Idaho and Mont. state wolf hunts head to court

By MATTHEW BROWN | November 7, 2011 | 12:55 PM EST

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — With more than 150 wolves shot so far this year by hunters in the Northern Rockies, a panel of federal judges on Tuesday will consider an emergency halt to public hunts for the animals.

Congress cleared the way for hunting in Montana and Idaho last spring. That's when lawmakers took the unprecedented step of stripping Endangered Species Act protections from more than 1,300 wolves across five states.

But wildlife advocates claim the move breached the separation of powers under the Constitution. Previous court rulings had kept protections in place.

Tuesday's hearing is before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena Calif. The court is being asked to stop the hunts pending its decision on the lawsuit.

Montana set a 220-wolf quota for its hunt. Idaho's has no cap.