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Montana's inaugural wolf-hunting season closes; it's deemed a success

November 18, 2009 | 12:56 pm

Wolves

Montana's inaugural wolf-hunting season came to an end this week and has been deemed a success by state wildlife officials.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks called for the season to close half an hour after sunset on Monday after receiving word that the statewide quota of 75 was nearly reached.

"We hit 72 of the 75 wolf quota with two weeks left before the season was originally planned to close on Nov. 29," FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim told the Billings Gazette.

A total of 15,600 wolf hunting licenses were sold, generating $325,859 for the state license fund.

"It was a successful season. We learned a bunch, and we'll learn more as we evaluate it," Aasheim said. "We know where wolves where taken by county. We know sex. We know age. We'll know the days hunted. It's a pretty sound information base."

One thing that will be studied further is the sustainability of the hunt.

"Our prediction was that, even if we took 75, we'd have 100 more wolves next year than we have now," added Aasheim. "We were real conservative with the hunt. We wanted to maintain a healthy wolf population."

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission will be meeting in February to determine the hunting season for next year, and quotas will be established next summer.

The hunts, however, are not without continued controversy and opposition.

Of concern may be the decimation of packs. In an L.A. Times article, Kim Murphy reported that Yellowstone National Park officials believe the Cottonwood Creek pack -- which utilized Yellowstone -- had four of its 10 wolves killed, including both the alpha male and female.

And conservation and environmental groups, which tried unsuccessfully to stop the hunts  in both Montana and Idaho, still have lawsuits filed that challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's de-listing of wolves from Endangered Species Act protection.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: National Parks Conservation Assn.

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