Friday, July 12, 2013

Montana nearly doubles wolf kill limit for hunters




By Laura Zuckerman

July 11 (Reuters) - Montana wildlife officials have approved
a measure that nearly doubles the number of wolves a person can
kill each year and extends the length of the state's hunting
season, angering conservationists.

The plan adopted by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Commission on Wednesday raises the number of wolves a person can
kill in a given calendar year to 10, from the previous limit of
six.

The commission also extended the state's hunting season by a
month. The season, which begins in September, will close at the
end of March, instead of February.

That means the hunting season will coincide with much of the
63-day gestation period of female wolves in the Northern
Rockies, according to Montana wildlife biologists.

The increase in per-person harvests and extension of the
upcoming wolf hunting season in Montana has reignited a debate
over the animals just weeks after the U.S. government proposed
stripping gray wolves of certain federal protections.

Wolves in Montana and Idaho were removed from the federal
threatened and endangered species list in 2011. Gray wolves in
Wyoming and the western Great Lakes region were delisted in
2012. Since then, hunters have killed hundreds of wolves amid
increasingly relaxed hunting rules that conservationists say
prove states see the animals as nuisances.

"We're going to see a lot of dead wolves," Marc Cooke,
president of Wolves of the Rockies in Montana, said on
Wednesday.

Ranchers and hunters, who blame wolves for preying on
livestock and big-game animals such as elk, applauded the
measures for providing greater leeway to cull a state wolf
population estimated at 625.

"It makes it easier for people to take more wolves in more
places and that's helpful to ranchers trying to protect
livestock," Montana Stockgrowers Association spokeswoman Ariel
Overstreet said.

The Montana wolf plan adopted for the upcoming hunting and
trapping season did not include a controversial proposal to
allow wolves near baited traps to be shot and killed.

That provision was stripped after stirring controversy in
Montana, which forbids hunters from attracting game with bait.

The Montana legislature this year passed a law banning the
creation of a no-hunting zone where state or private land
borders Yellowstone National Park. Wolves are protected in
Yellowstone, but can be hunted once they leave the park.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho, Editing by Alex
Dobuzinskis, Edith Honan and Stacey Joyce)

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