Supporters of the laws are comprised of big game outfitters and ranchers who said that the wolves prey on domesticated livestock and reduce big game hunting opportunities in the state.

However, dozens of members of the public, including environmentalists and landowners in western Montana, spoke during the Fish and Game Commission hearing Thursday to oppose the rule changes, saying the use of snares and expanding the trapping season would harm endangered grizzly bear and lynx populations in the state.

A coalition of environmental groups has already threatened to sue the state if the rules are implemented without sufficient protection for lynx and grizzly bears, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Opponents said the rules could deter some of the millions of tourists who visit Yellowstone National Park and nearby areas annually, many eager to see wolves in their natural habitat.

Speakers opposing the proposed rules also said they could harm the state’s ecology by causing the number of big game such as elk and deer to increase.

“The value of wolves in the wild for Montana far exceeds the value of destroying them and destroying our habitat as a result of it,” said Steve Capta, director of Footloose Montana, an organization that opposes trapping on public lands in the state.

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