A coalition of non-profit groups have filed suit against the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department (FWP) hoping to outlaw the trapping of wolverines.

Montana is believed to house between 100 and 175 of these animals with a total of less than 300 living in the combined high country of Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming, according to Reuters. Each year, Montana only allows the maximum trapping of five wolverines total in the state. The petition by the plaintiffs said Montana is the only state in the contiguous United States to authorize the trapping of the animals.

The groups that filed the petition said the population is “imperiled” since only about less than 35 of the 100 to 175 wolverines in Montana are able to contribute to the next generation. “This already small and vulnerable wolverine population is well below the number needed for genetic viability and facing extinction due to the loss of habitat and increased fragmentation from climate change (wolverine depend on late-spring snow for denning),” the petition states.

The plaintiffs include the following non-profit groups and one individual: Helena Hunters and Anglers Association, Friends of the Wild Swan, Montana Ecosystem Defense Council, Native Ecosystems Council, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Swan View Coalition, Wildearth Guardians, Footloose Montana, and George Wuerthner.

The FWP did not respond directly to the petition, but FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim told the Billings Gazette on Thursday that his department believes the quota is sustainable and the state is not out to harm the wolverine population.

The Gazette did mention that wolverines are mostly caught for their fur.

In 2008, the FWP reduced the number of wolverines able to be trapped from 10 to five. Two years later, in 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a statement that the wolverine deserves federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, but that a lack of time has stalled the addition from moving forward and the wolverine is a “candidate” for federal protection.

A final decision on the animal’s endangered status is expected by 2014. At this time, a hearing has not been set as FWP has not responded to the petition.

Image from the National Park Service on the flickr Creative Commons

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