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Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks seeks several changes for 2010 wolf hunting season

Two gray wolves in the wild.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks department has released its proposal for this year's gray wolf hunting season. It includes numerous changes, including an increased quota, a longer open season and a possible archery-hunting season.

FWP wildlife managers are seeking to increase the statewide quota to either 186 or 216 wolves, up from the 2009 quota of 75 animals. They would also like to create 14 wolf hunting units in three zones, and allow subquotas in some areas during the early season backcountry hunt, including the area directly north of Yellowstone National Park.

"In a word, it’s all about balance," said Ken McDonald, FWP’s chief of wildlife. "Smaller and more wolf management units represent lessons learned from the 2009 hunting season. Some areas contributed more to the harvest than expected and prevented us from addressing management needs in other areas. We want to adjust that to ensure a widely distributed harvest and yet still target areas where we’re seeing impacts on prey, like elk and deer, and where recurring livestock depredations are anticipated."

The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission will meet Thursday in Helena to consider the proposal. If approved, a public comment period expected to run through June 14 will follow. A final decision is scheduled to be made July 8.

McDonald noted that the proposed harvest alternatives carry specific trade-offs. "We believe both options are in line with our wildlife management responsibilities," he said. "The lower quota of 186 wolves moves us at a slower management pace, while a quota of 216 wolves allows us to move a bit more rapidly to address the wildlife and livestock depredation issues that are occurring. In both cases, we know these quotas are conservative and in line with what we think will be viewed as reasonable proposals. We need to hear how the commission and public feel about the pace and the associated trade-offs."

A wolf hunting season this year, however, is contingent on the outcome of lawsuits pending in court that were filed by conservation and environmental groups, seeking to overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's delisting of gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection. Court arguments are set for June 15 in Missoula, Mont.

Should the season proceed, hunting license sales should begin in August, and will cost $19 for residents and $350 for non-residents.

"Montana's approach to wolf management continues to be balanced, scientific and measured," McDonald added. "We’ve learned a lot over the past year and our proposals for 2010 reflect a rigorous, science-based effort to manage the total number of wolves that can be taken by hunters while maintaining a balance among all wildlife, their habitats and the people who live here. That balance will include managing for a recovered wolf population while addressing livestock depredation and impacts to other wildlife. It’s our responsibility to address the fact that more than 200 sheep and about 100 head of cattle were killed by wolves last year and that wolves have depressed deer and elk populations in some areas."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Two gray wolves in the wild. Credit: Associated Press / Southern Rockies Wolf Restoration Project

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Comments (4)

Last fall I hiked/hunted for about 4 hours in my favorite hunting area. This area has been my favorite hunting spot for the last 47 years. I have always seen plenty of Whitetails, some Muleys and Elk or at least recent Elk sign. I didn't plan to spend multiple days in this area because I had heard from many people that there was nothing in the area to see. I went as far away from the road as I could in a 4 hour period. I saw no game at all, or I should say live game. I was left in shock, I counted 18 deer carcasses and 2 elk carcasses, almost no deer or elk track and wolf tracks everywhere.
Is someone going to try and tell me that these carcasses were not there because of Wolves ??????
I see no reason to ever return to my favorite hunting spot. Under current Wolf management, game numbers cannot, in my opinion, recover to huntable numbers in my lifetime.
If as much money was spent on fishing as has been spent on Wolves, every resident and every turrist would be able to catch all the fish they wanted.

As an independent wolf biologist I have studied the Fishtrap pack since January 2001. They, like all packs in Montana, are involved in wolf recovery and subject to management. Wolf management, at least in Montana, involves a complex and convoluted social-political process in which the wolves must contend with some negative public attitudes as well as management. As of 2009, this includes an annual legal hunting season. Each year a summary of this process is published in the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Annual Reports (available to everyone via the internet). Over the past eight years Montana has lost an average of 36% of its wolf population, mostly from human activities. Last year, 53% of the population was removed; 88% of this loss came from deliberate human activity, i.e., management and hunting. In other words, out of an estimated 524 wolves, 276 were removed. An increase in hunting has been proposed for next year from 75 wolves to approximately 200 wolves. From my perspective, it seems morally repugnant to remove from existence so many individual animals to satisfy the fear and opinions of the few. Wolf managers have also ignored entire areas of science in regards to animal behavior, emotions, intelligence, and interactions among life forms. Nevertheless, the concept of wolf recovery is a good one, because the presence of wolves in protected areas has been shown to promote more intact and healthier ecosystems. Management of these animals, however, has demonstrated a complete disregard for life. Wolves are not crops to be harvested and then regrown each year. They are societies of individuals that have complex social interactions, emotions, and a profound impact on their surroundings, all of which develop over time. Constant disruption by management promotes our agendas rather than what is best for the environment and wolves.

Marc is correct. More elk and deer are killed by FWP and hunters in Montana than by wolves or any other predator and FWP are all too happy to pander to ranchers and politicians( check out our Senator and governor.. both ranchers!) And has anyone checked out that the survey done concerning hunting this year was carried out with wolves in mind? Did FWP really believe they would get a balanced viewpoint or facts from MT hunters the majority of whom want to eradicate wolves? The article also fails to mention that FWP are prepared to allow baiting and trapping to be used. America is one of the few "civilized" countries in the world that allows almost unregulated trapping of wild animals and to see how this cruel "sport?" is undertaken visit the web page of footloose Montana. You will be horrified that such practices are allowed in modern day America! The sad fact of the matter is that wolves and other wildlife were here first and since the expansion of the west we have done everything we can to eradicate them. If you dont like and cant live with wildlife, then move to a city! Nature lovers, biologists, conservationists and environmentalits Montana needs your help and numbers to provide fair and balanced facts and information and against the FWP, Mt hunters and ranchers out there!

The average Joe reading this article might walk away thinking to themselves this sound reasonable. However, it is what McDonald is knowingly withholding that would persuade you to feel differently.

There are currently approximately 525 wolfs in Montana. Last year 175 wolfs were gunned down by Wildlife Services for depredation. Little to nothing at all was done by ranchers to be proactive and prevent the wolfs from being attracted to cattle. Sadly a strong argument can be made that the wolfs killed this year by Wildlife Service will be similar in that amount.

Now add in the 216 wolfs that McDonald, MT FW&P Director Joe Maurier and Lead Wolf person for Mt FW&P Carolyn Sime have said is a balanced, science based and a reasonable number of wolfs to be hunted and killed. When you do the math you will come up with the human caused mortality number 391 wolfs. This leaves around 134 wolfs in Montana. Not taken into account is wolf mortality caused by other wolfs, disease, injuries, old age and the three S's. Shoot,Shovel and Shut Up. Almost a 75% decrease.

One thing that is very clear to me is that Maurier and company are dancing to the tune played (Payed) by The Ranchers and the lobbisty that represent their interest. Cattlemen, Stockgrowers to name a couple. Then there are the hunter special interest lobbyist.
I hear constantly that there are no elk, deer and moose. However, I am in the backcountry rather frequently. I see ungulates almost every time I go out to the backcountry. But then I get out of my vehicle and walk further then one hundred yards! The hunters make the argument that there are no ungulates out there. In reality ungulates are changing their behavior patterns to react to the wolfs presence. Gone are the lazy days when you could get your elk or deer from the side of the road. However, for me hunting was always about fair chase anyways.


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.