Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jefferson County is considering rewarding hunters for killing wolves and mountain lions

The commission was asked to consider a bounty by a group of livestock producers who say they are losing money because of the damage these animals are doing to their livestock.
"I mean, how many calves can you afford to lose at $1,000 a piece and still stay in business," asked Robert Sims, a Boulder rancher. Sims says wolves and mountain lions have killed a number of his calves over the years, "I think if we can figure out some way to control the wolves and so far at least Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks has refused to do it, anything is going to help."

"The wolves and mountain lions are definitely here and the problem is probably getting worse," said Joe DeMers, a Boulder rancher.

Since grey wolves and mountain lions were taken off the endangered species list, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks are managing these animals. They are setting hunting quotas and rules and as their state law says, hunting wolves and mountain lions outside of hunting season or killing more than the given quotas is illegal.
"There's no way that we can supersede state law," said Leonard Wortman, a Jefferson County commissioner.

"Individuals are authorized to buy one wolf license a piece. They can take a wolf with that as long as the quota hasn't been reached in that area, and if a county wanted to reward that individual on their own, I suppose that's up to them. We wouldn't have any control over that," said Ron Aasheim, the Bureau Chief for FWP.
Aasheim says this may actually be a good thing if it helps counties to reach their quotas, but any other wolves taken past that point will be considered illegal.
Wortman says the commission is looking to have the bounty be no more than $100 for wolves and mountain lions and $20 for mountain lion pups or cubs.

Livestock owners are asking the commission to allow them to tax themselves, and then use that money to pay the bounty for killing wolves and mountain lions.
"It's not huge, but it's an incentive," Wortman said.

To keep these animals off the endangered species list there needed to be about 100 in Montana, and that's around how many Wortman feels is tolerable, but now there are closer to a thousand wolves that have been counted within state limits.
"When they let the number go way over, that's violating our own law in my opinion," said Wortman.

The Jefferson County Commission's goal is to lead the way in decreasing the number of wolves in Montana and then have all other counties in Montana follow in their footsteps.
"Hopefully we can get other counties to come together with us and come up with some strategies," said Wortman.