This undated image provided by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks shows a wolf in Montana. Facing mounting pressure from Congress, wildlife advocates and the U.S. Department of Interior on Friday March 18, 2011 reached an agreement to lift gray wolf protections in Montana and Idaho and allow hunting of the predators to resume.(AP Photo/Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks) / AP
Montana’s existing livestock depredation policy requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to obtain direction from FWP before removing a specified number of offending wolves.
The proposed policy revisions would authorize Wildlife Services to make decisions on what course of action to take without prior direction from the state.
Specifically, the proposed changes would give Wildlife Services the options to:
1/81/37/8 Identify, target and remove confirmed depredating wolves.
1/81/37/8 Avoid lethal removal of non-problem wolves in areas near the site of a depredation.
1/81/37/8 Collar and release at least one wolf when a confirmed depredation occurs in an area where wolves haven’t been previously collared and where it can’t determine which wolves were involved in the depredation. Radio collars allow wildlife biologists to follow wolves and learn more about their pack size and structure, territory and habits.
The agency must report to FWP when each control action is initiated and terminated and provide the results of every control effort.
“Most successful response protocols aimed at removing depredating wolves are carried out in the immediate vicinity of the livestock damage and as soon as possible following a confirmed depredation,” Ken McDonald, FWP’s wildlife bureau chief, said in a news release. “The intent of this revised set of guidelines is aimed at allowing federal Wildlife Services to accurately identify and remove offending wolves as quickly as possible.”
The request for comments to the draft revisions to Montana’s Wolf Depredation Response Protocol are in compliance with a law passed by the Montana Legislature in 2011.
The 2011 legislation requires FWP to ensure that county commissions and tribal governments have the opportunity for consultation prior to decisions on policies such as the draft wolf depredation response.
After receiving the comments, FWP will finalize the new protocol, which will be reassessed within a year to determine its impact on overall effectiveness related to livestock losses, agency response times and costs, and the wolf population itself, McDonald said.
The minimum Montana wolf population estimates at the end of 2011 include 653 wolves, in 130 verified packs, and 39 breeding pairs.
The delisting of wolves in 2011 allows Montana to manage wolves in a manner similar to how bears, mountain lions and other wildlife species are managed, which is guided by state management plans, administrative rules, and laws.