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Federal Judge in Boise hears arguments in wolf trapping and grizzly bear conservation lawsuit

A zoomed-in grizzly bear pokes its head out of bushes
Idaho Department of Fish and Game

A coalition of 13 conservation groups brought a lawsuit against the state saying a wolf trapping law threatens grizzly bears and violates the Endangered Species Act. Federal Judge Candy Dale heard arguments from both sides on Thursday in Boise.

The lawsuit was prompted by a 2021 state law expanding wolf trapping seasons and methods.

At the hearing, defendants argued there were no reports of grizzly bears being killed or injured by a lawful wolf trap since the law went into effect. Plaintiffs questioned those reports and said the court should not have to wait for an animal to be killed to act.

Plaintiffs said the traps and snare can injure or kill grizzlies, but defendants said those arguments were based on speculation.

Dallas Gudgel is with the International Wildlife Coexistence Network, a co-plaintiff in the suit. Speaking after the hearing, he said the defendants seemed to skirt the issue of harm.

“They said until there's harm, we won't put the stop sign up,” he said. “And really, they are obligated under the Endangered Species Act to protect.”

Representatives for the defendants declined to comment.

Plaintiffs asked for an injunction to stop wolf trapping in grizzly habitat during their non-hibernating months. That habitat includes parts of the Panhandle, the greater Yellowstone region and the Bitterroot corridors.

Defendants said Idaho officials do not allow the take of grizzly bears and, in the absence of past or ongoing violations, there is no need for an injunction.

The U.S. Forest Service says there are about 80 grizzlies in Idaho. The plaintiffs argued to mitigate the risk of one grizzly bear in Idaho being taken as it could greatly impact the recovery of the species.

Judge Dale rejected an initial request for a similar injunction in August of 2022. No word on when she might issue a decision on this latest one.

As the Canyon County reporter, I cover the Latina/o/x communities and agricultural hub of the Treasure Valley. I’m super invested in local journalism and social equity, and very grateful to be working in Idaho.

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