Written by MATT VOLZ
May 9, 2012
— Montana officials planning the state's upcoming wolf hunt are
considering allowing trapping for the first time and eliminating quotas
in an effort to reduce the number of wolves in the state.
and hunters concerned about their livestock and big-game kills have
complained the growing wolf population threatens their interests and
they have pressured state regulators to do more to cut wolf numbers. In
March, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials invited county
commissioners from across the state to Helena to hear their ideas for
improving the hunt's effectiveness.
state wildlife agency has responded with a wolf-hunt proposal to go
before the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission on Thursday in what
promises to be a contentious debate over an animal that was protected
under the federal Endangered Species Act until Congress removed those
protections last year.
wildlife agency proposes doing away with quotas — last fall and winter,
just 166 wolves were killed out of a 220-wolf quota — and extending the
season to Feb. 28. The agency also plans to ask legislators to rewrite
state laws to allow the use of electronic calls and to increase the
number of wolves a hunter or trapper can take from one to three.
at the forefront of the debate will be whether to expand the hunt to
allow hunters to trap wolves in addition to offering archery and rifle
seasons. Animal-rights groups say they consider trapping unethical and
they are prepared to fight the proposal.
we allow this to happen with trapping and snaring, what's next?
Baiting, poisoning?" said Marc Cooke of the advocacy group Wolves for
the Rockies. "I have a feeling that that meeting room in Helena is going
to be packed on Thursday. It's going to be hot. It's going to be very
will "unleash a wave of wolf hatred," and the traps will expose other
wildlife to unintended death and injury, National Wolfwatcher Coalition
officials wrote in comments to Fish, Wildlife & Parks. That, in
addition to the other proposed changes, would "dramatically increase
harvest levels," which could result in a population decline beyond what
the state models predict, the group said.
Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials say in documents outlining the
proposal that their population objective after the hunting season is 425
wolves. Their models predict 377 wolves could be killed in the hunt
this year and the population would not drop below 490 wolves.
Commission Chairman Bob Ream said that number probably won't be met
without the legislative changes to allow electronic calls and to
increase the number of wolves an individual hunter can kill. With the
Legislature convening in January, lawmakers are unlikely to pass such a
bill before February, and the proposed date to end the hunt is Feb. 28.
officials will keep a close eye on the wolves killed in each district
and will close down a wolf management unit if the hunt appears to be
cutting too deeply, Ream said.
said he also will suggest the agency develop an education component,
such as a video, on how to more effectively hunt wolves.
The commission will take public comment on the proposal and make a final decision in July.