An Idaho "predator derby" that would involve the killing of wolves, coyotes, skunks, European starlings, weasels, rabbits and raccoons has become the target of conservationists and animal advocates, who've filed two lawsuits calling for the hunt's cancellation.
The three-day competition, slated to begin next January, would allow 500 hunters to participate. A permit allotted by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is hosting the event, allows for the hunt to continue over the next five years in the Rocky Mountain town of Salmon.
The groups Defenders of Wildlife and Wildearth Guardians, each of which have filed lawsuits against the hunt, say that the hunt is a "killfest," particularly objecting to the inclusion of gray wolves. The lawsuits allege that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act by issuing the hunting group Idaho for Wildlife a special-use permit to hold the derby on federal land.
Wolves were nearly extinct in much of the U.S. until a reintroduction program began in 1995. Once protected by the Endangered Species Act, some 1,600 Rocky Mountain gray wolves were removed from protection in 2011 by Congress. Now, wolves numbers are increasing, but many conservationists say they still need protection.
"The broader context of this is that wolves have experienced years of persecution," Laura King, an attorney at Western Environmental Law Center, told The Idaho Statesman. "They're just beginning to repopulate their native range."
During a public comment period, the BLM received more than 56,000 comments - 10 of which were in support of the competition.
For a comprehensive look at how wolves' recovery in the U.S. was fraught with controversy, watch the Retro Reports' New York Times video below: