Thursday, January 12, 2012

FWP may seek wolf season extension for West Fork of the Bitterroot

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  The wolf season might be extended in the West Fork of the Bitterroot because so far hunters have only killed three of the predators. The quota is 18.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials plan to ask for another extension to the wolf hunting season in the West Fork of the Bitterroot.

So far, hunters have only killed three of the 18 wolves allowed in the area. All of those three were killed before the state's general season ended in November.
"We feel like we need to reach that quota," said FWP Region 2 Director Mack Long. "We think it's very important to get predators in that area under control."

The proposal that will be offered the FWP Commission this month would extend the season in the West Fork wolf hunting unit to April 1, or until the quota is met.
Long said the department will be looking at other alternatives that might be used to make that happen.
"Our No. 1 priority was to have sportsmen accomplish the harvest," Long said. "We're very supportive of a season extension. We are hoping people will support that."

The state has already extended the wolf hunting season to Feb. 15 in units where quotas have not been filled.
In this second-ever wolf hunting season in Montana, Long said the state is learning that wolves can be challenging for sportsmen to hunt.
"I think it depends on a lot of different environmental factors," Long said. "HD 250 might be a textbook example of a landscape that is hard to operate in."

Local sportsmen want the state to do more to ensure the quota is met.
Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association president Tony Jones said that while that organization is happy the state is considering extending the season, it believes that FWP needs to allow sportsmen to use trapping, baiting and electronic calls to harvest wolves.

Jones said the state was on board with allowing the federal government to use whatever means it had at its disposal to reduce wolf numbers to 12 in the west fork before wolves were delisted under the 10(j) rule.
"These extensions are not getting it done," he said. "FWP is not doing anything other than extending the season. We would like them to do more."
"There is no reason to think that an extension by itself is going to work," Jones said. "Where is the spike going to come from? Hunters just aren't getting it done with the tools that they have."

Marc Cooke of the National Wolf Watchers Coalition said that group is adamantly opposed to extending the season.
"It's just unjust," he said. "Why are they shutting it down everywhere else and keeping it open here? They are appeasing special interest groups, like hunters, livestock producers and county commissioners."

Cooke said keeping the season open longer could provide a black eye for Ravalli County.
"Pregnant wolves getting ready to den are going to be killed," he said. "It's not going to look good one bit for Ravalli County hunters to be out there hunting pregnant wolves."