Public criticizes Montana wolf hunt for being too extreme - and too tame
image provided by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks shows a collared
gray wolf from the Smart Creek pack southwest of Drummond in the fall of
2009. Photo by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
By ROB CHANEY
of the Missoulian
This fall’s Montana wolf hunt will face critics who say it’s too extreme and not extreme enough.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials got a taste of the divide on Tuesday
during a Missoula listening session. While not ready for formal public
comments, Region 2 Supervisor Mack Long invited the roughly 50 people in
the audience to lay out the issues that should be considered. They
“It’s not too late to turn things around, but we’ve got
to do it quick,” Long said. “This is one of the most dynamic times we’ve
ever seen in wildlife management.”
At stake are proposed changes
to how hunters can pursue wolves and mountain lions in coming years. The
FWP Board of Commissioners is accepting written comments on the wolf
plan until June 25. But the lion feedback must be delivered by this
Region 2 wildlife manager Mike Thompson said the agency
hasn’t yet proven it can move the numbers of wolves up and down
reliably. Hunters failed to reach the 220-wolf kill quota in last year’s
hunt, and a minimum estimate of 653 wolves prowl the Rocky Mountain
portion of Montana. That’s up from about 256 wolves in 2005.
trick is how we work out something that feels like success to
everybody,” Thompson said. The agency must balance the desires of
hunters who want plentiful elk and deer populations, livestock owners
who don’t like too many wolves or elk on their land, and wolf advocates
who argue the predator has returned a better natural balance to meadows,
bird habitat and other parts of the backcountry. And all of that has to
happen under the scrutiny of federal wildlife officials, who can return
the gray wolf to threatened or endangered protection status if its
numbers drop too low.
The proposed wolf hunt changes include an
archery season in the late summer, a slightly longer general rifle
season, trapping, and possibly the permission of electronic calling and
three tags per hunter. Those last two would require law changes by the
That wasn’t enough for several speakers in the
audience. Some suggested the state allow aerial shooting by state or
federal authorities to reduce wolf numbers. Others wanted to allow snare
traps, which have proven successful in Idaho and Alaska.
said snares also tend to catch too many non-target animals besides
wolves, so the state preferred to use the more challenging methods.
others in the audience criticized all trapping as inhumane and
uncivilized. They questioned why public trappers got 48 hours to check
their traps, while state and federal trappers usually have to monitor
theirs every 24 hours or less.
“If we focus only on wolves, we’re
missing the point,” Thompson said. “There’s a bloc of carnivores out
there working on prey. We’ve got to try and balance them all.”
includes mountain lions, which had seen a big drop in hunting kills
since a heyday in the late 1990s. The new proposal would try to increase
kills of female lions by 30 percent over the next three years, which
should bring the population down to a manageable level “with a surgeon’s
knife instead of a chain saw,” as Thompson put it.
Part of that
involves keeping the present limited permits for early-season hunters,
but opening it to general license holders after Feb. 1 in all areas
where kill quotas haven’t been reached. That should allow for both
uncrowded trophy hunts and ensure the management goals are reached.
on both wolf and lion hunting proposals may be mailed to FWP, Wildlife
Bureau, Attn: Public Comment, POB 200701, Helena, Mont. 59620-0701. To
email wolf comments, use the FWP page here.
For mountain lion comments, use the FWP page here.