New Ruling Saves Wolverines in The Nick of Time

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Elusive and Fierce Wolverine Receives a Reprieve

Conservationists rejoice as the elusive and fierce wolverine receives a reprieve November 30th from a trapping season due to start only days later in Montana, after a state judge issued a restraining order to block trapping of the endangered animal. Conservationists welcomed the judge’s decision because they say climate change threatens the predators with extinction.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock said he feels that the preservation of a species far outweighs the public’s right to hunt the animal for sport.

Wolverine Trapping At a Rate of Five Each Season

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Wolverine on rocky terrain

In the Lower 48, Montana is the only state that still allows wolverine trapping at a rate of five each season. State officials and trappers feel this is a sustainable number and it will not threaten the overall population.

Conservation and sporting groups were embroiled in a lawsuit in October aimed at forcing Montana wildlife officials to stop the practice. An earlier attempt to ban trapping was prevented by state officials.

Trapping opponents point out that a 2010 finding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that said climate change may threaten the predators’ long-term survival.

Wolverines are fierce enough to fight a cougar or a wolf off successfully when threatened. But they are not strong enough to fight off climate change, they like high elevations and heavy layers of snow, government conservationists project the ferocious little beast’s habitat will shrink dramatically in coming years, if drastic measures are not taken to ensure their survival.

Montana’s Trapping Season

About 250 to 300 wolverines currently reside in the Lower 48, most in Montana and Idaho. They can be found in Washington, Oregon, California, Wyoming and Colorado. The biggest populations of the animals are in Alaska, trapping is permitted there, and Canada with estimated 20,000 wolverines.

Montana’s trapping season was supposed to start on Saturday morning, so conservationist feel Sherlock’s ruling was just “in the nick of time.”

“We think there are enough other threats that wolverines are facing, with climate change and habitat loss, that trapping is not another one that needs to be piled on top of them,” said Arlene Montgomery with Friends of the Wild Swan, a Montana-based conservation group that is among the plaintiffs in the case according to the Seattle Times. Sherlock said (in Friday’s ruling) he will re-visit the restraining order against Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks after a Jan 10 hearing in Helena. The state’s trapping season was going to go through Feb. 15.

Paul Fielder of the Montana Trappers Association feels Sherlock overstepped his bounds and should not have ruled against the state’s professional wildlife managers who regulate the states trapping season.

Fielder states, “If somebody can trap a wolverine and sell a wolverine pelt for $500, and they can make a house payment with that money or pay groceries with that money, that comes down to subsistence,” Fielder said.

Wolverines Need Protection Under The Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010 said that wolverines needed protection under the Endangered Species Act because warmer temperatures at higher elevations might reduce animals’ habitat and cut them off from each other, but were unable to provide new protections.

A spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said that trapping could still be allowed this winter depending on the outcome of the next hearing in January.

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Russell W. Dickson, lives in upstate NY, and is a Freelance journalist. He has written for both print and online news/opinion pages.Russell holds a B.A. in English, minor Journalism from The University at Albany, Albany, NY. His writing experience spans more than a decade and his work has graced the pages of newspapers, magazines, online news orgs, and political websites in both the U.S. and abroad.