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Montana's wolves surprisingly vulnerable during inaugural hunt

October 6, 2009 | 12:26 pm
Wolves may be wily and among the more intelligent wild critters, but hunters are not experiencing much trouble finding and killing them in Montana's remote Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

The state's inaugural and highly controversial wolf hunt began Sept. 15 in four small districts in which deer and elk hunts also are in progress. The statewide hunt begins Oct. 25.

In the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, which is along  the northern border of Yellowstone National Park, nine wolves have already been killed. The state set a quota of 12 in this area.

Carolyn Sime, wolf program coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife  & Parks, told the Billings Gazette: "We didn't think wolves would be that vulnerable to firearms harvest. The uncertainty is why we went with the low quota."

The agency, which has a separate web page to keep tabs on the number of kills, did not expect the quota to be reached before the statewide season opens, but that's now likely. The statewide quota is 75 wolves.

Montana's wolf population at the end of 2008 was believed to number 500. More than 10,500 wolf hunting licenses have been issued.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, are still trying via lawsuit to have the the cagey predators placed back under endangered species act protection, which would bring an end to hunts believed by the state to be a valuable means of wildlife management.

-- Pete Thomas

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