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Montana hunter bags first wolf during state's controversial new hunt

September 16, 2009 |  3:43 pm


A wolf shot in a remote backcountry area of Montana on Tuesday is the first to have been killed during a big-game hunt that began that same day.

Perry Zumwalt of Roberts, Mont., shot the wolf in Hunting District 316, which is part of the Beartooth Wilderness near Yellowstone National Park.

Montana wildlife officials in July announced a statewide quota of 75 wolves, with separate quotas within three distinct wolf-management zones. The hunt that began Tuesday corresponds with deer and elk hunts occurring in the same remote areas, which boast six to eight wolf packs of between 25-50 wolves.

Only  one wolf is believed to have been killed so far and the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks agency has set up a website that keeps track of the number of wolves killed in each district. Wolf hunting on a broader scale will begin Oct. 25.

Montana's wolf population is growing  by about 20% annually, the agency states. The quota "limits the number of wolves that can be taken by hunters and ensures that FWP can carefully monitor the population before, during and after the hunting season," FWP Director Joe Maurier said.

Montana's hunt is proceeding despite legal challenges and opposition from animal rights groups. Gray wolves in Montana were killed for bounty early in the 20th century but this is the first-ever "fair-chase," or big-game hunt for the purpose of sport and wildlife management.

-- Pete Thomas and Kelly Burgess

Photo of gray wolves courtesy of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks