated the separation of powers by interfering with the courts.
However, the court said Congress was within its rights, and that lawmakers had appropriately amended the Endangered Species Act to deal with Northern Rockies wolves. A spokesman with one of the groups that sued to restore protections, said a Supreme Court appeal was possible but no decision had been made.
The number of wolves in the region grew slightly last year. There are more than 1,700 wolves in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and expanding populations in portions of eastern Oregon and Washington. Wolf hunting is allowed in Montana and Idaho and could resume in Wyoming this fall.
Idaho’s 10-month wolf season runs until June and has claimed 353 wolves so far. Idaho was the only state where wolf numbers declined last year, a slight drop from at least 777 in 2010 to a minimum of 746.
Idaho also allows trapping. (AP)