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MISSOULA — It's currently open season for Montana hunters looking to shoot a wolf, with the trapping and snaring season set to start at the end of November.
Conservation groups, though, are hoping to stop the season which has already claimed 55 wolves.
WildEarth Guardians and Project Coyote filed a new motion on Thursday that builds on an October lawsuit that says the State of Montana is "violating the law by relying on stale and insufficient scientific data in order to authorize the killing of roughly 40% of the state's wolf population."
The motion asks the court to pause the season so it can "fully consider the merits" of the suit filed in October.
The suit also alleges the state is "overstepping its management authority" by allowing wolves to be killed near federal lands, particularly Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.
Hunters killed 19 Yellowstone wolves that wandered outside the boundaries last season, eliminating an entire pack in the largest slaughter of park wolves since the species was reintroduced in 1995.
"It's legal for a trophy hunter to stand 10 feet outside of Yellowstone National Park, toss hamburgers on the ground as bait to lure wolves out of the park, and then shoot them," John Horning of WildEarth Guardians wrote on Thursday.
Montana hunters have already killed 55 wolves since the season started in September, conservation groups say, although the majority are usually killed during the trapping and snaring season. Last season, hunters bagged 273 wolves in Montana, 70% of them killed after the trapping or snaring season started.
Wolves are a contentious topic in the Mountain West, pitting hunters and environmentalists against each other for decades. Ranchers have long contested that wolves are a threat to their livestock — in Colorado, shortly after voters passed a referendum to phase in the reintroduction of the predator, officials say wolves killed livestock in the northern part of the state.
Environmental groups, however, point to research that suggests a healthy wolf population can revitalize ecosystems.
In Utah, confirmed wolf sightings are rare — since 1995, there have only been 15 to 20. Most have been in counties in the north near Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado, and officials say there is no evidence of a pack.