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Wildlife groups threaten feds with lawsuit over wolf protections

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A coalition of animal welfare and wildlife advocacy groups plans to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over gray wolf protections, pointing to the killing of a wolf in Wyoming as an example of why the species needs more protection.

In 2021, the USFWS said relisting “may be warranted,” but a final decision in February declined to relist gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act in the northern Rocky Mountain states, where they are regulated at the state level.

Animal Wellness Action, Center for a Humane Economy, Footloose Montana, and other groups pointed to an incident in Wyoming where a man captured and tortured a gray wolf before killing it, as reported by Cowboy State Daily.

“Three weeks after this decision, a man in Wyoming ran down a gray wolf with a snowmobile, captured her, taped her muzzle shut, paraded her in a local bar while subjecting her to extended abuse—including going so far as to kiss the dying wolf while being filmed, the wolf too weak to do anything but bare her teeth—and finally killing her,” the groups said in a press release. “While Animal Wellness Action argues that these actions are punishable under Wyoming criminal law, and numerous veteran law enforcement professionals have called for felony charges, he was required only to pay a $250 fine for live possession of wildlife.”

Gray wolves are currently listed under the ESA as endangered in 44 states, while states maintain jurisdiction in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, as well as parts of Oregon, Washington and Utah.

“With its latest Finding, the FWS is repeating many of the same mistakes it has made in its many prior attempts to delist the gray wolf from ESA protection and the action is likely to face the same outcome as these earlier efforts,” the groups’ intent to sue letter said.

In a statement, Footloose Montana’s Jessica Karjala says states have proven they “cannot be trusted” to sustain the wolf species.

“They not only allow but endorse bounties on wolves,” she said. “They have encouraged increased hunting and quotas on wolves, spotlighting, baiting, trapping, snaring, hound hunting.”

The Center Square previously reported on a lawsuit against USFWS challenging the agency’s February decision by The Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, and Sierra Club.