Friday, October 12, 2012

New wolf trap regulation in MT gets initial approval

Wolf trappers will have to set their traps for eight pounds or more under a regulation given initial approval Thursday by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission.

It’s a measure to address non-target captures, especially of lynx, in the traps. George Pauley, FWP's wildlife management section chief in Helena, said they’ve been teaching students in the mandatory wolf trapping classes that they can set the trap pan setting to eight pounds so that wolves – which are heavier than coyotes, foxes or lynx – will be the only animal to set it off.

“We think it would be prudent to limit the take of lynx,” Pauley said.

He added that the proposal is only for Region 1 and 2 since those hold identified “critical lynx habitat.”

Both Marc Cooke and Kim Bean, members of Wolves of the Rockies, voiced concerns that regulating the tension on the traps would be difficult and could lead to a lot of injured animals. Bean said she’s also concerned that her dogs could easily set off traps in the back country.

“As long as trapping is allowed on public lands and the population continues to rise, the number of incidents (of catching non-target species) will increase, as will public outcry,” Bean said.

Commissioner Ron Moody said he understands their concerns, but that now that they’ve set a wolf trapping season it’s time to “put the regulations on the ground and ground truth them.”

“We will evolve our oversight and enforcement based on our experiences and not on predictions of what might go wrong,” Moody said. “Everybody who cares will stay on top of this. Staff has done the best they can to give us our best starting proposal. I think that if there are concerns that are brought out in reality, we will react to those as they come.”

FWP will take public comment on the proposal through Nov. 5, with a final decision expected at the commission’s Nov. 8 meeting. The wolf trapping season is slated to run from Dec. 15 to Feb. 28. The general wolf hunting season starts Monday and also ends Feb. 28. The wolf archery season ends Sunday; as of Thursday, seven wolves had been harvested by bowhunters.