Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wyoming & Montana Gear Up for Wolf Hunt

Wyoming, feds announce plan for delisting wolves
Wyoming ranchers and hunters fed up with wolves attacking livestock and other wildlife would be able to shoot the predators on sight in most of the state under a tentative agreement state and federal officials announced Wednesday. 

Gov. Matt Mead and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said they've come to terms over how to end federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming — the last state in the Northern Rockies where the animals remain under federal management.
Hours later, a judge rejected a legal challenge to a federal budget bill rider that removed protections for the gray wolf in the other Northern Rockies states.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula, Mont., said precedent by a federal appeals court required him to uphold the provision passed earlier this year that stripped wolves of their endangered status in Montana and Idaho, and in parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah.

It was not immediately clear Wednesday whether conservation groups planned to appeal.
While some neighboring states plan to let licensed hunters kill wolves at certain times of the year, Wyoming would be the only one to allow people to shoot wolves in most of the state year-round without a license.
Environmentalists swiftly blasted the agreement, saying it offers wolves too little protection and would fail judicial review unless Congress approves pending language to insulate it from legal challenges.

Mead said state management of wolves is overdue in Wyoming, where many say the animals have taken a heavy toll since they were reintroduced in the 1990s.
"For years, ranchers and sheep producers have been asked to sacrifice, and they have. We have lost significant numbers of elk and moose, and we have not had a say in the management of an animal inside Wyoming," Mead said. "It's time for that to change. ..."

Salazar has traveled to Wyoming repeatedly in recent months to work on the agreement.
He said the gray wolf's recovery serves as a "great example" of how the Endangered Species Act can work to keep imperiled animals from becoming extinct.

"The agreement we've reached with Wyoming recognizes the success of this iconic species and will ensure the long-term conservation of gray wolves," Salazar said Wednesday.
Environmental groups, however, said the deal doesn't afford wolves adequate protection.

"We do think that it's important that wolf management decisions be based on science, and not on these kind of closed-door political negotiations," said Collette Adkins Giese, a lawyer with the Center for Biological Diversity in Minnesota.
Under the agreement, Wyoming would commit to maintaining at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside Yellowstone National Park. There are now about 340 wolves in the state, of which 230 are outside the park.

Wolves immediately outside Yellowstone would be subject to regulated hunting in a zone that would expand slightly in the winter months to give wolves more protection in an area south of Jackson. Those in the rest of the state would be classified as predators that could be shot on sight.
Wyoming's commitment to classifying wolves as predators in most of the state has been a stumbling block to ending federal wolf management for years even as neighboring states have taken over their own wolf management. Idaho and Montana are planning licensed hunts this fall in which hundreds of wolves could be killed.

Wyoming has filed several lawsuits over the issue, trying without success for years to force federal officials to accept its plan.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service went as far as helping Wyoming revise its wolf management plan in 2007 and approving it the next year. But the agency repudiated the plan just months later after Judge Molloy criticized it in response to a lawsuit brought by environmental groups.

Wyoming's shoot-on-sight policy continues to generate controversy. Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey announced Wednesday he had written to Salazar questioning his decision to reach a deal with the state.
"Science, not politics, should ensure the conservation and management of the gray wolves in Wyoming, should they be delisted," wrote Markey, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., has inserted language into a pending Interior appropriations bill that specifies any delisting of wolves in Wyoming would be exempt from court challenges.

Congress approved similar language earlier this year for delisting wolves in Montana, Idaho and other Western states except Wyoming. Some environmental groups had mounted a legal challenge in Molloy's court, but his ruling Wednesday said Congress had authority to shield the delisting actions from legal review.
Steve Ferrell, Mead's policy adviser on endangered species, said Wyoming hopes Congress will act to stipulate that any final delisting plan for the state will be exempt from legal challenges.

Ferrell said the federal government plans to propose a draft delisting rule by Oct. 1. He said it could take a year for the final rule to be approved to allow Wyoming to take over wolf management. The Wyoming Legislature will consider changes to the state's current wolf management plan when it meets early next year.
Chris Colligan, Wyoming wildlife advocate for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, says the push to exempt the agreement from legal review shows the deal is politically motivated and not supported by sound science.
"It says that Wyoming and certainly our congressional representatives, they know that this plan is not legally or biologically sufficient," he said.



Montana wolf tags go on sale Monday

Licenses to hunt wolves in Montana go on sale Monday, Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials said in a news release Friday
Wolf tags cost $19 for residents and $350 for nonresidents. Hunters also must have purchased a 2011 conservation license.

Licenses will be valid within 14 specifically defined wolf management units. Hunters still must obtain permission to hunt on private lands.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula upheld recent congressional action to delist wolves in Idaho, Montana and other parts of the West. Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced an agreement on a wolf management plan in Wyoming.
Both developments cleared the way for state-management hunts officials say are needed to control burgeoning wolf populations.

The total harvest established under Montana's wolf management plan is 220 wolves across the 14 wolf management units. Each wolf management unit also has its own quota.
The aim is to reduce the wolf population in Montana by about 25 percent, to 425 wolves.
A wolf hunt also is planned in Idaho, where officials have proposed no statewide harvest targets or quotas.
Montana's regulations and seasons for wolves include:

» Early season backcountry archery: Sept. 3-14;
» Early season backcountry rifle: Sept. 15-Dec. 31.
» General season archery: Sept. 3-Oct. 16.
» General season rifle: Oct. 22-Dec. 31 .

Like with other species, the hunting season for wolves will close in a specific management unit when the pre-established quota is reached.
If a wolf management unit's quota isn't met, the wolf-hunting season in that area will last until Dec. 31, FWP officials said in the release.

As with any other game animal, hunters may not use any motorized vehicle to hunt wolves.
The use of dogs, bait, sent, lures, traps, lights, electronic tracking devices, or any recorded or electrically amplified bird or animal call to hunt or attract wolves is prohibited.
Additional rules and regulations that apply to big game hunting also are in effect for wolf hunting.
Hunters may hunt on Wildlife Management Areas, such as the Sun River or Blackleaf wildlife management areas, and legally accessible state school trust land is open to wolf hunting. State law requires that hunters obtain permission to hunt on private land.

Only tribal members may hunt wolves on Indian Reservations. Contact the respective Tribal Government Office with questions.
State game preserves, national parks and national wildlife refuges are closed to wolf hunting.
Hunters who take wolves must report the kill within 12 hours by calling 877-397-9453. In order to keep the hide and skull, a hunter must personally present the tagged hide and skull to a designated FWP employee for inspection within 10 days of the harvest. Evidence of the animal's sex must remain naturally attached to the hide.

Under the state wolf management plan, FWP will close a wolf hunting season in a particular wolf management unit with 24 hours notice. It is up to hunters to check FWP closure notices before heading into the field each day, agency officials said in the release.




Study: Wolf hunt gathers support

There is wide support for a regulated wolf hunt in Wisconsin, according to a new study published by UW-Madison researchers, although that approval was more tepid among non-hunters and those who live outside wolves' range.
In a study published in the journal Society and Natural Resources, Adrian Treves and Kerry Martin surveyed hunters and non-hunters in Wisconsin, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming between 2001 and 2007 to gauge their attitudes toward wolves.
They surveyed Wisconsin residents in six ZIP codes — three in areas within the wolf range and three outside of it.
Non-hunters and people who live outside of wolves' range supported a regulated wolf hunt but tended to do so only conditionally.
Many of those surveyed in Madison, Fond du Lac and Sister Bay only supported a wolf hunt if it were sustainable, reduced attacks on livestock, or prevented conflicts with humans.
The gray wolf is scheduled to be removed from the federal endangered species list on Jan. 1, 2012, meaning the state will have more flexibility to kill or control problem wolves.
As the wolf population has grown in the state of Wisconsin, the number of wolf attacks on farm animals and hunting dogs has increased accordingly, Treves said.