MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — State officials have asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to reject an attempt by animal welfare groups to block the resumption of wolf hunting in the state.

The lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves is without legal merit, attorneys representing the Department of Natural Resources said in a filing dated last Friday.

The lawsuit filed last month seeks a preliminary injunction to stop Minnesota’s first regulated wolf season from opening as scheduled Nov. 3. It contends the 30-day online survey the DNR conducted over the summer fell short of the legal requirements for giving notice and allowing public comments on the proposed regulations. The suit also says allowing the hunt to proceed would cause irreparable harm to the wolf population and to people who want to see or hear the animals in the wild.

But the DNR countered in its response that the agency received extensive public comments that resulted in substantive changes to the final rules, and that fears the hunt will harm the state’s wolf population are unfounded. The DNR acted within its legal authority for conducting expedited rulemaking, according to the response.

The Court of Appeals has not said when it might rule on the request for a preliminary injunction.

Minnesota’s estimated wolf population is a stable 3,000, the largest in the lower 48 states. DNR officials say their management plan is conservative, based on science and ensures the species’ long-term survival in the state. The DNR already has begun issuing up to 6,000 licenses for the planned wolf hunt and will close the season immediately if and when hunters and trappers take 400 wolves.

The federal government removed wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan from the endangered list last January and returned responsibility for managing their populations to the states.

Wolf hunting opponents in Wisconsin are trying a different legal strategy. They’ve won an injunction against the use of dogs in that state’s first season, which is due to open Oct. 15. But the Wisconsin DNR plans to let the hunt proceed without hounds if necessary. Minnesota does not allow dogs for wolf hunting.

Michigan has not yet established a wolf season.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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