Two groups have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the Nov. 3 start of the first wolf hunting and trapping season in Minnesota.
Wolves came off the endangered list in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan last January, and the Minnesota Legislature approved a wolf hunt under rules set by the Department of Natural Resources.
The wolf population in Minnesota is estimated at 3,000, which is the highest in any state other than Alaska; however, activists argue that it is still too soon to hunt the animals that were only recently classified as endangered.
The groups also contend that proper legal procedures were not followed in establishing the hunt, and they are now asking a judge for a preliminary injunction to halt the hunt while the case is resolved.
"We want the court to stop the hunting of wolves while they're trying to decide the case on the merits," explained Collette Adkins-Geise, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity -- a national conservation group that fought to keep the wolves on the endangered species list.
Howling for Wolves and the Center for Biological Diversity argue the DNR failed to provide an adequate opportunity for public comment on new rules establishing Minnesota's wolf hunt by only allowing comments on its website instead of conducting meetings or contacting people through mail.
Citing flaws with the online survey, they pointed out that some voters who live in the heart of remote wolf country do not have access to the Internet and could not participate.
The group also has billboards on Interstate 35W, promoting its StopTheWolfHunt.org campaign website. The group has also petitioned the DNR to stop the hunt and has filed requests for more information on why the wolves came off the endangered list.
"Wolves already die at high rates from many causes, including human intolerance and persecution," said Maureen Hackett, founder and president of Howling for Wolves, in a release. "Minnesotans benefit economically, culturally and ecologically by having wolves in the wild. As a state, we have so much to gain by keeping wolves undisturbed."
Opponents say the biggest issue of all is that the DNR has opened wolf hunting too quickly, arguing that the state's estimated wolf population is still vulnerable and shouldn't immediately be hunted upon removal from the endangered species list.
Livestock producers have pushed for a hunting and trapping season, especially in light of record payout claims for loss due to wolves; however, the opponents say hunting and trapping could increase the loss of domestic animals if pack dynamics are disturbed because lone wolves are more likely to target them out of desperation. Instead, the group suggests using non-lethal options, such as guard dogs, flagging and fencing, could help protect livestock from wolves.