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Wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana still stirring up controversy

October 22, 2009 |  9:33 am

Wolves

The wolf hunt in Idaho is proceeding with remarkable hunter success in some of the state's 12 hunting zones, and in Montana, where limited hunting is underway, the general season opens Sunday.

Hunting wolves in both states, made possible after the removal of the predators from the endangered species list last spring, is controversial, and animal rights groups are trying to stop the hunts.

The latest campaign was launched by Defenders of Wildlife, which is asking for donations to pay for an ad to be placed in New York's Times Square through Dec. 15. "Hundreds more wolves will be targeted in the coming weeks and months, threatening the very recovery of these amazing animals," the group states on its website. The group also is urging people to sign an online petition that will be sent to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, "urging him to withdraw his flawed delisting rule that prematurely removed vital protections for wolves in the northern Rockies region--before a lasting wolf recovery slips from our grasp."

Sportsmen's groups, meanwhile, are backing state wildlife agencies claiming that wolf numbers in the northern Rockies have increased to the point where the animals need to be managed, via controlled hunting, to minimize interaction with ranchers and threats to livestock.

The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, in an action alert sent to members, cited a recent study by Montana State University that links the reintroduction of wolves into Rocky Mountains to a decline in elk numbers in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

The study, published in July, found that wolves have caused elk in the region to change their foraging habits to such an extent that herds are producing fewer calves. All elk are losing weight in the winter and the presence of wolves, the study claims, causes elk to browse more on woody shrubs or low tree branches in safer forested areas rather than grazing on grass in open meadows where they're more vulnerable to wolf predation.

Through Wednesday in Idaho, which has a statewide quota of 220, 73 wolves had been killed, one of them  by an alleged poacher. In Montana, which has a quota of 75, 12 wolves have been harvested during special back-country hunts.

-- Pete Thomas

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

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